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Lord Mancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Whitty: The Home Office is proposing a number of measures in order to deal with the unacceptable increase in firearms crime and reflect the Government's determination to tackle this problem in a deliberate and concerted way.

These measures include:

    The introduction of a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for those convicted on indictment of possessing prohibited firearms.

    A ban on the carrying of an imitation firearm or air weapon in a public place without reasonable excuse.

    The age limit for acquiring or using an air weapon without adult supervision will be increased from 14 to 17.

    A ban on the sale, manufacture and importation of air cartridge systems, such as the Brocock, and the licensing of those already held.

    A national firearms amnesty.

These measures do not impact on the Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on 10 May 2002 as to use of rifles and shotguns for hunting.

Mink: Western Isles Project

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether bodies in Scotland have been consulted with regard to the effectiveness of trapping and shooting mink in the Western Isles.[HL1155]

Lord Whitty: This is a devolved issue to the Scottish Executive but I understand that the work in the Western Isles is part of the Hebridean Mink Project. This is a five-year project funded by a partnership of EU-Life III, nature funds, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Comhairle Nan Eilean Sian, Western Isles Enterprise, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scotland, the Scottish Executive and Defra's Central Science Laboratory (CSL).

Mink Eradication

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the eradication of the American mink.[HL1156]

Lord Whitty: American Mink is an invasive non-native species with recognised impacts on a range of economic and biodiversity interests. They are widespread throughout the UK and eradication is not considered a reasonable prospect for the country as a whole. However, some locations in the UK provide special circumstances where eradication may be feasible, for example, the Hebrides where the Scottish authorities are undertaking a project which aims to achieve local mink eradication.

Mink are not protected from killing or taking, although they do benefit from the protection against the use of prohibited methods of control which is

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afforded to all mammals by Section 11(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996.

Further consideration of the policy concerning eradication of mink and other non-active species will be made following the report of the Non-Native Species Policy Review which is expected to be published shortly.

Chemicals Policy: Costs

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimate of the cost to industry of complying with future legislation arising from (a) the European Union chemicals strategy and (b) the new detergents directive.[HL1171]

Lord Whitty: (a) The estimated costs to industry of complying with the White Paper of February 2001 on a Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy vary widely. For instance, the recent business impact assessment produced for the Commission estimated the direct cost to industry as ranging between E1.4 billion to E7 billion (£886 million to £4.43 billion) across the EU—based on certain assumptions and scenarios.

The partial regulatory impact assessment (RIA) prepared by my department suggests that the costs to the UK industry alone might be of the order of £423 million (about E670 million).

A revised RIA will be required when proposals for the European Commission's legislation are available, and my department is working closely with other interested departments, the devolved administrations and concerned stakeholders to develop its scope and content. As well as considering the benefits and costs of the proposals in detail, the RIA will include an assessment of the implications of the proposed legislation for the international competitiveness of the UK chemicals industry and other manufacturing sectors that use chemicals in their processes and products.

(b) Currently there is no reliable estimate for the cost of implementing the proposed detergents regulation. My department is in the process of completing an RIA for it and will ensure that, as part of this process, the views of industry and other consultees are taken into account. The RIA will generate the estimate called for and will be made publicly available.

Local Heritage Initiatives

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many local heritage initiatives have been grant aided in (a) 2000, (b) 2001, and (c) 2002; and at what cost.[HL995]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): The local heritage initiative scheme is run on behalf of the

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Heritage Lottery Fund by the Countryside Agency. The following grants have been made:

    2000–01: 122 awards totalling £1,316,000.

    2001–02: 201 awards totalling £2,277,000.

    2002–03: 201 awards totalling £2,915,148 (up to 31 December 2002).

Sports Broadcasting

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have had, or intend to have, consultations with any professional sport representative body in the United Kingdom about the effect of any current, or likely, European Union legislation concerned with collective non-competitive agreements within such bodies and their freedom to conduct negotiations on matters of transmission and finance with (a) national or (b) European television broadcasting organisations.[HL1008]

Baroness Blackstone: There is no specific European Union legislation on the broadcasting of sports events. The European Commission applies general EU legislation on competition and employment to sports broadcasting and commercial contracts as it does in other economic areas where such contracts have cross-border effects. The Commission has recently issued a Statement of Objections to the FA Premier League's broadcasting contract with BSkyB. The Government have not been approached in respect of this by either the football authorities or any representative body but stand ready to offer advice and support if they are requested.

Gambling Commission

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What powers the new Gambling Commission will have.[HL1285]

Baroness Blackstone: The Government's proposals are summarised in paragraphs 3.3 to 3.6 and 3.12 of A safe bet for success) (Cm 5397). Appendix B to Cm 5397 sets out the proposals in fuller detail.

House of Lords: Travel Allowance for Visits to EU Institutions

Lord Dubs asked the Leader of the House:

    Further to his Written Answer on 28 May 2002 (WA 146) whether the Senior Salaries Review Body has recommended a new allowance in the House of Lords to allow Members of the House a set number of visits a year to either European Union institutions or the national parliaments of member states and applicant countries to the European Union.[HL1392]

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The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I have been in correspondence with the Senior Salaries Review Body on this matter.

On 23 January it recommended a new allowance which will enable Members of the House of Lords to claim reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses for up to two return visits per annum on parliamentary business to European institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg or Strasbourg and to the national parliaments of EU member states or EU candidate countries.

This allowance will be similar to that available to Members of the House of Commons following the Resolution of that House on 9 May 2002. As in the House of Commons, approval for any such visit will need to be sought from the House authorities in advance.

I will table a motion for a Resolution of the House to authorise this new allowance in the next few weeks.

Traffic Commissioners: English Traffic Areas

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What legislation would be required to create a single English traffic area for traffic commissioners.[HL1234]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): For the purposes of administering the licensing of operators of public services and of heavy goods vehicles, Great Britain is divided into Scottish, Welsh and six English traffic areas. To create a single English traffic area would require an order under Section 3(2) of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 (as amended).

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for merging the six regional traffic areas; whether such proposals have the support of the traffic commissioners for England and the senior traffic commissioner; and whether such a proposal is consistent with the Government's policies of devolution of powers to the English regions.[HL1235]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Government are considering proposals for simplifying the administration of the system for licensing operators of public service vehicles and heavy goods vehicles. These include the organisation of traffic areas, which is not currently based on English regions. We will be consulting interested parties in due course.

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