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29 Oct 2002 : Column 726W—continued

Top-up Fees

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what discussions she has had with university vice chancellors and principals about the introduction of top-up fees; and which universities have informed her of their intention to introduce top-up fees. [77682]

Margaret Hodge: My right hon. Friend and I meet university vice chancellors and principals from time to time in the course of normal business. We discuss a range of issues, and a number have raised the

issue of discretionary fees.

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the effect on access to higher education of the introduction of top-up fees. [77857]

Mr. Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what evidence (a) from the UK and (b) from overseas she has assessed on the effect of top-up fees on levels of participation in higher education; [77750]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 28 October 2002]: We have announced our intention to publish a strategy document setting out our vision for the development and reform of higher education, including the outcome of the review of student support. The document will be published shortly; it would not be appropriate to pre-empt that strategy at this stage.


Beef Special Premium Scheme

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what basis penalties are applied to claims under the Beef Special Premium Scheme 2001; and whether these penalties are equally applied to farmers in other countries within the Common Agricultural Policy. [77526]

Alun Michael : The Integrated Administration Control System sets down the penalties to be applied to the 2001 Beef Special Premium Scheme. These penalties are detailed in Commission Regulation 3887/92 (as amended). This regulation applies equally in all member states and compliance with it is monitored closely by European Commission auditors.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the appeal procedure regarding the Beef Special Premium Scheme in 2001; under what legislation it operates; and if she will list the names and legal qualifications of those who hear the appeals. [77527]

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Alun Michael: There is not a formal appeal procedure for the 2001 Beef Special Premium Scheme. The Integrated Administrative and Control System Appeal Procedure, which was introduced on 1 April 2002, applies only to decisions made for the 2002 and subsequent scheme years. An internal customer complaints procedure is operated by the Rural Payments Agency, which is responsible for operating the scheme.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many appeals have been made regarding the Beef Special Premium Scheme 2001; and how many were (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful. [77529]

Alun Michael: There were 3,544 total refusals and 7,203 partial refusals of claims out of 102,495 which were submitted for Beef Special Premium Scheme 2001. Of these a small proportion have made representations to their rural payments agency processing site. A further 47 have made representations via their MP, and 55 have made customer complaints. In the majority of cases the original decision has been maintained because the European regulations governing the scheme do not allow for discretion to be applied where the conditions for claiming aid have not been met.


Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking in response to recommendations from the UN Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child on measures to promote breast feeding and adoption of the International Code for Marketing of breast milk substitutes. [76402]

Jacqui Smith: I have been asked to reply.

The Government are fully committed to the promotion of breastfeeding, which is accepted as the best form of nutrition for infants. Under the NHS Plan, we have a commitment for Xincreased support for breastfeeding". As part of the Government's commitment to reduce health inequalities and increase breastfeeding rates, particularly among disadvantaged groups, a target has been set to increase breastfeeding initiation rates by 2 percentage points through the NHS priorities and planning framework.

The Department has undertaken several strands of work in promoting breastfeeding and will be further developed in the context of the children's national service framework. A total of 79 Xbest breastfeeding practice" projects have been funded across all regions. The aim is to increase the rates of breastfeeding, both initiation and duration among the disadvantaged groups. This is a goal shared by all sure start initiatives and several health action zone programmes.

Other related Department activities include support for an annual National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, that aims to raise the awareness of breastfeeding through the NHS. The Department also has close links with the four main voluntary organisations involved in the promotion of breastfeeding and the UNICEF/World Health Organisation baby friendly initiative. The Department also conducts research into breastfeeding through quinquennial infant feeding surveys.

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Since 1981, the United Kingdom has publicly endorsed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and all the relevant resolutions passed at the World Health Assembly. The Infant Formula and Follow-on-Formula regulations came into force on 1 March 1995 and they implement the EC Directive 91/321/EEC, which embraces the principles of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes 1981. The regulations place statutory restrictions on the composition, labelling, advertising and export of infant formulae. By implementing the Directive, the Government have taken seriously their responsibility to protect infant health and are at present revising the policy lines on infant feeding. We will be giving full consideration to the United Nations Committee's recommendations on promoting breastfeeding.

Broadband (Rural Areas)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to encourage total roll-out of broadband in rural areas. [77848]

Alun Michael: The Government are setting up a new regional broadband unit, co-ordinated by the DTI. This unit will see a broadband expert located in each of the English regions and the devolved Administrations. The experts' role will be to help stimulate the rollout and take up of broadband, including in rural and remote areas. This is part of the Government's strategy to meet their target for the UK to have the most extensive and competitive broadband market in the G7 by 2005. Defra is working closely with DTI in taking the rural broadband agenda forward.

EC Water Framework Directive

Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in implementing the EC Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). [78378]

Mr. Morley: The Government have today published jointly with the National Assembly for Wales a Second Consultation Paper on the Implementation of the EC Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). This technical document, which is the second of three consultations, sets out how the Directive will be transposed into national legislation. I have placed copies of the paper in the House Libraries.

Flood and Coastal Defence

Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent reports she has received under her Department's high level targets for flood and coastal defence; and if she will make a statement. [78379]

Mr. Morley: During summer recess, we published three reports on the high level targets which are designed to assist in delivery of the Government's policy aims and objectives for flood and coastal defence. Copies were placed in the House Libraries. These reports relate to:

Target 2—Provision of flood warnings;

Target 10—Water Level Management Plans;

Target 12—Development and Flood Risk.

Target 2—Provision of Flood Warnings

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This report follows the one published in May of this year and shows the following improvements since the last report was compiled: The percentage of flood warnings meeting target has risen by nearly 4 per cent. from 67.6 per cent. in April 2001 to 71.3 per cent. in April 2002.

The coverage of a direct flood warning system to properties in areas at risk of flooding has risen by 3 per cent. from 58 per cent. in April 2001 to 61 per cent. in April 2002. This is. an increase of some 57,000 properties. Since autumn 2000 a further 322,000 properties are covered by the flood warning arrangements.

Target 10—Water Level Management Plans

This report summarises the Agency's progress in developing and implementing Water Level Management Plans (WLMPs) on European sites.

Target 12—Development in Areas at Risk from Flooding

This is the first report published since PPG25 was introduced in July 2001 and is the starting point to consider whether these guidelines are working. PPG25 is due to be reviewed in 2004. Future reports will provide a clearer picture as the guidelines are embedded. In general, I am pleased to note that Environment Agency advice on flood risk developments is being accepted and followed by Local Planning Authorities (LPAs).

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