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Portcullis House

Mr. Baker: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, when he expects to place in the Library a copy of the report by Sir Thomas Legg on Portcullis House. [141609]

Mr. Kirkwood: The Commission has no plans to place the report of Sir Thomas Legg in the Library since it dealt with matters of commercial and personnel confidentiality.

House of Commons Commission

Mr. Baker: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, if he will place in the Library a detailed account of the Commission's approach to the defence case pursued in the Harmon v. House of Commons Corporate Officer case. [142133]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 13 December 2000]: Throughout the case of Harmon v. The House of Commons Corporate Officer, the Commission has defended the House's position vigorously, guided in its decision taking by high level legal advice. When it became clear that even if finally successful the House would recover nothing in the damages action because of Harmon's insolvency, and in the face of mounting legal costs, the Commission settled out of court as I indicated in my reply to the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) on 2 November 2000, Official Report, column 575W.

19 Dec 2000 : Column: 151W

PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

People's Peerage

47. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council if the applications from those seeking a people's peerage will be lodged in the Library. [141613]

Mr. Tipping: No. The Appointments Commission made it clear in its material that it would treat all nominations and supporting information in confidence.

Parliamentary Questions

48. Mr. David Heath: To ask the President of the Council what guidance is given to Ministers on transferring questions tabled to them which lie (a) wholly and (b) partly within their area of responsibility. [141614]

Mrs. Beckett: No central guidance is issued as such, beyond that in 'Erskine May', questions fall to the Minister who is primarily responsible. Departmental parliamentary branches are expected to take account of the list of ministerial responsibilities issued by the Cabinet Office and rulings from the Chair, such as that given by the Chairman of Ways and Means on 18 July.

Parliamentary Year

50. Mr. Gapes: To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on her plans for earlier public announcements of forward planning of the parliamentary year. [141616]

Mrs. Beckett: I am happy to have been able to give the House early notification of the Christmas Adjournment and the February half-term break. I hope to continue such early announcements.

Electronic Voting

51. Mr. Baldry: To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on her proposals for electronic voting in the House. [141617]

Mrs. Beckett: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) and the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) on 19 December 2000, Official Report, column 201.

SCOTLAND

Voting Rights

4. Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the President of the Council on changes to the rights of Scottish hon. Members to vote on purely English legislation. [141567]

16. Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the President of the Council on the rights of Scottish hon. Members to vote on purely English legislation. [141579]

Mr. Wilson: None. The Government do not support the suggestion that there should be different classes of MP in Parliament with different voting rights.

19 Dec 2000 : Column: 152W

Country Sports

5. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received on the pursuit of country sports in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [141568]

Mr. Wilson: None. This subject is devolved and is a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Fishing Industry

6. Mr. Doran: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met representatives of the fishing industry; and what matters were discussed. [141569]

Dr. Reid: I met representatives of the Scottish fishing industry on 24 June 1999 to hear their concerns about the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999.

19. Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive's fisheries Minister on the future of the Scottish sea fishing industry. [141582]

Dr. Reid: I meet Ministers of the Scottish Executive on a regular basis to discuss a wide range of matters of importance to Scotland.

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the procedures for representing the interests of the Scottish fishing industry in discussions within the EU. [141562]

Dr. Reid: Relations with the European Union are the responsibility of the UK Government and the UK Parliament. The procedures for representing the interests of the devolved Administrations in relation to devolved matters, such as fisheries, are set out in the join Memorandum of Understanding and the relevant Concordats on Co-ordination of European Union Policy Issues. Scottish Executive Ministers attend Fisheries Councils as part of the UK team.

Military Bases

7. Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the gross financial benefit for the Scottish economy of having UK armed forces based in Scotland. [141570]

Dr. Reid: On the basis of the most recent figures available, defence expenditure in Scotland is estimated at approximately £1.8 billion and supports, directly and indirectly, approximately 60,000 jobs. Clearly, defence expenditure is both substantial and important to the Scottish economy.

Job Action Teams

8. Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of job action team pilots in Scotland. [141571]

Mr. Wilson: Early indications are that action teams are proving a success in helping unemployed people back to work. By finding local solutions to local problems action teams in East Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow and the Highlands and Islands have helped an additional 222 long-term unemployed people find work.

19 Dec 2000 : Column: 153W

Dounreay

9. Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the progress of discussions on the Dounreay site restoration plan. [141572]

Dr. Reid: The Nuclear Industries Inspectorate, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry are continuing their assessment of the UK Atomic Energy Authority's Site Restoration Plan for Dounreay, which was published on 9 October.

Fuel Prices

10. Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the impact of the current level of fuel prices on the economy of the highlands and islands. [141573]

Mr. Wilson: The Government view the economic impact of fuel prices within the context of their pursuit of fiscal and economic policies, which are leading to economic stability and steady growth.

The measures announced by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget Report to raise the limit for the lower rate of Vehicle Excise Duty for cars up to 1500cc will benefit over 40,000 motorists in the Highlands and Islands. Hauliers will benefit from the reform of the Vehicle Excise Duty and farmers will benefit from the freeze in duty on red diesel and the abolition of Vehicle Excise Duty on tractors and other agricultural vehicles.

18. Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the impact of the current level of fuel prices on the Scottish economy. [141581]

Mr. Wilson: The Government view the economic impact of fuel prices within the context of their pursuit of fiscal and economic policies, which are leading to economic stability and steady growth.

The measures announced by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget Report to raise the limit for the lower rate of Vehicle Excise Duty for cars of up to 1500cc will benefit over 750,000 Scottish motorists, over 40 per cent. of the total. All Scottish motorists will benefit from the freeze in duties on road fuels in Budget 2001 and from the cuts in duty for ultra low-sulphur petrol and diesel.

20. Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding fuel prices in Scotland. [141583]

Mr. Wilson: My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a wide range of issues affecting Scotland.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I agree that the price of fuel is only one factor in any consideration of motoring costs. Independent research commissioned by my Department has shown that the taxation costs of private motoring are lower in Scotland than in European countries such as the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and even Portugal. The average Scottish driver pays £1,000 a year less than in Denmark.

19 Dec 2000 : Column: 154W


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