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25 Jun 2001 : Column WA5

Written Answers

Monday, 25th June 2001.

Child Benefit

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the Government's intention to introduce a new tax credit for families with children, what are the future administrative arrangements for the Child Benefit Centre in Great Britain.[HL55]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The new tax credit will build on the foundation of universal Child Benefit. The Prime Minister has decided that responsibility for Child Benefit in Great Britain will transfer to Inland Revenue so that, when the new credit is introduced in 2003, Government support for children will be administered by one department. Until the transfer takes place, Child Benefit will remain the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Energy Policy: Performance and Innovation Unit Review

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What additional projects are planned for the Performance and Innovation Unit.[HL56]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prime Minister has asked the Performance and Innovation Unit to undertake a review of the strategic issues surrounding energy policy for Great Britain.

The review will be set within the context of meeting the challenge of global warming, while ensuring secure, diverse and reliable energy supplies at a competitive price.

The aim of the review will be to set out the objectives of energy policy and to develop a strategy that ensures that current policy commitments are consistent with longer-term goals. The findings will also inform the Government's response to last year's report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Energy--the changing climate.

The work the PIU has already started, on resource productivity and renewable energy, will be an important input into this project. This review will work closely with the resource productivity team and the main Whitehall departments, as well as business, international institutions, other governments and non-governmental organisations.

The Minister for Industry and Energy will chair an Advisory Group for this project, which will report by the end of the year. Other Ministers on the Advisory Group include the Minister for the Environment and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

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DCMS: Departmental Expenditure Limit

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any plans to amend the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's departmental expenditure limit for 2001-02. [HL57].

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) for 2001-02 will be increased by £18,700,000 from £1,123,396,000 to £1,142,096,000.

The changes are to provide an additional resource of £18,000,000 to the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council toward the costs of promoting tourism to counter the adverse effects of foot and mouth disease on the industry; to provide an additional resource of £100,000 from the Capital Modernisation Fund toward the development of Internet access to the British Museum's Timeline of History and for the linking of this to Culture Online, the National Grid for Learning and local systems; and to provide an additional resource of £600,000 from the Capital Modernisation Fund toward the development of the English Tourism Council's Modernising English Tourism Destination Services, an electronic data sharing network using the web to link tourism providers and customers.

The increases will be offset by transfers or charged to the DEL Reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Sight-impaired Justices of the Peace

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made with the pilot project for sight-impaired people acting as Justices of the Peace.[HL58]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I am pleased to announce that the pilot project assessing the feasibility of sight-impaired people acting as magistrates has been completed. It has been a great success. Nine sight-impaired people were recruited as Justices of the Peace to the Commission areas of Leicestershire, Devon, North East London, Wiltshire, Humberside and Manchester. Each was appointed after having met the normal selection criteria and completed the training. The responses from those who have worked with the sight-impaired magistrates have shown that each one of them has made a positive and valuable contribution to the work of their Bench. I am therefore removing, forthwith, the bar to appointment of sight-impaired applicants as Justices of the Peace.

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Fisheries Council, 18 June 2001

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the outcome was of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 18 June.[HL59]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Commons), Mr Elliot Morley, represented the UK at the Fisheries Council on 18 June together with Ms Rhona Brankin, the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development in the Scottish Executive and Ms Brid Rogers, Northern Irish Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Council had a full discussion of the Commission's Green Paper on the 2002 Review of the Common Fisheries Policy. There was considerable support for the UK's major concerns: to work towards a policy which is economically and environmentally sustainable; to retain the system of total allowable catches and quotas distributed according to relative stability; to continue with existing restrictions on access, in particular the 6 and 12-mile limits which we argued should be established permanently; to provide for increased involvement of fishermen in developing fisheries policy, in particular through a regionalised approach; to address more effectively the environmental impacts of fishing, reducing discards, recognising the value of low impact fishing and angling, and minimising the adverse effects of fishing on non-target species such as small cetaceans; to ensure more consistent and effective enforcement across all member states; and to tackle more effectively the imbalance between fishing capacity and stocks, not least by ending the use of subsidies by grant-aiding more powerful and efficient vessels.

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The work on the Green Paper will continue under the Belgian Presidency and the Commission is expected to produce detailed legislative proposals later this year.

The Council agreed conclusions on the Commission's action plan on biodiversity. We welcomed these, and in particular the commitment to give priority for action for the most sensitive species listed in the Habitats Directive.

The Commission introduced a communication setting out its thinking on the longer-term multi-annual recovery plans for cod and hake stocks. There was also some discussion of the more immediate measures for North Sea cod which are currently being negotiated with Norway. The Commissioner emphasised the serious state of the stocks and the need to take substantial measures if the stocks are to be able to recover. We supported the development of action plans and the inevitable constraints on fishing which would be required if they were to be effective. But at the same time we stressed the importance of engaging the fishing industry in the development of plans and the need to take sufficient account of their impact on returns from fishing. The Commission is expecting to conclude negotiations on North Sea cod with Norway shortly and to introduce measures applicable in 2002; detailed proposals on longer term measures will be put to the Council for consideration in the autumn.

In view of the failure to establish a new fisheries agreement with Morocco, the Council agreed that the existing provision for structural funds to be made available to support the fishing fleets affected would be extended until the end of 2001. The Commission plans to make proposals shortly for a restructuring scheme.

Finally, the Commission presented a proposal to extend the multi-annual guidance programme (MAGP IV) for one year until the end of 2002. This will be considered in detail by the Council in the autumn.

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