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Manufacturing: Profitability

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): We acknowledge the difficulties facing manufacturers, due to the weakness of the euro. But we note that, although low, profitability is above its long-run average and many industries and companies have made substantial productivity improvements. We are assisting manufacturing industry to improve its long-term prospects by providing a stable macro-economic framework and by pursuing policies that help firms to innovate and grow.

Sudan: Precursor Chemical Agents

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they took to ensure that the export to Sudan of the dual-use toxic precursors (triethanolamine and sodium sulphate flakes, which can be used as precursors in the manufacture of mustard gases) would be subject to end-user accountability and would not be used for the manufacture of chemical weapons; to which facilities in Sudan the chemicals were exported; and what was the stated purpose for the export of these chemicals.[HL4216]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The export of precursors of toxic chemicals, such as triethanolamine and sodium sulphide are subject to control by being listed in the Australia Group Chemical Weapons precursor list. [The export licence concerned covered sodium sulphide flakes, not sodium sulphate flakes]. Both chemicals are listed because triethanolamine may be used as a precursor in the manufacture of nitrogen mustard, and sodium sulphide may be used as a precursor in the manufacture of sulphur mustard. However, both chemicals also have many commercial uses.

All export licence applications are rigorously assessed to determine the risk of the proposed export being misused in contravention of our national export licensing criteria and those in the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, including for risk of diversion or re-export to undesirable end-users. Applications are refused if it is assessed that an unacceptable risk of diversion exists. ECO seeks advice on applications from other departments with an interest as determined by those departments in line with their policy responsibilities. All applications for Standard Individual Export Licences must be accompanied by appropriate end-user undertakings or, if the consignee is a Government body, a copy of the official purchase order or relevant part of the contract. As noted in the 1999 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls, we regularly ask overseas posts to conduct checks to confirm the veracity of end-user information. We systematically take into account reliable information from a variety of sources, including reporting from diplomatic posts, international organisations and Non-Government Organisations.

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As regards the facilities in Sudan to which the chemicals were exported and what was the stated purpose for the export of these chemicals, enquiries are being made under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. As confidential information is involved, the parties concerned will be asked if they consent to its disclosure, and this may take some time. I will write to my noble friend as soon as possible and place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House.

Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000: Government Actuary's Report

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give an assurance that the Government Actuary's Report under Section 36 of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 will be published without delay, so that the contents can be taken into account in fixing next year's up-rating of the basic pension.[HL4405]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The Government Actuary is currently finalising his report under Section 36 of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000. It will be published when it is completed.

Benefit Disentitlement and Child Poverty

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What countervailing increase in child poverty they have attributed to the effect of parents being disentitled to benefit as a result of refusing to comply with (a) the requirement to name the father under the Child Support Act 1995; (b) the requirement to attend one interview; and (c) other government requirements, and whether they will list those requirements.[HL4054]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The effect on child poverty of the requirement to name the father under the Child Support Act 1995 and the requirement to attend one interview is not available. However, the following information is available.

Under the Child Support Act 1991, a reduced benefit direction can be imposed on parents with care who refuse without good cause to co-operate with the Child Support Agency in seeking child maintenance. There are currently around 13,000 reduced benefit directions in force.

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From April 2000 work-focused interviews have been mandatory for all benefit claimants of working age who reside in ONE pilot areas. Up to the end of September 2000, 83,480 working age clients made a claim to a benefit other than Jobseeker's Allowance. Of this number, 0.08 per cent failed to take part in the interview.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency: Annual Report and Accounts

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the fourth annual report and accounts for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will be published.[HL4415]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The Scottish Environment Agency has published its fourth annual report and accounts today. The report contains details of the progress made by SEPA during the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000, the agency's fourth year of operation. A copy of the annual report and accounts has been placed in the Library.

Chardon LL Maize

Lord Eatwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made on the decision whether to add Chardon LL maize to the National Seeds List.[HL4434]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): UK Agriculture Ministers proposed the addition of Chardon LL to the UK National List in March. After objections to the proposal were raised, Mr Alun Alesbury was appointed by Ministers to hear representations in relation to the proposed listing, and a hearing is currently under way.

The Government have now learned from the French authorities that the data from French trials on varietal distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS), which supported the Chardon application for National Listing in the UK, were based on 1 year's data from accredited breeders' trials and 1 year's data from government-run trials. This is apparently one of the procedures allowed by the French authorities for DUS trials of new maize varieties. The relevant directive (72/180/EEC) requires two years of official trials.

Ministers are taking urgent legal advice on this issue and the implications of the information for the current hearing. MAFF is seeking further information from the French authorities and consulting the European Commission about the implications for National Listing decisions across the EU.

Chardon LL will only be added to the UK National List if all the legal requirements have been fully met.

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Judicial Appointments Annual Report

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the second Judicial Appointments Annual Report and what information it will contain.[HL4435]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Judicial Appointments Annual Report, covering the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000, is published today. The report includes comprehensive narrative descriptions and detailed statistics on appointments to the judiciary, Queen's Counsel, Lay Magistrates and General Commissioners of Income Tax. It also includes information on my appointments policies and procedures and recent developments such as the implementation of Sir Leonard Peach's recommendations. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report is also available on the Internet.

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House of Lords: Smoking Policy

Viscount Simon asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his Written Answer on 13 October (WA 59), whether a similar smoking policy to that agreed for Millbank House will be applied to the House of Lords as a whole, to protect peers and staff from the harmful effects of passive smoking as outlined in Chapter 6 of the White Paper Smoking Kills.[HL4265]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): There are no plans to extend the Millbank House smoking policy to the rest of the House of Lords. However, as I indicated in my previous Answers to the noble Lord, the sub-committees of the Offices Committee will review the Health and Safety Commission's approved code of practice on passive smoking at work if and when it is issued.

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