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National Missile Defense

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will invite hon. Members to join the delegation to meet the defence envoys due to visit the United Kingdom to discuss national missile defense, announced by President Bush on 1 May. [160810]

Mr. Spellar: No.

Appointments (Age Limit)

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what age limit is placed on appointments to public bodies in his Department; if this limit is mentioned in advertisements for such posts; and what the basis for this limit is. [158128]

Dr. Moonie: The Government are committed to equality of opportunity and to increasing the diversity of those appointed to public bodies. Consistent with this, there are no age limits on appointments made to public bodies sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, other than to the advisory committee on conscientious objectors. Appointments to this body are part-time judicial posts, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and therefore abide by the Lord Chancellor's Department's general policy of normally considering for appointment only those aged between 35 and 62. The upper limit is set to take account of the retirement age for judicial office holders, which for part-time office holders is 65.


Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reason his Department is revising its internal guidance to staff on writing and distributing

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e-mails; and if he will place in the Library a copy of his Department's current internal guidance on e-mail procedures. [152053]

Dr. Moonie: Current Ministry of Defence (MOD) corporate policy and guidance concerning the use of e-mail is contained in two documents: Defence Council instruction (DCI) 156/00, which sets out policy and guidance on the use of e-mail, and DCI 272/00, which concerns conduct matters relating to the use of IT systems, including e-mail communications. In addition, most of MOD's IT systems have local operating procedures that may provide additional guidance for users.

MOD is in the process of producing a single publication covering all aspects of electronic working, including the use of e-mail. This will consolidate existing policy and guidance, update this in the light of our growing experience of electronic working and of recent legislation, as well as provide advice on best practice. Our aim is to improve MOD's working processes and the quality of life at work for our employees, as well as promote the efficient and effective management of information in defence.

I am arranging for copies of MOD's current policy documents on the use of e-mail, DCIs 156/00 and 272/00, to be placed in the Library of the House.


GM Crops

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what baseline data are being used for monitoring purposes for each of the genetically modified trial test sites at Mathry, Pembrokeshire; [157572]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 9 April 2001]: The design of the farmscale evaluations experiment does not require a pre-experiment assessment of baseline data other than pre-sowing seed sampling, which gives an indication of the potential for weeds to grow in the field. This is because the experiment is designed to compare effects of herbicide use between the two sides of each experimental field. One half is randomly selected and planted with the GM crop, while the other half is planted with the non-GM equivalent crop. This design allows for the effects of the herbicides on wildlife in the two halves of the field to be assessed more accurately than would be possible by comparison with wildlife in the crop before the start of the experiment.

The purpose of the farmscale evaluations is to examine whether there are any differences in the diversity and abundance of farmland wildlife associated with the use of GM herbicide tolerant crops with the herbicides to which they are tolerant, as compared with equivalent non-GM crops. We are also measuring the effects of geneflow. The wildlife found in crop fields is affected by factors such as the vegetation and crop type. Wildlife present in the bare field before sowing or in a previous, different, crop the

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year before will not be the same as that to be expected in the experimental crop. Measurements of differences in wildlife between a pre-trial audit and within the experimental crop during the experiment would therefore not allow the effects of the herbicide to be measured.

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the impact on United Kingdom honey production of GM crops. [158504]

Mr. Meacher: Only extremely small amounts of GM pollen (less than one part per million) might arise in honey as a result of the present plantings of GM crops. This is considerably below the 1 per cent. threshold for labelling produce as containing GM material set out in the Novel Foods Regulations. The pollen from these particular crops has also been determined by Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment not to harm bees. Therefore, we believe that the current cultivation of GM crops should not affect honey production any more than conventional farming.

However, I am aware that some retailers have asked their honey suppliers to move hives away from GM crop trial sites and this may have an impact on production. There is therefore an important issue of liability for any damage to another farmer's, or in this case, beekeeper's ability to sell his produce. I believe that we need a liability provision in law whereby a GM farmer or any other type of farmer is made statutorily liable for any damage caused to neighbouring farmers or producers. We are working on a range of options for possible liability provisions of this type, in respect of any damage from GM crops. In the meantime, an individual who has suffered loss may be able to commence an action in the courts. Each case will turn on its own facts and the question of who is liable will be determined in the light of all the circumstances.

Birmingham Northern Relief Road

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what steps he has taken to implement the inspector's recommendation at the public inquiry into the Birmingham northern relief road that the Lichfield and Hatherton canal restoration should not be compromised by the toll motorway; [160126]

Mr. Hill: The Secretary of State's decision on the inspectors report into the Birmingham northern relief road (BNRR) scheme was published on 27 July 1997. That letter placed obligations on the concessionaire, Midland Expressway Ltd. (MEL), in respect of the Lichfield and Hatherton canals. MEL is required to facilitate the full restoration works for the canals, waiving any consequential loss of tolls that these works may occasion. MEL is also required to provide, at its expense, the foundations for an aqueduct to carry the Lichfield canal over the BNRR and a pipe for an interim supply if the Lichfield and Hatherton canals restoration trust considers this necessary. MEL will meet these obligations in full.

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Active discussions regarding the funding of the crossing are ongoing between the various parties involved. I will write to my hon. Friend once those discussions are complete.

London Underground

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how the principle of reputational externalities is applied to the assessment of bidders for the London Underground PPP. [160530]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 9 May 2001]: In recognition of the size of the London Underground PPPs and the potential for alternative funding sources, the financial analysis of the PPP bids is based around a number of different scenarios, including ones that allow for a public sector bond-financed London Underground. Where appropriate, an adjustment representing the "reputational externality" is included in some of these scenarios. This is designed to capture the impact additional public sector borrowing would have on the Government's reputation for prudence and therefore on the risk premium demanded on sterling-denominated securities.

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations Transport for London has made on the policy of preferred bidder status in relation to the London Underground; what control Transport for London will have over the preferred bidder when London Underground comes under the responsibility of the London Mayor; what aspects agreed prior to the transfer will be the sole responsibility of the contractor; and if he will make a statement. [160801]

Mr. Hill: I understand that Bob Kiley, Commissioner of Transport for London, wrote to Sir Malcolm Bates, then chairman of London Transport, on 27 April 2001 giving TFL's views on LT's proposed decision to select preferred bidders for the two deep tube PPP competitions. On 2 May, the LT board--after giving full and proper consideration to TFL's views--selected preferred bidders for these contracts. The preferred bidder for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines infrastructure company is Tube Lines. The preferred bidder for the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines infrastructure company is Metronet.

On 4 May, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced that he had reached agreement with Bob Kiley on a way forward which will provide a secure basis for progressing the PPP. As a result of this agreement, Mr. Kiley will be appointed LT chairman and will lead negotiations with the bidders aimed at finding a way to meet his concerns on unified management within the framework of the PPP and the current procurement. The way forward protects the key objectives of achieving safety and value for money. The details of this agreement are set out in a memorandum of agreement, a copy of which has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the preferred bidder for London Underground and the public sector comparator; if the preferred bidder has been informed that the comparator must be favourable when the bid is assessed; what information is being given to the preferred bidder about

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the terms of the comparator; when it is expected to make the terms of the comparator public; and what his policy is in the event that the bidder receives an unfavourable assessment under the comparator. [160800]

Mr. Hill: The PPPs for London Underground are about delivering best value for both tube passengers and taxpayers. As such, we expect the LT board to sign PPP contracts only if they are satisfied that they represent value for money. They will be guided in this decision by the results of a rigorously designed and constructed public sector comparator. This has been made clear to both the preferred bidders for the deep-tube contracts.

A paper describing the methodology used by LT in constructing the comparator was placed in the House Library on 30 March 2000. This paper has been made available to bidders. I understand that LT also intends to make the results of the comparator publicly available once contracts have been signed. To publish the results of the comparator earlier than this would undermine LT's commercial position.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what negotiations he intends to have over the next month with leaders of the RMT trade union concerning strike action on the London Underground. [160718]

Mr. Hill: None. This is an operational matter for the union and London Underground to resolve between them.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much London Transport has spent to date on consultancy costs for London Underground public-private partnership. [161063]

Mr. Hill: I understand from London Transport that its expenditure on external consultants from 20 March 1998 (the date of the Government's announcement) to 31 March 2001, for work on the PPP and restructuring of London Underground, was £76.7 million.

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