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Rural Initiatives

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 29 November 2001, Official Report, column 1090W, on rural affairs, how many people received support through the England Rural Development Programme in 2001–02, broken down by category and amount. [20940]

Alun Michael: Because applications are still being processed, figures on the number of new land-based agreements under the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) in the current financial year are not available.

My answer of 29 November 2001, Official Report, column 1090W, gave the number and value of agreements approved under the ERDP project based schemes since they were launched in October 2000. Of these, the equivalent figures for 1 April to 31 October 2001 are:

SchemeNumber of agreementsTotal value of grant approved (£ million)
Rural Enterprise Scheme1227.7
Processing and Marketing Grant174.8
Vocational Training Scheme211.0

ERDP agreements typically provide a wider environmental, economic and social benefit than is apparent from the payment of grant to a single individual or business. It is not possible however to quantify precisely the number of people who benefited indirectly from the ERDP.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 29 November 2001, Official Report, column 1091W, on rural affairs, which organisations received support through each scheme of the Vital Village Programme grants in 2001–02; and how much each received. [20941]

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Alun Michael: Information on which organisations have received funding, and how much they have received under the Parish Plans Scheme and the Community Services Grant have already been lodged in the Library of the House. Details on which organisations have been offered funding under the Parish Transport Scheme are as follows:


DescriptionGrant offered
Holy Island Parish Transport Grant2,692
Ellingham Travel Voucher Scheme1,771
Arkholme bike racks and bus shelter7,909
Melling with Wrayton Bus shelter4,555
Nuthall Community Bus9,439
Evergreen Club Transport750
Ryton On Dunsmore Community Bus10,000
Bicton Bus Shelter2,372
Rockland St. Mary (Year 1)2,475
Surlingham Rural Bus Service 7,524
Ventnor Town Council Parish Scheme5,800
Feock Bus Shelter4,403
Winford Parish Transport Grant450
Blockley Hedgehog Bus service1,864

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to introduce a rural equivalent of the Excellence in Cities scheme; and if she will make a statement. [20911]

Alun Michael: The Excellence in Cities scheme, which has been promoted by the Department for Education and Skills (DFES), is already being extended outside major cities, through the Excellence Clusters. These will tackle smaller areas of disadvantage, including some rural areas. By September 2002 there will be 24 clusters, including some serving areas in West Cumbria, County Durham and Lancashire. More clusters will be announced in subsequent years. Ministers and officials at DEFRA will strongly support the lead given by colleagues at DFES in spreading this excellent initiative to rural areas rather than establishing a new initiative in competition. We welcome the success of the Excellence in Cities initiative, which is designed to address disadvantage through a programme of support including learning mentors, learning support units and a programme for gifted and talented pupils, and the way the initiative focuses on the needs and aspirations of pupils and their parents. It currently involves 58 authorities and by 2003–04 some £300 million will be spent in EiC schools. The extension of the programme to Excellence Clusters started in September 2001. Excellence Clusters are smaller groups of schools outside major cities which work together to implement the EiC programme.

Veterinary Medicines

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking on the EU's proposals to make veterinary medicines dependent on prescription; and what assessment she has made of their impact in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland. [20949]

Mr. Morley: This proposal forms part of a much wider set of proposals produced by the European Commission to amend the procedures for the authorisation and control

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of both human and veterinary medicines in the EU. This particular proposal concerns veterinary medicines for use in food-producing animals. In its present form it could result in farmers in England, Wales and Scotland, having to pay more by incurring veterinary surgeons' fees when obtaining those medicines that are currently available without veterinary intervention. Furthermore, it could restrict the number and types of veterinary medicines that may be supplied by registered agricultural merchants and saddlers, to a limited range of products for dogs and cats. This could have significant adverse effects on those businesses.

In considering the proposal the Government have taken account of its likely impact on the supply of veterinary medicines and have agreed that, during negotiations, UK officials should seek to modify the proposal to enable a flexible approach to the distribution of veterinary medicinal products that takes advantage of existing national practices, so long as consumer protection and animal welfare can be demonstrably assured.

Rural Business Campaign

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations she has received from the UK Rural Business Campaign concerning the level of compensation available to rural businesses affected by foot and mouth disease; and if she will make a statement. [20662]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 4 December 2001]: I am not aware of any recent representations from the UK Rural Business Campaign on this specific issue. The Government do not accept a liability to compensate businesses affected by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the measures taken to control it. The Government have put in place a package of measures to help affected businesses, including the £74 million Business Recovery Fund, enhanced central support for hardship rate relief granted by local authorities, and interest-free deferral of income tax, VAT and national insurance contributions.



Mr. Boswell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he has taken to ensure that Government and agency websites are easily accessible to disabled users. [20950]

Mr. Leslie: It is our policy that all new or redesigned websites are made accessible. To achieve this we have adopted the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative, and web managers are asked to comply with level 1 of their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.


Ministerial Decisions (Appeals)

Mr. Bacon: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will list each of the statutory provisions where a person wishing to appeal against a decision of a Minister must, when lodging the appeal, pay the Minister a sum of money. [20815]

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The Solicitor-General: The following are examples of where the making of an application or the lodging of an appeal is accompanied by certain formalities, including the payment of a fee.

Section 303 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations to prescribe fees for most types of application under planning legislation. The Secretary of State had made regulations under this section setting fees.

Part V of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 establishes a regime setting up the Immigration Services Commissioner, whose functions include the registration of persons providing immigration services and advice. Paragraph 5 of schedule 6 to the Act empowers the Secretary of State by order to specify fees for the registration or continued registration of persons on the register. The Secretary of State has so ordered.

Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 provides for immigration appeals, and Section 60(1) empowers the Secretary of State by regulations to make provision requiring a family visitor exercising a right of appeal under section 59 to pay such fee as may be fixed by the regulations. The Secretary of State has made such regulations.

It is not possible to list all statutory provisions falling within the category defined without a complete survey of statute law which would involve a disproportionate cost.


Free Television Licences

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many (a) single pensioners have taken out free television licences, (b) pensioner couples have taken out such licences, (c) pensioners are entitled to such licences but have not taken them out and (d) pensioners have no television. [20951]

Dr. Howells: Free television licences are issued to named individuals but also cover anyone else living at the specified address. The information held by TV Licensing does not therefore distinguish between free television licences issued to over-75s living on their own and those living as couples.

No accurate information is available on television ownership by age group. It is therefore not possible to establish the number of pensioners who do not own a television set, nor the number of people eligible for a free licence but who have not applied for one.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many and what percentage of households in the United Kingdom (a) pay for and (b) receive a free television licence. [21381]

Dr. Howells: At the end of October 2001, television licences were in force for 23.725 million domestic premises. Fees were payable in respect of 20.059 million of these premises or approximately 85 per cent. of the total, including 200,000 Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) units, for which the fee is £5. 3.666 million premises or approximately 15 per cent. of the total benefited from free television licences for the over-75s.

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