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Policy Advisers

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister for what reason his private secretaries have been redesignated as

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policy advisers; and what assessment he has made of the implications for civil service neutrality arising from this change. [8012]

The Prime Minister: The No. 10 private office and policy unit have been merged to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of my office.

All civil servants work in full accordance with the civil service code.

Lord Birt

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the qualities and achievements of Lord Birt which led him to appoint Lord Birt to the forward strategy unit. [8004]

The Prime Minister: I appointed Lord Birt as unpaid strategy adviser because of his extensive experience of strategy formulation in both the public and private sectors.

Civil Service

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister when he will introduce a bill to define the role of the civil service. [7999]

The Prime Minister: The Government are committed to maintaining a non-political permanent civil service. They have given a commitment to legislation for the civil service, which will be taken forward as and when a suitable opportunity arises.

Kyoto Protocol

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Prime Minister what recent discussions he held with the US President concerning the Kyoto protocol; and if he will make a statement. [6771]

The Prime Minister: I have discussed the Kyoto protocol with President Bush on a number of occasions, including at the EU-US summit in Gothenburg in June and at the G8 summit in Genoa in July. I made it clear that the Government remain committed to the Kyoto protocol and to the EU's aim of ratification and entry into force by 2002. We agreed that climate change is a serious issue and that we would continue to work together to address it.

National Missile Defence

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Prime Minister what recent discussions he held with the US President concerning National Missile Defence; and if he will make a statement. [6772]

The Prime Minister: I have discussed national missile defence (NMD) with President Bush on a number of occasions, and expect to continue to do so. I have made the Government's position clear on NMD and I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) on 4 July 2001, Official Report, column 256.


Lynne Jones: To ask the Prime Minister if the military intelligence that has been shared with key partners in the military alliance for action in Afghanistan has been shared with the UN Secretary-General. [8036]

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The Prime Minister: We cannot comment in detail on intelligence matters, but all necessary information is being shared with coalition partners.

Tourism (Departmental Responsibility)

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Prime Minister for what reason responsibility for the tourism industry is allocated to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; and for what reason this responsibility is exercised at Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State level. [6072]

The Prime Minister: Tourism fits well with the wider responsibilities of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. These include areas such as the historic environment, museums and galleries, sport and the arts which attract tourists to come to the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has overall responsibility for the tourism industry. Following normal Government practice, day-to- day responsibility has been delegated to the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Luff: To ask the Prime Minister prior to his decision on the nature and terms of reference of an inquiry into foot and mouth disease, if he will consult (a) parish, district and county councils in affected areas, (b) representatives of the tourist industry, (c) animal welfare organisations, (d) the NFU, CLA and other farming organisations and (e) hon. Members. [6434]

The Prime Minister: On 9 August I announced three independent inquiries into the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

The inquiries, which will report to me and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, are:

The chairs of the three inquiries will set their own working methods, working in an open and inclusive manner involving a wide range of stakeholders.

G8 Summit

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the G8 summit. [7095]

The Prime Minister: I met my G8 colleagues in Genoa from 20 to 22 July. The summit was an important opportunity to discuss a wide range of international issues. The conclusions of the summit were placed in the Libraries of the House at the time.

For the United Kingdom, the three key results of the summit were the commitment to a new trade round, the Genoa plan for Africa and the global health fund.

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The Government believe that a new trade round would provide significant economic benefits. The European Commission has estimated that a truly liberalising new round could boost the world economy by $400 billion a year. Of this, between $100 million and $150 billion could go to developing countries.

In Genoa, we met the leaders of five African countries, as well as representatives of Latin America and Asia. Their priorities are similar to those of the G8—ending conflict, increasing trade and foreign investment, improving governance, health and education, implementing debt relief and closing the digital divide.

We welcomed the readiness among African leaders to take responsibility for resolving the problems in their continent. We agreed to appoint senior personal representatives to meet the leaders of the new African initiative, and to produce a plan of action between now and next year's summit in Canada.

On poverty reduction for developing countries, the G8 committed over $1.3 billion to a new global health fund to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and welcomed a further $500 million pledged by other partners. We shall work with the United Nations and other stakeholders to make sure the fund is up and running by the end of this year. The UK Government have already pledged $200 million to the health fund.

At the conclusion of the summit, my G8 colleagues and I accepted the invitation of the Canadian Prime Minister to meet next year on 26–28 June in Kananaskis, Alberta.


Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to Argentina. [7094]

The Prime Minister: I visited Argentina on 1 August and had talks with President de la Rua. Our discussions covered international trade and investment issues, the Argentine economy, climate change and UK/Argentine bilateral relations. President de la Rua and I reaffirmed our commitment to continue our dialogue on issues of common interest.

Falkland Islands

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the representations and discussions he has had since 19 July relating to the status of the Falkland Islands. [7093]

The Prime Minister: I met President de la Rua on 1 August. We both reaffirmed our Governments' commitment to the joint statement of July 1999, and to continue our dialogue on issues of common interest. This does not affect our sovereignty of the Falkland Islands or our commitment to the Islanders' rights to determine their own future. There will be no change in the status of the Islands unless that is the wish of the Islanders themselves.


Mr. Salmond: To ask the Prime Minister (1) if he will place in the Library for each year since 1995 the average response time for providing a substantive answer to (a) hon.

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Members' correspondence, (b) correspondence from members of the public and (c) written parliamentary questions in the (i) Commons and (ii) Lords; [7016]

The Prime Minister: The information requested is not available in the manner requested.

The effective handling of correspondence and PQs is an issue to which I, and ministerial colleagues, attach great importance. I take an active interest in the way my office deals with all letters sent to me. I receive approximately 500,000 items of post a year compared with an estimated 25,000 items received annually six years ago. My office takes action on all letters received within 15 working days.

General information on the volumes of correspondence received across Whitehall and an overall performance is published by the Cabinet Office. Figures for 2000 were published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324–28W and on 19 July 2001, Official Report, columns 454–56W.

My office aims to answer all ordinary written parliamentary questions within five working days, and named day written parliamentary questions on the day named.

I have answered 110 written parliamentary questions this Session, providing substantive answers for 88 per cent. of them on time.

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