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The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The subject of the question relates to matters undertaken by Forest Enterprise. We have asked its Chief Executive, Dr Bob McIntosh, to arrange for a reply to be given.
I should perhaps start by saying that it is not possible to make a direct comparison between the prices received by Forest Enterprise for its timber and the prices of imported timber. This is because most imports are of sawn timber while Forest Enterprise sells all its timber in the round. There is very little round timber imported, other than for particular specialist needs.
The key issue is the link between imported sawn timber prices and the price that sawmills can afford to pay for round timber purchased from British growers. As the pound has strengthened against key currencies such as the Swedish Kroner, the price of imported sawn timber has fallen. The price of sawn timber produced by British sawmills has to match the imported price and has fallen accordingly. Since the purchase of sawlogs is a high proportion of the cost of running a sawmill, there is a clear relationship between sawn timber prices and the price paid for sawlogs. The reduction in prices obtained for sawlogs by Forest Enterprise amd other woodland owners is entirely in line with what might be expected, given the sharp drop in sawn timber prices.
It is unrealistic for growers to expect to achieve price levels that are not justified by the selling price of the final end product, after allowing for sawmilling costs. As you will be aware, even at the reduced sawlog prices operating at the moment, a number of small to medium sized sawmills have gone out of business because they cannot compete with imported sawn timber prices. This does not suggest that the sawmillers are currently profiting at the expense of the growers.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The estimated cost of administering free television licences for people aged 75 or over is £24.3 million in the current year, falling to £10 million in 2001-02 and £8 million in 2002-03. A detailed breakdown by type of activity is not available. Discussions have taken place between the Department of Social Security, which has responsibility for meeting these costs, and the BBC, and agreement has been reached on accounting procedures, payment phasing and audit arrangements. The agreements reached will be incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding between the DSS, the Department for Social Development and the BBC. The Memorandum of Understanding will require the BBC to ensure that all resources are used prudently and efficiently.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The ASSIST programme was established on 1 April 1998 to replace the UK Military Training Assistance Scheme (UKMTAS), with the main purpose of refocusing support to the Government's priority of promoting respect for human rights and good governance.
The ASSIST expenditure for 1999-2000 was £8.951m, which was spent in accordance with FCO priorities for engagement with the armed forces and law enforcement agencies in a broad range of countries. All expenditure was compatible with the ASSIST criteria.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No. We understand the Institute of Dutch History in the Hague is conducting an historical study in this area. We do not see the need at this time to duplicate their efforts by commissioning an additional independent audit.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My right honourable friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment represented the UK at Special Environment Council in Brussels on 7 November 2000.
The main purpose of this Council was to review the EU's negotiating positions in advance of the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6), due to take place in the Hague later this month. Ministers discussed the EU's strategy, and exchanged views on possible options which may emerge in the course of the negotiations. Council Conclusions were agreed reaffirming the EU's negotiating position on the main issues--supplementarity, the clean development mechanism, and sinks. These also stressed Council's commitment to achieving a successful outcome at COP6.
The Commission also reported on the progress of the European Climate Change Programme, noting that, while the Community as a whole was achieving stabilisation of CO2 emissions, a number of member states were not. There was a brief exchange of views between member states.
Council Conclusions to guide the final round of international negotiations on the UNEP Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, to be held on 4-9 December 2000, were also taken without discussion.
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