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28 Jun 2000 : Column WA79

Written Answers

Wednesday, 28th June 2000.

Advisory Board on Family Law: Annual Report

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Board on Family Law intends to publish its third annual report.[HL3059]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Advisory Board on Family Law has today published its third annual report and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Chester: New County Court House

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to proceed with the building of a new county court house at Chester on the site of the Roman amphitheatre and have appropriate planning consents to do so. [HL2907]

The Lord Chancellor: The site is owned by a developer David MacLean Developments Ltd, with whom the Court Service entered into a legally binding contract on 20 December 1999 under which the Court Service is legally bound to occupy the building within 21 days of the completion of its construction, Following demolition of the British Telecommunications building which occupied the same footprint as the new building, David MacLean Developments Ltd funded an intensive series of archaeological excavations in consultation with the City Archaeologist and English Heritage. These excavations impacted upon the design of the building and as a result it has been possible to avoid disturbing the remains of the amphitheatre beneath. In fact, the foundations of the new building have been carefully designed to avoid any remains and to preserve them in situ, for posterity. The Court Service was aware of the location of the site and of its archaeological significance, but all appropriate approvals in relation to both planning and preservation had been obtained by the developers.

Passport Agency Quinquennial Review

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the report on the United Kingdom Passport Agency Quinquennial Review.[HL3085]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today published the United Kingdom Passport Agency Quinquennial Review Report and copies have been placed in the Library.

Human Rights Act 1998: Statements of Compatibility

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will in practice consult the Law Officers before making statements of compatibility under Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998; and, if not, why not.[HL2941]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Ministers making Section 19 statements will do so in the light of the legal advice they have received. That advice may, in appropriate cases, come from the Law Officers. However, by long-standing convention, adhered to by successive Governments, neither the fact that the Law Officers have been consulted on a particular issue, nor the substance of any advice they have given on that issue, is disclosed outside government other than in exceptional circumstances.

EU Tobacco Hectarages and Subsidy Payments

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give, for the last year for which figures are available, the hectarage of tobacco grown in each country of the European Union and the amount of subsidy paid from the Common Agricultural Policy.[HL2929]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The hectarage of tobacco grown in each country of the EU attracting subsidy is given in the table. Nineteen ninety-eight is the last year for which figures are available.

Area of Production of tobacco (including seedlings enclosures)


The amount of subsidy paid from the CAP in 1998 was 870 million ECU(1) (£584 million using an exchange rate of £1=1.4887 ECU(2)).

(1) Source: EAGGF Guarantee Annual Reports

(2) Exchange rate: Feoga Financial Report 1998.

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Illegal Fishing: Prevention

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further measures have been introduced since the establishment of the Environment Agency to curb illegal fishing; and with what success.[HL2919]

Baroness Hayman: No specific legislation has been introduced during this period. However, by-laws introduced in April 1999 to protect spring-running salmon effectively make it illegal to kill a wild salmon anywhere in England and Wales before 1 June each year.

The table below shows the numbers of reports of (a) illegal fishing and (b) handling salmon in suspicious circumstances.

YearNo. of reports of illegal fishingNo. of reports of handling salmon in suspicious circumstances

Departmental Cars

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 8 June (WA 173), what types and makes of car are used by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. [HL2889]

Baroness Hayman: Staff have a range of options when undertaking official travel by car. These include using (i) their own vehicle (ii) hire cars, (iii) official pool vehicles and (iv) cars in the Ministry's Private Use Scheme. Details of the type and make of cars used under (i) and (ii) are not held centrally and can only be obtained by incurring disproportionate costs. A table detailing the make and type of cars used by the Ministry and agencies under (iii) and (iv) is attached.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Agencies Breakdown of Official Vehicles

Land Rover 110
Midi Van

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Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 21 June, what number of cars of each make and type are used by the Department of Trade and Industry.[HL2985]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The numbers, makes and models are as follows:

Rover Sterling1
Rover 4001
Ford Mondeo2
Ford Escort13
Vauxhall Astra1
Vauxhall Vectra3
Nissan Primera1
Fiat Cinquecento1
Fiat Brava1
Peugot 2061
Citroen Xantia1

Research Council, 15 June

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Research Council held in Luxembourg on 15 June.[HL3058]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I am pleased to report that the Council of 15 June:

1. Debated the future of the Information and Knowledge Society, underlining the importance of research policy, social inclusiveness and the interconnection of high speed electronic research networks.

2. Adopted a resolution on establishing a European area of research and innovation.

3. Adopted presidency conclusions concerning funding for life science infrastructures.

4. Received information from the Commission on progress on the joint ESA-EU strategy for space, and from the presidency and Commission on international co-operation.

5. Under Other Business, the Council received information from the presidency on discussions regarding marine science, and heard an intervention from Germany on the question of authorisation procedures for the release of genetically modified organisms.

The Council also discussed the future of fusion research spending.

Late Payment of Commercial Debt

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the recent NatWest quarterly survey of small firms showing that few small and medium-sized enterprises have taken advantage of the statutory right of interest on late payments of commercial debt, how the relevant legislation can be improved or better implemented.[HL2977]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The NatWest Quarterly Survey indicated that the proportion of small businesses that say late payment is a problem continues to fall--from 45.1 per cent in October 1997 survey to 36.7 per cent. The findings of this survey suggested that there may well be a potential to increase usage of the legislation by publicising more widely its ease of use. We intend to work with our partners on the Better Payment Practice Group to spread this message across the small business community.

We recognise that we are still at an early stage and the UK has some way to go before we meet the example set by countries such as Sweden and Denmark. However, progress made since the introduction of the legislation and the Better Payment Practice Campaign in 1998 has been encouraging. Recent research published in the Grant Thornton European Business Survey confirms that the average payment period for sales invoices in the UK now stands at 45 days against an EU average of 54 days. The survey also confirms a continuing downward trend in UK payment times.

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