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Alun Michael [holding answer 8 July 2002]: Funding of an Action Plan for a market town follows the completion of a process of partnership working at the local level which starts with an initial "health check" to identify strengths and weaknesses. I am pleased to report that the Guisborough partnership is currently finalising its action plan following successful completion of the initial health check. I understand that One North East (the Regional Development Agency) has set aside £200,000 for approved projects within the action plan both in this and the next financial year.
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how many occasions since 1997 waste disposal authorities have been consulted by local planning authorities regarding developments within 250 metres of landfill sites; if she will list the location and nature of the development on each occasion; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on what constitutes agricultural usage when considering the setting of business rates; and if she will make a statement. 
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Most agricultural usage is exempt from non-domestic rates under paragraph 1 of schedule 5 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988. The types of agricultural land and buildings covered by this exemption are set out in paragraphs two to eight of that schedule.
In the White Paper "Strong Local LeadershipQuality Public Services" we confirmed our intention to amend the agricultural exemption. First, we intend to ensure that the exemption applies to a range of flexible farming arrangements such as share farming, contract farming and machinery rings, which do not currently qualify for the exemption.
Second, we intend to ensure that the exemption is properly targeted on agricultural activities. Case law has determined that a body corporate can qualify for the agricultural exemption in respect of ancillary activities such as food processing and packaging operations, provided that the corporate body includes a member who occupies agricultural land. The Government are proposing to amend the legislation so that ancillary premises occupied in connection with agricultural land and buildings can become exempt only where the occupiers of the agricultural land have a controlling share in the body corporate that occupies the ancillary premises. A consultation paper on these proposals was published on 31 May 2002.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the cost to farming in the United Kingdom of radioactive contamination from Chernobyl. 
No estimate of the total costs to farming in the United Kingdom arising from radioactive contamination from Chernobyl is available. However, the "Mark and Release" sheep compensation scheme which controls the sale of sheep from the areas affected by radioactive contamination is intended to compensate farmers for losses arising from these controls.
8. Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly regarding the use by English patients of care homes in Wales. 
9. Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales about inward investment by European companies in Wales. 
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26. Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales about inward investment by European companies in Wales. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I meet the First Minister regularly to discuss a range of issues, including inward investment in Wales. I am pleased to note that recent figures published by Invest UK show that the UK remains Europe's number one investment location.
Investment by EU companies is vitally important to Welsh industryin particular in the manufacturing sector. European companies represent more than a quarter of overseas-owned employment in Wales and around 10 per cent. of total manufacturing employment.
The Government welcome the announcements from the Assembly which have been aimed at assisting these specific communities and is confident that such moves will improve the prosperity in Wales, particularly in relation to the manufacturing industry.
19. Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly regarding the need for a public inquiry into the foot and mouth outbreak. 
The Government has always maintained that we will hold no public inquiry, as we want reviews carried out fully and effectively, and to uncover answers expeditiously at low cost. The review following the 1967 outbreak took 18 months. The three inquiries commissioned by the Government will consider the same issues in a much shorter time.
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14. Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales and Cabinet colleagues about the steel industry in Wales. 
I regret the news that the board of ASW Holdings plc has been unable to secure the agreement of its banks to provide continued support and has invited them to appoint administrative receivers over the business and assets of the company.
I know that the Wales Office, the National Assembly, the Welsh Development Agency and all the other organisations will work together to either find a new owner for the company or to help workers find alternative jobs.
15. Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales and other Cabinet colleagues about the manufacturing industry in Wales. 
The Government recognise it is a particularly tough time for manufacturers in the UK, due to the slow down in the world economy and weakness of the euro. However, these problems are not confined to the UK or Wales in particular.
The manufacturing industry is now seeing the first signs that recession in this sector may be coming to an end. The latest CBI and EEF surveys point to stabilisation in manufacturing output over the next three to four months, with the latest CIPS survey even more positive, indicating output may have risen early this year.
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