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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Two call-out orders have been made to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service to support operations in those regions. The first, made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996, authorised the call-out of members of the reserve forces to support operations in the region of Iraq. Its purpose is to continue the practice started in 1992 of calling out reservists, primarily specialists, to support the no-fly zone operations over north and south Iraq. At present 10 reservists are serving in the region. The second order was made under Section 56 of the Act to allow reservists to be called into service to support operations in former Yugoslavia. Since 1995, when NATO operations commenced in former Yugoslavia, the reserve forces have provided some 10 per cent of the total UK manpower in theatre. NATO's on-going study to find efficiencies for troop-contributing nations will not be agreed or implemented in time to mitigate the present need. Both orders are effective until 31 March 2003.
Lord Bach: The quinquennial review of the Met Office will begin this month. The aim of the review is to examine how the Met Office has performed since its launch as a trading fund within the Ministry of Defence and to recommend whether, and if so what, measures should be taken in order to reinforce the office's delivery of cost-effective services to its customers and to ensure that full use is made of its scientific and human assets.
The review will proceed in two phases, in the first of which a number of "framework" issues will be examined, including whether the Met Office is best placed as a trading fund within the MoD to exploit its full potential and whether existing governance arrangements require adjustment. The report of this first phase of the review is expected in July.
In the second phase, the review will address, in the light of the answers to the "framework" issues examined in the first phase, a number of questions concerned with the operating efficiency of the Met Office, including the development of a more appropriate relationship between the office and its public sector customers, the scope for developing more commercial business opportunities, the potential for greater national and international cooperation in both meteorology and environmental services generally, and the scope for further streamlining of business processes both within the Met Office and between the office and its customers. The report of this second phase of the review is expected in October.
The review will be carried out by a small team, which will consult closely with Met Office management and other stakeholders, including the office's customers. The MoD is interested also to hear the views of other organisations or individuals who would like to make a contribution to the review. Those wishing to do so should send their contributions to:
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Angela Eagle) yesterday laid before Parliament the Commission for Racial Equality's draft statutory code of practice on the duty to promote race equality.
The code of practice will offer practical guidance to public authorities on how to meet their duty to promote race equality. Once the code of practice is brought into effect, it will be admissible in evidence in any legal action, and a court or tribunal should take relevant provisions of the code into account.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government do not comment on the stability of sterling in the short term, as they believe that this may have undesirable effects on volatility. The Government believe that the key to a stable and competitive pound in the medium term is macro-economic stability and sound public finances.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The main purpose of the PrepCom session which took place between 25 February and 1 March was to negotiate the International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002. The agenda for the World Assembly on Ageing had already been agreed.
Issues raised by the UK and others included ensuring human rights, age discrimination, the eradication of poverty, employment, education and training, the position of older women, and access to new medicines.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The Burns inquiry noted that both foxes and mink have a damaging effect on ground-nesting birds and game birds. However, there are no reliable figures for the extent of predation.
Lord Whitty: Local authorities are responsible for dealing with abandoned vehicles and the department currently holds no central records of the number of vehicles abandoned each year. However, we estimate that some 350,000 were abandoned in the United Kingdom in 2000 and that disposal costs are between £30 and £50 per vehicle. The total net cost for 2000 of their disposal would therefore be in the range of £10 million to £17 million.
Information on the number of abandoned vehicles removed by local authorities has been collected for the first time in the department's 200001 municipal waste management survey which should be published in July.
Lord Whitty: Camelid trekking and the exhibiting of animals at agriculture shows are activities which pose a different degree of disease risk. Each activity has a set of controls designed to mitigate that risk, based on veterinary advice. The Government believe that the respective provisions are proportionate to the disease risks. They will keep the controls under review.
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