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Mortgage Repossessions

Mr. Love: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many court actions for mortgage repossessions have been brought in the last five years for which figures are available in (a) Edmonton and (b) Enfield Magistrates Court. [91801]

Mr. Vaz: Applications for mortgage repossessions are civil actions made in County Courts. The figures in Edmonton and Barnet County Courts are as follows:

YearEdmontonBarnet
19941,518506
19951,106459
19961,126521
1997864337
1998920367

Immigration Appeals

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department on what date the Courts Service received appeal papers in respect of Mr. Liaqat Ali (ISB/F4245) husband of Mrs. Jehan Akhtar of Aylesbury; when he expects the Courts Service to let Mr. Ali and Mrs. Akhtar know the date of their appeal hearing; and if he will make a statement. [91786]

Mr. Vaz: It has not been possible to trace the appeal from the limited information provided. Although there are several appeals listed under the name of Liaqat Ali, none match the date of birth or reference number quoted. perhaps the hon. Member will write to me if further details can be provided.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the average time between receipt of the Courts Service appeal papers in immigration cases and notification of the date of appeal to the parties in (a) May 1997, (b) May 1998 and (c) the most recent month for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [91787]

Mr. Vaz: No figures are available for May 1997. In May 1998, 40.9 per cent. of certified appeals and 100 per cent. of other appeals were issued within five

21 Jul 1999 : Column: 566

working days. In June 1999, 100 per cent. of certified and other appeals were issued within five working days of receipt.

Child Abduction

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when is the next planned meeting of the Parent/Carer Child Abduction Co-ordinating Group. [91788]

Mr. Vaz: The Parent/Carer Child Abduction Co- ordinating Group met on 14 July. The next meeting of the Group is in the process of being arranged for mid-October 1999.

New Deal (Young People)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many individuals the Lord Chancellor's Department has recruited under the New Deal for Young People. [91895]

Mr. Vaz: At present, the Lord Chancellor's Department has recruited three young people under the New Deal. We have undertaken to employ a further nine people under the scheme and arrangements are being made for their recruitment and training.

CABINET OFFICE

Anti-drugs Co-ordinator

9. Mr. Shaw: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement on the work of the UK Anti-drugs Co-ordinator. [90879]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The UK Anti-drugs Co- ordinator published his first annual report and national plan in May. The report outlined progress made in relation to the strategy during 1998-99. The plan set challenging targets for the strategy for the short, medium and long term.

Civil Service (Ethnic Minorities)

11. Mr. Singh: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what proportion of the senior civil service are from ethnic minorities. [90881]

21 Jul 1999 : Column: 567

Dr. Jack Cunningham: On 1 April 1998, 1.6 per cent. of the Senior Civil Service came from ethnic minorities.

Genetically Modified Organisms

12. Mr. Tyler: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will publish the Government's proposals to ensure effective inter-departmental co-ordination of policies on genetic modification, in preparation for the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in November. [90882]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Ministerial Group on Biotechnology and Genetic-Modification reviews all areas of Government policy relating to genetic modification. There will be effective interdepartmental co-ordination in preparation for the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle with regard to all subjects under discussion.

13. Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what sources of advice he uses on the issue of genetically modified food. [90883]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Government are advised on the issue of genetically modified foods by a range of sources including expert advisory committees such as the Advisory Committee for Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). We also receive advice from the Chief Scientific Adviser, and the Chief Medical Officer.

My ministerial colleagues and I are also in regular contact with a large number of groups which have an interest in genetically modified foods such as consumer groups, environmental groups and biotechnology companies.

17. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what representations he has received on the documents relating to genetically modified food produced by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser and published by them. [90888]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: I have received a number of representations from hon. Members, consumer groups, environmental groups and biotechnology companies.

Biotechnology Commission

14. Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when he plans that the new Biotechnology Commission should start its work. [90885]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: There will be two new advisory commissions--the Human Genetics Commission and the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission. Both of the new commissions will be in place by the end of the year.

Public Bodies

16. Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to ensure the accountability of non-elected appointees to public bodies. [90887]

Mr. Kilfoyle: All board members of non-departmental public bodies are accountable through Ministers to Parliament. The Government are implementing a range of measures to strengthen accountability which were set out in "Quangos: Opening the Doors", copies of which are in the Libraries of the House.

21 Jul 1999 : Column: 568

Correspondence

18. Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what is the average time it takes for Government departments to answer letters from hon. Members; and what plans he has to reduce the time taken. [90889]

Mr. Kilfoyle: The majority of letters from hon. Members to Ministers are replied to within the target times set by individual Departments, which is typically 15 to 20 working days. The Government are determined to improve their performance in handling correspondence from hon. Members and Ministers are now working towards replying to at least 90 per cent. of all correspondence within the target times set by their Department.

Social Exclusion Unit

19. Mr. Corbett: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many visits to the city of Birmingham, and for what purpose, have been made by members of the Social Exclusion Unit. [90891]

Mr. Kilfoyle: Officials from the Social Exclusion Unit have visited Birmingham on a number of occasions as part of their work in preparing reports on a range of policy areas. Their purpose has included project visits, attendance at conferences and consultations with the local government and voluntary sector.

Anti-drugs Strategy

20. Mr. Healey: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement on the progress of the Government's anti-drugs strategy in South Yorkshire. [90892]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: Drug Action Teams in South Yorkshire have drawn up action plans for 1999-2000 establishing local priorities in line with the strategy. In preparing their 2000-01 action plans, they will review their priorities in the light of local circumstances. They will set local targets in line with those published in the UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinators annual report and national plan.

EU Regulations

21. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to use the Intergovernmental Conference next year to reduce the amount of regulation from the European Union. [90894]

Mr. Kilfoyle: This Government achieved much through the Amsterdam Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in terms of rasing the importance of the better European regulation agenda. In particular, the Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality requires the Commission to take due account of the potential burdens from proposed legislation. These successes, along with the consensus among member states for a short, focused IGC, mean this Government do not intend to push for wide areas of the Treaties to be opened up for renegotiation. However, the Government do believe that the principles of better regulation should influence the EU's decisions making process and will be pushing for this as part of their wider objectives for reform of the Commission and other institutions.

21 Jul 1999 : Column: 569


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