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Debt Relief

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the criteria which will be used to determine which countries, and which categories of debt, will be eligible for 100 per cent. relief. [103176]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government's commitment to lifting 100 per cent. of the burden of debt owed to the Export Credit Guarantee Department covers all categories of debt owed by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, a group of 41 developing countries. All are Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility or International Development Association-only and face unsustainable debt burden even after traditional debt-relief mechanisms have been applied fully.

Outsourced Operations

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what mechanisms are used to assess how much extra contract work outsourced operations will need to take on; and how the viability of plans to generate this extra work is assessed; [103625]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Under the Better Quality Services programme, Departments and other central Government bodies have plans to review their activities against five systems: abolition; privatisation; marketing testing; strategic contracting out; and internal restructuring.

Reviews follow procedures Set out in the Better Quality Services handbook, published in 1998, which emphasis the need for consultation with stakeholders. Individual reviews should result in added value through improvements in service cost and quality.

Where a decision to outsource is taken, Government procurement policy requires that to be based on value for money, which is the optimum combination of whole life cost and quality to meet the user's requirement. Under the procurement process, bidders are selected on their financial or economic standing and technical capacity and capability, and contracts are awarded on the basis of value for money. This includes consideration of the added value offered by a particular bid or through award of a particular contract.

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Food Standards Agency

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement on the appointment of members of the Food Standards Agency; [100200]

Mr. Milburn: I have been asked to reply.

The selection process for the Board members of the Food Standards Agency has not yet been completed. However, I am pleased to be able to announce today that I have appointed Professor Sir John Krebs as the Chairman of the Agency. Sir John is a Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Zoology, Oxford University and was formerly Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council.

Sir John's Deputy will be Ms Suzi Leather, currently chair of Exeter and District Community NHS Trust. Ms Leather has twenty years of experience in consumer representation. The Chief Executive of the Agency will be Mr. Geoffrey Podger, who is currently Head of the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group (of the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), forerunner to the Agency.

The names of the Agency's Scottish Board member and Welsh Board member are the subject of further announcements today by my colleagues in Scotland and Wales. We hope to be able to announce the names of other Board members of the Agency in the near future.

The approach adopted--as we said in the White Paper "A Force for Change"--has been that people should be appointed who have a proven record in relevant fields and who together provide a balance of relevant skills and experience. A majority of those appointed will come from a wider public interest background without any specific affiliation.

Beef Slaughter Premium Scheme

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the new beef slaughter premium scheme will be implemented; and from what date payments will be available. [103903]

Ms Quin: The new slaughter premium will be payable on cattle slaughtered on or after 1 January 2000. A 60 per cent. advance of the payments due, in respect of animals slaughtered in the year 2000, will be made as soon as possible after 16 October 2000, with the balance paid as soon as possible after 1 April 2001. This is identical to the payment timetable for the existing Beef Special Premium and Suckler Cow Premium Schemes.

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Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to discuss the report of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment on organophosphates with the (a) Ministry of Defence, (b) Department of Health and (c) Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. [103232]

Ms Quin [holding answer 20 December 1999]: The Committee's report on organophosphates (OPs) has been discussed by the Official Group on OPs, which brings together representatives from all the key departments and agencies with an interest in this area (including the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions).

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research on organophosphates his Department plans to carry out with relevance to Gulf War syndrome. [103089]

Ms Quin [holding answer 20 December 1999]: The Ministry of Defence has responsibility for research in respect of Gulf veterans' illnesses. They continue to monitor research on OPs, including that funded by MAFF, in view of the suggested link between Gulf veterans' illnesses and OP pesticides.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent assessment he has made of the effects of sheep-dips on farmers' health. [103090]

Ms Quin [holding answer 20 December 1999]: I refer my hon. Friend to my reply of 20 December 1999, Official Report, column 446W, to his question on the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment report on organophosphates.

Employment Statistics

Mrs. Ann Cryer: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many (a) men and (b) women in each of the standard age groups were employed in his Department in (i) 1979 and (ii) 1999. [104029]

Mr. Morley: The figures requested for 1999 are set out in the table. These are expressed as Full Time Equivalents. A comparable split by age group is not available for 1979.

AgeFull Time Equivalents Full Time Equivalents
Total Full Time Equivalents3,246.983,493.026,740.00
MAFF Agencies
Total Full Time Equivalents1,749.222,781.314,530.53

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In 1979 there were 7,498 men and 5,639.5 women working in MAFF.

European Regional Funds

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what level of match public funds from his Department is available to EU Objective 1 regions for each of the next seven calendar years; [104304]

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Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 January 2000]: It is the responsibility of grant applicants in the Objective 1 regions to calculate how much match public funding they will need and from where they should obtain this. The Government have provided and will continue to provide significant financial support through a variety of programmes sponsored by different departments. MAFF is currently considering its contribution to this support. Local partnerships can prioritise the use of these resources to fund projects jointly with the Structural Funds.

Regional partners can also seek to match their European funds with contributions from the voluntary and private sectors, as well as through loans from organisations such as the European Investment Bank.

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