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Parental Leave

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to implement paid parental leave for parents with children aged five years or under. [2136]

Alan Johnson: The Government have recently extended parental leave to all parents with children who were under five at 15 December 1999, when the right was first introduced.

Experience since then suggests that parental leave has created fewer practical problems for business than may first have been anticipated, and the time is now right to increase the number of parents who are able to exercise the right.

The Green Paper "Work and Parents: Competitiveness and Choice" was published in December 2000, laid out a series of options to help parents balance their work and family lives and included the option to pay parental leave.

Responses to the consultation revealed that paid parental leave was not a high priority for employees or employers in comparison to other options and accordingly the Government have decided not to take this option forward.

Rural Recovery Fund

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will reply to the letter of the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire of 7 May concerning the Rural Recovery Fund. [2704]

Ms Hewitt: The issues raised by the hon. Member in his letter of 7 May fall within the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The letter has therefore been transferred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for a reply.

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Mirlees Blackstone

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what instructions she has given to the Export Credits Guarantee Department in support of Mirlees Blackstone of Hazel Grove in their bid to obtain credit for their contract with the Batman power station project in Turkey; and what action she will take to ensure UK exporters are treated no less favourably than other EU companies in securing export credit guarantees. [1713]

Ms Hewitt: ECGD has considered this application for cover against its normal risk underwriting criteria and has concluded that the financial risk is at present too great for an offer of cover to be made.

The Government's objective is that ECGD cover should be broadly competitive with that available from other export credit agencies. This does not, though, mean that in order to match foreign competition, it can accept risks which fall below the minimum quality consistent with achieving its financial break-even objective.

Miners' Compensation

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what average compensation payment has been paid to former miners suffering from (a) vibration white finger and (b) respiratory diseases. [2011]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 5 July 2001]: With regard to vibration white finger the average compensation payment is currently £6,572. This mainly reflects cases of low disability where there is no claim for special damages. We expect the average to increase as more claims for special damages are processed.

In relation to respiratory disease, the average expedited payment, which is offered on the basis of initial spirometry testing, is £5,412. The average offer so far in full and final settlement following the full medical assessment process is £9,847.


St. David's Day

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly concerning declaring St. David's day a bank holiday in Wales. [2374]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I meet regularly with the First Minister to discuss a range of issues affecting Wales.

Last year, the National Assembly asked the Government to consider declaring St. David's day a public holiday in Wales. This raises significant issues for business, industry and the public sector. I am discussing these matters both with colleagues in Government and with the First Minister.

Regeneration Funds

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the distribution of regeneration funds in Wales. [1775]

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Mr. Paul Murphy: Several funding programmes contribute towards regeneration in Wales. Significant among these are:

European Structural Funds

During the period 2000–06, Wales will be eligible for:
C=1.85 billion (approximately £1.2 billion) for Objective 1 areas—which cover two-thirds of the Welsh population;
C=81.39 million (approximately £51 million) for Objective 2 areas;
C=39.73 million (approximately £25 million) of transitional support in areas formerly covered by Objectives 2 or 5b; and
C=127 million (approximately £81 million) of Objective 3 funding—which is payable in those areas not covered by Objective 1.

Regional Selective Assistance

Paid in support of industrial investment in the Assisted Areas, which cover more than 2 million people in Wales.

Communities First

A community-centred regeneration strategy targeted at improving the living conditions and prospects of people living in the most deprived parts of Wales. A total of 88 communities—covering 119 electoral wards—will benefit from funding of £82.7 million over three years.

Distribution of funds from these and other programmes is a matter for the National Assembly.


National Missile Defence

20. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of RAF Fylingdales in the missile defence system. [1202]

23. Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of RAF Fylingdales in missile defence systems. [1205]

Mr. Hoon: The US Administration are considering a range of options for missile defence both in the short and long-term. These include airborne and sea-based options, as well as options similar to those considered by the previous US Administration. They have not yet decided which of these options they will seek to deploy. It therefore remains too early to say whether or not a role for RAF Fylingdales will be proposed as part of any system.

37. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the benefits to the United Kingdom of the missile defence system proposed by President Bush. [1219]

Mr. Hoon: President Bush has not yet decided what sort of missile defence system the United States will deploy. It is therefore premature to carry out any such assessment.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his United States counterparts concerning national missile defence. [1196]

Mr. Hoon: I have discussed missile defence with the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. I also discussed the subject regularly with his predecessor. I have consistently made it clear that we share US concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

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and their means of delivery, and that we will continue to work together to tackle the potential threat with a comprehensive strategy. But it remains the case that the US has not decided how it wishes to proceed with missile defence and has made no request for the use of facilities in the UK.

Aircraft Procurement

21. Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many new aircraft his Department plans to procure for the RAF; and if he will make a statement. [1203]

39. Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many new aircraft his Department plans to procure for the RAF; and if he will make a statement. [1221]

Dr. Moonie: Including aircraft on order, we currently plan to acquire 232 Eurofighter multi-role aircraft; 25 A400M transport aircraft; 25 C130J transport aircraft; 21 Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft; eight Chinook Mark 3 support helicopters; 22 Merlin Mark 3 support helicopters, and five modified Global Express jets to carry Airborne Stand-Off Radar. We will also lease four C-l7 transport aircraft.

In addition, there are several projects where the exact number of aircraft which the RAF will use has still to be determined. These include: the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft; the Future Joint Combat Aircraft; the Future Offensive Air System; the Support, Amphibious and Battlefield Rotorcraft; and the UK Military Flying Training System programmes. Some of these programmes are planned to involve PFI solutions where the aircraft will not be owned by the Ministry of Defence.

BAE Systems

22. Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to which Governments he has made representations in the last six months on matters relating to future defence business in which BAE Systems has an interest. [1204]

Dr. Moonie: In accordance with the Government's commitment to a strong defence industry, ministers and officials in the Ministry of Defence have an on-going dialogue with many overseas Governments in support of the UK defence industry.

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