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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

BNFL

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the members of the Liabilities Management Unit of BNFL. [92055]

Mr. Battle: The Liabilities Management Unit (LMU) at BNFL consists of 34 BNFL staff and 1 agency worker based at the Sellafield and Berkeley sites. The Head of the LMU is Robin Sellers, based at Sellafield.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list his reasons for announcing his proposals for BNFL through a written answer rather than an oral statement. [92058]

Mr. Battle: As the hon. Member is aware, it is a matter of judgment whether to make an announcement through a written answer or oral statement.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the new index against which BNFL's safety, health and environmental performance will be measured. [92054]

Mr. Battle: BNFL and the Government regard safety, health and the environment as being of paramount importance. That is why the targets set for BNFL look to the company to achieve continuous and measurable improvement against the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Index. The Index is based on similar indices used in the United States, including the US Department of Energy, and will measure the company's performance against standards achieved in conventional, radiological and environmental safety, and health. The Index is being developed by BNFL in close discussion with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Environment Agencies.

Miners (Respiratory Diseases)

Mr. Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what financial controls have been put in place by his Department regulating the flow of payments of compensation to former miners suffering from respiratory disease. [92063]

Mr. Battle: Since assuming the former British Coal's health liabilities in January 1998 the Government have made clear that they will provide the funds necessary to meet the cost of legitimate claims. Financial structures

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will be put in place to ensure that the funds are properly disbursed. Claims will be settled as rapidly and as fairly as possible within this framework.

Mr. Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of those ex-miners receiving compensation for respiratory diseases are having their cases settled under the expedited payment system; and what proportion are receiving payments under the system by which compensation is reduced due to other factors. [92062]

Mr. Battle: To date Healthcall--the service provider--has carried out some 3,300 spirometry tests. Of these, we have processed 1,793 and offers of expedited payments have been made to 500 of these. The number actually receiving payments will depend on how many claimants accept the offers.

Mr. Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the total number of recipients of compensation for former miners suffering from respiratory diseases; how many cases have been (a) settled and (b) paid; what is the average number of cases settled each week; and what steps he is taking to speed up the processing of claims. [92099]

Mr. Battle: The Department have received some 77,000 claims from former miners, and their dependants, for compensation for respiratory diseases. We anticipate receiving in excess of 100,000 in total. The Department is unable to estimate how many of these claimants will receive compensation until they have all passed through the procedures contained in the handling arrangements which are still to be finally agreed with those representing the claimants. Pending the signing of the handling arrangement, full and final settlements have so far been made to the seven lead cases decided by the court. In addition the Department has made offers of interim payments and bereavement awards to 13,700 claimants, totalling some £31 million.

A contract for a national programme of spirometry testing for all respiratory disease claimants has been awarded and testing centres are being established in coalmining areas. This will enable us to make further interim payments and, in some cases, full and final offers to those who may not wish to pursue their claim further. We are also tendering for the delivery of the national medical assessment process and we hope to make the first full and final settlement offers later this year.

Mr. Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many widows of deceased miners are currently awaiting interim payments for the Respiratory Disease Litigation Scheme; how many such widows have already received payments; how many are being paid each month; and what factors underlie the current backlog. [92064]

Mr. Battle: We have made some 500 interim payments in the form of bereavement awards, totalling nearly £4.3 million over the last six months. A further 1,600 claims, accompanied by valid death certificates supporting the claims, have been received but require validation of the deceased's work history. The procedure for carrying out this validation has been agreed only very recently with the plaintiff solicitors. We are now processing these outstanding claims as a matter of urgency.

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Debts (Late Payment)

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what reports he has received from the late payment monitoring unit at Bradford University since the implementation of the first stage of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. [91902]

Mr. Wills [holding answer 20 July 1999]: The Credit Management Research Centre, based at Leeds University Business School since July 1998, has produced two "Credit Management Quarterly Review Results Bulletins" since the implementation of the first phase of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act in November 1998. They have covered the periods October 1998 to December 1998 (published in March 1999) and January 1999 to March 1999 (published in June 1999) respectively.

The Quarterly Reviews report on and analyse payment and credit trends and specific topical issues, including the introduction of the late payment legislation. My officials keep in close touch with the work of the Centre.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 21 July. [91813]

The Prime Minister: This morning I met the Israeli Prime Minister and later visited Winsford in the Eddisbury constituency. Later today, in addition to my duties in the House, I will have meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Anglo-Italian Summit

Mr. David Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Anglo-Italian Summit. [92763]

The Prime Minister: I was pleased to host the British-Italian Summit on 19 and 20 July. This is the first such Summit to take place since 1995. In addition to Heads of Government, the Summit brought together Foreign, Defence and Industry Ministers, allowing us to develop and broaden our dialogue with one of our key partners in Europe. The Summit produced three joint declarations on strengthening European Defence Capabilities; a proposal for action from our two Governments on a new European Social Agenda; and reform of the European Commission. Copies have been placed in the Library. The Summit highlighted the congruence of views between Britain and Italy on these and a number of other issues, and specifically

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identified areas where Britain and Italy would work together, for example defence industry restructuring and energy liberalisation.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Judicial Appointments (Northern Ireland)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department on how many occasions and on what dates since 1969 his Department has reviewed the method of judicial appointments in Northern Ireland; and what steps have been taken to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or community origin. [91537]

Mr. Vaz: The Lord Chancellor assumed responsibility for judicial appointments in Northern Ireland in 1973. Successive Lord Chancellors, including the present Lord Chancellor, have adopted a policy of continuous improvement to the appointments processes, of appointment purely on merit and of ensuring equality of opportunity.

The Lord Chancellor has recently extended his practice of advertising vacancies for judicial office to include the post of High Court Judge and such advertisements include a statement on the Lord Chancellor's equal opportunities policy.

Posts are advertised (in professional journals) and there are job descriptions and detailed objective selection criteria as appropriate. Candidates are assessed against these criteria. Members of selection panels receive written and oral briefing which in particular covers equal opportunity issues.

All these measures support the Lord Chancellor's objective to ensure that judicial appointments procedures are open and transparent.

Appointments to the judiciary and magistracy and safeguards for protecting their independence are also part of the terms of reference of the Review of Criminal Justice currently in train.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will estimate the overall composition of the judiciary in Northern Ireland according to (a) perceived community origin, (b) gender and (c) age. [91538]

Mr. Vaz: The current complement of full-time judicial office-holders in Northern Ireland is 53. The perceived community origin of appointees is not a factor in judicial appointments and so is not recorded as part of the judicial appointments process. Details of gender and age of these postholders are as outlined.

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Percentage AgeAge
ComplementMaleFemale40-60 years61-72 years
Supreme Court Judges11100056
County Court Judges14937104
District Judges4752531
Resident Magistrates178812143
Masters7712943


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Mr. McNamara: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the dates of judicial appointments in Northern Ireland since 1969, in each case describing the perceived community origin of the appointee. [91539]

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Mr. Vaz: Judicial appointments in Northern Ireland from 1991 to July 1999 are as set out. Information prior to 1991 could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The perceived community origin of appointees is not a factor in judicial appointments and so is not recorded as part of the judicial appointments process.

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19911992199319941995199619971998July 1999
Lord Chief Justice------------1----
Lord Justice of Appeal--------1--1----
High Court Judge----4------1--1
County Court Judge--1--21--23--
District Judge----------11----
Resident Magistrate11311--221
Masters of the Supreme Court----2------111
Total129331973

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