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22. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he next expects to meet representatives of the National Assembly for Wales to discuss agriculture. [59929]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I meet the First Secretary on a regular basis and we often discuss agriculture. I also frequently meet the Welsh Assembly Rural Affairs Minister, as does the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, as part of his rolling programme of quarterly liaison meetings.


24. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on employment levels in North Wales. [59931]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The Government's long-term ambition is that by the end of the decade there will be a higher proportion of people in work than ever before.

The latest labour market statistics, published last Friday, show that we are making excellent progress—3,000 more people in Wales are in work, compared to a year before. The statistics also show that claimant rates are down compared to a year before across the whole of North Wales.

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Coal Subsidies

25. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues regarding the extension of the subsidy to coal produced beyond July 2002; and if he will make a statement. [59932]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I have regular meetings with ministerial colleagues and discuss a range of issues including coal state aid, and understand the deep concerns of the people of Wales about the coal industry.

A new European framework for coal state aid, post July 2002, was agreed at the Energy Council on 7 June. We are particularly pleased, that we have been successful in negotiating the flexibility to pay investment aid, where appropriate. This allows support to be given for the development of economically viable mines. The new framework provides us with the basis on which to decide the future of coal policy in the UK, but discussion on the future of UK aid is still ongoing.

Elderly Care

26. Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Secretary for Health and Social Services in the National Assembly for Wales about the funding of free care for the elderly in Wales. [59933]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I am aware of this matter but, thus far, I have not received any official request from the Assembly to discuss this issue with the Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services.

European Capital of Culture

27. Geraint Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on Cardiff's bid to become the European capital of culture. [59934]

Mr. Touhig: Cardiff is Europe's youngest capital, a multicultural city which serves a country rich in both traditional and contemporary culture. Sense of place is a defining quality of Welsh culture. Our locality and our community is a strong part of our identity. Cardiff's European capital of culture bid looks at the new ways that the city can work for the people and the cultural communities across the whole of Wales, and my right hon. Friend and I wholeheartedly endorse it.

Health Service Auditing

28. Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health on the auditing of the health service in Wales. [59935]

Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend has discussed this issue with both the Assembly First Minister and the Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn). I have also discussed it with the Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services.

The First Minister and the Welsh Assembly Cabinet are content, in principle, to the proposed amalgamation of the Commission for Health and Improvement (CHI) and the Audit Commission which are England and Wales bodies. It will be necessary to make sure that this works properly

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and effectively for Wales, and those detailed issues will be addressed during the framing of the necessary legislation.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met the First Secretary to discuss farming. [59918]

Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend has a weekly meeting with the First Minister at which a range of issues are discussed. I also have regular meetings with the Assembly Rural Affairs Minister.



Q20. Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Prime Minister if he plans to request a recall of his Commonwealth counterparts to consider the developing situation in Zimbabwe. [59955]

The Prime Minister: The Commonwealth Troika of Australia, Nigeria and South Africa suspended Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth on 19 March 2002. The Troika had been mandated by Heads of Government to address Commonwealth concerns on Zimbabwe. Its decision will be reviewed after 12 months. We welcomed the Troika's decision to suspend Zimbabwe at the time, and support the ongoing efforts of Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo, and Prime Minister Howard, to resolve Zimbabwe's political problems.

The Troika set out what Zimbabwe needs to do for the suspension to be lifted. It also decided to facilitate dialogue between Zimbabwe's two main political parties so that legitimacy could be restored in Zimbabwe. Talks, facilitated by South Africa and Nigeria, were scheduled for 13 May but the ruling party withdrew at the last moment. We await further information on whether or not the dialogue will be resumed.

The wider Commonwealth remains engaged on Zimbabwe, as does the Secretary-General. Zimbabwe was discussed at the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on 15–17 May in Botswana. We continue to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe with a range of Commonwealth partners.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions between 31 March 2001 and 31 March 2002 special advisers of (a) the Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and (b) Minister without Portfolio and Party Chairman have travelled abroad in an official capacity. [58752]

The Prime Minister: None.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Prime Minister what proportion of ordinary written questions for his Office were answered within a week of tabling in each month

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since June 2001; and what proportion of questions for named day received a substantive answer on that day in each month since June 2001. [58973]

The Prime Minister: Information on the written parliamentary questions answered in this period is as follows:

MonthPercentage of named day questions answered on day namedPercentage of ordinary written questions answered within five working days


Dr. Kumar: To ask the Prime Minister what measures are (a) in place and (b) under discussion in his Office in order to ensure compliance with the WEE directive. [60731]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to him by the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry on 12 June 2002.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Prime Minister how many computers were replaced in his Office in each of the past three years; how the replaced units were disposed of and by which companies; and at what cost. [60730]

The Prime Minister: The general policy is that computers in No. 10 have a three-year life cycle. On average, 60 have been replaced in each of the last three years. Since 2002, the replaced units, minus the hard drive, are given to charity. Costs of this can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

G8 Summit

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Prime Minister if he will prioritise debt cancellation at the G8 summit in Canada; and if he will make a statement. [60766]

The Prime Minister: The UK has consistently been at the forefront of international progress on debt relief. The Government played a key role in securing agreement for the enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative at the Cologne summit in 1999, that aims to deliver a sustainable exit from debt for the world's poorest countries. At the G8 summit in Canada, the UK will continue to promote this aim and urge the G8, under the leadership of the Canadian Government, to make further progress on debt relief and ensure poor countries have a sustainable exit from debt. Ahead of the summit, the UK has outlined a number of proposals to strengthen HIPC, and in particular, has called for richer countries to provide an additional financial contribution for the HIPC initiative.

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The G8 committed last year to looking at how their policies can support African efforts to reduce poverty and bring sustainable development to the continent. African countries have been engaged in developing the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which highlights the importance of sound political and economic governance. The UK has been active in arguing further concrete action, building on our existing strategies for conflict prevention and resolution, health and education, and of the importance of market access for African products. The G8 will come back with proposals in Kananaskis.

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