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Climate Change Levy

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment his Ministry has made of the potential impact of the proposed climate change levy on the agricultural sector. [99049]

Ms Quin: It is not possible to say what the impact of the levy on the agricultural industry will be. That will depend on a number of factors, including future energy consumption and what use the industry makes of electricity generated from 'new' renewable sources of energy or in 'good quality' combined heat and power plants. The use the industry makes of the proposed system of enhanced capital allowances for energy saving investments will also have an impact. In addition certain sectors of the industry will be eligible for an 80 per cent. discount on the rates of the levy if they enter into energy saving agreements with the Government. All sectors of the industry will also benefit from the lower overall rates of the levy announced by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget Report statement.

Fur Farming

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he plans to (a) introduce and (b) facilitate the passage of a Bill banning fur farming within the current parliamentary session. [99119]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 23 November 1999]: A Bill to ban fur farming in England and Wales was introduced on 22 November. I understand the Scottish Executive will be introducing a separate Bill to extend the ban to Scotland.


Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what regulatory requirements must be satisfied by persons seeking to export primates for experimentation purposes. [99138]

Ms Quin [holding answer 23 November 1999]: The rules governing the export of primates from the UK to member states of the European Union are set down in Council Directive 92/65/EEC of 13 July 1992. These rules are implemented in Great Britain by the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) Regulations 1998 and in Northern Ireland by the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended).

Under this legislation primates may be traded within the EU only between institutes or establishments which have been approved by the competent authority. Commission Decision 92/65/EEC sets down detailed specifications for the approval of institutes or establishments engaged in the import and export of primates. An up-to-date list of all such approved premises is lodged with the European Commission.

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Exported primates must be accompanied by official veterinary documentation confirming that the animals are in good health and that they originate from approved premises.

In the case of exports of primates to third countries, exporters are required to satisfy conditions agreed bilaterally between the UK and the importing country.

All primates exported from the UK are subject to rules introduced by The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997. Exporters are required to give a written undertaking that arrangements have been made to comply with the terms of the EU Directive 91/628 on the protection of animals during transport. The animals must not be transported in a way that causes or could cause injury or unnecessary suffering. Strict rules covering the construction and maintenance of the receptacles and means of transport must be complied with.

Bee Diseases

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures he is putting into effect to contain bee diseases in 2000. [99441]

Ms Quin [holding answer 25 November 1999]: The Government fund a range of measures in England through its bee health programme, which is delivered by the Central Science Laboratory's National Bee Unit. In 2000-01 the programme will cost £1.3 million. The measures include a free diagnostic service for varroa, American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood as well as providing training and guidance on how to improve bee husbandry to help control bee diseases. In addition, in 2000-01 MAFF expects to spend around £244,000 on research and development (mainly on varroa) to support our bee health work. This includes a four year project on the biological control of varroa.

Arrangements for bee health matters in Scotland and Wales are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly respectively.



Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures he is taking to promote ship building and repair in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [99208]

Mr. Alan Johnson: To support and promote the UK shipbuilding industry, in July 1998 the Department established the Shipbuilding Forum whose membership comprises representatives of the shipbuilding and shiprepair industry, trades unions, equipment suppliers and customers, both private and public sector. Also involved are the National Training Organisation for the marine sector and relevant Government Departments. The Forum's terms of reference were to consider the current situation of the shipbuilding and shiprepair industry and how to improve its competitiveness so as to increase its share of the European market, leading to increased output,

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profitability and employment. The Forum produced a Report (a copy of which was placed in the Library in May 1999) and a subsequent Implementation Plan containing Recommendations--more than 40--addressed to all the participants, not just to Government. The Forum believes that these Recommendations will go a long way towards improving the fortunes of the UK shipbuilding and shiprepair industry.

The Department has already implemented most of the Recommendations addressed to it, most of which related to improvements to the Shipbuilding Intervention Fund (SIF) and the Home Shipbuilding Credit Guarantee Scheme (HSCGS). The Department has agreed to include an element of profit in SIF calculation; has extended SIF to conversion contracts; and has extended access to SIF to a number of previously excluded yards. The HSCGS has been improved by allowing contacts offering "pure cover" and by allowing US dollar and euro financing. In addition my Department has supported financially two projects being undertaken by the Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association aimed at improving productivity in shipyards, both new building and repair/conversion.

As well as these measures we are working in the EU and the OECD to find effective international trade disciplines to tackle unfair trade practices, such as low pricing from Korea. The Industry Council achieved a positive conclusion on this issue at its meeting on 9 November, making clear the EU's determination to deal with Korean unfair pricing and agreeing further actions to this end, including re-engaging Korea in bilateral consultations and pursuing possible actions under the World Trade Organisation.

Post Office

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the principal activities of his Department and its agencies which provide business for (a) Crown post offices and (b) other post offices; if he will assess whether the level of business generated in each case is likely to increase or decrease over the next five years; and which new areas of business for post offices are likely to be developed by his Department and its agencies over the same period. [99554]

Mr. Alan Johnson: By the nature of their operations and activities, this Department and its agencies do not directly provide business for Crown or other post offices and this position is not expected to change over the next five years. Currently no specific new areas of business for post offices are foreseen by this department but the targets for electronic delivery of services (50 per cent. by 2005, 100 per cent. by 2008) represent a real opportunity for additional business for the Post Office network across all public services delivered by central Government. Moreover, equivalent targets are now being set for local Government and there is an opportunity for the Post Office network to gain further business in delivery of services which are the responsibility of local Government. In addition to these Modern Government initiatives, the potential to provide a wider range of banking and other financial services through the Horizon automated system could facilitate an increase in the levels of business generated by or with Government Departments and agencies.

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Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post offices there are in each parliamentary constituency; and how many of them transact more than 40 per cent. of their work volumes on behalf of the Benefits Agency. [99766]

Mr. Alan Johnson [holding answer 25 November 1999]: I have obtained from the Post Office a list providing the information requested and have arranged for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has approved the Post Office's five year Strategic Plan; and if he will make a statement. [100811]

Mr. Byers: I am pleased to announce Government approval of the Post Office's Strategic Plan for 1999-2004. This is a five year rolling Plan which will be updated annually. The Plan, as submitted by the Post Office Board meets the requirements set out in the Post Office White Paper (CM 4340) and represents a key element in the new arm's length relationship that the Government is now establishing with the Post Office in fulfilment of the reforms described in the White Paper. The Post Office will now be pursuing and developing their strategy and this will be reflected in the Plan for 2000-05, which the Board will be presenting to me next spring.

For the Post Office both to modernise and improve services to customers in this country and to develop into a significant global player in distribution markets poses tough challenges, but exciting opportunities. In an increasingly competitive market place for postal services these challenges should not be underestimated as the Post Office itself fully recognises. This means that the Post Office must successfully build on current initiatives and seize commercial opportunities as they arise in the UK and internationally.

The key features of the Strategic Plan are commercially confidential, and as such will not be published. However, on the basis of the Plan the Government have set a post-tax profit target of £350 million for the financial year 1999-2000. This figure excludes any exceptional provisions which may be made for the Horizon automation project. As already announced, the Government have set the external financing regime (excluding adjustments for Horizon and acquisitions) as 50 per cent. of the post-tax profits for this year, and therefore, if the Post Office achieves the profit target, this equivalent of a commercial dividend will be £175 million. In the unlikely event of the Post Office falling short of the profit target the minimum figure will be £140 million. The Post Office will not pay dividends until it becomes a plc but in the meantime will set aside the relevant amount in its reserves.

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