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Peat Compost

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps he is taking to phase out the use of peat compost in gardens (a) owned and (b) tended by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [110728]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The gardens owned by or in the care of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are managed and tended by more than one body. The steps taken to phase out the use of peat compost by each of those bodies are as follows:

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Sport in Schools

Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) when he last met representatives of the Central Council for Physical Recreation to discuss sport in schools; [114441]

Kate Hoey: I meet all of these organisations regularly to discuss a number of issues relating to sport including sport in schools. I met the Local Government Association most recently on 8 March, the National Playing Fields Association on 15 February and attended the Central Council for Physical Recreation conference on 8 December 1999.

Multiplex Digital Radio

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if it is his policy that multiplex digital radio should extend diversity and choice within the radio broadcasting spectrum. [114476]

Janet Anderson: Government policy is to ensure plurality and diversity of national and local digital radio services, which cater for the tastes and interests of a broad cross section of the UK population, subject to constraints on spectrum available for new services. Digital radio is at an early stage of development and present spectrum allocations enable only one national multiplex for BBC services and one national commercial multiplex operated by Digital One. The Radio Authority is continuing to advertise one local digital multiplex licence a month during 2000.

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if the restrictions that apply to applications for digital multiplex broadcast licences extend to the provision of programme streams within the multiplex. [114475]

Janet Anderson: The Broadcasting Act 1990 (as amended by the Broadcasting Act 1996) disqualifies certain persons from holding licences to provide digital programme services or digital sound programme services. However, it may be possible for persons disqualified under the religious ownership rules to provide programmes for a licensee, subject to compliance with the appropriate Independent Television Commission and Radio Authority Codes.


Regional Policy

Mr. Norman: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what representations the Performance and Innovation Unit has received in relation to its recommendation that a new unit be set up to co-ordinate the Government's approach to the regions. [113159]

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Mr. Stringer: The PIU consulted extensively and received representations from a wide range of interests in the course of its study on the role of central Government at regional and local level. The PIU's report was endorsed by Ministers and published on 16 February; and views on its conclusions are still being received.

Press Office

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will list the (a) Civil Service grade and (b) areas of responsibility of each of the staff employed in the Cabinet Office Press Office. [114751]

Mr. Stringer: The Cabinet Office Press Office is arranged as follows:

    One Band A and two Band B2s--Leader of the House of Lords, Women's Issues and Modernisation of the House of Lords. Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer) including his responsibilities for the Millennium Dome and Active Communities

    One Band A and one Band B2--Leader of the House of Commons, Parliamentary Secretary--Privy Council Office (Paddy Tipping), Commissioner for Public Appointments, Ministers' and MPs' pay, Ministerial Code, Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA), Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) and Honours

    Two Band B2s--Publication and Publicity

    One Band B2--Forward Planning and Finance.

In addition the following staff are employed to support the above press offices: One B2, three B1s, three C2s and one C1.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what was the budget for running the Cabinet Office Press Office in each of the last 10 financial years. [114752]

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Mr. Stringer: The actual cost for running the Cabinet Office Press Office, including all staff costs, running costs and capital spend, has been:


(21) Allocated Budget


Figures for previous years are not available

The figures have been rising steadily due to the increased range of Cabinet Office responsibilities.

Since 1996-97 the Cabinet Office Press Office has administered a regional network of press officers to carry out work on behalf of central Government.

GM Communications Unit

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the role of the GM Communications Unit. [114753]

Mr. Stringer: The GM Communications Unit is staffed by civil servants. They work strictly in accordance with the principles set out in the Guidance on the work of the Government Information Service.

The unit co-ordinates and liaises with the key Government Departments which have policy interests on GM issues. They also act as a first port of call for journalists. By setting up the communications unit the Government have positively responded to a key recommendation from the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, that the Government provide leadership in the GM debate.

More recently (7 March 2000) the Agriculture Select Committee published a report calling for confusion over GM issues to be replaced by rational debate and education. The unit aims to help meet that challenge.

The unit's role is to communicate Government policy. It is stated Government policy to raise public understanding of the facts about GM issues.

Regional Initiatives

Mr. Norman: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office which of her Department's regional initiatives will come under the remit of the new unit to co-ordinate the Government's approach to the regions. [113154]

Mr. Stringer: The PIU report "Reaching Out: The Role of Central Government at Regional and Local Level" sets out the intended key functions of the co-ordinating unit--these are listed on page 115 of the report, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House.