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30 Jun 2000 : Column WA109

Written Answers

Friday, 30th June 2000.

Poor Countries: Debt Cancellation

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 20 June (H.L. Deb., col. 155), how many countries have received debt cancellation by the Government under the policy of cancellation of all debts owed to the United Kingdom by developing countries; and how much debt they have cancelled in each case.[HL2980]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The five countries that have reached Decision Point under the enhanced HIPC Initiative and demonstrated their commitment to poverty reduction, (Bolivia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda), have received 100 per cent relief on their debts owed to ECGD. This relief amounts to approximately £18 million in the case of Bolivia, £6 million in the case of Uganda, £115 million in the case of Tanzania, £7 million in the case of Mauritania and £11 million in the case of Mozambique. All these countries had previously received debt cancellation of £150 million from ECGD under the terms of the previous Paris Club agreements.

Concrete Pumping Vehicle: Excise Duty

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to amend the Finance Bill in respect of the vehicle excise duty class and rate for a concrete pumping vehicle.[HL3024]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government do not intend tabling an amendment to this year's Finance Bill to change the regime for vehicle excise duty for concrete pumping vehicles.

Millennium Bridge

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

    What is the projected cost of modifications to the Millennium Bridge; and who will pay for such modifications; and[HL2944]

    When they expect the Millennium Bridge to re-open to the public; and[HL2945]

    What studies were made of the safety issues at the Millennium Bridge by the Health and Safety Executive prior to its opening; and[HL2946]

    What guarantees or indemnities were provided by the architects and the builders of the Millennium Bridge in relation to safety issues.[HL2947]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Millennium Bridge Trust announced on 12 June that the bridge would be closing from 10 pm that night due to its excessive movement. The various bodies associated with the project are currently discussing the problem and the possible solutions. Once they have reached their conclusions then they will be in a better position to decide who, if anyone, is liable to pay for work or who might be approached for support. It would be premature to speculate about how much it will cost to rectify the problem, who will pay for what, or when the bridge will open.

The Millennium Commission is not a party to any contracts between the project managers and the architects and builders for the project and I cannot, therefore, provide any information on any indemnities provided in relation to safety issues.

The Health and Safety Executive's remit was to make random checks and enforce site safety during the bridge's construction. Once the bridge had opened, it was treated as a public highway and was therefore subject to Southwark Borough Council's powers over highways.

North Wales Child Abuse Report

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish their response to the report of the tribunal of inquiry into the abuse of children in care in the former county council areas of Gwynedd and Clwyd since 1974, entitled Lost in Care.[HL3117]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We are pleased to announce that the Government's response to Sir Ronald Waterhouse's report into the tragic events in North Wales has been published. The response is called Learning the Lessons and copies have been placed in the Printed Paper Office and the Library.

Injectible Medicinal Products: Bovine Origin Materials

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list all injectible medical products approved for use in the United Kingdom which either contain material of bovine origin or use such material in their preparation.[HL2573]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Many hundreds of injectible medicinal products authorised for use in Europe and the United Kingdom contain material of bovine origin or use such material in their preparation. Each new application for authorisation is assessed individually by the Medicines Control Agency for national authorisations and by the relevant scientific rapporteurs for European authorisations to ensure that they comply with the European guidelines on

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minimising the risk of transmitting spongiform encephalopathies through medicinal products. The information is held on individual files, but there is no centrally held list and it would incur disproportionate cost to produce one.

NMEC: Chairman's Responsibilities

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 8 June (WA 176), and in view of his responsibility for the terms and conditions of board members of the New Millennium Experience Company, what agreement he has reached with Mr David Quarmby as to his terms and conditions as chairman; and whether they differ in any way from those of Mr Robert Ayling.[HL2856]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The roles and responsibilities of the chairman and individual board members of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) are detailed in Appendix 3 to its Annual Report and Accounts for the period ended 31 March 1999. The report was placed in the Libraries of the House in July 1999. There has been no change to the roles and responsibilities of the chairman following the resignation of Robert Ayling.

NMEC Board Members: Meeting with Ministers

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 6 June (WA 149), who were the members of the New Millennium Experience Company board with whom the sole shareholder met or spoke on 22 May; and[HL2801]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 6 June (WA 149), who were the members of the New Millennium Experience Company board with whom the sole shareholder met on the afternoon of 23 May; and[HL2802]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 6 June (WA 150), what was the subject of the conversation or conversations the sole shareholder of the New Millennium Experience Company had with Mr Michael Grade on 23 May.[HL2804]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I did not meet any member of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) Board on 22 May. During the course of 23 May I met those members of the Board who

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attended the Board meeting: Robert Ayling; P-Y Gerbeau; Ian Ash; Cllr Len Duvall; Michael Grade; Malcolm Hutchinson; Sir Brian Jenkins; David Quarmby; and Neil Spence. The board discussed NMEC's revised business plan and budget as well as the decision of the then chairman, Robert Ayling, to resign.

Coastal Erosion: Managed Retreat

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the definition of the concept of "managed retreat" in relation to coastal erosion; and to what kinds of coastline it is intended to apply.[HL2958]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The term used by the Government is "managed realignment". As defined in the recent Project Appraisal Guidance, this is "the management of a process of establishing a new line of defence, often set back from the existing position, with the aim of improving the long-term sustainability of the defence, or contributing to other aims such as habitat creation". This would normally involve a deliberate breach of any existing defence so that inundation, or erosion, takes place up to a new line of defence, which may be natural or man-made.

It is necessary to recognise that the entire coastline of the UK has over centuries been subject to the natural process of erosion and deposition. This process may be increased by rising sea levels caused by climate change and long-term geological "tilt" which is increasing sea levels still further in the south and east of the country. The response cannot automatically be to build new and ever higher coastal defences to protect against flooding and erosion. Sustainability is a key criterion and the operating authorities need to consider a range of options, including "managed realignment" of the coastline.

The decisions on whether or not to continue defending a particular area will depend on a range of considerations, using benefit:cost analysis. Important factors will be the type of assets, both natural and man made, that are currently defended, and any loss or gain of important nature conservation habitat as a result of a decision to defend or not. Where no man-made defence currently exists, a decision whether or not to defend a particular area will be based on similar considerations.

Managed realignment needs to be considered as an option on all parts of the coastline. However, given the benefit:cost approach to decision making, such an approach is more likely where low value assets lie behind the existing defence which do not justify the investment necessary in maintaining or improving the existing defence.



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