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Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the measures being taken by the Government to combat the spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Nick Brown: Viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits (RVHD) is endemic in wild and domestic rabbits in the UK. While the Government have no control measures against the spread of RVHD in the wild rabbit population, it remains an offence under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order 1998 to introduce live RVHD virus into rabbits deliberately, except under licence. The equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland is the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (Northern Ireland) 1999.
Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the research projects being (a) carried out and (b) sponsored by his Department into rabbit haemorrhagic disease, and state the nature of each project. 
Mr. Nick Brown: There are currently no research projects on viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits in the MAFF funded research programme. Work was done at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency between 1992 and 1996 and several scientific papers were published from this research.
I understand that research is being done in some EU member states where commercial rabbit breeding is on a larger scale than in the UK. The Institute of Virology at Oxford University is also engaged in current research, but this is not funded by MAFF.
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Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list each of his Department's marine research vessels stating for each vessel (a) which port they operate out of, (b) the complement of crew, (c) the age, (d) the estimated years until decommissioning and (e) the research programme in the current year. 
Mr. Nick Brown: MAFF has two Fisheries Research Vessels, operated by MAFF's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). The two vessels are the 72 metre long RV Cirolana and the 53 metre RV Corystes. Both vessels operate out of the port of Lowestoft.
The Cirolana has a current complement of 17 crew. It was commissioned in 1970, and has been in operation for 30 years. It is expected to be decommissioned in 2003. Its programme for calendar year 2000 is for eight voyages. Five will support the science and management of marine fisheries, and three will support the science and management of the marine environment.
The Corystes has a current complement of 16 crew. It was commissioned in 1988, and has been in operation for 12 years. It has a design life of 25 years. Its programme for calendar year 2000 is for 16 voyages. Eight will support the science and management of marine fisheries, and eight will support the science and management of the marine environment.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what has been the policy since 1989 on writing annually to those of his Department's staff who are paying reduced rates of National Insurance contributions, reminding them of the rules governing the payment of reduced rates, as recommended in the Inland Revenue guidance note on reduced rate National Insurance contributions for married women. 
Mr. Morley: Staff in my Department are paid via Chessington Computer Services Ltd. (CCSL) who are notified about National Insurance (NI) contributions by the Contributions Agency. All staff are notified by Office Notice as and when changes occur to NI contributions. The most recent Office Notice outlining the position of married and divorced women with reserved rights to reduced rates of NI contribution was issued in November 1997. This Office Notice will be re-issued shortly and every year thereafter.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many agencies of his Department use touch tone telephone steering systems when dealing with telephone inquiries from the general public; 
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Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much money was allocated to the South-west Regional Flood Defence Committee for capital projects from grants through his Department in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 July 2000]: I refer the hon. Member to my reply of 23 March 2000, Official Report, columns 640-41W, which explained how grant is allocated to the Environment Agency and provided figures for the South-west RFDC for 1996-97 to 1998-99. For 1999-2000, the original Grant Earning Ceiling for the South West RFDC was £2.2 million and the estimated outturn is £0.9 million.
The net amount of grant paid in 1999-2000 reflects (a) the relatively low level of the achieved capital programme and (b) the reclaim of grant paid in previous years on legal costs in the light of the settlement of a contractual dispute in the Agency's favour.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of correctly presented bills were paid by his Department in (a) 1998-99 and (b) 1999-2000 within 30 days of receipt of (i) goods and services, (ii) a valid invoice and (iii) other agreed payment terms. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 July 2000]: MAFF's standard terms of business are payment within 30 days of receipt of a valid invoice or the provision of goods and services, whichever is the later. Where other payment terms are exceptionally agreed, they are used to measure performance. Performance is measured against all supplier invoices paid. For 1998-99, 93.3 per cent. of invoices were paid on time; in 1999-2000 89.5 per cent. of invoices were paid on time.
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Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the Post Office was informed of the contents of (a) the Performance and Innovation Unit report on Modernising the Post Office network and (b) the proposals contained in his oral statement of 28 June 2000, Official Report, columns 907-20, on the Post Office network. 
Mr. Byers [holding answer 10 July 2000]: By the nature of the Performance and Innovation Unit's study on modernising the post office network, the Post Office were closely involved in it throughout. However, they did not receive a copy of the report in final form or of my statement until after I stood up to make my statement to the House on 28 June.
Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what mechanisms are employed to ensure that the full value of rural sub post offices to the local community and economy are taken into account in developing co-ordinated Government policy. 
Mr. Alan Johnson: In preparing its report on the post office network, the Performance and Innovation Unit has assessed in detail the economic and social role and value of rural sub post offices in the local community. Its findings are reflected in the recommendations made in its report for a range of measures to protect and sustain the rural network.
Mr. Alan Johnson: The Performance and Innovation Unit's report on the post office network emphasises the important contribution made by post offices to their local communities and, in particular, the need to protect the rural network against avoidable closures by providing financial support for a period. The Performance and Innovation Unit's report contains 24 recommendations, of which six relate specifically to the network of rural post offices, 12 relate to the network as a whole and six relate specifically to urban post offices. The Government accept all of them.
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