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Beef on the Bone: Home Killed Beasts

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): No. Meat is not required to be deboned if it is derived from a bovine animal slaughtered on the owner's holding for his own consumption. Supply to the general public, irrespective of whether charged for or not, would not be regarded as "for his own consumption". If the bovine animal is sent for slaughter off the farm, then meat must be deboned before it is returned to the owner for his own consumption.

5 Mar 1998 : Column WA182

Defence Diversification: Green Paper

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Government's Green Paper on Defence Diversification.[HL953]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): We have today published our Green Paper "Defence Diversification: Getting the most out of defence technology", as Command Paper No.3861. Copies are available from the Printed Paper Office. There will now be a period of consultation.

N.I. Medical and Dental Students' Tuition Fees

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Dubs on 16 December 1997 (WA 84), whether a decision has yet been made on the responsibility for funding of special support covering proposed tuition fees beyond year four for Northern Ireland medical students studying at Scottish medical schools; and[HL742]

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Dubs on 16 December 1997 (WA 84), whether a decision has yet been made on the responsibility for funding of special support covering proposed tuition fees beyond year four for medical and dental students studying at The Queen's University, Belfast.[HL743]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The position remains that the funding arrangements are still the subject of discussion between the territorial departments. A decision is expected shortly.

My honourable friend, Mr. Tony Worthington, the Minister with responsibility for this matter, will write to the noble Lord when a decision has been taken.

European Union: Educational Material

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Blackstone on 9 February (WA 148), how much money the European Commission has spent and has budgeted to spend worldwide, and over what period of time--

    (a) disseminating information about the European Union; and

    (b) publishing and distributing materials intended for use in schools and other educational institutions;

    and how much of these sums refers to expenditure in the United Kingdom.[HL862]

5 Mar 1998 : Column WA183

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The information is not available in the form requested. Chapter 34 of the General Budget of the European Union for the financial year 1998 makes provision for European Commission expenditure of 1.29 million ecu (approximately £0.834 million) on publications this year, compared with 1.34 million ecu (£0.887 million) in 1997 and 1.694 million ecu (£1.12 million) in 1996. In some cases, other appropriations may also be used in whole or in part for information-related activities. Details of how much, if any, of this expenditure relates to materials for use in schools and other educational institutions and how much to materials distributed in the United Kingdom are not available to Her Majesty's Government.

Student Loans: Portfolio Sale

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the competition to sell part of the student loan portfolio.[HL922]

Baroness Blackstone: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Lifelong Learning has today announced the sale of a portfolio of student loans for £1 billion. This is the outcome of a policy first announced in September 1996. The sale has been achieved after a vigorous competition and we have accepted the most competitive bid. NatWest Markets was the successful bidder. The loans sold are those made under the current scheme. None of the new income contingent loans available from the 1998-99 academic year is involved.

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Statement of 10 July 1997 that we would continue the policy of student loan debt sales as part of our pledge to work within the spending plans already announced for this year and next. The sale also underlines our commitment to developing a wide range of public-private partnerships which involve a transfer of risk to the private sector. This sale transfers to the private sector much of the risk of loans defaulting.

The Student Loans Company, the existing administrator, will continue to administer the loans sold for at least the next five years. Borrowers who are currently repaying their loans or who have made deferment arrangements will consequently notice little change. We have also taken steps through the Education (Student Loans) Act 1998, to ensure that the position of borrowers is protected. Borrowers will retain their existing rights of deferment where their income is below 85 per cent. of average earnings, and interest rates will continue to be linked solely to inflation.

5 Mar 1998 : Column WA184

These rights mean that existing student loans are provided at subsidised rates. Additional subsidies will therefore need to be paid to the purchaser to reflect this. Given the value of loans sold, and that some of the loans will be outstanding for a considerable length of time, the estimated net present value of these subsidies is likely to be in the region of £350 million. This compares with estimated present value costs of nearly £300 million which would have been incurred by the Government had the loans remained publicly owned. Annual subsidy payments will be higher in earlier years and reduce over time as borrowers repay more of their debt and the total level of debt outstanding falls.

During the 1998-99 financial year a gross subsidy of about £60 million will be paid to Finance for Higher Education Limited (FFHE), a company formed for the purpose of acquiring the assets by NatWest Markets. However, part of the gross subsidy payment will be repaid to the Government through the administration charges paid to the Student Loans Company and tax receipts on private sector profits. The estimated cost to the Government in 1998-99 of selling these loans will therefore be in the region of £15 million above the £40 million cost of keeping loans in the public sector.

The agreement between the Government and FFHE for the purchase of the loans, with commercially confidential information removed, will be placed in the Library of the House on completion of the sale.

A second competition to sell a further tranche of student loan debt involving loans made under the current scheme is being planned later this year.

Phyllis Bowman v. the United Kingdom

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much they spent on defending the case Phyllis Bowman v. the United Kingdom.[HL768]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The full cost is not yet available as some invoices have still to be submitted. £9,563 has been paid to date. Legal costs to the sum of £26,633.34 plus value added tax were awarded against the United Kingdom.

Electoral Register: Format

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is a standard format and layout in which the Register of Electors in the United Kingdom should be published.[HL854]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The requirements for the format of the electoral register are prescribed in the Representation of the People Regulations 1986. Each register must show who is eligible to vote at which elections in a particular area but registration officers have some flexibility over the order in which names and addresses are shown.

5 Mar 1998 : Column WA185

Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institution: Report

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take in response to the recommendations for combating bullying made by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons in his report on Her Majesty's Young Offenders Institution, Stoke Heath.[HL839]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government welcome the chief inspector's report on his inspection of Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institution. While the chief inspector did not identify a serious problem of bullying, he stated that there was a need for a more consistent and systematic response to it.

The report was published on 25 February. In accordance with the protocol for handling the chief inspector's reports, the governor is required to produce an action plan within 30 working days of publication setting out how the Prison Service will address the chief inspector's recommendations, including those for combating bullying.

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