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Shipwreck Amsterdam

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the management of the archaeological site of the shipwreck Amsterdam. [103036]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The wreck site of the Amsterdam was one of the first sites to be afforded legal protection under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Designation of a wreck site under the provisions of this Act makes it an offence for anyone to tamper with, damage or remove any part of a vessel without the authority of a licence granted by the Secretary of State. Recently concerns have been voiced over the state of steel girders left over the site following licensed archaeological excavations in the 1980s. I am pleased to be able to report that these girders were removed in October this year.

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Underwater Heritage

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will assess the benefits of transferring responsibility for underwater cultural heritage to English Heritage. [103037]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The Government are fully committed to transferring responsibility for underwater cultural heritage to English Heritage as soon as a suitable legislative opportunity arises. This will put underwater archaeology on the same footing as land archaeology, allowing access to English Heritage grant funds which are currently not available to underwater projects.


Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if the bids received by English Heritage in respect of the Stonehenge Visitors Centre project have been evaluated and by whom; what is the timescale for consequent decisions; whether the bids have been seen and considered by (a) the National Trust, (b) the Ministry of Defence, (c) the DETR and (d) Salisbury District Council; and when their comments will be (i) considered by him and (ii) published. [103408]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The preferred commercial operator of the new visitor centre will be chosen by a selection panel which is made up of commissioners and senior staff of English Heritage, council members and senior staff of the National Trust and a senior member of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The panel have been provided with a wide range of professional and technical advice and the Highways Agency, English Nature, Salisbury District Council and Wiltshire County Council have all been consulted. The Ministry of Defence is not involved in the selection of the operator for the new visitor centre. The panel met with representatives of the short listed bidders on 16 December and hopes to make an announcement of the preferred bidder early in 2000. Salisbury District Council will, in due course, consider a planning application submitted by the preferred bidder. It is not possible at this stage to give an accurate estimate of the timescale for the consultations that will follow the selection of the bidder.


High Court Judges

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on the Lord Chancellor's disciplinary powers regarding the conduct of High Court judges. [103742]

Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor has no power to remove High Court judges. They can be dismissed only by the Queen following a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. But the Lord Chancellor, as head of the judiciary, is able to guide, counsel, advise or rebuke with a view to ensuring that judges uphold the standards of conduct which the public expect of them.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many High Court judges have been censured by the Lord Chancellor since May 1997. [103811]

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Jane Kennedy: Since May 1997, the Lord Chancellor has seen fit to "censure" two High Court judges. In the first instance, he wrote to a judge who had used official paper for private purposes. In the second, he spoke to a judge who had re-assigned a case from one judge to another without a hearing in open court.

IT Systems (Land Registry)

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what factors underlay the retention of business process re-engineering within the Land Registry when the recent decision over contracting out IT systems was taken. [103626]

Jane Kennedy: The recently awarded contract represents a key strategic partnership between HM Land Registry and COMPAQ, which seeks to make best use of private sector expertise in providing, maintaining and enhancing the Land Registry's IT infrastructure. This partnership will see the agency continuing to progress the work carried out so far in re-engineering its business processes, working alongside COMPAQ, which will ensure the IT infrastructure is capable of meeting the Land Registry's current and future needs.

This partnership arrangement is the best option for ensuring that effective change is taken forward as quickly as possible with minimal risk.

Departmental Productivity

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what action he is taking to increase the productivity and reduce the running costs of his Department. [103852]

Mr. Lock: Delivering efficient and modern public services is a key part of the Government's agenda for improving productivity. Greater efficiency is being sought therefore within the public sector to ensure that the most effective results are obtained from available resources. The Department's Public Service Agreement (PSA) includes a range of measures for taking this forward, both within the Department and in other public sector bodies.

Those measures which will help raise the Department's own productivity are as follows:

General productivity measures include:

Specific LCD departmental targets include:

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Many of the targets listed are also Key Performance Indicators or supporting targets of the LCD's Court Service Agency.

The Department's gross running costs provision for 1999-2000 to 2001-02 is set out in its PSA. The productivity measures listed will enable the Department to increase the quantity and quality of outputs delivered by its running cost expenditure over this period.

Persistent Young Offenders

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the average time taken from arrest to sentence of persistent young offenders in Nottinghamshire in the latest month for which figures are available; and what was the equivalent figure for the same month one year earlier. [103184]

Jane Kennedy: The Government's pledge to halve the average time from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders is monitored using data from the Police National Computer. The most recent figures by police force area refer to January 1999 to June 1999 when the average for Nottinghamshire was 126 days. Monthly figures for Nottinghamshire over this period are not available. Figures for January to June 1998 covering Nottinghamshire alone are not available: the previous figures cover 1998 as a whole, and the average for Nottinghamshire was 148 days. Further information about these figures is available in LCD Press Notices 154-99 and 368-99 copies of which have been placed in the House of Commons Library.


Growth Promoters

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which antibiotics are permitted for use in farming as growth promoters in (a) Thailand and (b) Brazil in products that may be imported into the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [100402]

Ms Quin: The details as to which antibiotic growth promoters are used in Thailand and Brazil in the farming of food animals that are likely to be imported into the UK are not currently available. However, it is possible that some antibiotic growth promoters are used in the rearing of food-producing animals that are not permitted for such use in the EU. In adopting a temporary ban on four antibiotic growth promoters in December 1998, the Council of Agriculture Ministers asked the Commission to produce a report on the external dimension of the measure. In particular, the Council asked the Commission to consider how the EU's trading partners might be encouraged to adopt equivalent measures. This report is expected by the end of this year.

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