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A44 in Herefordshire and Worcestershire

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The A44 is not a trunk road and as such is not the responsibility of the Secretary of State but of the local highway authority/ies, in this case Herefordshire Council and Worcestershire County Council. The two authorities were awarded £3.472 million and £4.861 million respectively in the local transport plan settlement for 2000-01, and it is for those authorities to decide within those sums how they wish to allocate resources for transport improvements within their respective areas. Neither authority submitted proposals for major improvement schemes to the A44.

Housing Provision: Registered Social Landlords

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Whitty: The data for housing provision by registered social landlords in settlements of under 3,000 people relates to financial years. There were 1,664 completions in England in 1997-98 and 1,283 in 1998-99: figures for 1999-2000 are not yet available.

The department does not collect similar data from local authorities.

Rail Freight: Franchise Replacement

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that rail freight will be taken into consideration when assessment is made of passenger franchise proposals.[HL1825]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): In the process of franchise replacement, the assessment of proposals to improve passenger services will take into account any effects on rail freight. The franchise replacement consultation process will include the views of both freight operators and passengers.

Railtrack Comparisons

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether reports on the arrangements in the United States which provide comparison with the role and work of Railtrack will be considered by both the Rail Regulator and Ministers.[HL1826]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Rail Regulator is currently undertaking work to investigate to what extent suitable comparisons can be made between Railtrack and overseas railway operators. He will take this work into consideration in reaching his final conclusions on the periodic review of Railtrack's access charges.

BSE: Testing of Sheep

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to test sheep for BSE; and, if so, how and when.[HL1772]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): As SEAC reported in a news release of 16 March, agent strain typing is under way on isolates from over 130 brains of sheep with natural scrapie in order to determine whether the BSE agent profile exists. Although incomplete (each study takes up to two years) the analysis of over 30 isolates is advanced enough to suggest that they do not have the characteristics associated with the BSE agent.

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Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any contingency plans have been made, or are being made, for a cull of sheep if BSE is diagnosed in the national flock.[HL1773]

Baroness Hayman: SEAC has suggested that MAFF should draw up operational plans to deal with the possibility of BSE occurring in sheep. SEAC has not recommended a cull or called upon MAFF to plan for one.

Agrimonetary Compensation: Cost to Taxpayer

Lord Boardman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the speech by Baroness Hayman on 8 March (H.L. Deb., col. 1143), on what basis the Government calculate that agrimonetary compensation paid to British farmers under the common agricultural policy costs the British taxpayer 85p for every £1 received.[HL1711]

Baroness Hayman: Where agrimonetary compensation is optional, 50 per cent is funded by the EU and 50 per cent from national funds. Around 71 per cent of the EU contribution is funded by the UK taxpayer as a result of the Fontainebleau rebate. The taxpayer also funds 100 per cent of the UK contribution. Thus, paying both the EU and the national contribution would require a total contribution by the British taxpayer of about 85 per cent.

Epichlorohydrin: Use in Sheep Dips

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hayman on 13 March (WA 190), why diazinon-based sheep dip formulations containing epichlorohydrin continued to be licensed by the Veterinary Products Committee when epichlorohydrin was categorised as a carcinogen and a mutagen by the World Health Organisation in 1984.[HL1706]

Baroness Hayman: This information is not quickly accessible. I will write to the noble Countess as soon as possible.

Northern Ireland Pig Production

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they will take to assist the pig production and processing industries in Northern Ireland.[HL1747]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Government have made application to the European Commission to introduce a state aid to assist in the restructuring of the United Kingdom's pig industry. The aim of the

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proposed schemes, for which £26 million has been provided, is to enable the pig industry to restore its long-term viability. It is intended that the scheme will have three elements--a total exodus element, an outgoers element and a restructuring element for those who wish to remain in pig production. Northern Ireland will receive its share of this aid.

Government have also previously made an extra £400,000 available in Northern Ireland for the better marketing of pigmeat. Discussions are ongoing with the industry as to how best this funding can be utilised.

Government also provide assistance to producers and processors through the Marketing Development Scheme and the Processing and Marketing Scheme respectively.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's range of services to NI industry continue to be available to the pig processing sector.

Selective financial assistance (SFA) from the Industrial Development Board (IDB) may be available for strategic capital projects or revenue investments which meet certain key criteria and which will enhance companies' international competitiveness. In addition

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to SFA, IDB offers other forms of support in a number of business areas, including the following.

The Business Excellence Programme uses benchmarking to compare business performance against the competition and the best companies in the sector; the International Partnership Programme can help companies achieve global success through a strategic alliance with an overseas company; and Trade International, IDB's marketing arm, offers companies assistance in finding new markets via a programme of participation in overseas trade shows, visits to new overseas target markets, meet-the-buyer events, exporting seminars and the Overseas Trade Adviser Programme. For companies with under 250 employees, Trade International's market entry grant scheme may also be appropriate to stimulate marketing development.

In addition to IDB's range of assistance, the Industrial Research and Technology Unit (IRTU) can offer grant assistance towards eligible R&D and new product development projects. The Department of Further and Higher Education, Training and Employment, through the T &EA, can offer grant assistance for approved training plans via its company development programme.

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