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Ministerial Duties

29. Mr. Savidge: To ask the Advocate-General what assessment she has made of the scope of her duties in relation to (a) the UK Government and (b) the Scottish Executive; and if she will make a statement. [104956]

The Advocate-General for Scotland: I am a Law Officer in the UK Government. I advise them on legal matters affecting Scotland (including matters of common interest to the whole UK, such as European Law and human rights). I exercise statutory functions as a Law Officer, particularly functions under the Scotland Act 1998. I have no duties directly in relation to the Scottish Executive. However, I may have to advise the UK Government on questions whether actings of the Executive, or Bills promoted by them, are within devolved competence. I can intervene in court proceedings raising such questions or raise such proceedings myself.

Immigration and Asylum

Dr. Godman: To ask the Advocate-General what recent representations she has received concerning the implementation of sections 101 and 102 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. [104954]

The Advocate-General for Scotland: I have not received any representations concerning the implementation of these sections.


Trials (Timetabling)

36. Mr. Peter Atkinson: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how often the

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Lord Chancellor meets the officers of the Council of Circuit Judges to discuss the timetabling of trials. [104966]

Jane Kennedy: The Permanent Secretary and the Chief Executive of the Court Service usually meet with the Council of Circuit Judges twice a year. The most recent meeting with the Chief Executive was on 2 December 1999. Although a wide range of policy and operational issues are discussed, the topic of the timetabling of trials was not raised, but if the hon. Member means listing, that is a judicial function and would not be discussed between the executive and the judiciary.

Youth Justice System

38. Mr. David Heath: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what assessment he has made of the impact of measures to reform the youth justice system on local magistrates courts. [104968]

Jane Kennedy: The impact of measures to reform the youth justice system, including measures aimed at reducing delay, is closely monitored. Piloted measures are the subject of separate evaluation.

Judicial Appointments

39. Mr. Dismore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the implementation of the report of Sir Len Peach on judicial and Queen's Counsel appointments. [104969]

Jane Kennedy: Following publication of Sir Leonard Peach's report, the Lord Chancellor has embarked on an action programme to introduce developments in the selection procedures for judges and Queen's Counsel reflecting its recommendations. The Lord Chancellor has accepted the recommendation for the appointment of a Commissioner for Judicial Appointments and hopes that a Commissioner will be appointed during the first half of this year.


40. Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will take steps to increase the accountability of sheriffs. [104970]

Mr. Lock: It remains our intention to examine the role of the various organisations involved in enforcement, including sheriffs, in the course of the review of enforcement. Work on this element of the review will begin later in the year. The accountability of sheriffs will be among the issues examined.

County Courts (Closure)

41. Mr. Brady: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the proposals to close county courts in England and Wales. [104971]

Jane Kennedy: The Court Service constantly monitors and reviews the viability of its court network in the light of changing business needs and workload trends. This in turn will lead us to consider new ways of delivering civil justice which are not dependent on our present structure

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of civil courts. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that the civil courts and their locations continue to meet local user needs.

The following criteria form part of the consideration given to potential county court closures: workload trends, the condition and availability of accommodation and facilities in the local area, judicial sittings and waiting times, together with analysis of court users' needs. Before consideration can be given to closure, at least one survey of court users is carried out. Proposals for closure are always subject to public consultation, authorised by the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor has authorised public consultation on closure proposals for the following courts: Aberdare, Caerphilly, Chepstow, Gravesend, Lichfield, Monmouth and Workington; and has approved closure of Grays Thurrock and Great Yarmouth to take effect from 31 January 2000.

Rural Magistrates Courts

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the service provided by rural magistrates courts. [104967]

Jane Kennedy: The Government's policy is that magistrates courts are best managed locally by magistrates courts committees under the provisions of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997. Decisions concerning the service provided at magistrates courts in their area, irrespective of location, are for the relevant magistrates courts committee to determine.



Mr. Davidson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list those countries which are presently refusing to permit the import of British beef. [104872]

Ms Quin: Among the EU member states, only France and Germany still ban British beef. Outside the EU, there are a variety of import bans, some of which are UK-specific, some are EU-wide and some apply to countries which have registered BSE cases among their cattle. British beef can, however, be exported to those non-EU countries with which we have so far agreed the necessary export health certification, i.e. Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and Mauritius.


Mr. Randall: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what is the total tonnage of meat and bone meal forecast to be incinerated each year for the duration of the over-30-months-scheme; [104240]

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Ms Quin: In the period to 31 December 1999, some 35,600 tonnes of meat and bonemeal (MBM) produced under the over-30-months-scheme (OTMS) was incinerated in the high temperature waste incinerator operated by Shanks at Fawley. This contract is due to expire on 31 March 2000. The Intervention Board's current forecast of future MBM incineration by the three companies awarded large scale incineration contracts is given in the following table.


1 January-31 March 20004,40017,000021,400
1 April 2000-31 March 2001085,00027,600112,600
1 April 2001-31 March 200260,00085,00055,850200,850
1 April 2002-31 March 200360,00078,00060,400198,400
1 April 2003-31 March 200460,000051,150111,150
1 April 2004-31 March 200510,0000010,000


For the purpose of this exercise the forecast assumes that the OTMS will continue in its current form until at least the end of 2002-03, and that the contracted companies will obtain the necessary consents and commence incineration in line with their autumn 1999 programmes. The forecast will be updated in January/February 2000 to reflect the latest position.

Slaughter Premium

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement setting out the (a) policy and (b) economic reasons for paying a slaughter premium for cull cows. [105298]

Ms Quin [holding answer 19 January 2000]: The EU Slaughter Premiums for adult cattle and calves are paid in partial compensation for the cuts in support prices which will be made on 1 July in each of the years 2000 to 2002. Those price cuts will affect the price of most animals sold on the EU market, including cull animals. While the price paid for animals slaughtered under the Over Thirty Months Scheme in the UK is set by Commission Regulation rather than by market forces, the Agriculture Council decided not to exclude such animals from Slaughter Premium, because to do so would be to discriminate against UK producers.

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