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4 Mar 1999 : Column WA191

Written Answers

Thursday, 4th March 1999.

Army District Restructuring

Baroness Young of Old Scone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the restructuring of the Army district organisation in the United Kingdom.[HL1397]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): We announced in October that, subject to consultation with the trades unions, we planned to restructure the Army district organisation to produce a more effective and efficient framework for the administration of Army units in the United Kingdom. Following this consultation, we are now able to confirm that the restructuring will proceed as follows: the number of regional districts will reduce from six to three, covering Scotland and the North of England, Wales and the West of England and South-East England. Divisional headquarters for the higher administration of Army units in these regions will be at Craigiehall near Edinburgh, Shrewsbury and Aldershot. These reforms will also mean that the headquarters of the 3rd Division, based at Bulford in Wiltshire, will be freed of its regional administrative responsibilities and able to concentrate on its operational role, including the command of its deployable units throughout the country. In addition, the London District headquarters will reduce to the status of a brigade headquarters and the headquarters of 43 (Wessex) Brigade will be transferred from Exeter to Bulford.

As we announced in another place on 2 March (Official Report) Commons col. 657), units of the Defence Vetting Agency which are currently widespread around the country will be collocated at Imphal Barracks, York, making use of space vacated by the headquarters 2nd Division.

Foreign Fishing Vessels: Economic Link to UK

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the reduction in the number of foreign vessels licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food over the last two years; and what steps those vessels are taking to maintain an economic link with the United Kingdom.[HL1352]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): Following changes in registration requirements in 1993, information is no longer maintained on the beneficial ownership of UK registered fishing vessels. However we estimate that over the last two years the number of over 10 metre vessels which are part or wholly owned by overseas interests has fallen from some 160 to 140.

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From 1999 onwards all vessels fishing against the UK's quotas are required to demonstrate that a satisfactory economic link is maintained with our coastal communities. That link may be achieved by landing at least 50 per cent. of the vessel's catch of quota stocks in the UK, by employing a crew of whom 50 per cent. are normally resident in a UK coastal area, by incurring operating expenditure in the UK for goods and services provided in UK coastal areas or by demonstrating an economic link by other means providing sufficient benefit to populations dependent on fisheries and relative industries. Responsibility for maintaining an economic link rests with the vessel owner and compliance will be assessed annually after the conclusion of each quota year.

There is clear evidence that these new arrangements, which have been blessed by the Commission, are being taken very seriously. Although vessel owners are not required to give notice of the means by which they will be achieving an economic link, there has been a series of discussions with the Fisheries Departments about the means by which satisfactory links can be established.

As a result of such discussions, we have accepted that some 17 vessels belonging to the North Sea Fish Producers Organisation may achieve part of their economic link by making part of their annual quota allocation available for redistribution by the Fisheries Departments, with the remainder of their link being achieved through other means such as landings, crewing or expenditure in the UK. The quota, which will consist of 50 tonnes of North Sea sole along with smaller quantities of turbot and brill and Channel plaice, will be used to extend the fishing opportunities for the inshore fleet and in particular the under 10 metre vessels.

Genetically Modified Food: Approval and Labelling

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date approval was given for the sale of genetically modified food; and whether requests for clear labelling of such food were rejected. [HL1192]

Lord Donoughue: The GM foods and food ingredients currently on sale in the UK were approved on the following dates:

    GM tomato puree February 1995

    GM soya ingredients February 1995

    GM maize ingredients May 1996 The tomato paste has been clearly labelled by the manufacturer since its market launch in February 1996.

An EC regulation requiring all foods containing GM soya or maize ingredients to be clearly labelled took effect on 1 September 1998. Prior to this the labelling of these foods was voluntary but the Government made clear their intention, soon after coming into office, of pressing for EC legislation to make such labelling compulsory.

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Architecture: Role of Structural Engineering

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, in view of the role played by structural engineering in contemporary architecture, no practising structural engineer has been appointed to the steering committee for the new national body for architecture; and whether any steps are being taken to change this.[HL1101]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The seven members of the Implementation Group were selected for their experience of the key roles which the new body is likely to perform. They are not representatives of particular professions or other interested groups. There are many additional perspectives from which the group would undoubtedly benefit, but its size had to be restricted to ensure effectiveness. However, structural engineering is a discipline which could be represented on the new body.

Millennium Dome: Future Use

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the Millennium Dome after the year 2000.[HL1395]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Government have today launched a competition to invite bids for alternative uses of the Dome on its present site after the Millennium Experience finishes at the end of December 2000. I have placed copies of the brochure for stage one of the process in the Libraries of the House. Decisions will be taken by the Government following appraisal of detailed bids submitted at later stages by the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) and English Partnerships and consultation with the Millennium Commission.

The Government's objective is to ensure a sustainable alternative use of the Dome which reflects its cultural significance and contributes fully to regeneration both of the Greenwich Peninsula as a whole and more widely. The Government will wish to achieve good value for money from the disposal of the Dome and related land, and will have regard to whether the proposal would generate receipts which at least match those which could have been achieved if the site were clear and disposed of for ordinary commercial development. The Government will also pay close attention to the regeneration and cultural outputs likely to be delivered by any proposed use, and its compatibility with proposals for developing the rest of the peninsula and the wider Thames Gateway area.

Licensed Software and the Public Service

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they have taken, or will take, to ensure that only licensed software is used in government departments and agencies, local

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    authorities and health authorities, and; in companies providing goods and services to public authorities.[HL1201]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It is the responsibility of individual government departments and executive agencies to ensure that they are using only licensed software. The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) is a source of advice to them on software compliance.

Severn Tunnel

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In each of the last 10 years, what contract of projects in connection with the maintenance of the Severn Tunnel have been awarded to or undertaken by Railtrack; what was the value of these contracts or projects; and what was the nature of the maintenance involved.[HL1300]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The maintenance of the Severn Tunnel is the responsibility of Railtrack. The Severn Tunnell is inspected regularly to ensure compliance with Railtrack's statutory responsibilities.

Stolen Vehicles: Licensing

Lord Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) issues new Vehicle Registration Documents (V5) to keepers of vehicles marked "stolen" on the DVLA computer before they contact the police or inform the applicant that the vehicle is registered as stolen; and[HL1274]

    For each of 1997 and 1998, how many Vehicle Registration Documents (V5) have been issued to keepers of vehicles marked as "stolen" on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency computer.[HL1275]

Lord Whitty: Under the section of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information relating to Law Enforcement and Legal Proceedings (exemption 4b), it is not appropriate to publish Written Answers to these questions.

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