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13 Jun 2003 : Column 1089W—continued

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she intends to implement a veterinary disease strategy for foot and mouth disease. [118572]

Mr. Morley: The veterinary disease control strategy for foot and mouth disease is summarised in the Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan which was laid before Parliament on 28 March 2003.

GM Crops

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what clinical trials have been conducted into the effects on the human body of the ingestion of GM foods in the (a) long and (b) short term. [118577]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is unaware of any clinical trials conducted into the effects on the human body of the ingestion of genetically modified (GM) Foods. However, a number of research projects have been funded by the FSA on the safety of GM foods, which have included a project which has examined the survival of DNA in the digestive tract.

Details of the work funded by the FSA are described in its annual research report, which is available in the Library.

National Parks Authority

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what account she takes of sport and recreational interests when appointing members of the National Parks Authority. [117105]

Alun Michael: As set out in the Environment Act 1995, the purposes of National Parks are to conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and to promote the public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. In pursuing these purposes National Park Authorities have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well being of communities within the National Park.

Candidates for membership of a National Park Authority are welcomed from all backgrounds. We expect those appointed by the Secretary of State to represent the national interest, including the views of people not living in or near the Parks; to work to achieve both the Parks' purposes; we encourage them bring experience of wider issues, such as an interest in outdoor recreation or sport or business conservation. In making appointments, we seek to ensure members collectively have a range of interests which cover all the Authority's activities.

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TREASURY

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the question from the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South tabled for answer on 12 May 2003, ref 112668. [119115]

John Healey: The question concerned was transferred to the Treasury by the Cabinet Office earlier this week. I hope to be in a position to reply to the hon. Member shortly.

Aggregates Levy

Mr. Andrew Robathan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the funds raised by the Aggregates Levy has been paid (a) directly by the Government and (b) via another party in respect of work carried out for the Government. [118643]

John Healey: The aggregates levy is payable by anyone who commercially exploits virgin aggregate. Whether the cost is passed on to the end user is a commercial decision for these suppliers; therefore, it is not possible to establish the proportion of revenue raised by the levy which is paid by, or on behalf of, Government.

Banknotes

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what measures have been incorporated into (a) £5, (b) £10, (c) £20 and (d) £50 notes to enable blind and partially sighted people easily to distinguish between them; [118644]

John Healey: The production of most UK banknotes is the responsibility of the Bank of England. The Bank is very conscious of the problems experienced by visually impaired people in identifying banknotes. Each denomination has a unique colour theme and there is a symbol to aid the partially sighted incorporated into the front design. The new design £5, £10 and £20 notes have large and clear denomination numbers. In addition, differentials in size allow some visually impaired people to distinguish between the denominations.

On occasions the Treasury and the Bank receive suggestions from members of the public with a view to enabling visually impaired people to distinguish banknotes more readily. Suggestions are considered and where appropriate incorporated into the finished note. An example of this is the use of larger denomination figures on the new style £5, £10 and £20 notes. The

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incorporation of Braille into the design of the notes has also been suggested. However, it was felt that this (and any other kind of raised markings) would wear rapidly once the notes were in active circulation, and so would cease to be reliable.

There are no plans to make any further changes to the current series of banknotes to assist visually impaired people in distinguishing between the different denominations.

The Bank of England regularly consults a number of organisations, including the Royal National Institute for the Blind, during the design phase of all new banknotes.

When changes are made to banknotes, information is available from the Bank of England in Braille and large print. I also understand that visually impaired people can obtain banknote guides from commercial banks and the RNIB.

Children at Risk

Margaret Moran: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he intends to publish the Children at Risk Green Paper. [118854]

Mr. Boateng: The Government are currently finalising the proposals to be detailed in the Children's Green Paper and will be publishing it shortly.

Correspondence

Martin Linton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 6 March 2003, from the hon. Member for Battersea, on behalf of Jackie von Calster of Battersea, London, regarding inheritance tax. [119177]

John Healey: Treasury Ministers have no record of having received this correspondence. Officials have requested a copy from the hon. Member's office and will deal with it as soon as it is to hand.

Financial Advisers

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many independent financial advisers are working across the UK; how many have been unable to source professional indemnity insurance; and what action has been taken by the Financial Services Agency to address the situation within the professional indemnity insurance market. [118062]

Mr. Boateng: The Financial Services Authority (the FSA) advise that there are approximately 4,000 directly authorised firms of independent financial advisers (IFAs) in the UK. Between September 2002 and April 2003 just under 2,800 of these were due to renew their professional indemnity (PI) cover, over 1,950 have done so or been granted a waiver of the requirement to have PI.

The FSA is in discussion with the other firms, and works with them to find a solution in light of their individual circumstances.

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IFAs may be reluctant to confirm that they have PI cover until they have a policy document, even if they have agreed terms. This means that the reported position can appear less positive than it is.

Last month the FSA authorised a new insurance company that intends to provide cover for IFAs. The FSA also published a consultation paper on its future PI policy in February 2003 and is currently analysing the responses. The FSA is in on-going discussions with IFAs, PI insurers, PI brokers and other interested parties about the situation in the PI market.

Heavily Indebted Poor Countries

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 4 June 2003, Official Report, column 429W, what options the UK Government are exploring to address the issue of creditor litigation and improve the legal defence offered to heavily indebted countries. [119209]

John Healey: As stated in my answer of 4 June 2003, the UK believes that an adequate HIPC legal defence is essential in reaching fair and equitable settlements with some creditors. The UK is exploring options to address the issue of creditor litigation with other donors and the staffs of the World bank and IMF.

At the recent Evian Summit, the G8 agreed to ask the IMF and World bank to intensify their efforts to secure the participation of all creditors, and to explore further options to deal with the issues of creditor litigation. The Chair's summary and further information on summit outcomes can be found at: http://www.g8.fr.Evian


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