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Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office which Minister within each Government Department has been tasked with overseeing regulation reform. [107003]

Mr. Stringer: The Prime Minister has asked each of the key regulatory Departments to appoint a Minister for Regulatory Reform to oversee a programme of measures to reduce regulatory burdens. The Ministers for Regulatory Reform are:

    Department of Trade and Industry--Minister of State (Patricia Hewitt MP)

    Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions--Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lord Whitty)

    Department of Health--Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Gisela Stuart MP)

    Home Office--Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mike O'Brien MP)

    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food--Minister of State (the right hon. Joyce Quin MP), and

    Department for Education and Employment--Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Margaret Hodge MP).

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what meetings she has had with the Fair Regulation Campaign; what was discussed; what decisions were taken; and what plans she has for future meetings. [107005]

Mr. Stringer: My right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the former Minister for the Cabinet Office, met the Fair Regulation Campaign in July 1999 to discuss their objectives for improving regulatory impact assessments by Government Departments and the

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EU. On Friday 28 January, the Minister for the Cabinet Office was due to follow up with the Fair Regulation Campaign their round of discussions with Government Departments and parallel work in Brussels on reducing regulatory burdens. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Marjorie Mowlam) welcomed the Campaign's offer of assistance and asked them to work alongside the Government to make improvements to the regulatory systems. There are no plans at present for a further meeting.

British-Irish Council

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to her answer of 12 January 2000, Official Report, columns 200-01W, if she will list those categories of matter to be discussed by the British-Irish Council under the remit, Approaches to EU Issues. [108281]

Marjorie Mowlam: The Belfast Agreement recognised "Approaches to EU affairs" as being one of the topics which the British Irish Council could consider.

The summit meeting of the Council in December 1999 confirmed a general list of subjects which the Council could consider. It also identified as initial priorities the environment, drugs, social inclusion, transport and the knowledge economy. No discussion took place on which EU issues might, in future, be the subject of work within the framework of the Council.

Oath of Allegiance

Mr. Field: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many letters she has received since 1 May 1997 on (a) constituency matters and (b) other matters of Government policy from each of those Members of the House who have not taken the oath of allegiance. [108407]

Marjorie Mowlam: In accordance with convention, correspondence received by Departments from hon. Members is treated in confidence.


Millennium Bug

Mr. Maclean: To ask the President of the Council what reports she has received on the extent of damage done to the economies and businesses of those countries which took few or no precautions to deal with the millennium bug. [107509]

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Mr. Battle: I have been asked to reply.

Each country and business had different levels of vulnerability to damage from failures of computerised systems. Many of the countries which are erroneously assumed to have done little benefited from the work of countries like the UK which started earlier.

We have received no reports of serious failures in key infrastructure sectors across the globe, although there have been multiple minor failures in systems. Failures which have come to light so far have been fixed quickly and have not materially affected business as usual.

Mr. Maclean: To ask the President of the Council if she will estimate the total cost to (a) the Government and (b) private industry of the steps taken to guard against the millennium bug. [107507]

Mrs. Beckett: Central Government Departments and agencies spent an estimated £380 million on tackling the millennium bug in their own systems.

It is impossible to say how much it cost private industry to deal with the millennium bug. Many of the cost figures quoted so far have been conjured out of the air--nobody knows for certain how much has been spent by private industry in the United Kingdom, or indeed any other country.

Departmental Expenditure Limit

Ms Perham: To ask the President of the Council what proposals she has to amend the Privy Council Office Departmental Expenditure Limit and running costs limit for 1999-2000. [108490]

Mrs. Beckett: Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate for Class XVII, Vote 5, the Privy Council Office Departmental Expenditure Limit for 1999-2000 will be increased by £109,000 from £2,166,000 to £2,275,000 and the running costs limit will be increased by £109,000 from £2,206,000 to £2,315,000. The increase is the effect of transfers from Cabinet Office Class XVII, Vote 1, £89,000 in respect of expenditure as a result of the Privy Council Office move to new premises, and from Scottish Executive Vote 6, £10,000, and Northern Ireland Executive Programme II DFP, £10,000 in respect of purchases for the Library of the Judicial Committee, Privy Council, following devolution.

The increase will be offset by transfers from the Cabinet Office, the Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Executive programme and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

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Regional Development Agencies

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he has taken to ensure that each of the regional development agencies includes agriculture in its development programme. [108378]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I have been asked to reply.

Section 4 of the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 charged the RDAs specifically with furthering economic development, investment and employment in rural areas. Subsequent guidance issued by the Government to the RDAs required them to take account of the key role of agriculture in the preparation of their Regional Strategies.

The RDAs' Strategies, which have been broadly welcomed by the Government, include a range of proposals for diversifying the agricultural and rural economies. We are now awaiting the RDAs' detailed Action Plans for implementing their Strategies and we will pay close attention to their priorities for addressing agricultural and rural issues.

Day-old Chicks

Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what health checks are carried out on day-old chicks imported into the UK from (a) within and (b) outside the EU. [98591]

Ms Quin: In accordance with European law:

Poultry Imports

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what rules govern the importing of dead poultry into the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [102220]

Ms Quin [holding answer 13 December 1999]: Poultry carcases may be imported only in accordance with a licence issued under the Importation of Animal Products and Poultry Products Order 1980. The conditions laid down in such licences are designed to protect animal health in Great Britain and vary according to the country of origin and the purposes for which the carcases are imported.

French Beef Ban (Soap)

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the implications for the British soap and detergent industry of the French ban on British beef derivatives. [103649]

Ms Quin [holding answer 21 December 1999]: There is no reason why the French ban on Date Based Export Scheme beef should affect the British soap and detergent industry. European Union BSE-related rules, which have

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been in place since March 1996, currently prevent the export of cosmetic soap made from tallow produced from bovine animals slaughtered in the UK. UK manufacturers may use imported and non-bovine tallow to produce cosmetic soap for export. No BSE-related restrictions apply to exports of non-cosmetic soap and detergent.

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