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14 Sept 2004 : Column 1550W—continued

UK Presidency

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what preparations the Government are making for the forthcoming UK Presidency of the EU. [188297]

Mr. MacShane: Each Government Department and devolved Administration has established its own structure for preparing for the Presidency, including teams within the European Union Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Permanent Representation to the EU. The Cabinet Office European Secretariat has an overall co-ordinating role.

During our Presidency we will hold two European Councils in Brussels. Other formal Ministerial Councils and meetings of officials will take place in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Some informal ministerial meetings will take place in the UK during the UK Presidency. Planning for these and other official level events is under way.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the main themes for the forthcoming UK Presidency of the EU will be. [188298]

Mr. MacShane: The Government's main priority for the UK Presidency of the EU in 2005 will be to take forward the EU policy agenda in an efficient, effective and impartial way, with a strong emphasis on the agenda which we will inherit from the preceding Dutch and Luxembourg Presidencies. That agenda is set out in detail in the Council's Multi-Annual Strategic Programme, covering the three year period from 2004–06, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether a logotype for the UK Presidency of the EU has been agreed. [188299]

Mr. MacShane: The logo and a number of related issues are under discussion between Government Departments. It is not the usual practice for a future Presidency to publish its logo before the preceding Presidency has done so: the Luxembourg Presidency logo has only recently been unveiled.


Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Zimbabwean Government on its raid on the MDC offices in Bulawayo. [188877]

Mr. Mullin: Our embassy in Harare is monitoring the situation carefully. We condemn the intimidation and harassment of the Government of Zimbabwe's opponents, and will continue to make this clear.

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make urgent representations to the Zimbabwean Government on the arrest of MDC member Mr. Nelson Chamisa. [188878]

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Mr. Mullin: Mr. Chamisa was released without charge on the afternoon of 10 September. The British embassy in Harare was in contact with Mr. Chamisa after his arrest and will continue to monitor the situation.

We regularly raise human rights issues with the Government of Zimbabwe.


Access Management Grant Scheme

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the take-up of the Access Improvement Grant Scheme by local authorities has been; what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Scheme in meeting its stated objectives; and what will become of the Scheme as a result of Rural Strategy 2004. [186987]

Alun Michael: Take-up of the Access Management Grant Scheme has been very good. 24 access authorities, covering 96 per cent. of mapped access land in mapping areas 1 to 5, have bid for funding to support their preparatory planning work. Five local authorities have, so far, submitted bids for infrastructure work. Most authorities are still at the planning and consultation stage and we expect them to submit infrastructure bids during the autumn.

The Scheme has been running for five months and it is therefore too early to assess how well it will meet all the objectives set for its first year. The Countryside Agency has reported on progress in the first three months, during which period the Scheme has proved successful and popular with local authorities. The Agency will be carrying out a more detailed assessment of the Scheme's overall performance in October. This will inform decisions on the level of funding and priorities for next year.

I have extended funding for a further two years, to provide the necessary support to enable local authorities to complete access planning and on-site infrastructure work by March 2007.

This work is an important early step in delivering the Rural Strategy 2004 objective of making the countryside more accessible for all. As the scheme currently runs only until March 2007, it will not be incorporated into the streamlined funding arrangements announced in the Strategy, which we plan to complete by March 2007. If a requirement for funding is identified beyond March 2007, we will review how best to meet it within the context of the new arrangements.


Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the latest figures are that she has collated on the sale of biofuels. [186570]

Mr. Morley: Currently, around two million litres of biodiesel are sold each month in the UK. We are not aware of any sales of bioethanol. Biodiesel sales have been stimulated by the existing 20p per litre duty rate cut. A similar incentive for bioethanol will come into force in January 2005.
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Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of biofuels sold were produced from imported vegetable oil in the last year for which figures are available. [186571]

Mr. Morley: Currently, around half of the two million litres of biodiesel sold each month in the UK comes from imported biodiesel and this is mainly produced from virgin rape seed oil. It is known that some palm oil is used in the production of biodiesel. Total imports of palm oil in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available, amounted to 1.28 million tonnes but information is not collected on the use of the oil. A further one million litres of biodiesel a month comes from recycled waste vegetable oil produced in the UK.

Cattle Passports

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will estimate how many cattle have been killed because the British Cattle Movement Service has rejected a passport application or notification in each of the last five years for which records are available. [189082]

Alun Michael: Figures are not held for the number of calves that have been killed as a consequence of being refused passports. There is no compulsion for these calves to be destroyed, heifer calves refused passports may live out full and productive lives on the farm where they were born and any calves born to them may be registered in the normal way.

The British Cattle Movement Service merged with the Rural Payments Agency on 1 April 2003.



Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to announce proposals for the improvement of the A120 road east of Braintree. [188557]

Mr. Jamieson: Following the outcome of the recent Spending Review, we are currently considering funding allocations across departmental programmes, including the Targeted Programme of Trunk Road Improvements. Subject to the outcome of this exercise the Highways Agency intend to present at Public Consultation this autumn, proposals for delivering the dualling of the Al 20 between Braintree and Marks Tey. I shall review the findings of this exercise, together with the outputs of the work currently being undertaken by the Highways Agency, with the intention of being able to take a position on this proposal by Spring 2005.

Disabled Parking

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the entitlement of those diagnosed with myasthenia gravis to disabled parking provision. [188627]

Mr. McNulty: I refer my hon. Friend to my answer of 9 September 2004, Official Report, column 1327W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman).
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Safety Cameras

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport who is responsible for auditing safety camera partnerships; and to which bodies the partnerships are answerable. [188336]

Mr. Jamieson: A partnerships' accounts and its operation in line with the Department for Transport 'Handbook of rules and guidelines for the operation of the national road safety camera programme for England and Wales' is audited by the auditor appointed by the Audit Commission for the partner with lead responsibility for financial matters, most often one of the local authorities within the partnership.

The rules and guidance (a copy of which is in the Library) require a partnership to submit its proposed programme to the Department for Transport for approval. Partnerships include one or more police authorities and local highway authorities. Partnership staff are employed and managed by them, and each partnership is answerable to them for its operation in line with the rules and guidance for the programme.

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