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Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: Regulations

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: We have issued two consultation papers, firstly, about amendments to the Habitats Regulations and, secondly, proposing new appeals regulations, following commencement of Part III of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In what is largely a technical amendment, the 1994 Habitats Regulations are to be brought in line with the provisions of the Act for protection of SSSIs. Ministers also promised the House that they would prepare regulations for the appeals that may arise on SSSIs (against refusal of consent, management notices and stop notices). These will set out a clear procedure for the conduct of appeals, so that they may be processed efficiently.

The consultation period for both documents ends on 23 August 2001. Copies will be placed in the House Libraries.

Water Abstraction Charges

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The department is publishing tomorrow a paper entitled Tuning Water Taking. This sets out government decisions following consultation last year on the use of economic instruments in relation to water abstraction in England and Wales. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

The paper confirms that water abstraction charges will remain limited to recovery of the Environment Agency's water resources management costs. The agency is expected to consult by June 2002 on changes to the current charging scheme within this overall cost ceiling. The paper goes on to say that voluntary abstraction licence trading will be made easier by a variety of means, within the Environment Agency's existing powers, whilst ensuring that trading does not harm the water environment.

Food Standards Agency: Expenditure Limits

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the overall resource Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2001-02 will be increased by £7,803,000 (of which £363,000 is administrations costs) from £103,440,000 to £111,243,000.

The increase is the net effect of transfers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) of £7,308,000, to cover the estimated fall in Meat Hygiene Service income resulting from the revised charging methodology recommended in the Maclean report, and transfers of £363,000 administration costs and £132,000 programme costs from MAFF to reflect the cost of additional responsibilities transferred to the FSA. The accruals to cash adjustment figures have also been increased by £11,000 to bring them in line with the SR2000 settlement.

As a result of these changes, the gross administration cost limit for the FSA has increased by £363,000 from £41,237,000 to £41,600,000. With the exception of the increase of £11,000 in the cash to accruals adjustment, which will bring the figures into line with those agreed in SR2000, all increases will be offset by transfers from the MAFF Departmental Expenditure Limit (detailed above) and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Health Council, 5 June

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the meeting of the Health Council which took place on 5 June.[HL35]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Susan Deacon MSP, Minister for Health and Community Care in Scotland, represented the UK.

Council reached political agreement to adopt unanimously a common position on the six-year framework programme on public health, which will replace the existing eight individual programmes. A compromise was reached over the budget level at 280 meuros, which will be the basis of negotiation with the European Parliament, whose previous position has been for a higher figure. On the mechanism for co-ordinating health monitoring and rapid reaction to health threats, Council agreed to the use of the term "structural arrangements" instead of "structure" as the Commission had still to put forward their proposals on this point. Agreement was also reached on including rare diseases within the scope of the programme.

Council agreed the Recommendation on drinking of alcohol by young people. The Recommendation proposes education and information and self-regulation of promotion, marketing and retailing to reduce alcohol abuse by children and adolescents. Council adopted Conclusions inviting the Commission to put forward proposals for a

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Community strategy on alcohol which would complement national policies. The majority of member states highlighted the need for Community action on gathering and disseminating data and information. The UK warned of the need to focus on alcohol-related harm rather than consumption per se and that any action should be proportionate and respect subsidiarity principles.

Commissioner Byrne presented revised proposals for a tobacco advertising Directive which would ban tobacco advertising in the press, publications, radio, Internet and sponsorship (including free distribution) with a cross-border element. He stressed the compatibility of these proposals with the ECJ judgement striking down the previous tobacco advertising Directive.

The Commission gave an oral update on the epidemiological situation of vCJD and developments in research, surveillance and information exchange at Community level. The UK provided information on progress with developing support for CJD patients, measures to protect against person to person transmission (e.g. single-use instruments for tonsil surgery) and tenders for research into diagnostic tests for vCJD and BSE. Council adopted Conclusions, which call on member states to build on existing work on surveillance and prevention for all TSEs as they affect human health.

A series of information items reports were received on health in other policies and the health dimension of the Northern Dimension Action Plan. There were calls for a second Health Council in each Presidency and information provided on a hospital partnership approach to the treatment of HIV/AIDS victims.

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the private-public partnership for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.[HL99]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): I refer my noble friend to the announcement made by the Secretary of State for Defence in another place on 24 July 2000 (Official Report, columns 778-779), about our decision to implement the Core Competence model for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) public-private partnership. Under Core Competence, around three-quarters of the current DERA organisation will be turned into a company with the registered name of QinetiQ plc. For strategic reasons, the remainder, known as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), will be retained within Ministry of Defence to carry out functions that could not appropriately be transferred to the private sector.

Since the announcement in July work has focused on achieving the legal separation of DERA into the two entities: QinetiQ and Dstl. This work has included the enactment of secondary legislation as outlined in

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Statutory Instrument 1246/2001 (made on 28 March 2001). This instrument will result in DERA being renamed Dstl and net assets attributable to QinetiQ being removed from the Trading Fund and transferred to the new company.

Subject to final legal drafting and contractual negotiations, we intend to vest QinetiQ plc with its assets and liabilities with effect from 1 July 2001. At that point, QinetiQ will remain a wholly government-owned plc. Thereafter, work will continue on preparation for its eventual sale.

Standford Hill Prison: Board of Visitors

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet made any decisions on the findings of the report by Mr Stephen Shaw on the Triennial Review of the Board of Visitors at HM Prison Standford Hill in December 1999.[HL21]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the former Minister for Prisons and Probation wrote to the two former members of that Board of Visitors (BOV) who were not reappointed at the end of 1999 to explain that, following the report by the Prisons Ombudsman, he had asked that the disciplinary procedures against them should be continued. Those procedures have now been completed and the Disciplinary Panel hearing the complaints decided that, in view of the criticisms made about the Disciplinary Code and the investigation undertaken, it would be unreasonable to reach conclusions on the cases. Following those decisions, work is now under way on recommendations to be made to my right honourable friend the Minister for Community and Custodial Provision on whether or not the former members should be offered reappointments to the BOV.

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