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1 Feb 1999 : Column WA175

Written Answers

Monday, 1st February 1999.

RAF Logistics Headquarters

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans, or are considering plans, to relocate RAF logistics headquarters from its present site at RAF Brampton/Wyton in Cambridgeshire.[HL620]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Following the Strategic Defence Review, the Chief of Defence Logistics organisation was established, and the MoD is currently looking at possible locations for its headquarters. A number of sites in the UK are under consideration, including RAF Brampton/Wyton.

Some tasks currently undertaken by Headquarters Logistics Command at RAF Wyton/Brampton will be absorbed by the new headquarters. Consequently, the future use of some parts of the Brampton/Wyton site would need to be reviewed, should the new headquarters be located elsewhere. There are a number of other logistics organisations based at RAF Wyton/Brampton which we are not planning to relocate.

Armed Forces: Pay Recommendations

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the report and recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.[HL795]

Lord Gilbert: The 1999 Report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has been published today. Copies are available in the Printed Papers Office and the Library of the House. We are grateful to the Chairman and members of the Review Body for the work they have put into them.

In the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government made it clear that public sector pay settlements would need to be fair, affordable and consistent with targets for public service improvements we have set. The new arrangements announced in the CSR for the Pay Review Bodies were designed to ensure a closer and more effective link between pay settlements, departmental expenditure limits and service delivery targets. Under these new arrangements, the AFPRB now reports to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence, as responsible Departmental Minister, as well as to the Prime Minister. The Terms of Reference of the AFPRB were revised to ensure that, in making their recommendations, they took into account four key considerations set out in the CSR:

    recruitment, retention and motivation of the Armed Forces;

    the requirements for departments to meet their output targets for the delivery of services;

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    requirement for departments to stay within their three-year expenditure limits;

    the Government's inflation target, requiring responsibility in pay settlements across the public and private sectors.

The AFPRB has recommended an increase in basic military salary of about 3.5 per cent. for all ranks, with the exception of: Privates and Lance Corporals, and their equivalents, who should receive 3.6 per cent.; Lieutenants and Captains, and their equivalents, who should receive 3.7 per cent.; and Brigadiers, and their equivalents, who should receive 3.3 per cent. Additional Pay--for example Flying Pay and Submarine Pay--will also increase by 3.3 per cent.

We are satisfied that these recommendations take account of the four key considerations and will support the Services' strategies to achieve full manning. The additional cost of this settlement will be contained within the MoD's expenditure limits announced in July and we will continue to meet the objectives and targets set out in Public Service Agreements. This is in line with the Government's prudent and disciplined approach to public spending and its commitment to delivering high quality public services and low inflation.

The AFPRB's recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 1999.

Food Standards Bill: Scrutiny

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Donoughue on 28 January (WA 167-168), whether they will clarify the nature of the Select Committee which is to scrutinise the draft Food Standards Bill.[HL825]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The draft Food Standards Bill will be scrutinised by a Select Committee of members of the House of Commons specially constituted for this purpose.

Raw Cow's Milk

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions they have reached following their review of the law relating to the drinking of raw cow milk in England and Wales.[HL639]

Lord Donoughue: My right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales have decided not to stop the sale of raw cow's drinking milk in England and Wales. However, they intend to introduce tighter checks to benefit consumers who choose to drink raw cows' milk.

The new measures will include increasing the frequency of official microbiological sample testing of raw cow's drinking milk at production premises to four times a year and increasing the frequency of official

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inspections of registered raw cow's milk production holdings to once a year. These measures will begin immediately.

Raw milk producers will continue to pay for official checks, and we will be putting in hand arrangements to extend the scope of enforcement at production holdings. In addition, we intend that on-farm caterers will no longer be exempted from the charges for microbiological sample testing, and also that the full costs of inspection and sample testing will be recovered. This will necessitate changes to the relevant regulations, and in due course we will issue draft regulations for public consultation.

There is already a requirement to label raw cow's drinking milk with a public health warning. We will be putting into place arrangements to ensure that this is given greater prominence. In addition, these arrangements will also require that labels on retail packaging, and notices displayed at on-farm catering premises, must include the Chief Medical Officer's advice, which is that children, pregnant women, elderly people and those who are currently unwell or have chronic illness should not consume raw cow's milk.

We emphasise in the strongest possible terms that the industry is responsible, and remains responsible, for the production of safe food. Producers of raw cow's drinking milk must ensure that it is produced to the best hygienic standards.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Baroness Denton of Wakefield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the policy priorities for the Biotechnology and Sciences Research Council; and which Minister authorises these.[HL575]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is a non-departmental public body established by Royal Charter under the Science and Technology Act 1965 which takes its own decisions on policy, strategy, and what research to support, operating within a broad framework of guidance and supervision by government. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is accountable to Parliament for the activities of the council and determines the broad policy framework within which the council operates. He is supported by myself as Science Minister and the Director-General of Research Councils and the Office of Science and Technology (OST). Further details of the formal relationship are set out in the Management Statement and Financial Memorandum between the BBSRC and OST, a copy of which is available in the Library.

On 27 October, the Secretary of State announced the allocation of the Science Budget to the Research Councils, including the BBSRC, and indicated the broad areas of activity to which he would wish the

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council to give attention. A copy of the allocations announcement is available in the Library and on the OST website.

The BBSRC will publish a new strategic plan later in the year which will take account of the science budget allocations and set out the council's objectives for the next few years.

The BBSRC reports through an annual report approved by the Secretary of State and laid before Parliament. Copies of the 1997-98 report are available in the Library.

Nuisance Calls

Lord McConnell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why nuisance callers on the telephone are allowed to prevent their telephone numbers from being disclosed by automatic ringback services.[HL526]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The regulation of telecoms operators is a matter for Oftel. The Government and Oftel considered the importance of being able to trace nuisance calls carefully before the launch of the Calling Line Identification (CLI) service in 1994. The possibility of barring CLI (by dialling 141 before the number) was introduced for those people who do not wish to have their number released for legitimate reasons, which may relate to the protection of their privacy, and which may be personal. However, in order to protect customers against nuisance callers who withhold their CLI, the police do have the ability to trace nuisance calls, by formally requesting the details from the telecoms operator from whose network the calls were made.

EU Structural Fund: Allocation

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the European Commission to amend Agenda 2000 to accommodate provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty, especially 158 and 159 (which relate to European Union islands), prior to the allocation of European Union structural funding for 2000-07.[HL475]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The UK Government are discussing the reform of the Structural and Cohesion Funds with other member states and the Commission. We will continue to press for an outcome that gives a fair deal to all parts of the UK.

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