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20 Nov 2002 : Column 138W—continued

Environmental Matters

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the environmental matters raised by (a) him, (b) his special envoys and (c) his officials in discussions with foreign powers since the last General Election. [80848]

The Prime Minister: The Government at all levels has raised a range of environmental matters during discussions with foreign governments since 2001. These include air quality, chemicals, climate change, energy, forests, biodiversity, sustainable development, agriculture and water issues.

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Since October 2001, I and other Ministers have attended major events and meetings which have addressed key environmental issues. These include:

The environment is a key priority for the UK Government. We shall continue to work closely with foreign governments on all environmental matters.

French Beef Ban

Andrew George: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with (a) President Chirac and (b) the French Government in respect of the costs to United Kingdom farmers following the French refusal to lift the British beef import ban. [81945]

The Prime Minister: I have raised the ban with both President Chirac and Prime Minister Raffarin on a number of occasions and am gratified that France has at last complied with EU law and lifted its ban on British beef. Any bids for compensation must come from those affected but we will support such cases if they arise.

Kyoto Agreement

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what recent steps he has taken to persuade (a) the US and (b) the Australian governments to sign and ratify the Kyoto Agreement. [80858]

The Prime Minister: The Government believe that the Kyoto Protocol, with its binding targets and timetables, is the only existing international framework for tackling climate change and takes every opportunity to urge all countries that have not yet ratified it to do so as soon as possible.

The Government are encouraged that although Australia will not be ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, it intends to meet its Kyoto Protocol target.

We welcome the US's recognition that climate change is a serious problem andthe fact that they are taking domestic action, although this will not result in the absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that the US would have been committed to make under the Kyoto Protocol.

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Media Team

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what the cost has been of works to 12 Downing Street to establish a base for his media team. [81596]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) on 24 July 2002, Official Report, column 1370W. I will write to the hon. Gentleman as well with details once the account has been finalised, and I will place a copy in the Library.

Ministerial Meetings

David Davis: To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions since 1997 (a) Ministers and (b) Government officials have met (i) Lord Currie, (ii) Lord Brooke, (iii) Karl Milner, (iv) Denise Kingsmill, (v) Jaap Kroese, (vi) Michael Frye and (vii) Professor Roderick Floud; and what was discussed at each meeting. [82346]

The Prime Minister: Ministers and Government officials have meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals. As with previous Administrations it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings, under exemptions 2 and 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

National Security

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what mechanism, consistent with national security, he has put in place to enable parliamentary scrutiny and accountability of monies spent across government in response to the events of 11 September 2001. [81581]

The Prime Minister: The resources allocated by departments to meet requirements post-September 11 are subject to the same parliamentary scrutiny and accountability as any other departmental funding.

Swamarurayan Hindu Mission

Keith Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister, if he will make a statement on the petition given to him by Dr. I. P. Patel, the trustee of the Swamarurayan Hindu Mission. [81498]

The Prime Minister I have received the petition and I will be replying in due course.

Visits (East Lancashire)

Mr. Evans: To ask the Prime Minister how many times he has visited East Lancashire in his official capacity; and what the purpose was of each visit. [82407]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) on 7 November 2002, Official Report, columns 441–43W.


Education Facilities (Wokingham)

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will publish the reasons for not approving the recent Wokingham Unitary Council bid for a PFI to

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build new buildings for a secondary school and a special school, together with other community facilities; and if he will make a statement. [81755]

Mr. Miliband: The PFI bid submitted by Wokingham council was one of 53 received from local education authorities (LEAs) for the 2003–04 financial year. Each proposal was evaluated by officials against the published criteria, and then scored and ranked. The Wokingham bid was ranked below the top 21 that we were able to support. My officials have provided the LEA with detailed feedback and have offered to provide further advice on the preparation of a future bid.

EU Education, Youth and Culture Council

Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the outcome was of the Education, Youth and Culture Council held in Brussels on 11 to 12 November; what the Government's stance on the issues discussed was, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [80715]

Margaret Hodge: My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport attended the culture and audiovisual session of this council, with Elaine Murray, the Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in the Scottish Parliament. I attended the education session on 12 November. There was no youth business.

In the culture and audiovisual session the Council adopted a resolution on European added value and mobility of persons and circulation of works in the cultural sector (document 13129/1/02); and a resolution on interactive media content in Europe (document 12911/02). The Council also adopted conclusions on the Television Without Frontiers Directives (document 12934/02).

In the education session, the Council adopted a resolution on enhanced co-operation in vocational education and training (document 13137/02).

The Council also held a discussion on the EU level education work programme, focusing in particular on the national level reforms that were linked to it, as well as the vocational education and training aspects of the work programme. I stressed the need to keep the work straightforward and to obtain concrete and practical results in terms of sharing good practice, while respecting the differences between our various education systems. I also supported the work on improving the understanding and getting better recognition of each others' qualifications. There was a high degree of consensus with many other delegations making the same points.

The Council held its first discussion of the Commission's Erasmus World proposal for a new programme to attract overseas students into the EU. I welcomed the broad aim of the proposal and stressed the need for the programme to be of high quality.

The Council received information from the Commission on the evaluation of the European Year of

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Languages in 2001, and on their proposed action plan to promote language learning and linguistic diversity, due to be published in 2003.

A copy of the Council minutes will be placed in the Library in due course.

Higher Education

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the postcodes in respect of which universities can claim extra payments for each student normally resident therein. [81819]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 19 November 2002]: This is a matter for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). I have therefore asked the chief executive of the Funding Council to reply to your question and to place a copy of his reply in the House of Commons Library.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will consult (a) students and (b) parents of students living in Buckinghamshire on the findings of the review of higher education. [81192]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 19 November 2002]: We plan to publish a strategy document setting out our 10-year vision for the development and reform of higher education in January. We have already taken steps to stimulate debate about the range of issues affecting the future of higher education; once the strategy document is published, there will be further opportunity for all interested parties to respond.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills who the participants are in his Department's Review Group for Higher Education. [81315]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 18 November2002]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills is leading a review including representatives from his Department, HM Treasury and Inland Revenue.

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