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Chechnya

Mr. Ian Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library the written advice his Department gave to British companies considering contracts in Chechnya. [64168]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) on 14 December 1998, Official Report, column 402.

Mr. Ian Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) guidance, (b) advice and (c) assistance was (i) offered to and (ii) requested by the Chechen authorities in connection with the search for the four hostages. [64167]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: During the 15-month captivity in Chechnya of Camilla Carr and Jon James, and the subsequent tragic kidnap of Rudolf Petschi, Peter Kennedy, Darren Hickey and Stanley Shaw, the FCO, HM Embassy Moscow and the Metropolitan Police corresponded with and held meetings with the Chechen authorities outside Chechnya to discuss the two cases. Some of these contacts followed requests for assistance from the Chechen authorities, but most were at our request. We provided some non-lethal police equipment to the Chechen investigating authorities, to assist them. At the last such meeting, with Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Atgeriev in London on 26 October, we emphasised the need to avoid endangering the four men's lives. Atgeriev agreed that the safety of the hostages was paramount. He confirmed that the equipment provided by the UK had been of assistance to his staff.

Chile (Airbus Sale)

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will estimate the number of hours spent by the Commercial Attache in the British Embassy, Santiago, Chile since 1 May 1997 in assisting the sale of Airbus aircraft to LAN Chile. [64025]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: Airbus Industrie has sought no help from the British Embassy in Santiago with the sale of Airbus to Lan Chile.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Television Licence Fee

Mr. Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he intends to set next year's television

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 421

licence fee at the level indicated by the five-year formula announced by the previous Government; and if he will make a statement about future licence fee levels. [64272]

Mr. Chris Smith: On 11 December 1998, Official Report, column 636, the Government announced their intention, after careful consideration, to retain the television licence fee formula for the five years from April 1997 introduced by the previous Government. The formula, based on a report by independent consultants, Braxton Associates, is based on an assessment of the BBC's financial needs and the potential for improved efficiency and the development of alternative sources of revenue. It is designed to allow the BBC to plan its business properly for the period as a whole.

Under the formula, licence fee increases for the five-year period as a whole are set just below inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI). However, the increases from 1 April 1999 are set at RPI plus 0.5 per cent., reflecting primarily the additional costs faced by the BBC in launching its new digital services. The formula provides for changes in the licence fee of RPI minus 1 per cent. and RPI minus 2.5 per cent. in 2000-01 and 2001-02 respectively.

Application of the RPI figure of 3.2 per cent. for the year to September 1998, plus 0.5 per cent., to the current unrounded licence fees produces new rounded totals of £101.00 for a colour licence and £33.50 for a black and white licence. The necessary regulations to bring these fees into force will be laid before the House in due course.

Radio Authority

Ms Jenny Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many staff at the Radio Authority have been (a) suspended and (b) subsequently dismissed since July; and for what reasons. [63437]

Janet Anderson: I understand that one member of the Radio Authority staff is currently suspended pending the outcome of current police investigations. The Authority has not dismissed any staff since July.

Ms Jenny Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what measures are in place to monitor the conduct of those staff at the Radio Authority who award broadcast licences to local radio stations and monitor their compliance with the conditions of the licence. [63436]

Janet Anderson: The Radio Authority is a statutory public corporation independent of Government and my Department has no supervisory role in its day-to-day activities. It is the members of the Radio Authority, not its staff, who award broadcast licences for independent local radio. Members are bound by the Authority's detailed code of best practice, a copy of which I have placed in the Libraries of the House. The Authority's members supervise and monitor the Authority's staff, who in turn are bound by the Authority's staff rules and regulations.

Terrestrial Television

Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimates his Department has made of the percentage of viewers which will be able to obtain access to independent television and digital terrestrial services (a) in England and (b) in Wales. [63398]

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 422

Janet Anderson: The BBC and Independent Television Commission are responsible for transmission arrangements for terrestrial television services in the UK. They estimate that analogue terrestrial television services reach 99.4 per cent. of the UK population and 98.3 per cent. of the population of Wales. The BBC and ITC estimate that the launch phase of digital terrestrial television will deliver services to around 90 per cent. of the UK population, and 70 per cent. in Wales, by the end of 1999. Coverage of each of the six multiplexes will vary and in some cases will be less. The BBC and ITC have jointly produced a CD-Rom containing coverage predictions for each multiplex for each transmitter site. Copies of the CD-Rom have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Robert Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will list the special advisers in his Department and the issues on which they specialise; and to what level they have been security cleared. [62843]

Mr. Chris Smith: There are currently two special advisers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, John Newbiggin and Andy Burnham. The work is divided between the two as appropriate but covers the full range of issues for which I am responsible. Special advisers are subject to the usual security clearance arrangements.

British Library

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what were the (a) total building costs and (b) fitting out costs when the new British Library was handed over to its new head; and what additional costs have been incurred in respect of (a) and (b) since that date. [63363]

Mr. Alan Howarth [holding answer 14 December 1998]: The new British Library building was legally transferred to the British Library Board on 1 July 1997. By that date the Department had spent an estimated (a) £470.1 million on building costs, which included construction of the building, project management and professional services; and (b) £28.3 million on fitting out costs which included such items as office and reading room furniture, carpets and book shelving. The equivalent figures at 8 December 1998 stood at (a) £476.4 million and (b) £28.5 million.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will list the fees paid to date to lawyers and consultants for advice or litigation concerning the British Library. [63364]

Mr. Alan Howarth [holding answer 14 December 1998]: The fees paid for professional services by lawyers and consultants on the project over the past 16 years, to 8 December 1998, were £71.6 million. This is broken down as follows: architectural services, structural design and quantity surveying (£47.6 million); mechanical and electrical engineering design and advice (£19.7 million); and commercial claims management, legal advice and legal costs (£4.3 million).

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 423

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what has been the average (a) number of books delivered per reader and (b) waiting time for the automated book delivery system in each month since the new British Library opened. [63369]

Mr. Alan Howarth [holding answer 14 December 1998]: (a) The average number of items delivered per reader is as follows:

Average number of items delivered per reader
December 19973
January 19983
February 19983
March 19983
April 19983
May 19983
June 19983
July 19983
August 19983
September 19983
October 19983.5

(b) Book delivery performance data are recorded by the percentage of items delivered against benchmarks measured in minutes. The methodology does not lend itself to calculation of average delivery times. In the period during which three of the main reading rooms (Humanities 1 and 2, and the Rare Books and Music Reading Room) have all been open, the percentage of books delivered within an hour of request was as follows:

Percentage of items delivered within sixty minutes
March 199855
April 199847
May 199847
June 199838
July 199847
August 199842
September 199854
October 199864


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