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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has for the future of RAF Ash. [100291]

Mr. Kilfoyle: None. RAF Ash was sold on 24 July 1998.

Recruitment (Fiji)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many personnel went as part of the British Army recruiting team to Fiji. [100756]

Mr. Spellar: A total of 26 personnel, military and civilian, have been involved in the Army selection visit to Fiji. One military officer visited prior to deployment to brief the Fijian Prime Minister. The team that subsequently deployed consisted of 25 personnel. Of these, two have already returned to the UK. The purpose of the visit was not recruitment, but to process applications to the British Army already received.

Himalayan Kayak Expedition

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British soldiers are participating in the British Army Himalayan Kayak Expedition. [100749]

Mr. Spellar: Adventurous Training Exercise Himalayan Encounter Finn was a tri-Service kayaking expedition conducted in Nepal by 42 British Service personnel between 23 September and 6 November 1999. Thirty-three of the participants were Army personnel.

Recruitment (Ethnic Minorities)

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what targets he has for the recruitment of ethnic minorities into Her Majesty's forces. [100570]

Mr. Spellar: The recruiting goal for this financial year is for 3 per cent. of all new recruits to be drawn from ethnic minorities. The goal, first set in 1998-99 at 2 per cent., rises annually by 1 per cent. to a goal of 5 per cent. by 2001-02.

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 287W

Land Disposals

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what was the value of surplus land disposals for the Army for each of the last three years; [100883]

Mr. Kilfoyle: The information requested is not held centrally. However, I will write to the hon. Member once it is available and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Campaign Medals

Mr. Trend: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will assess the benefits of issuing a campaign medal to service personnel who served in the Suez Canal Zone between 1951 and 1954. [100335]

Mr. Kilfoyle: My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces, when Under-Secretary of State for Defence, reviewed the matter of a medal for those who served in the Canal Zone between 1951 and 1954 last year. He concluded that he could find no grounds for reopening the case to award a medal for service in the Canal Zone between 1951 and 1954. He saw no new evidence that he believed would enable him to persuade the Committee on the Grant of Honours Decorations and Medals to overturn their policy of non-retrospection, or revoke any of the decisions made at the time or following the various reviews since 1990.


Departmental Transport

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department has spent on ministerial transport in each of the last two years. [98709]

Mr. Byers: Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry are required--under the terms of the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers--to make efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements. For Information on spend on the Government Car Service, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 1 December 1999, Official Report, columns 255-56W.

Post Office

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the post offices that have opened in England and Wales in the last 12 months. [99606]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that 9 new post offices have opened in England and Wales and a further 136 offices have reopened since October 1998. I have arranged for a list of these offices, prepared by the Post Office, to be placed in the Library of the House. The Post Office definition of a reopened post office includes offices which have relocated and those to which a new subpostmaster/subpostmistress has been appointed, as well as offices which reopen after a period of closure.

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 288W


Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what initiatives his Department is undertaking to test the medicinal benefits of cannabis. [99646]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 25 November 1999]: The Medical Research Council (MRC) has invited a number of research proposals on the potential therapeutic uses of cannabinoids. A funding decision is expected in December on a clinical trial concerning the therapeutic uses of cannabinoids/cannabis in the treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis. Two further trials of its use in post-operative pain will be considered next year.

The MRC currently co-funds a "Realising Our Potential Awards" (ROPA) grant with Zeneca at the University of Manchester. This study investigates the effects of cannabinoids on brain cell degeneration. MRC have contributed £97,260.

Also, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) supports two individual projects/grants investigating the medicinal effects of cannabis.

Mobile Phone Installations

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will estimate the number of new mobile phone masts to be erected in the United Kingdom in each of the next three years. [100265]

Ms Hewitt: No estimate has been made, and I do not have the commercial information available to enable me to make one. However, it is Government policy to limit the number of masts where possible through mast sharing. The Telecommunications Act 1984 licences of the mobile network operators therefore require that before they erect a new mast they investigate the possibility of using an existing mast belonging to themselves or another licensee; of replacing an existing mast belonging to themselves or another licensee with a mast for joint use; and of erecting, in co-operation with any other telecommunications operator, a mast for their joint use. This is reinforced by the Government's planning policy, which is to encourage mast and site sharing where appropriate.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the regulations with which a company manufacturing refrigerators and employing 1,500 people has to comply. [100482]

Ms Hewitt: The following regulations apply specifically to a refrigerator manufacturer, employing 1,500 people:

    The Energy Efficiency (Refrigerators and Freezers) Regulation SI 1941, 1997

    Environmental Protection (Control of Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer) SI 506, 1996.

In addition, a refrigerator manufacturer will need to meet other regulations including those deriving from company law, taxation, employment, health and safety, land planning requirements and environmental legislation.

2 Dec 1999 : Column: 289W

Council for the Central Laboratory of the

Research Councils

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the potential IT benefits from fundamental research at CCLRC; and what steps he is taking to mobilise UK enterprise to maximise the opportunities. [100241]

Ms Hewitt: IT is intrinsic to CCLRC's research activities, not just those of the computer science and engineering and IT departments. Its benefits are continuously assessed by the other Research Councils, which are its primary customers.

CCLRC is actively involved in programmes to disseminate knowledge and technology to the wider business community. These include regional initiatives to provide access for SMEs to the skills base, and participation in a programme on behalf of the EU to involve industry in future developments of the worldwide web.

It is also active in encouraging development of start-up companies on CCLRC sites, where the business development offices at Daresbury and Rutherford encourage technology transfer and act as 'incubators' in the initial growth phase. A particular success story is that of Bookham Technology Ltd., founded in 1989, and located at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory from 1992-97.

The company designs and manufactures silicon integrated optical devices for the next generation of fibre-optic cable. It has raised $90 million of investment to date from such firms as Intel, Cisco, and 3I, and now employs 210 staff on sites in the UK, USA, and Japan.

Business Rates

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the impact upon the competitiveness of businesses in England and Wales of the increase in business rates for 2000-01. [100742]

Ms Hewitt: The purpose of the revaluation of non-domestic properties on 1 April 2000 is solely to update rateable values in line with changes in the property market since the previous revaluation in 1995 and to ensure they accurately reflect the relative rental value of properties. Although the total rateable value for England will increase--reflecting the improved state of the economy since the 1995 revaluation--the National Rate Multiplier will be reduced for the first time since it was introduced in 1990. Overall, the total amount collected in rates will be broadly the same in real terms as in 1999-2000.

A consultation exercise was undertaken on the need to introduce transitional arrangements to mitigate the impact of the 2000 revaluation of the rates bills of individual businesses. In their responses to the consultation paper--which included a draft Regulatory Impact Assessment--the vast majority of businesses supported the need, under the present arrangements, for a transitional relief scheme. The scheme announced on 25 November will place tight limits on the amounts that individual bills can rise as a result of the revaluation.

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