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PRIME MINISTER

Cabinet Meetings

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister if he will publish the dates on which the Cabinet meets and the duration of each meeting. [102643]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 14 December 1999]: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 31 July 1998, Official Report, column 604W.

Joint Cabinet Consultative Committee

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the remit of the Joint Cabinet Consultative Committee. [103047]

The Prime Minister: The Terms of Reference of the Joint Consultative Committee are


Under these Terms of Reference, the Committee has agreed that it will also consider issues arising from European Union institutional reform which are being considered by the European Council.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister if Liberal Democrat members of the Joint Cabinet Consultative Committee are under an obligation not to disclose publicly the content of discussions in that forum. [103077]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 20 January 1999, Official Report, columns 484-85W.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister who attended the Joint Cabinet Consultative Committee meeting on 13 December on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Party. [103081]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 5 July 1999, Official Report, column 362W.

Ministerial Visits

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister how many Ministers and officials accompanied him on his visit to the United States from 4 to 7 February 1998. [103180]

The Prime Minister: As I have already made public, I was accompanied by nine key officials from No. 10 and three Ministers, together with the usual number of security and secure telecommunications staff that accompany a Prime Minister on an overseas visit.

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister how many meetings he held with members and officials of the United States Government, other than President Clinton, during his visit of 20 to 23 June 1997, indicating the date and locations of each meeting, and the names of the persons met. [103139]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the statement I gave the House on 24 June 1997, Official Report, columns 671-73W.

20 Dec 1999 : Column: 354W

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMISSION

Public-Private Partnerships

34. Mr. David Heath: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission what assessment the Commission has made of the adequacy of the resources available to the National Audit Office to assess the value for money of public-private partnership funded schemes. [101990]

Mr. Sheldon: The Commission last met on 2 December to consider the estimates for the National Audit Office. Clearly, the evaluation of public-private partnership schemes, including projects under the Private Finance Initiative, is a major priority for the National Audit Office. Within the past two years, the NAO has published 10 reports on such projects and a further report setting out its criteria for evaluating public-private partnerships. More work in this area is planned and, while the Commission will continue to monitor the situation, I am satisfied that at present the current level of funding for this work is adequate.

CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Clergy Pensions

35. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what is the proportion of the annual Church Commissioners' revenue allocated to clergy pensions; and if he will make a statement. [101991]

Mr. Stuart Bell: In 1998 (the latest year for which figures are available), the Commissioners spent £85 million on clergy pension benefits. They also contributed £23 million to help dioceses take on the cost of pension contributions under the new clergy pension scheme established in 1998, as well as paying the contributions for clergy for whom the Commissioners are responsible. The total expenditure on pensions and pension contributions was £110 million, which was 69 per cent. of the Commissioners' overall expenditure.

Use of Church Buildings

36. Mr. Corbyn: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what the policy of the Commissioners is on co-operation with people of other faiths in the use of church buildings. [101992]

Mr. Stuart Bell: Guidance on this issue is set out in "Communities and Buildings" by the General Synod Board of Mission. I have arranged for a copy to be placed in the House of Commons Library.

Mobile Telephone Antennae

37. Mr. Fabricant: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment they have made of the benefits of allowing the use of church property for mobile telephone antennae. [101993]

20 Dec 1999 : Column: 355W

Mr. Stuart Bell: The Commissioners are approached from time to time with requests to permit the installation of mobile phone antennae on their agricultural land. Requests are dealt with on a case by case basis, taking into account the impact on the surrounding area, and are subject to the planning process.

The Commissioners do not have responsibility for granting requests to erect mobile phone antennae on churches in use which are a matter for Diocesan Advisory Committees and planning authorities.

Anglican Services

38. Mr. Flynn: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment he has made of the numbers of clergymen who will be required to conduct Anglican services in 2020. [101994]

Mr. Stuart Bell: The Ministry Division of the Archbishops' Council is responsible for monitoring clergy numbers. No assessment of the likely numbers of full-time stipendiary clergy has been made for 2020 but work is currently being undertaken on long-term projections. Stipendiary clergy men and women are not the only resource for ministry available to the Church. At the end of 1998 there were, in addition to the 9,636 stipendiary clergy men and women, 1,206 non-stipendiary ministers and nearly 10,000 Readers. There are also 1,304 chaplains ministering in hospitals, schools, prisons and to the armed forces.

DEFENCE

Departmental Sites (Water and Sewerage)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the out-sourcing of water supplies and sewage treatment at his Department's sites. [102743]

Mr. Kilfoyle: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 8 December 1999, Official Report, column 557W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins).

Depleted Uranium Ordnance

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research he has commissioned on the impact on health of oxide dust created by the use of depleted uranium weapons. [102747]

Mr. Spellar: The potential hazards caused by depleted uranium are well understood and are widely documented in existing scientific literature. The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency's Radiation Protection Service, then the Defence Radiological Protection Service, published in 1993 a summary report of its assessment of the radiological and chemical hazards of depleted uranium. The report explained that there are two types of hazard posed by the use of depleted uranium: a radiation hazard, although depleted uranium is a low specific activity material (as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency); and a chemical toxicity hazard, which is similar to that posed by other heavy metals, such as lead. A copy of the summary report has been placed in the Library of the House.

20 Dec 1999 : Column: 356W

In addition, on 19 March, the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces published a detailed paper "Testing for the presence of depleted uranium in UK veterans of the Gulf conflict: The Current Position". This paper describes the scenarios in which UK troops may have been exposed to DU in the Gulf and outlines the possible health effects of such exposures. It also includes reference to the case narrative "Depleted Uranium in the Gulf", published by the US Department of Defense; this case narrative sets out details of the programme of testing being conducted in the United States in the context of veterans possibly exposed to depleted uranium during the Gulf conflict. Copies of the paper have been placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Livsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent reports he has received on radiation which has been measured in the vicinity of impacts of ammunition containing depleted uranium. [103391]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the incidence of birth deformities in areas where ordnance containing depleted uranium has been used. [102581]

Mr. Spellar: No assessment has been undertaken by my Department of the incidence of birth deformities where ammunition containing uranium has been used. We are not aware of any peer-reviewed epidemiological studies or validated data to suggest a link between ammunition containing depleted uranium and birth deformities. My Department would consider carefully any such studies or data if these became available.


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