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Work Permits

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): European Economic Area (EEA) nationals do not need work permits.

Work permit applications must be made by employers based in Britain. Work permits are issued for a job which needs high level skills and where the employer cannot recruit a suitably qualified person from the EEA workforce. The job should require either a recognised degree level qualification and experience; senior executive skills; or high level technical skills and substantial specialised experience.

Work permits can also be issued for people to do jobs which require lower level specialist skills which are not readily available in the EEA workforce. These are known as Keyworkers. To qualify for this category, the jobs of others must also depend on the employment of the Keyworker.

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conditions govern the award of work permits to foreign footballers to play and stay in this country; and what is the estimate of work permits granted at the present time for European and for other countries[HL4272]

Baroness Blackstone: Only footballers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) are required to have work permits to play in this country. To obtain a work permit, a club has to show that in the two years preceding the date of the application the following criteria are satisfied:

    the player has played for his country in at least 75 per cent of its competitive "A" team matches for which he was available for selection; and

    the FIFA ranking of the player's country has averaged 70 or higher in the official rankings list.

Permits are issued for the duration of a player's contract.

The total number of work permits that are currently held by British football clubs is 59. In addition, according to information supplied by the Football Authorities, some 420 players out of an approximate overall total of 4,000 professionals are nationals of other EEA countries or have a right to work without a permit.

Regional Venture Capital

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the consultation on Addressing the SME Equity Gap--Support for Regional Venture Capital Funds.[HL4473]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): I announced to the House on 6 July (Official Report, col. WA79), that the Government were seeking views on the design and

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form of the support for the creation of the regional venture capital element of the Enterprise Fund.

During the consultation exercise, over 1,000 copies of the consultation document, Addressing the SME Equity Gap--Support for Regional Venture Capital Funds, were distributed and over 100 replies have been received. The distribution and replies covered a wide range of interested groups and individuals; entrepreneurs, small firms, Regional Development Agencies, the venture capital and finance industries, business support organisations, local authorities, academics and other interested parties.

The proposals for regional venture capital funds received a significant level of support from respondents. All SMEs and entrepreneurs supported the outlined proposals as appropriate methods of incentivising the creation of viable, regionally based venture capital funds to invest in the equity gap, and nearly 9 out of 10 respondents overall expressed the same view. There was widespread agreement that the lack of small scale equity finance was an inhibitor to growth, especially for SMEs.

A full summary of responses to the consultation document have been placed in the Library.

In November the Government will issue bidding guidance, informed by the responses to the consultation exercise, to regional partnerships proposing to stimulate the creation of regional venture capital funds.

Farmers' Income Tax Relief

Lord Grantchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each of the years 1996, 1997 and 1998, what is the amount of income tax refunds paid to farmers as a result of profit averaging and loss relief claims.[HL4209]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is estimated that farmers reduced their tax liabilities by about £80 million by averaging 1997-98 profits with those for earlier years, carrying back 1997-98 losses to earlier years or setting 1997-98 losses against other 1997-98 income. This excludes relief arising from carrying forward 1997-98 losses to later years, the value of which is not yet known. The equivalent estimate for 1996-97 is £30 million. No estimate is available for 1995-96.

It is not known how much of these reductions resulted in actual refunds of tax and how much was set against other amounts due.

Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994: Amendment Proposals

Viscount Chandos asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans have been made to reform Section 5 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, dealing with enforcement of regulations.[HL4494]

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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): On 28 September, the Minister for the Cabinet Office published a consultative document on the proposed amendments to Section 5 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, dealing with enforcement of regulations. I have placed a copy of the document in the House Libraries. The proposal is intended to act as an incentive to spread best practice in enforcement policies and procedures and to reduce the regulatory burden on business. Subject to the responses to the consultation exercise, I will be seeking to amend the Act as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Foreign Affairs Committee Reports: Premature Disclosure

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have responded to the Eighth Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Standards and Privileges on the premature disclosure of reports of the Foreign Affairs Committee.[HL4493]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote to the Chairman of the Committee (Mr Sheldon) on 14 September 1999 to indicate the Government's intention to abide fully by the Committee's recommendations. Copies of his letter and its attachments have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Rural Development Plans

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in preparing the Rural Development Regulation Plans, in particular whether they will be drawn up at a national or regional level; and[HL4236]

    What percentage of the respondents to their consultation on Rural Development Regulation Plans preferred (a) Option 1 for a national plan, (b) Option 2 for regional plans, or (c) Option 3 for a hybrid plan drawn up at both levels; and[HL4237]

    What is the European Commission's deadline for the submission of the Rural Development Regulation Plans; and[HL4238]

    Whether the time-scale for drawing up the Rural Development Regulation Plans in line with the European Commission deadline will be met; and[HL4239]

    Whether they have decided who will implement the Rural Development Regulation measures, in particular those covered by Article 33.[HL4240]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My right honourable friend the Minister announced on 26 August (MAFF News Release 292/99) that a single Rural Development Plan for England would be prepared comprising a national framework with regional chapters covering each Government Office region. The regional chapters, drawn up with regional partners, will describe how the policies adopted will be implemented in each region. This arrangement reflects the responses to the consultation in which 60 per cent favoured Option 3 (hybrid), 37 per cent Option 2 (regional) and 3 per cent Option 1 (national). Copies of the responses are available for inspection in the Library of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Rural Development Plans must be submitted to the European Commission by 3 January 2000. We are making steady progress in preparing the England Rural Development Plan which will, among other things, describe proposals for implementing the measures. Final decisions on implementation have not yet been made.

Seal Populations

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total estimated seal population in each of the last 10 years in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales, (d) Northern Ireland and (e) the United Kingdom.[HL4228]

Baroness Hayman: The estimated figures requested are given below. Figures for England and Wales and Scotland are from the Sea Mammal Research Unit. Those for Northern Ireland are from their Environment and Heritage Service.

Grey seals

YearEngland & Wales*ScotlandNorthern IrelandUK

*Separate figures are not available.

Common seals

Comparable figures for common seals are not available. Latest estimates (1997) are:

England: 4,500 (There are no common seals in Wales)

Scotland: 44,500

Northern Ireland: <1,000

UK: 49,000.

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