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19 Mar 2003 : Column 762W—continued


Pete Wishart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans Ministers in the Department have to (a) visit Scotland on official business, (b) announce public appointments and (c) make ministerial announcements in April. [103651]

Ruth Kelly: Departmental business during the campaign period preceding elections to the Scottish Parliament will be conducted in accordance with the Guidance on Conduct for Civil Servants in UK Departments in respect of elections to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales, published by the Cabinet Office on 10 March.

Tax Incentives

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research he has commissioned into the effect tax incentives may have on the level of UK private investment in less developed countries. [103521]

John Healey: The UK Government believes that the establishment of a good overall investment climate, rather than the use of tax incentives, is the most effective way of encouraging more productive private investment in developing countries. Through the Department for International Development the UK funds two research centres which conduct research into issues relating to private investment in developing countries.

Tobacco/Drink VAT Revenues

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the VAT revenue received from (a) advertising cigarettes, tobacco and related products and (b) advertising wine, spirits, beer and related products in each year since 1996. [103425]

John Healey: Any VAT relating to the advertising of tobacco or alcohol products will have been recoverable by VAT-registered purchasers of the advertising services. Therefore, such advertising has had no direct effect on VAT revenues.

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 bans most advertising of tobacco products.

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Policy Unit

Mr. Norman: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many civil servants employed by (a) the Strategy Unit, (b) the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, (c) the Office of the e-Envoy, (d) the Office of Public Services Reform and (e) the Prime Minister's Policy Unit have been (i) members of the Labour Party, (ii) employees of the Labour Party and (iii) employees of Labour hon. Members. [103065]

Mr. Alexander: The rules relating to the involvement of civil servants in political activities are set out in the "Civil Service Management Code". There is no requirement for Departments to collect information on civil servants' membership of political parties. Information relating to civil servants' previous employment is not maintained centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Civil Service

Mr. Flight: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what recent assessment he has made of the efficiency of the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement. [101277]

Mr. Alexander: Government Departments are already subject to a range of similar external checks and disciplines:

Taken together these processes provide substantial pressure for the improvement of performance, and a high degree of accountability and transparency.

Forward Strategy Unit

Mr. Laws: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many people work in the Forward Strategy Unit; what issues it is looking at; what its running costs were in (a) 2002–03 and (b) 2003–04; and if he will make a statement. [99884]

Mr. Alexander: The (Prime Minister's) Forward Strategy Unit is no longer in operation. In June 2002 it was merged with the Performance and Innovation Unit

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(PIU) and the Policy Studies Directorate of the Centre for Management and Policy Studies (CMPS), to create the Strategy Unit (SU).

The staffing of the Strategy Unit varies according to its work programme. It is currently around 90 full-time equivalents.

The Strategy Unit carries out long-term strategic reviews and policy analysis, which can take several forms:

The unit is also leading on work to maintain the quality and standards of government social research.

Current Strategy Unit projects include:

There are more details of the unit's past and present work on its website:



Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what recent estimates the Government has made of dolphin bycatch deaths in UK fishing waters; [102789]

Mr. Morley: The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) on behalf of Defra has carried out sample surveys of fisheries implicated in the bycatch of dolphins. These surveys have indicated a problem in the offshore bass fishery where the pair trawling teams monitored caught dolphins at a rate of approximately one every three hauls. However, bycatch information from other member states whose vessels operate in this fishery and elsewhere in UK waters is not available so it is not possible to produce reliable estimates of dolphin bycatch deaths in UK waters.

This reinforces the need for action on the part of all member states involved in the fisheries concerned and the Commission if measures to reduce dolphin deaths are to be effective. This is why we raised the need for urgent action at the January Council of Ministers' meeting. I have also raised this issue with Commissioner Fischler on a number of occasions both in writing and in personal contacts. I have also recently written to the Commission to press for urgent action to widen

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observer coverage off the South West coast where a number of other Member States' vessels fish. I was pleased that the Commission included a commitment to take action in this area in papers produced as part of the recent reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. I am looking for positive action on this in response to our recent approaches.

In the meantime, Defra has also committed some £140,000 for trials into the use of exclusion devices developed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) to reduce the bycatch of cetaceans in the offshore bass fishery. I will also, along with the devolved administrations, shortly be issuing a consultation document outlining a UK bycatch response strategy. This will set out the extent of our knowledge of bycatch in UK waters and make proposals for action to address the bycatch problem. The document will be laid in the Library of the House and I will ensure that my hon. Friend receives a personal copy.

Fur Farming

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what additional financial assistance will be given to those who previously fur farmed. [103820]

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Mr. Morley: Licensed fur farm businesses, which closed down after the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 received Royal Assent, will be able to claim compensation. A compensation scheme will be drawn up under the Act to provide payment for certain categories of loss.


Fuel Poverty

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many households in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) the North East and (d) the UK were in fuel poverty on (i) 1 February 1997 and (ii) 1 February 2003. [103557]

Mr. Wilson: The Government published "The UK Fuel Poverty Strategy 1st Annual Progress Report" on March 2003. This showed that the number of households in fuel poverty in the UK is estimated to have fallen from about 5½ million in 1996 to about 3 million in 2001.

The available information on fuel poverty in the is set out as follows. Figures are not available centrally for the Jarrow constituency or for South Tyneside.

Number and percentage of households in fuel poverty

1996 1998 2001
Number of households (thousands)PercentageNumber of households (thousands)PercentageNumber of households (thousands)Percentage
North East33131.028026.310610.2

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