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13 Mar 2001 : Column WA77

Written Answers

Tuesday, 13th March 2001.

Defence Exports

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimated annual cost of promoting and assisting exports of military goods; how many United Kingdom jobs are sustained by arms exports; and whether the resulting cost per job could be better used elsewhere.[HL341]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): A number of government departments, including the MoD, FCO and DTI, contribute to the Government's policy of maintaining a strong defence industry through promoting legitimate sales of UK defence products overseas. While no central record exists of the cost of implementing this objective across government, the net operating cost of the Defence Export Services Organisation, which co-ordinates government-wide support, is estimated at £12 million in the financial year 2000-01. Against this, MoD estimates that defence exports save the defence budget about £400 million per year. These savings come from spreading the fixed overhead cost of the UK's own equipment requirements over the longer production runs generated by defence exports, from the sale of surplus military equipment to overseas governments and from royalty receipts on exports of equipment developed using public money.

In addition, defence related exports sustain an estimated 90,000 jobs out of 345,000 in the defence industry. The benefits generated by defence exports thus far outweigh the cost to government of their support.

Transatlantic Defence Industry Co-operation

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to open the United States defence market, which will help strengthen NATO in the context of the development of a transatlantic defence industry relationship between the United States and the European Union.[HL774]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government and the US Government have engaged in extensive consultations to address our mutual security interest in promoting strong transatlantic defence industrial co-operation. These discussions have been taken forward in the context of the Declaration of Principles and the US Defence Security Trade Initiative. Both are aimed at increasing co-operation in the sphere of transatlantic defence trade and the removal of unnecessary governmental barriers to such

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trade. These aims were confirmed by President Bush and the Prime Minister in a joint statement on 24 February 2001.

Increased transatlantic industrial co-operation underpins NATO by increasing defence capabilities and promoting alliance cohesion and interoperability.

Gulf Personnel and Anthrax Immunisation

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to resume the programme of voluntary immunisation against anthrax for armed forces personnel deployed to the Gulf.[HL1126]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We plan to resume the anthrax immunisation programme for personnel deployed on operations to the Gulf shortly. Immunisation was last offered in 1998 but had to be suspended due to manufacturing difficulties at our supplier. We have now received the first new supplies of licensed anthrax vaccine and will be in a position to resume the voluntary immunisation programme in April.

Anthrax immunisation is safe and effective. As in 1998, it will be offered to personnel on the basis of voluntary informed consent. By accepting it alongside other defensive measures, Armed Forces personnel will have the very best protection possible against anthrax used as a biological weapon.

Lord Chancellor's Role

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Lord Chancellor has at any time sought the advice of his Permanent Secretary on the propriety of the Minister responsible for the appointment of judges and Queen's Counsel soliciting barristers to make donations to the Labour Party.[HL945]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): No. I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on 21 February 2001, Official Report, cols. 813-17.

Land Registry: Performance Targets

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the key performance targets for HM Land Registry Executive Agency for 2001-02.[HL1207]

The Lord Chancellor: The following table contains the key performance targets that I have set for HM Land Registry for 2001-02.

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Key Performance Indicators and Targets 2001-02

IndicatorTarget 2000-01Target 2001-02
"Service First" Standards
Percentage of office copies and official search applications to be processed within two working days9898
Percentage of office copies and official search applications to be processed within three working days100100
Percentage of customers who are very satisfied/satisfied with the speed of service of office copies and official search applications--Better than 92
Percentage of registrations to be processed within 25 working days8080
Percentage of customers who are very satisfied/satisfied with the speed of service of registrations--Better 90
Percentage of registrations processed free of any error98.598.5
Percentage of customers very satisfied/ satisfied with the accuracy of registrationsBetter than 90Better than 90
Overall Satisfaction
Percentage of customers who, overall, are very satisfied/satisfied with the full range of services provided by the Land Registry--Better than 92
Percentage return on average capital employed66
Cost per unit in real terms£25.09£23.95
Cost per unit in cash terms£30.87£29.97
Delivery of Electronic Services
Percentage electronic delivery of all of the Land Registry's services--40
Percentage of titles in the land register capable of electronic delivery9697
Number of scanned pages of filed documents (millions)1128
Number of scanned Land Charges registration, Writs and Orders in Bankruptcy (million)--7

* Based on GDP deflator issued by HM Treasury on 8 November 2000 (baseline 1992-93). These are milestones towards the HM Treasury-agreed cost per unit target for 2004-05 of £21.43 (real terms) and £29.11 (cash terms).

Further details of HMLR's targets are published in its Business Plan.

Home Office Challenge Fund

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the purpose of the Home Office Challenge Fund?[HL1206]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Home Office has allocated £500,000 for each of the next three years to a Challenge Fund which has been set up to

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complement the Refugee Integration Strategy launched on 2 November 2000. It seeks to promote innovative projects that address specific social needs among refugee communities, and funding is available from 2 April 2001.

Nice Treaty: Enhanced Co-operation Measures

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as a result of the Nice Treaty, a group of states who wish to pursue a policy of enhanced co-operation in the area of tax harmonisation could do so if they fulfilled the conditions laid down in the treaties; and whether a single state which objected could no longer take the matter to a meeting of the European Council and exercise a veto there.[HL967]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The arrangements for enhanced co-operation are fully explained in the reply given to the noble Lord by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, on 29 January (Official Report, WA 33). No agreement between other member states under these arrangements compels the UK to act similarly, nor does it constrain the UK from acting differently. The Government retain their veto on any tax proposal binding on all member states, and will continue to argue that fair tax competition, not tax harmonisation is the way forward.

Post-war Credits

Lord Higgins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether individuals who are entitled to post-war credits are still able to reclaim them.[HL1070]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes.

"Giving Time, Getting Involved"

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government: What action has been taken in response to the recommendations arising from the Report of the Working Group on the Active Community entitled Giving Time, Getting Involved. [HL1208]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): A table summarising what action the Government are taking to address the recommendations arising from Giving Time, Getting Involved has been placed in the Library.

Employment and Social Policy Council

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government: What was the outcome of the Employment and Social Policy Council held in Brussels on 6 March; and whether they will set out the Government's voting records at the Council. [HL1186]

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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My right honourable friend the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities, along with my honourable friend Angela Eagle, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, represented the UK at the Employment and Social Policy Council held in Brussels on 6 March.

This was a busy Council, with the Standing Committee on Employment also meeting in the margins. Council and committee business focused on preparations for the forthcoming European Council in Stockholm on 23-24 March. The Commission presented its synthesis report, which will inform the social/employment dimension of Stockholm, together with its scoreboard on the implementation of the Social Agenda and its Communication on New Labour Markets. Ministers also noted the inputs from the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee in the discussion on the preparations for Stockholm. The UK emphasised the importance of remaining focused on the priorities agreed at Lisbon, working towards creating choice and mobility in a dynamic and flexible labour market and, with Commission support, pressed for concrete outcomes at Stockholm, particularly in terms of basic skills, a task force on skills and mobility, action on the gender pay gap, women entrepreneurs and a European employment target for older workers.

The Council held an open debate on the sustainability of pensions systems and agreed that the Social Protection Committee would prepare a report for the European Council in Goteberg on 15-16 June. The Presidency reported on the agreement with the European Parliament for a series of amendments to regulation 1408/71 which co-ordinates social security for migrant workers moving within the EU.

The Presidency formally reported on the recent series of informal ministerial meetings held in Sweden, at Lulea¶, Norrkoping and Malmo.

Under any other business, the Commission raised the recent ILO measures against Burma concerning forced labour and the ratification of ILO Convention no 182 on the worst forms of child labour. No substantive discussion was necessary on these items. There was a brief discussion of the Commission's proposals for evaluating the European Employment Strategy, with the Presidency agreeing to remit the issue to the Employment Committee.

No votes were taken.

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