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Any council tax reduction scheme in Wales is a matter for the National Assembly. There is a scheme in operation this financial year 2000-2001 which has cost £17 million. The National Assembly is currently consulting on proposals for a new standard spending assessment formula and in the context of those proposals, a joint local government/National Assembly group is considering options for a transitional reduction scheme, should this be required in the next financial year.
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Mr. Hanson: My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the First Secretary covering a range of issues, including issues relating to local government finance. Increases in council tax are a matter for the local authorities themselves.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received with regard to the introduction of elected mayors for the (a) regions, (b) cities and (c) towns of Wales. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I have received a large number of representations relating to the introduction of executive arrangements, including elected mayors, in the Local Government Bill, but these have not been detailed representations relating to mayors for specific regions, cities or towns of Wales.
The Local Government Bill, which has now completed its parliamentary stages, provides a tailor made framework for executive arrangements including cabinets and directly elected mayors. All local authorities in Wales will need to consider which form of executive arrangement is most appropriate in their areas, and those who consider that a directly elected mayor would be appropriate will need to consult their electorate and hold a referendum on their proposals.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he made of the current state of indebtedness of the 26 health trusts in Wales when preparing his announcement of additional funding to the NHS in Wales. 
Mr. Hanson: Over the past year there have been regular discussions about the NHS in Wales between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and me and the Assembly First Secretary and Health Secretary.
Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what talks he has had with manufacturers on the areas in Wales to be covered by regional selective assistance; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Paul Murphy: I have had a number of meetings with manufacturers in Wales, some of whom have raised the issue of the Assisted Areas map, which determines the areas in which regional selective assistance can be paid. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and I were delighted to announce on 26 July that the European Commission has approved the new Assisted Areas map for the UK. I have written to all Welsh MPs and MEPs with details of what this means for Wales.
Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the First Secretary concerning paying of moneys from central Government to each local education authority school in Wales for books, with particular reference to the manner of giving the moneys to the schools; and if he will make a statement. 
The Assembly provides resources specifically for books through the annual Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST) programme. The Assembly believes that local education authorities are best placed to decide the allocation of these funds locally. They are encouraged to target schools with the greatest need in terms of improving standards of literacy and numeracy.
We are the first Government to have made a commitment to end child poverty in 20 years, and halve it within 10 years. The Government have announced measures this year which will assist child poverty, such as an increase in child benefit to £15.50 from April 2001, 40 per cent. more than in 1997, and an increase in the Sure Start maternity grant from £200 to £300.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had in the past 12 months with Ministers at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions concerning the imports into Wales of toxic waste for (a) disposal and (b) treatment. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I have met DETR Ministers to discuss a range of issues affecting Wales, and I have also met the Environment Agency Wales during the past 12 months to discus environment issues including imports and exports of waste. Policies on exports and imports of waste are not devolved and are dealt with by DETR.
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Nevertheless, I have taken a keen interest in these issues, especially during the consultation period of a UK-wide set of policies on exports and imports of waste, which the National Assembly for Wales were involved in.
Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much of the money spent on construction work on the A55 was EU funding, broken down by EU source fund and budget, in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: During the 10 years up to 1 July 1999, £6.9 million was allocated in 1990 from the EC Transport Infrastructure Fund to the A55 Pen y Clip tunnel scheme. The money was drawn down in instalments over the next few years but information on the size and date of each instalment is not obtainable without incurring disproportionate cost.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what proportion of New Deal participants in Wales have been (a) unemployed for over six months, (b) unemployed for over 12 months and (c) never worked. 
Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with (a) the First Secretary and (b) the Rural Affairs Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales as to the impact on farm incomes in less favoured areas in Wales of the reform of the Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance regime. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I meet the First Secretary on a regular weekly basis and I am in continuing contact with my colleagues in the National Assembly for Wales and we discuss a wide range of issues. The new scheme for the Less Favoured Areas, known as Tir Mynydd, forms part of the Rural Development Plan for Wales. It has not been possible to devise a new area-based scheme which exactly replicates payments under the old HLCA headage based scheme, and satisfies the European Commission. The new National Assembly scheme therefore includes a safety net over three years to help farmers who would otherwise lose out, to adjust.
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Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in respect of the effect on farm incomes in Wales of the reform of the Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance regime. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I speak to my Whitehall colleagues on a regular basis and we discuss a wide range of issues. The National Assembly for Wales' new scheme for the Less Favoured Areas, known as Tir Mynydd, forms part of the Rural Development Plan for Wales. It has not been possible to devise a new area-based scheme which exactly replicates payments under the old HLCA headage based scheme, and satisfies the Commission. The new scheme therefore includes a safety net over three years to help farmers who would otherwise lose out, to adjust.
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