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6 Mar 2003 : Column 1138W—continued

Meat Imports (Foot and Mouth)

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the risk of meat imports that carry foot and mouth virus. [101131]

Mr. Morley: Over the last year, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency has been undertaking a risk assessment to help us get a better understanding of the risk of meat imports being contaminated with foot and mouth, and infecting susceptible livestock in Great Britain. The final report is currently subject to quality assurance and peer review, prior to publication in the next few weeks.

CABINET OFFICE

Looked-after Children

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when the Social Exclusion Unit will publish its report on the education of looked-after children; and what the reasons are for the delay in publication. [99389]

Mrs. Roche: I have been asked to reply.

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I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 24 February 2003, Official Report, column 261W. The report will reflect the proposals in the forthcoming Green Paper on "Children at Risk", announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 30 October 2002, also due for publication in the spring.

Accountancy Services

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what the total cost to his Department was for accountancy services in 2002. [101566]

Mr. Alexander: My Department does not keep central records of this information, therefore the answer can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

HAZMOD Project

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office which company is running the HAZMOD Intranet (HI) project; how much has been spent on the project; when the project will go live; and if he will make a statement. [99381]

Mr. Alexander: The HAZMOD Extranet (previously referred to as HAZMOD intranet) was a small pilot project, managed by a research group within the Home Office and subsequently the Cabinet Office, which investigated the access to maps by emergency planners and others using internet technology. The project lasted two and a half years and cost £175,000.

Recent analysis undertaken by the Cabinet Office showed that better and faster approaches to securing the same information are now available elsewhere and are already in use by a range of organisations. The Government therefore consider that it can best support local authority emergency planners through the provision of advice on the development of geographical information systems. Emergency planners at the local level will also continue to draw data from Police Commanders, who have direct access to information from central Government.

A letter explaining the position was sent on 24 February 2003 by the Cabinet Office to all the emergency planners involved in the project. The letter was also published on the UK Resilience website www.ukresilience.info.

Overseas Trips

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will list the overseas trips made by himself and other members of his ministerial team in 2002; and what the (a) purpose and (b) cost was in each case. [101486]

Mr. Alexander: I refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 334W.

Senior Civil Service

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what level of appraisal is required at each grade within the senior civil service; and if he will make a statement. [100590]

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Mr. Alexander: Each member of the Senior Civil Service is subject to an annual assessment by their manager based on the achievement of objectives, development of competences and use of professional skills. Their annual performance related pay award is based on this assessment.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Accountancy Firms (Competition)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals she has for investigating the extent of competition among the big-four accountancy firms. [100758]

Miss Melanie Johnson: As a result of a recommendation in the Interim Report of the Coordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues (CGAA), the Office of Fair Trading has looked at the competition implications of the high concentration in the market for audit and accountancy services following the demise of Andersens. They concluded that there was no case for an immediate Competition Commission referral or market referral, but that the market should be kept under review.

Agricultural Produce

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment she has made of the existence of market dominance on the part of purchasers of perishable raw agricultural produce in the (a) dairy, (b) livestock meat, (c) arable, (d) poultry meat, (e) horticultural and (f) other sectors. [96954]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Issues of market dominance are for the competition authorities to analyse in the first instance. Dominance, and more particularly abuse of dominance by single firms is for the Office of Fair Trading to consider under the Competition Act 1998. Problems arising from collective dominance are more likely to be dealt with by reference to the Competition Commission (CC). Over the past four years, the CC has reported on three such references. On 10 October 2000, it reported on the supply of groceries from multiple stores. On its recommendation, the Government published a Code of Practice governing relations between the large supermarkets and their suppliers.

On 22 December 2000, the CC published a report on the supply of fresh processed milk to middle ground retailers in Scotland and on 6 July 1999, the CC published a report on the supply of raw cow's milk in Great Britain.

Auditing

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals she has for raising the audit threshold for small and medium-sized companies. [100907]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department is carrying out a programme of research to assess the impact of the previous increased to £1 million turnover in the audit exemption threshold. The information provided will be

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used to inform a further consultation proposed on whether the audit threshold should be increased or maintained at its current level.

Auditors

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the consultancy services that auditors are not permitted to sell to their audit clients. [100526]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The UK system of auditor regulation is based on principles rather than rules. The key principles are that auditors should not perform management functions or make management decisions; that auditors should not audit their own work; and that auditors should not act as advocates for their clients. There is no list of banned services in the UK.

The recently published Final Report of the Coordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues deals with the issue of the provision of non-audit services by auditors to their clients, in particular in Chapter 1 (auditor independence) and Chapter 2 (corporate governance and the role of audit committee).

Consumer Contracts Regulations

Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) local authority and (b) housing association tenancy agreements have been received by the Office of Fair Trading for investigation under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. [100879]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice), 11 February 2003, Official Report, column 650W.

Defective Accounts

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many companies have been forced to revise defective accounts by the Financial Reporting Review Panel; and how many auditors have been disciplined as a result. [100761]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Since 1991, 14 companies have been required to revise their financial statements by issuing corrected accounts after investigation by the Panel. Over 50 other companies have been required to take alternative corrective action in respect of defective accounts.

The Panel always alerts the relevant professional bodies whose members have been involved in either the preparation or audit of accounts requiring correction. It is for these bodies to decide what action is appropriate. The Panel is informed of their decisions and is aware that disciplinary action is taken in appropriate cases.

DTI Inspectors' Reports

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the DTI inspectors' reports that have not yet been presented to Parliament but have been released to third parties. [100759]

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Miss Melanie Johnson: Inspectors' reports are made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, not to Parliament.


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