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Sunset Clauses

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his policy on the use of sunset clauses in legislation; and which Acts containing such clauses relevant to his Department were passed in each year since 1997. [149331]

Mr. Straw: Whether a sunset clause is needed in legislation depends on the circumstance of each Bill. In the case of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), much of our legislation is to implement HMG's international obligations, so if those obligations do not have a specific time limit, a limit in our domestic legislation would not be appropriate. No Acts of Parliament since 1997 for which the FCO is responsible contained a sunset clause.

United Nations

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the deadlines were for payment of regular budget contributions to the United Nations for each year since 1993; and when the United Kingdom made these payments in each year. [148667]

Mr. Rammell: The United Nations Secretariat issues invoices for contributions to the Regular Budget at the end of December each year, following the conclusion of General Assembly business in the fifth committee. Contributions are due within 30 days of receipt of invoice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office pays 25 per cent. of its assessed contribution in January and the remaining 75 per cent. in April, in keeping with Treasury rules on expenditure which falls across financial years.

Western Sahara

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have been held with representatives of (a) the UN, (b) the Government of Morocco and (c) the Polisario concerning the future government of the Western Sahara; and if he will make a statement. [148299]

Mr. Rammell: We regularly discuss the situation in Western Sahara with our contacts at all levels in the United Nations, the Moroccan Government and the Polisario.

Most recently, my noble Friend the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean discussed Western Sahara and other issues with the Moroccan Deputy Foreign Minister, Fassi-Fihri, at his request when he was in London on 6 January.


Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his

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Department has received from Zimbabwean journalists on issues surrounding freedom of the press in that country. [149159]

Mr. Mullin: The British Embassy in Harare has regular contact with a wide range of journalists in Zimbabwe, including those from independent newspapers. I met a senior delegation from the Daily News during their November 2003 visit to the UK. We condemn the Government of Zimbabwe's attempts to block press freedoms in Zimbabwe, and the state-sponsored violence and human rights abuses which accompany their misguided policies. We will continue to do all we can to defend freedom of speech and of the press in Zimbabwe.



Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for Women if she will make a statement on the number of women holding directorships in FTSE 100 companies; and what this represents as a percentage of the total number of directors. [148398]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 15 January 2004]: The number of female directorships has reached 101 in 2003, up by 20 per cent. on the previous year. Women now account for 9 per cent. of FTSE 100 board members and nearly 4 per cent. are in executive roles.

The Higgs and Tyson reports, which the Government commissioned last year, looked at a number of aspects for improving the overall performance of company boards. The Higgs Review reported on how the quality, independence, and effectiveness of non-executive directors may be strengthened; and the Tyson Report subsequently considered how companies could pursue recruitment of directors from broader and more diverse backgrounds.

The Government strongly support all efforts to improve the diversity and effectiveness of company boards. Since November, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Minister for Women and Equality and I have been meeting Chairs, Chief Executives and senior figures from business to raise awareness about the business case for greater diversity on UK boards and to gather examples of good practice already in place, which we plan to disseminate further to companies, professional bodies and executive recruitment firms.


Gambling Bill

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the expected timetable is for the draft Gambling Bill after the consultation period ends. [149482]

Mr. Caborn: After taking account of the recommendations of the Joint Committee, which is now scrutinising the draft Bill, and of the points made in our

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wider public consultation on its provisions, we intend to amend its provisions as necessary and to introduce a Bill as soon as parliamentary time permits.

Statutory Sick Pay

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many people employed in her Department have claimed statutory sick pay for (a) less than one week, (b) one to three weeks, (c) four to six weeks, (d) seven to 12 weeks, (e) 13 to 20 weeks and (f) 21 to 28 weeks in each year since 1997. [148631]

Mr. Caborn: This information is not held within the Department and can be obtained only at disproportionate cost. For civil servants generally, sick absence may be allowed on full pay for up to six months. Departments are responsible for paying Statutory Sick Pay to staff for up to 28 weeks as a proportion of their full pay.


McClean Review

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners when he expects the publication of the first report of the McClean Review into clergy terms of service to the Archbishops' Council. [149477]

Sir Stuart Bell: The report of the McClean Group will be published and copies sent to members of the Church of England's General Synod on 23 January. A copy will be placed in the House of Commons Library and I will also ensure my hon. Friend receives one.


11 September

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what representations he has made to President Bush about assistance for families of British victims of events on 11 September 2001 in pursuing inquiries into those events. [149500]

The Prime Minister: We have had extensive discussions with the US Government, at many levels, about circumstances surrounding the events of 11 September 2001. An independent commission of inquiry in the US into pre-11 September intelligence is also taking place.

The Government remains ready to help UK relatives of 11 September victims in their dealings with the US Government in any way that we can.


Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister whether the United Kingdom has shared with the United States Administration and US intelligence services the information on alleged Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Niger, to which he referred in his letters of 1 September 2003 and 28 October 2003 to the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent. [149538]

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The Prime Minister: Exchanges between UK intelligence officials and their opposite numbers in the US are confidential and it would not be appropriate to provide any farther details beyond those we have already provided.


Aggregates Levy

David Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment has been made of the impact of the aggregates levy since its introduction on the quarrying industry in (a) the East Midlands and (b) the United Kingdom; [148961]

John Healey: An update on the Government's current assessment of the impact of the aggregates levy was in the pre-Budget report (Cm 6042). Monitoring of the aggregates levy takes the form of a rolling programme of research and analysis of data as it becomes available. It encompasses all regions of the UK and it takes account of data from specific research, such as the Government-commissioned Symonds Report on the levy's impact in Northern Ireland, as well as information from business organisations, individual companies, environment groups and site visits by officials.

Emerging evidence suggests that overall primary aggregates extraction has fallen since the levy's introduction; for example, the total outputs from the Annual Minerals Raised Inquiry for Great Britain for 2002 show a decrease of 5.7 per cent. on the 2001 figures. While there are a number of factors affecting extraction levels, it is clear that the levy has played a significant part in encouraging that reduction.

The rate of the aggregates levy is reviewed annually as part of the Budget process.

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