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Magistrates' Courts Service: Chief Inspector's Annual Report

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have today placed copies of the Chief Inspector's Annual Report in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Chief Inspector reports a noticeable improvement in overall proficiency across the service. Magistrates' courts committees have faced up to hard decisions and shown determination in executing them. While further improvements are needed, such as in the management of performance through the monitoring of suitable indicators, magistrates' courts committees are demonstrating an increasing willingness to think strategically.

Although most MCCs continued to show significant weaknesses in managing performance in case administration, all magistrates' courts committees inspected achieved average or better than average case completion times. There were also some encouraging signs of recent improvement. The Chief Inspector also noted that there had been good inter-agency work on the planning and implementation of the new Narey procedures and Youth Court Joint Performance Improvement Plans.

East of England Development Agency: Strategy Revision

Lord Bridges asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is fully committed to a dialogue with organisations and individuals from across the region during the consultation on the revised strategy. Over the next three months, EEDA board members and senior managers will be meeting with and giving presentations to a wide range of regional organisations and I am placing a copy of the organisations to be consulted in the Library of the House.

Five thousand copies of an information leaflet have been distributed to explain the review process and to invite organisations and individuals to contribute. In addition, representatives of external organisations are members of EEDA's strategy implementation teams, which will review the comments received.

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Smoking at Petrol Filling Stations

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to highlight the danger of smoking on petrol station forecourts; and whether they will consider banning the sale of tobacco products from such locations.[HL4342]

Lord Whitty: The Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928 requires that anyone who keeps more than a minimal amount of petrol must obtain a licence from his local petroleum licensing authority. The requirement applies to all petrol filling stations. The Local Authority Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards (LACOTS) has issued a standard set of licence conditions. One of the standard conditions is that the licensee shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, take all steps necessary to prevent smoking taking place in any hazardous area where petroleum spirit is kept, handled or exposed.

A further condition requires petrol filling station licensees to display notices stating "No Smoking" and "Petroleum Spirit--Highly Flammable".

Petrol filling stations are subject to periodic inspection by petroleum licensing authority inspectors. Amongst other things, the inspector would check that the required notices were displayed and that staff were aware of the prohibition of smoking on members of the public dispensing petrol and the action they should take if they see people smoking on the site.

The Government have no plans to prohibit the sale of tobacco products at petrol filling stations.

Agrimonetary Compensation for Arable Farmers

Baroness Cohen of Pimlico asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will make an application to the European Union Commission for agrimonetary compensation for cereals producers.[HL4503]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): In view of the very difficult trading conditions faced by UK arable farmers the Government have decided to ask the EU Commission to drawn down £34 million of the optional agrimonetary compensation available this year. This is in addition to the £57 million agrimonetary compensation already announced for this autumn. The extra money will provide valuable assistance to the arable sector at an exceptionally difficult time and follows a series of discussions with NFU leaders about the present problems of the arable sector.

BSE Cases

Lord Brookman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the most recent figures for confirmed BSE cases broken down by year of birth.[HL4472]

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Baroness Hayman: The position as at 30 October 2000 was as follows:

Year of BirthTotal Number of Confirmed Cases

(3) A third case of BSE in an animal born in 1996 was confirmed on 30 October 2000. The animal was born in May 1996, before the feed ban is considered to have been fully effective.

Organic Farming Scheme

Lord Brookman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the review of the Organic Farming Scheme will be completed.[HL4473]

Baroness Hayman: The review of the Organic Farming Scheme was launched in December 1999 and is now completed. I am grateful to all those individuals and organisations who contributed to it. A note summarising the outcome of the review has been placed in the Library.

We have carefully considered the extent to which changes needed to be made to the scheme, which was heavily oversubscribed after it opened in April 1999 as a much improved replacement for the previous conversion aid arrangements. We believe that the priority is to reopen the Organic Farming Scheme as quickly as possible, and accordingly we will begin accepting applications from 2 January 2001, with the first new payments being made in April 2001.

The Organic Farming Scheme is now part of the England Rural Development Programme, and its future operation will be reviewed as part of the programme's mid-term evaluation. Many of the issues raised during this year's review will be relevant to that evaluation, and we will ensure that they are taken into account at that time.

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Against this background, one change is being made to the scheme when it reopens, subject to parliamentary approval. To facilitate applications, we propose to extend the deadline for applying for aid under the scheme after registration with an organic inspection body from three months to six months.

Badger Road Casualties: TB Survey

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the results of the road traffic accident survey of badger carcases recommended by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle Tuberculosis.[HL4504]

Baroness Hayman: As from today, arrangements are in place to test a sample of badger carcases for bovine tuberculosis in the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire as recommended by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. Road casualty badgers along with badgers found dead on farms in Krebs trial areas within these counties will be collected and tested. Survey results will be published.

BSE and UK Sheep Flock

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to prepare in the event that BSE is present in the United Kingdom sheep flock.[HL4505]

Baroness Hayman: The Government are adopting a prudent and precautionary approach, and have for some time been working on a risk reduction strategy. This includes an ongoing research programme, including development of rapid screening methods, a national scrapie plan to eliminate scrapie from the national sheep flock, and removal of potentially hazardous material from the food chain. To date, the only BSE that has occurred in sheep has been given to the sheep in scientific experiments, but the Government have in hand preparation of a contingency plan covering actions that might be taken if in the future BSE is confirmed as being present in sheep.

House of Lords Annual Report

Lord Avebury asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How many copies of the House of Lords Annual Report were sold to members of the public; how many were given away; what was the total number printed; what was the net cost of the publication; and whether he will consider publishing it only on the web in the future.[HL4382]

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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): One hundred and twenty-three copies of the House of Lords Annual Report and Accounts for 1999-2000 have been sold. A further 60 copies were ordered by the House of Commons.

In addition to those copies which were circulated to all Members of the House and made available in the Printed Paper Office, 70 copies were sent free of charge to selected journalists, and to a small number of academics specialising in the work of the House of Lords.

The number of copies printed is a matter for the Publisher, The Stationery Office Limited (TSO), rather than the House. However, I understand that TSO's print run for the Annual Report was 1,314.

If by "the net cost of the publication" the noble Lord means the total sum payable by the House to TSO for the printing of the Annual Report and for the copies required by the House, the sum is £5,563.

So far as the noble Lord's proposal that the Annual Report should in future be published only on the web, I believe that in its printed form the report is widely read and appreciated, particularly by Members of the House.

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