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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 1 May 2001


European Commission (State Aid)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list, by country, for each of the past 10 years, the amount of state aid permitted by the European Commission to each EU country by sector. [158326]

Mr. Hain: The latest available information on expenditure of compatible state aid by member state can be found in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Surveys on State Aid in the European Union on the European Commission website at www.europa.eu.int. Copies of all these surveys will be placed in the Library of the House.

Social Chapter

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with EU colleagues on the Social Chapter. [158611]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Since fulfilling our manifesto commitment to end the UK opt out to the Social Chapter, the Government have participated at EU Council and other meetings at which measures brought forward under the Social Chapter have been discussed. I last met with EU colleagues on 20 December at the Employment and Social Policy Council.


Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his Department's policy is regarding the purchase of (a) hydrocarbons and (b) other environmentally benign refrigerants to meet the refrigeration and other relevant energy needs of buildings and premises owned and leased by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [160014]

Dr. Howells: The Department's policy is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses, and other substances detrimental to the environment, from its buildings.

When purchasing new or replacement equipment, the Department will therefore consider equipment using less environmentally damaging refrigerants where practicable.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which London headquarters building or premises owned or leased by his Department use (a) chlorofluorocarbons and (b) hydrochlorofluorocarbons for refrigeration and other relevant energy needs. [160018]

Dr. Howells: The Department has one HQ building, Kingsgate House, where a small proportion of the refrigeration and other energy needs are met using chlorofluorocarbons.

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Three HQ buildings (1 Victoria Street, 151 Buckingham Palace Road and Kingsgate House) have some of their refrigerant and other energy needs met by plant which requires the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to what extent his Department's headquarters buildings use hydrofluorocarbons for (a) refrigeration and (b) air conditioning; what amounts of hydrofluorocarbons have been purchased in each year since 1995; and what plans he has to phase out the (i) purchase and (ii) use of hydrofluorocarbons. [160009]

Dr. Howells: One building (1 Victoria street) uses a small amount of hydrofluorocarbons for its refrigeration.

Between the period April 2000 and March 2001 1 kg of hydrofluorocarbons was purchased. Data for previous years could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

When replacing plant which currently uses hydrofluorocarbons, the Department will consider plant using alternative refrigerants where practicable.

Maternity Pay and Leave

Ms Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the current requirements for maternity pay and leave. [160153]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The responses to the consultation on the Green Paper "Work and Parents--Competitiveness and Choice" have confirmed that the existing rules for maternity pay and leave are unnecessarily complex for employers and employees. This complexity is particularly a problem for small businesses.

Through the consultation process employers, their representatives, working parents and those representing unions and family groups have told us that they want to see simplification of these rules.

I have responded to these strong calls for simplification by today publishing a framework for a simplified maternity pay and leave system, including an assessment of the likely benefits and costs of any changes.

This new framework will deliver simplicity, certainty and improved planning time for both employers and employees. It sets out changes to the notification procedures and periods and unified and simpler qualification requirements.

An integral part of the new system is the Government's decision, following the consultation, to allow mothers the choice to take up to a year's maternity leave in total. This was strongly supported by parents and their representatives. This will be another important step in the process of helping parents balance their work and home lives. It builds on the steps announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget Statement and by me, in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt), on 25 April 2001, Official Report, column 280-81.

I welcome comments on the framework and have placed copies of the document in the Library of the House.

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Banana Trade Dispute

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the terms of the settlement reached between the European Community and the United States of America concerning the importation of bananas from associated states of the Community and non- associated producers of bananas, together with the consequential effects on traditional imports from current and former members of the Commonwealth, and the consequent financial and social effects. [158816]

Ms Quin: I have been asked to reply.

We have placed in the Library of the House copies of the "Understanding on Bananas", which sets out the basis of the agreement between the European Commission and the United States of America.

The new regime will enable Commonwealth banana-exporting countries in the Caribbean which have traditionally supplied the UK market to continue to do so. The precise quantities of bananas imported will depend on commercial decisions by banana traders. However, to the extent that contractions in the Caribbean banana sector which have been seen in recent years continue, it will remain essential that, in these countries, Community funds are used for viable development activities such as restructuring, diversification and safety net schemes to help cope with ongoing changes in the banana sector.


Special Advisers

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many special advisers worked in her Department from 1997 to date. [160026]

Clare Short: Since 1997 I have had two special advisers at any one time and five different individuals have occupied the posts.


Nuclear Disarmament

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what successful steps the Government have taken since May 1997 to achieve multilateral nuclear disarmament. [158786]

Mr. Hoon: Since May 1997 the UK has:

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The UK has also worked hard internationally to create the broader security environment necessary to enable further nuclear reductions without jeopardising our own security.

The practical measures on nuclear disarmament in the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) in July 1998 enabled the Government to show the commitment of the UK as a Nuclear Weapon State to make its own contribution to the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons. They included the reduction in the size of our deterrent and greater transparency about our nuclear and fissile material stockpiles. These SDR measures will help lay the ground for UK participation in multilateral negotiations when the conditions are right.

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