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26 Jul 2000 : Column WA51

Written Answers

Wednesday, 26th July 2000.

Meat Hygiene Service Annual Report

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the 1999-2000 annual report for the Meat Hygiene Service.[HL3618]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The 1999-2000 annual report and accounts for the Meat Hygiene Service have been laid before Parliament. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

Departmental Cars

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hayman on 28 June (WA 81) on the type and make of cars used by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whether the list includes cars supplied by the Government Car and Despatch Agency for the use of Ministers and senior officials.[HL3150]

Baroness Hayman: No. This information was provided in the Answer given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on 24 July (Official Report, col. WA 16).

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 6 July (WA 148), which cars supplied by the Government Car and Despatch Agency are for the use of Ministers and senior officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and what is the number, type and make of each vehicle.[HL3382]

Baroness Hayman: The answer given on 24 July (Official Report, col. WA 16) by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, covered this issue.

European Investment Bank: Nominations for Vice-President

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 17 July (WA 64), whether under the statutes of the European Investment Bank the sole and exclusive power of nominating presidents and vice-presidents resides with the Bank's board of directors and not national governments; and, if so, whether they will reconsider their Answer.[HL3483]

26 Jul 2000 : Column WA52

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Under the Statute of the European Investment Bank the president and vice-presidents of the Bank are appointed by the board of governors on a proposal from the board of directors. A nomination for a vice-president post is made by the governor for the relevant member state. The practice has been for the board of directors formally to propose the candidate nominated by that governor.

Far Eastern Markets Impact of Turmoil on UK

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the impact, if any, on the United Kingdom economy of the turmoil in the financial markets of the Far East which began with devaluation of the Thai baht in July 1997.[HL3495]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Excluding China, UK exports to South-East Asia fell in 1998. Detailed assessments were published in the economy annexes of the 1998 Budget and Pre-Budget Reports [HC620 and Cmnd 4076 respectively).

Poorer Countries Debt Relief

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the conclusion of a new report by Christian Aid that despite promises by the Government to cancel 100 per cent of the debt of the poorest countries, less than 4 per cent had been delivered in time for the G8 summit in Okinawa.[HL3536]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government are meeting their promise to cancel 100 per cent of the debts of countries as they go through the heavily indebted poor countries initiative (HIPC). Once countries reach their decision point under the HIPC initiative they can immediately stop making payments on all their debts outstanding to the UK Government.

So far nine countries have reached their decision point, of which eight owed money to the UK. For these countries all payments to the UK Government have already ceased. In total the debt relief to these countries afforded by the HIPC initiative and the Government's 100 per cent debt relief policy will total £241 million.

At Okinawa the G7 expressed their hope that a further 100 countries would reach decision point by the end of 2000. If they did, the total amount that the UK Government would be writing off for these 20 countries would be £659 million. The key aim is to release resources for poverty reduction. The 100 per cent policy and the HIPC process are designed so that the links between debt reduction and how these resources can be used as part of a comprehensive, country owned poverty reduction strategy is clearly established.

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Entrepreneurs: Attraction to UK

Lord Stone of Blackheath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to attract to the United Kingdom entrepreneurs offering exceptional economic benefit but who do not meet the current criteria under the Immigration Rules.[HL3615]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): There are already specific categories in the Immigration Rules designed specially for entrepreneurs. These ensure that those who wish to make significant personal investments in creating employment can enter to engage in business. There are also clear routes for corporations wishing to establish branches and subsidiaries here. But the Government's competitiveness White Paper signalled the economic importance of a dynamic approach to building a knowledge-driven economy and the need to attract people with scarce skills and those willing to set up businesses which create jobs. That paper included a specific commitment to examine the scope for further encouraging certain entrepreneurs to consider migrating to the United Kingdom.

In the light of that commitment we have assessed the current Immigration Rules for business and entrepreneurs and have concluded they may not always fit well with a knowledge-driven economy since they require minimum levels of investment and do not focus on innovation. Moreover, the current routes for entrepreneurs do not enable us to focus on those applications with the greatest potential of economic benefit.

We have therefore decided to introduce a scheme (which will be piloted as a concessionary arrangement outside the Immigration Rules in the first instance) aimed at attracting entrepreneurial innovators to the United Kingdom. This pilot scheme will come into force on 4 September this year.

The key features of the innovators entry route are these: it is intended to attract and select outstanding entrepreneurs whose business proposals will result in exceptional economic benefits for the United Kingdom. Selection will take place on a rigorous and demanding basis but one that is designed to be flexible to accommodate a wide variety of applications with different strengths and weaknesses. No minimum investment is required. There is no requirement for personal funds to be invested but third party funding will be permitted. Applicants will need to submit a business plan and a curriculum vitae with supporting documents.

My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Office (Mrs Roche) is today placing copies of the draft guidance for applicants who wish to apply under this pilot scheme in the Library. Information about the scheme will also be placed on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate website.

26 Jul 2000 : Column WA54

Forensic Science Service Annual Report

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to lay before Parliament the annual report for the Forensic Science Service.[HL3616]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has laid before Parliament copies of the Forensic Science Service's annual report and accounts for 1999-2000.

The Forensic Science Service (FSS) met and exceeded its financial target to achieve a 3 per cent return on capital employed and maintained accreditation through external bodies. However, it did fail to achieve the stretching efficiency gain target and service delivery targets. This was a challenging year for the FSS--further expanding its workforce, absorbing the associated recruitment and training costs and devoting large human resources to the DNA expansion project. It was also the organisation's first year as a trading fund. The targets and plans agreed for 1999-2000 were ambitious, and while the FSS failed to achieve targets in two key areas it demonstrated a significant improvement in both turnaround times and delivery dates met.

The targets for 2000-01 are set out in the following table, alongside those for 1999-2000.

FSS Agency Targets1999-20002000-01
Financial Indicators
Return on capital employedMin 3%10%
Efficiency gain (three year ruling)Min 10%Min 10%
Quality of Service Indicators
Turnaround time24 days24 days
Exceed 99% of urgent and critical classified casesn/aPilot
Achieve 90% agreed delivery dates
Put in place service level agreements with police forces (BVAs)
Put in place routine and robust customer satisfaction measurement processes (milestone 1999-2000 only)n/a
Demonstrate year on year improvements in police (customer) satisfaction--
Quality Indicators
Achieve external quality accreditation to ISO9000 and NAMAS standards

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