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AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Pig Farming (Aid)

Mr. Gill: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made by the EU Commission in setting up a regulatory fund to aid pig farmers. [119704]

Ms Quin: The European Commission has come forward with a proposal to introduce a European Regulatory Fund for pig producers. An initial statement about the proposal was made by the European Commission at the Agriculture Council on 17 April. As presented, it does not provide for funding from the EU Budget; rather it is proposed to be a voluntary fund, financed by pig producers themselves.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Chester Amphitheatre

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what arrangements have been made to allow archaeological research to be undertaken at the Amphitheatre, Chester, before construction commences on a new court building on any part of that site. [121272]

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Jane Kennedy: The site is owned by a developer, David McLean Developments Ltd., with whom the Court Service has entered into an agreement to lease. Following demolition of the British Telecommunications building which occupied the same footprint as the new building, David McLean Developments Ltd. funded an intensive series of archaeological excavations in consultation with the City Archaeologist and English Heritage. These excavations impacted upon the design of the building and as a result it has been possible to avoid disturbing the remains of the amphitheatre beneath. In fact, the foundations of the new building have been carefully designed to avoid any remains and to preserve them in situ, for posterity.

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, if a binding contract has been signed for the construction of a new court building on any part of the Amphitheatre site in Chester. [121271]

Jane Kennedy: The Court Service signed a legally binding contract with the Developer, David McLean Developments Ltd., on 20 December 1999 whereby the Court Service is legally bound to occupy the building within 21 days of the completion of its construction. The Court Service were aware of the location of the site and of its archaeological significance, but all appropriate approvals in relation to both planning and preservation had been obtained by the developers.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Railways

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the independent review of Northern Ireland railways, which was published on Tuesday 28 March; and if he will make a statement. [119563]

Mr. Ingram: The Government welcome the publication of the strategic safety review of Northern Ireland Railways. The extensive recommendations cover all aspects of the operation of the system and the Government are considering, with Translink, how best to target developments. A high level task force has been created to report as soon as possible on the options for the future of the railways in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures the Government will adopt to improve the railway service in Northern Ireland. [119562]

Mr. Ingram: A task force has been established that will identify, within the wider strategic context of the future development of transportation in Northern Ireland, a range of options for the future of the railway network. It will look at the costs, benefits and affordability of these options. The task force is expected to present its assessment by the summer. The future level of funding for the railway system in Northern Ireland will be considered as part of the 2000 Spending Review.

Parades Commission

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what factors led to the decision to

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increase the remuneration for the Chairman of the Parades Commission, commencing with the February appointment of a new person to that post. [119831]

Mr. Ingram: The decision was based on the need to secure as wide a pool of candidates as possible for the post.

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations were made during his Department's review of the Parades Commission against changing more than half of the commissioners from the previous Commission when appointing the new Commission; and what such representations were made in the six months prior to the commissioners' appointment. [119842]

Mr. Ingram: The composition of the Parades Commission was outside the terms of reference of the review, and no representations were received along the lines indicated.

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many times the full membership of the Parades Commission has met since the new members were appointed in February. [119841]

Mr. Ingram: Since the appointment of the new members to the Parades Commission, the Chairman and six members have met on three occasions and a further 11 meetings have been attended by a quorum of at least three members.

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many days the Chairman of the Parades Commission has spent in Northern Ireland since his appointment in February. [119832]

Mr. Ingram: Between the 17 February and the 27 April 2000, the Chairman of the Parades Commission has visited Northern Ireland on 11 occasions, for a total of 20 days and 11 nights.

Royal Victoria Hospital

Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 6 April 2000, Official Report, column 568W, on the Royal Victoria Hospital, how much of the Royal Group of Hospital HSS Trust's funding was spent on the new railings and perimeter wall of the hospital. [119783]

Mr. George Howarth: It is estimated that approximately £87,000 of Trust capital funding will be used for this part of the project. The remainder of the Trust's contribution will be provided from charitable funds and a public appeal.

Birth Certificates

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for what purposes his Department requires a birth certificate to be furnished by (a) employees, (b) contractors, (c) those applying for employment and contracts and (d) other persons. [120315]

Mr. Ingram: The Northern Ireland Office, Northern Ireland Government Departments and their respective Agencies may ask individuals to provide their birth

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certificate in a range of circumstances. An individual's birth certificate may be used for one or more of the following reasons:




Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will establish an Environmental Protection Agency for Northern Ireland. [120754]

Mr. George Howarth: There are no plans at present to establish an Environmental Protection Agency for Northern Ireland. The Environment and Heritage Service, a Next Steps Executive Agency within the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, was set up on 1 April 1996 to assume operational responsibility for environmental issues. At devolution, the Northern Ireland Assembly decided to place environment and heritage responsibilities in the new Department of the Environment. I would expect any re-examination of the way in which such matters are handled to be considered by the devolved administration.

Sellafield

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in relation to plutonium pollution arising from processing activities at the Sellafield Mixed Oxide Plant, in respect of the hazards posed to (a) people, (b) flora and (c) fauna in Northern Ireland. [120708]

Mr. George Howarth: Lord Dubs, then Minister for the Environment in Northern Ireland, and his officials were kept informed by Ministerial colleagues in Whitehall regarding the commissioning and full operation of the Mixed Oxide Plant (MOX Plant), including projected environmental impact on the people, flora and fauna. In particular, during early 1997 and 1998 the Environment Agency held three consultation exercises regarding the commissioning and operation of the MOX plant and the variations to Certificates of Authorisation to dispose of gaseous and liquid wastes from the Sellafield site.

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will establish a study into the environmental effects of the operation of Sellafield on the (a) flora, (b) fauna and (c) fisheries of Northern Ireland. [120709]

Mr. George Howarth: Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Environment and Heritage Service under its acting chief executive, Mr. J. R. Lamont.

I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from J. R. Lamont to Mr. Eddie McGrady, dated 3 May 2000:


As Acting Chief Executive of the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS), I am responsible for operational aspects of protection of the environment on behalf of the Department of the Environment. I am responding to the Parliamentary Question you put down on 26 April asking for a study into the environmental effects of the operation of Sellafield on the flora, fauna and fisheries of Northern Ireland.

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In Northern Ireland, a comprehensive monitoring programme which is operated by EHS's Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate, has been in place since the early 1970s. The programme is reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that any changes in discharges from the Sellafield Plant are carefully assessed.
Discharges into the Irish Sea from the Sellafield Plant are authorised by the Environment Agency. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), formerly the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) has been sampling and analysing seawater, fish, shellfish, seaweed and sediments in the Irish Sea since the early 1950s. In Northern Ireland, our Inspectorate arranges for samples of seaweed, sediments, fish, nephrops, mussels and winkles to be collected quarterly and forwarded to the CEFAS Research laboratory at Lowestoft. The seaweeds are collected in the Ards Peninsula area and at Portrush and the marine life samples are obtained as far as possible from commercial landings, at Kilkeel and Portavogie. Sediments samples are collected from Northern Ireland's 5 marine loughs.
The Northern Ireland results are published annually in a report entitled "Radioactivity in Food and the Environment" issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and also in the Northern Ireland Abstract of Statistics. The levels of radioactivity measured indicate that they are of negligible radiological significance.
In addition to this programme, the Inspectorate monitors with gamma dose rate in air over intertidal sediments in each district council area which has a coastline. The results indicate minimal radioactivity deposition and are consistent with normal background levels.
We have also undertaken a number of collaborative studies with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and University College Dublin since 1990. A copy of the joint report on Carlingford Lough is available in the Library of the House of Commons.
I can report that on average, people in Northern Ireland receive 2500 microsieverts of radiation a year from all natural and artificial sources; 50 per cent. is due to exposure to radon in the home. 12 per cent. from medical exposure and nuclear discharges accounts for less than 0.1 per cent.
In view of the comprehensive information already available from the monitoring programme there are no plans to establish a separate study at this time. I can assure you, however, that the Department will continue with the monitoring programme in view of local concerns.


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