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Charter Markets

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

Lord Whitty: The previous government reviewed the charter market arrangements in 1993. At the time, local government and businesses strongly favoured the retention of the arrangements, which were seen as a valuable control on car boot sales and other temporary uses. The Government are currently conducting research to ascertain whether local authorities' existing powers to control such temporary uses are sufficient.

We are aware of recent claims that the establishment and expansion of some farmers' markets have been inhibited by the charter market arrangements. The Government will consider whether to review the current arrangements in the light of the research.

Local Authorities: Purchasing Policy Constraints

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

Lord Whitty: The Government recognise that local authorities may wish to consider adopting local purchasing policies but it is for them to judge how far this can be done within existing UK and EU legislation.

Local authorities are limited in their scope to use procurement to pursue local purchasing policies by Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988, which sets out a number of "non-commercial matters" which must be excluded from the contract process. The 1988 Act does not apply to National Health Service trusts.

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However, a more significant dimension is the EC Treaty and the European Directives for Public Procurement. These apply to all public contracting bodies, including National Health Service trusts.

EC procurement directives, which are implemented in the UK by various public procurement regulations, prohibit discrimination on the grounds of nationality. To bring local purchasing considerations into the contracting process may well conflict with these wider requirements. In addition to requiring contracts to be awarded on the basis of non-discrimination, transparency and competitive procurement principles, the EC Directives/UK Regulations set out detailed procedures and criteria for the selection of tenderers and the award of contracts. The selection criteria relate to the financial standing, technical capacity and personal standing of the companies involved and the award criteria cover what is necessary to deliver value for money in performing the contract.

However it is open to local authorities to build non-discriminatory quality factors into contract specifications for the procurement of goods and services under Best Value and to take account of this in the evaluation of bids. They could also assist local suppliers to tender for work by, for example, holding briefing sessions which explained the way that the authority tendered, how and where it advertised forthcoming work and how firms should respond to those requests.

GM Pollen: Effect on Bees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether studies will be commissioned into the effects of genetically modified pollen ingested and dispersed by bees and other insects.[HL2816]

Lord Whitty: Each application for the release of genetically modified (GM) plants for research purposes is supported by a risk assessment, which is evaluated by government experts and independent scientists on the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). Bee foraging behaviour is well understood and expertise on bees and their behaviour is available to ACRE. When foraging a crop with high flower density, a bee may fly for some metres, possibly hundreds of metres, to a particular area of the crop. ACRE always takes account of pollen dispersal by bees and its likely consequences. ACRE also considers the possible effects of GM crops on other insects when advising whether or not to approve consents for GM crop plantings. If there was any reason to believe the crop would be harmful, its release would not be approved.

My department is aware of recent reports from Germany about the possible effects on bees of ingesting GM pollen. Once this research has been finalised, published and peer reviewed, ACRE will advise if any further research is needed.

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Small On-farm Incinerators

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy that small on-farm incinerators should be allowed to continue in operation.[HL2699]

Lord Whitty: Yes, provided there is an appropriate degree of environmental protection.

Birmingham Northern Relief Road

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When is work to start on the Birmingham Northern Relief Road.[HL3001]

Lord Whitty: The Highways Agency is currently making progress with arrangements for the compulsory purchase of land. Work to clear the site will be undertaken in the autumn and will continue into next year in preparation for construction to start in the spring. A copy of an edited version of the Concession Agreement prepared in accordance with the judgment of the High Court has been placed in the Library.

European Justice Ministers' Conference

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total cost to public funds of government hospitality during the current meeting of European Justice Ministers; how many people attended the meeting of Ministers; what is the cost per head; and whether the costs were approved by the Lord Chancellor.[HL2777]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): With most of the accounts now received, the projected final cost of mounting the conference as a whole is £133,314.35 (excluding VAT). Two hundred and two delegates, including Ministers and officials, attended, equating to a cost of £659.97 per head. This figure was within the budgetary ceiling that I approved.

North-East Coast Salmon Drift Net Fishery

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recent talks they have had with the North Sea drift net fishermen on the progress being made to close the North Sea Drift Fishery; and whether compensation is being considered to assist the process.[HL2917]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): No recent discussions have taken place with fishermen on the phase-out of the North-East coast salmon drift net fishery. The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review recommended that the phase-out should be

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accelerated, with compensation offered to netsmen to encourage them to leave this fishery on a voluntary basis as soon as possible. The Government are currently seeking views on the review's recommendations, and will make their response to them later in the year.

Feed Wheat Prices

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the average price of feed wheat produced in the United Kingdom in each of the last 10 years.[HL2937]

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Baroness Hayman: The average price of feed wheat produced in the United Kingdom in each of the last 10 years was as follows:

Year£/tonne
1989104.8
1990110
1991116
1992117.8
1993121
1994106.9
1995115.4
1996111
199785
199873.9
199973.1



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