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Parliamentary Questions

Jim Dobbin: To ask the President of the Council what plans he has to change the rota for oral questions.[39507]

Mr. Robin Cook: Following my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins) on Wednesday 5 December 2001, Official Report, column 311W, the slot for Church Commissioners, Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission will be increased by 5 minutes and questions to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will correspondingly be reduced. This is for a trial period and will be reviewed again in the Summer.

WALES

Departmental Expenditure Limit

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans there are to amend the Wales Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2001–02. [39374]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The Wales Departmental Expenditure Limit will be increased by 79,129,000 from 8,534,916,000 to 8,614,357.000. The increase is a result of:

(i) the take up of end year flexibility entitlement of 70,330,000.

(ii) additional provision of:



(iii) net transfers from other government departments of 2,802,000.

These transfers are as follows:

(i) 40,000 from DEFRA to cover Pig Industry Restructuring - Outgoers Scheme.

(ii) 57,000 to the Cabinet Office for Fast Stream Recruitment in 2001–2002.

(iii) 200,000 from the Home Office for Crime Reduction.

(iv) 80,000 from the Office of Government Commerce for e-procurement pilot.

(v) 105,000 from the Home Office for Confiscated Assets Fund.

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(vi) 250,000 from the Forestry Commission for accruals adjustments.

(vii) 18,000 from Department of Health Northern Ireland, for Out of Area Treatments.

(viii) 1,786,000 from Department of Health for Out of Area Treatments.

(ix) 163,000 from Department of Health for High Security Psychiatric Services.

(x) 11,000 from Department of Health for Dental SIFT.

(xi) 1,723,000 from Department of Health for Cross Border Flows.

(xii) 1,097,000 to the Department of Health for Recostings.

(xiii) 73,000 from the Scottish Parliament for Out of Area Treatments.

(xiv) 400,000 to DEFRA for Carbon Trust EEBP Programme.

(xv) 93,000 to Department of Health for contributions to Royal Colleges.

The increase in DEL will be offset by transfers from other Departments, from the Reserve or take up of end-year flexibility and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Working Conditions and Practice

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are employed in his Department on a job share contract; and what percentage of vacant positions was advertised on this basis in the last 12 months. [35353]

Mr. P Murphy: Job sharing is only one of a number of alternative and flexible working patterns that staff at the Wales Office are welcome to take up. The flexibility of the pattern is decided in consultation with appropriate Branch management to suit an individual's need and the needs of their work.

At the present time the Wales Office does not have any job share staff, but every position that is advertised at the Wales Office is open to alternative and flexible working patterns including job share. Currently, out of the 40 staff at the Wales Office 8 enjoy alternative and flexible working patterns.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment has been made of the effect of the Working Time Directive on his Department's employees; how many employees are working in excess of 48 hours per week; what steps he is taking to reduce this number; and if he will make a statement. [35892]

Mr. P Murphy: The Wales Office has a duty to ensure the health and safety of its staff. Hence no member of staff at the Wales Office is asked to work hours in excess of the Working Time Directive (an average of 48 hours a week over a 17-week period).

One member of staff has voluntarily opted out of this directive.

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Entertainment Costs

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list for 1997–98 and for each subsequent financial year, including the current year to date, the amount spent by (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies on (i) food and (ii) alcohol, indicating how much was spent on guests, and how much in respect of (A) Ministers and (B) staff, broken down to show how much was provided directly by his Department and how much reclaimed. [34454]

Mr. P Murphy: This information is not available in the form requested.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Litter Offences

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the (a) attempted and (b) successful prosecutions of those accused of litter offences, broken down by offence for London boroughs in each year since 1995. [34334]

Mr. Meacher: This detailed data are not held centrally. However, information that is available for England and Wales in 1999 showed that there were 501 attempted prosecutions and 390 successful prosecution in a magistrates court.

Private Medical Insurance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many employees in (a) her Department and (b) her Department's agencies and non-departmental public bodies have had private medical insurance provided for them in each year since 1997–98; what the total cost is; and if she will make a statement. [32318]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 6 February 2002]: The Department follows the guidance in paragraph 7.1.7 of the Civil Service Management Code which prohibits Departments and agencies from providing staff with private medical insurance.

Non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are not bound by the Management Code and have provided the following benefits:

1997–981998–991999–20002000–01
Number of Employees275286298307
Total Cost147k148k131k157k

Ozone Depleting Substances

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the UK standards on the recovery of ozone depleting substances will be published; and if she will make a statement.[34602]

Mr. Meacher: The Department published draft standards for the recovery of controlled ozone depleting substances from fridges and freezers in December 2001.

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The Environment Agency are now finalising these standards and a draft of the final version will be issued this month.

Biosafety Protocol

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she intends to ratify the biosafety protocol. [34545]

Margaret Beckett: Ratification of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety by the United Kingdom is partly dependent on legislative action at the European Community level. The European Commission is shortly due to issue proposals for such legislation. The UK will press for early progress in negotiations on these proposals, so that we may be in a position to ratify the Protocol before the end of this year.

Kyoto Protocol

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she intends to ratify the Kyoto protocol. [34546]

Margaret Beckett: For legal and presentational reasons, the UK will ratify the Kyoto protocol at the same time as the European Community and other Member States. At the European Council on 31 October 2001, the EU stressed


The first step in the process is for the EC to ratify the protocol through the adoption of a Council Decision that will include further clarification on the arrangements for implementing the agreement between the EC and its Member States in 1998 on sharing out the EC's 8 per cent target. A Council Decision dealing with these issues is currently under discussion and is expected to be adopted at the next Environment Council on 4 March 2002.

Nitrates

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will estimate the annual cost to individual farmers of the proposed implementation of the 1991 Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Directive; and what system of monitoring her Department proposes to establish for policing the use of nitrogen in nitrate vulnerable zones.[35879]

Mr. Meacher: The annual cost of complying with the record keeping requirements of the Nitrates Directive is estimated at an average of 200 per farm. Where farmers need to take further action to comply with the Directive, the total costs of such additional action is estimated as up to 12.5m per annum across England in total. However, these extra costs would not be meaningful expressed as an average per farmer because they will vary considerably between individual farms depending on their individual circumstances.

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It is intended to extend the Farm Waste Grant Scheme to the new areas where farmers will be required to take action to tackle nitrate pollution. This will make financial assistance available to those farmers who face the greatest costs, for example because they need to construct new slurry storage to comply with closed periods for spreading manure on vulnerable soils. The grant rate is currently 40 per cent (the EU State Aid Rules maximum) for construction or upgrade of storage facilities up to an investment ceiling of 85,000. We are currently considering offering 50 per cent in Less Favoured Areas, as permitted by the EU State Aid Rules. From experience in current NVZs, the average cost of new slurry storage construction to comply with Action Programme measures is between 30,000 and 40,000.

The Environment Agency will be responsible for enforcing compliance in the new areas where farmers are required to take action to reduce nitrate pollution, as well as in existing Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. The Agency propose to develop a risk based approach to enforcement, for instance by relating the frequency and nature of inspection to the risk of pollution.


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