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Expenditure (GDP)

Mr. Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress has been made towards meeting the Government's target for expenditure on overseas development as proportion of gross domestic product. [145774]

Clare Short: Preliminary estimates on the ratio of official development assistance to Gross National Product suggest that the UK will report a ratio of at least 0.29 per cent. of GNP for the year 2000. This is consistent with the Government's commitment to reach a level of 0.33 per cent. by 2003-04. Provisional data for the year 2000 will become available in April, with final figures confirmed in June.

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CABINET OFFICE

Ombudsman Review

Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when she plans to (a) publish the results of the consultation exercise and (b) announce the Government's policy on the review of the Ombudsman. [149551]

Marjorie Mowlam: I refer to the answer my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Tony Wright) on 17 January 2001, Official Report, column 333.

TREASURY

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has undertaken of the impact on the (a) working hours, (b) staffing and (c) financial cost to SMEs of operating the Working Families Tax Credit. [149369]

Dawn Primarolo: Estimates of the impact on small and medium-size enterprises of operating the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) are given in paragraphs 43 to 62 of the Regulatory Impact Assessment for the Tax Credits Bill 1999. A copy has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many farmers in (a) Lancashire and (b) England are in receipt of the Working Families Tax Credit. [149742]

Dawn Primarolo: It is estimated that about 11,000 families in England where the main earner was either a farmer or a worker in agricultural, forestry or fishing occupations were in receipt of the Working Families Tax Credit at the end of August 2000.

The 5 per cent. sample of awards on which these estimates are based does not yield a reliable estimate of the number of these families that were in Lancashire.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his current estimate of the cost of answering (a) a written and (b) an oral parliamentary question. [150381]

Mr. Timms: As at April 2000, the latest date for which data are available, the average cost of answering a written parliamentary question and an oral parliamentary question was £123 and £285 respectively.

Fuel Duty Rebate

Caroline Flint: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many representations he has received supporting the introduction of a fuel duty rebate for community transport operations; [149077]

Mr. Hill: I have been asked to reply.

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We have received a considerable number of representations about this matter.

Our 10-year transport plan, "Transport 2010", announced that we would be working up detailed proposals for extending fuel duty rebate to a wider range of community transport services. We will shortly be consulting relevant organisations as part of this process. Our aim is to have the new arrangements up and running in the next financial year.

The term "community transport" covers a wide range of different services and organisations and the cost of extending the scope of the rebate scheme would depend on the precise definition of eligibility adopted. Decisions will be made on this in the light of the consultation. Further announcements will be made as soon as possible.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

BSE Inquiry

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to implement the recommendations of the BSE Inquiry report. [150420]

Mr. Nick Brown: The BSE Inquiry report was published on 26 October 2000. In welcoming it, I said that the Government's substantive response would be announced in the coming months. I announced on 21 December 2000 that we would be making an interim response as a basis for public discussion before finalising the Government's full response.

The Government's interim response was published on Friday, 9 February. There will be a parliamentary debate on 15 February. The response has been prepared with contributions from across Whitehall and the devolved Administrations and seeks to present the actions being taken in all the legislatures.

This response is intended to focus on the future. It sets out what has happened since March 1996--which was the point to which we asked the Inquiry to take its examination. It gives full attention to the 167 specific findings and conclusions in the Inquiry report, and to the major themes that emerge from it: management of scientific advisory committees and how scientific advice is used in developing policy; openness; risk and uncertainty; the structure of government and the legislative framework; and the need for rigour in the development and implementation of policy.

The response takes the opportunity to set out how the Government are taking the lessons and comments in the report as a spur to developing the action already under way as a result of the Modernising Government agenda, the Office of Science and Technology's work on the use of science in government and work on developing a Government Statement on Risk.

The Government intend that this interim response should be the subject of positive action to seek the views of interested parties. Public debate on how the lessons in the report can be most effectively applied and embedded across Departments will help to ensure a comprehensive final Government Response to the BSE Inquiry report.

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Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of the review of the civil servants who were criticised in the BSE Inquiry report. [150291]

Mr. Nick Brown: Sheila Forbes, as an independent Civil Service Commission, has now completed her review of the criticisms in the report of serving civil servants. She has recommended to the Permanent Secretaries of the Departments involved that there is no justification for disciplinary action to be taken against any serving civil servant. They have accepted this recommendation and the civil servants involved have been informed.

Farm Holdings

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to the oral answer of 24 January 2001, Official Report, column 920, to the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George), if he will publish Her Majesty's Government's estimate of (a) the percentage of farm holdings in the United Kingdom which they do not regard as efficient, (b) the number of farmers and farm workers obtaining their livings from them and (c) the proportion of the UK agricultural workforce they represent. [148403]

Ms Quin: The Government do not forecast or publish estimates of the percentage of farm holdings in the United Kingdom which we do not regard as efficient. We do not obtain the detailed business information on the 300,000 or so holdings in the United Kingdom which would be required to attempt to do this. Information on the productivity and performance of the agriculture industry was published by the Ministry on 30 March 2000 as part of the announcement of the Government's Action Plan for Farming in "Strategy for Agriculture: Current and prospective economic situation" paragraphs 26-35.

The Action Plan, now backed by £500 million, is providing short-term relief to the sectors hit hardest by the current economic crisis but also supports longer-term action to encourage industry restructuring. Good progress is being made in delivering the commitments in the plan.

The establishment of the Rural Development Regulation (RDR), or "second pillar" of the CAP, was a substantial step forward in redirecting the CAP away from production support and towards rural development and environmentally-friendly farming. By extending support to activities beyond food production, the RDR will open up new options for farms of differing types, sizes and economic characteristics.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Euro

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what programme of work has been undertaken by his Department and agencies for which his Department is responsible as part of the national changeover plan for preparation for the UK's entry to the euro at current exchange rates; and if he will make a statement. [148411]

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Angela Eagle: The Department is conducting work in accordance with the guidance given in the Outline National Changeover Plans and reported in the Fourth Report on Euro Preparations published on 6 November 2000.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the cost of reprinting documents issued by his Department and its executive agencies to replace sterling entries with entries in euros. [148409]

Angela Eagle: In the event of UK entry to the single currency any changes to documents would be dealt with through existing contractual arrangements as part of a normal reprint cycle.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the changes required in the Government's benefits system which would be necessary as a result of a changeover to the euro. [148413]

Angela Eagle: In the event of the UK entering the single currency, benefits systems would not require rule changes although IT system changes would be required to convert amounts in accordance with EU and UK legislation.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the cost at current exchange rates of changing his Department's, and agencies for which his Department is responsible, computer systems in preparation for the euro. [148408]

Angela Eagle: Should the UK decide to enter the single currency, costs will depend on the approach taken and this is not yet known. There are currently no plans to change existing computer systems prior to a Referendum.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what consultants his Department is using to advise on the implications and implementation of the changeover plan to the euro; and what budget has been set aside for this purpose. [148412]

Angela Eagle: A number of private sector companies contribute to the normal operational running of the Department. Where appropriate as part of the normal arrangements, consultants in these roles have contributed to preparatory analysis work. No specific budget has been set aside and any costs are contained within the figure published in the Fourth Report on Euro Preparations.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the cost of training staff in his Department and executive agencies for which his Department is responsible in preparation for the euro, at current prices and exchange rates. [148410]

Angela Eagle: In the event of the UK entering the single currency, costs will depend on the approach taken and this is not yet known. No estimate for the cost of training has been made.


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