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27 Mar 2000 : Column WA43

Written Answers

Monday, 27th March 2000.

Merrywood School

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the closure notices issued by Bristol Council for the closure of Merrywood School, Bristol, fulfilled the statutory requirements for such notices.[HL1565]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The proposals for closure of Merrywood School were published on 5 July 1999. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State considered that the notices met the requirements set out in the Education (Publication of School Proposals and Notices) Regulations 1993. Information provided by the local education authority showed that parents were aware of the detailed arrangements underlying the published proposals, and in particular the transitional arrangements.

Cattle Slaughter: Pithing

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the practice of "pithing" cattle at slaughter results in the contamination of the carcass with brain material; and, if so, what is the level of such contamination.[HL1523]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government have funded research which found evidence of contamination of jugular blood by fragments of brain tissue in one out of 16 animals which were pithed following stunning. That research did not investigate whether any traces of brain tissue could be transported in the blood to the rest of the carcase. The results were published in the Veterinary Record of 16 October 1999. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee reviewed the research findings and advised that there is no reason on the basis of current data to change UK practices of stunning and pithing during slaughter of cattle.

CAP Administration: IT Systems

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether major new information technology systems for common agricultural policy administration will not be introduced in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food until any such systems have been fully tested and their efficiency and reliability have been proven.[HL1558]

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Baroness Hayman: The recent studies (the PricewaterhouseCoopers Review of CAP Scheme Administration and the report of the Independent Working Group on IACS and Inspections) have recommended that modern IT systems would offer substantial scope for reducing the burden of form filling in the farming community.

Before any new systems go live they will of course need to be fully tested. The trial of electronic IACS application forms which is currently running in East Anglia is an important first step in this process. We are also considering ways of ensuring that farmers who do not wish to use the new technology themselves will have access to suitable sources of advice and assistance.

UK Automobile Industry and the Euro

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the positive and negative effects over the next decade on the British automobile industry of the advent of the euro, whether or not the United Kingdom adopts the euro.[HL1542]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The launch of the euro in eleven European (EU) countries has major implications for UK firms of all sizes across a number of business sectors, including the automotive sector.

That is why the Government have established the Euro Preparations Unit (EPU). Since its inception in December 1997, EPU has run a major business information campaign on the euro and published euro fact sheets and case studies, which help small and medium sized enterprises to take account of the euro now that it is a business reality. Further information can be found in the Treasury's regular euro progress reports, the most recent of which was published in November 1999. Copies of these reports are available in the Library of the House.

Sudan: Export of Oil-related Equipment

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether oil extraction and pipeline equipment come within the definition of strategic goods; and, if so, whether they will refuse licences for the export of such goods to the Sudan.[HL1530]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The export of oil extraction and pipeline equipment is not generally subject to control. All applications for a licence to export controlled items to Sudan are considered on a case by case basis, irrespective of their intended end use, against the relevant criteria and in light of current circumstances in Sudan and the continuing EU arms embargo.

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UK Bicentenary: Commemorative Postage Stamp

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 16 March (WA 220-221) what arrangements the Royal Mail are making to celebrate the bicentenary of the creation of the United Kingdom in 2001.[HL1589]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The issue of stamps is a matter for the Post Office. I am advised that the possibility of including the 200th anniversary of the creation of the United Kindom in the 2001 stamp programme was considered in early 1998--and research was conducted into the 200th anniversary of the Union Flag, the physical icon of the creation of the UK. The Post Office receives some 2,000 suggestions for over 300 subjects. Detailed research suggested there was no strong support for a stamp covering this anniversary. Only 10 subjects were chosen for the 2001 programme and the creation of the United Kingdom was not one of them. However, the entire Millennium stamp programme is a celebration of the United Kingdom past, present and future.

Art Resales: Droit de Suite Terms

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the terms of the imposition of droit de suite taxation on art resales in the United Kingdom as agreed by the European Union on 15 March.[HL1624]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The principal features of the agreement on the levy on modern and contemporary art resales are:

    (i) royalty rates tapering from 4 per cent to 0.25 per cent;

    (ii) a 12,500 euros cap on payments;

    (iii) exemption of sales up to 4,000 euros, private sales, and sales where a work has been acquired directly from the artist and sold within three years for not more than 10,000 euros;

    (iv) a five-year period for transposition into national law;

    (v) for member states which currently do not apply the right, a 10 year derogation in which to apply the right only to the works of living artists;

    (vi) an obligation on the Commission to initiate negotiation of an international agreement; and

    (vii) a review of the effect of the directive after three years and every four years thereafter, in particular, its effect on the competitiveness of Community art markets in relation to third country markets which do not apply the right.

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they voted in favour of the decision by the European Union on 15 March to impose droit de suite taxation on art resales in the United Kingdom.[HL1625]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The proposal for an EC directive harmonising the droit de suite levy on resales on modern and contemporary art was endorsed unanimously at the Committee of Permanent Representatives. The directive will go forward to Council as an "A" point--i.e. for agreement without discussion. It will then be discussed in the European Parliament, and could be agreed finally before the end of the year.

Magistrates from Afro-Caribbean and Asian Ethnic Minorities

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of (a) lay and (b) stipendiary magistrates in England and Wales are drawn from Afro-Caribbean or Asian ethnic minorities.[HL1510]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): (a) A survey of lay magistrates (excluding those in the Duchy of Lancaster) conducted in 1997 indicated that there were 753 lay magistrates, 286 female and 467 male, from Afro-Caribbean and Asian ethnic minorities (2.9 per cent). The survey showed that overall 4.1 per cent of magistrates classified themselves as belonging to an ethnic minority community. There has, however, been an increasing percentage of appointments of people from ethnic minorities in recent years; in 1995, 6 per cent of those appointed were from an ethnic minority and last year the figure rose to 7.6 per cent. Figures for the total number of magistrates from ethnic minorities will be available later this year and I am confident that the percentage will show an increase over 1997. (b) There are two stipendiary magistrates from the Asian community, one female and one male (1.9 per cent).

Electoral Commission: Initial Expenses

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What costs relating to the establishment of the Electoral Commission will be met in advance of Royal Assent being given to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill.[HL1742]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): It is in the public interest to ensure that the commission is functioning at the earliest opportunity. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made clear his wish that it should be up and running by this November. To meet

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this tight timetable some costs such as those relating to the recruitment of the Commissioners will necessarily be incurred before Royal Assent.

Parliamentary approval to this service will be sought in a Main Estimate for the Electoral Commission Vote (Class XVIII, C, Vote 1). Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £300,000 will be met by repayable advances from the Contingencies Fund.

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