25 Jun 2001 : Column: 17W

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 25 June 2001



Mr. Galloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what military actions HM forces conducted over northern Iraq on 19 June; and if he will make a statement. [386]

Mr. Hoon: On 19 June, coalition aircraft conducted routine patrols over the Northern No-Fly Zone over Iraq. During these patrols, aircrews came under multiple attack by Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles. On this occasion, no coalition ordnance was released in self-defence. In fact, all coalition aircraft involved in the patrols returned to base safely and all of their ordnance has been accounted for.

Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine yet again has made completely false claims. The Iraqis have asserted that, during these patrols, coalition aircraft attacked civilian targets when in fact, the evidence suggests that his own air defence system was responsible. The US Defence Department has stated that it has good reason to believe that one of the missiles fired at coalition aircrew may have returned to earth in the area where the casualties are alleged to have occurred.

British Forces Post Office, Mill Hill

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress of the review of British Forces Post Office, Mill Hill. [56]

Mr. Ingram: The review of the BFPO at Mill Hill has now been completed, but no firm decision has yet been taken. I understand fully the need to bring this issue to closure as quickly as possible and I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as a decision is made.



Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Prime Minister if he will seek an explanation from the Secretary of State for Health for not fulfilling his undertaking of 11 May to reply to letters to him from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Mr. E. Graal and Mrs. E. Jones. [399]

The Prime Minister: I understand that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Health and the Lord Chancellor have replied to my right hon. Friend's letters.

Appointments Commission

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to refer all recommendations for a peerage to the House of Lords Appointments Commission; and if he will make a statement. [260]

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The Prime Minister: It is my normal policy to do so. However, we have always made it clear that in relation to party political peers, the Appointments Commission was taking over the role formerly fulfilled by the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee. It was never the custom that appointments to the Lords to enable someone to take up ministerial office should be subject to scrutiny by that Committee. I have also decided, after consultation with the House of Lords Appointments Commission, that a limited number of holders of very high office may be recommended direct to the Queen by me.

Performance and Innovation Unit

Mr. Pound: To ask the Prime Minister what additional projects are planned for the Performance and Innovation Unit; and if he will make a statement. [975]

The Prime Minister: I have asked the Performance and Innovation Unit to undertake a review of the strategic issues surrounding energy policy for Great Britain.

The review will be set within the context of meeting the challenge of global warming, while ensuring secure, diverse and reliable energy supplies at a competitive price.

The aim of the review will be to set out the objectives of energy policy and to develop a strategy that ensures current policy commitments are consistent with longer- term goals. The findings will also inform the Government's response to last year's report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution "Energy--the changing climate".

The work the PIU has already started, on resource productivity and renewable energy, will be an important input into this project. This review will work closely with the resource productivity team and the main Whitehall Departments, as well as business, international institutions, other Government and non-governmental organisations.

The Minister for Industry and Energy will chair an advisory group for this project, which will report by the end of the year. Other Ministers on the advisory group include the Minister for the Environment and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Child Benefit

Ms Bridget Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister, in respect of the Government's intention to introduce a new tax credit for families with children, if he will make a statement on the future of the administrative arrangements for the Child Benefit Centre in Great Britain. [1062]

The Prime Minister: The new tax credit will build on the foundation of universal child benefit. I have decided that responsibility for child benefit in Great Britain will transfer to Inland Revenue so that when the new credit is introduced in 2003, Government support for children will be administered by one Department. Until the transfer takes place, child benefit will remain the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions.


Mr. Galloway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the bombing of a football game in Northern Iraq on 19 June. [387]

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The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence today, Official Report, column 17W.


Select Committee

(Lord Chancellor's Department)

Gareth Thomas: To ask the President of the Council if he will bring forward proposals to establish a departmental Select Committee to scrutinise the work of the Lord Chancellor's Department. [353]

Mr. Robin Cook: The Lord Chancellor's Department has been scrutinised by the Home Affairs Committee in the past, and this arrangement is likely to be appropriate in the future. The Lord Chancellor's Department's new responsibilities have largely been transferred from the Home Office.

Videoconferencing Facilities

Linda Gilroy: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what plans there are to improve the provision of, and access, to videoconferencing facilities for hon. Members. [833]

Mr. Kirkwood: This is a matter on which the Information Committee's advice would be sought. I hope that, together with other Select Committees, the Information Committee will soon be appointed.



Derelict Sites

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what powers are available to local authorities to compel private landowners to clear up derelict sites. [23]

Ms Keeble: Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 gives local planning authorities a discretionary power to require private landowners to clear up sites if they are adversely affecting the condition of land or amenity in their area.

If owners do not comply with a notice served under s215, local planning authorities have the power under s219 to enter the land to carry out the specified work and recover the costs incurred from the landowner.

The Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions last September published research on "Derelict Land and Section 215 Powers" which included a number of practical suggestions to facilitate its use.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions in what circumstances he (a) requires and (b) expects an environmental impact assessment in support of an application for permission for development. [21]

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Ms Keeble: The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 give effect to the requirements of Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The regulations apply to categories of projects specified in schedules 1 and 2 of the regulations. For development listed in schedule 1 of the regulations, environmental impact assessment is always required before planning permission may be granted. For development listed in schedule 2, an assessment is required if the project is likely to have a significant effect on the environment by virtue of factors such as its nature, scale or location.

Mobile Phone Masts

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on plans his Department has to tighten planning controls on mobile phone masts. [419]

Ms Keeble: We propose to bring forward shortly changes to the current planning rules and guidance for telecommunications mast development in order to:

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