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Hedgerow and Field Boundary Work: Grant

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: The Government considered carefully, in the light of the Flamborough judgment in 1996, whether payments made under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for hedgerows and other field boundaries should continue to be paid where such features were subject to the pre-1840 inclosure awards. The Government do not have powers to intervene or enforce these matters. In addition, any work carried out in observance of this legislation may not necessarily be of the standard required by the scheme. The Government therefore took the view that payments for hedgerow and other field boundary work under the scheme should continue in view of the substantial benefits they offer to the English countryside.

Spongiform Encephalopathies: Prophylactic Drug Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: The Government are aware of the work taking place on the prophylactic and potential therapeutic effects of these drugs. The Department of Health is currently funding research to investigate pentosan polysulphate as a potential prophylactic agent against the transmission of vCJD by blood products. Studies on the effectiveness of these drugs in preventing experimental TSEs in mice have taken place and we are exploring the possibility of a research proposal to further these studies in sheep together with the Food Standards Agency.

Small and Medium Abattoirs: Assistance

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Hayman: The £8.7 million (which will be the subject of a PES transfer to the Food Standards Agency) was found from MAFF's funds plus contributions from the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales. It will be used, subject to consultation with the relevant interests, to change the basis on which meat inspection charges are levied as recommended by the task force chaired by Colin Maclean. The FSA will propose that abattoirs and cutting plants should pay the lower of:

    the standard headage/throughput charges set out in the EU Charges Directive (85/73/EEC, as amended); or

    actual inspection costs charged at MHS hourly rates--subject to a minimum charge of 45 per cent of the standard headage/throughput charges mentioned above.

The FSA has agreed that the sum of £8.7 million, supplemented by a contribution from its own budgets, will be sufficient to enable the agency to cover the shortfall in its receipts which will result from the introduction of the change.

Students' Financial Support

Baroness Ashton of Upholland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What financial support will be available to students in England and Wales in the academic year 2001-02.[HL228]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The level of support available to students in 2001-02 will be 2.4 per cent higher than for 2000-01, in line with forecast price increases. I am today placing a memorandum in the Library giving details of the new loan, grant and fee rates for 2001-02. These rates will be incorporated in the Education (Student Support) Regulations, which cover support for eligible students under the current arrangements, and in the Education (Mandatory Awards) Regulations and Education (Student Loans) Amendment Regulations, which cover the small number of students who are still eligible for support under the previous arrangements. These regulations will all be laid before Parliament in due course.

RAMC Site, Millbank: Preferred Purchaser

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who will be the preferred purchaser for the former Royal Army Medical Corps site on Millbank.[HL250]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): After detailed consideration of all the bids received, and consultation

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within government, we have selected the London Institute as the preferred purchaser for the site.

We believe that this decision provides an opportunity to establish a major arts educational institution alongside an art gallery of international standing. This will allow a synergy to develop which will benefit the creative industries as well as having other educational advantages.

NATO Member States: Defence Expenditure Increases

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which 11 European member states of NATO defence spending will rise in real terms next year, as reported in the Statement on European defence co-operation (H.L. Deb., 22 November, col. 855); and what will be the rises for each state.[HL11]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: For 2001, defence expenditure is expected to increase in real terms in the following European NATO countries. The countries are Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the UK. NATO receives detailed figures for defence expenditure from its member countries. However, in order to respect the confidentiality of nations these figures are not published.

Sierra Leone Army Training

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the training being provided for the Sierra Leone Army.[HL199]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The training is going well, and trainees completed the fourth Short Term Training Team course on 15 December. Soldiers from 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles have now deployed to run the next course, taking over from 1st Prince of Wales Own Regiment. They will be deploying with additional trainers to conduct the continuation and refresher training that we announced in October.

In addition, we are making preparations for the short-term deployment of a surgical team to Sierra Leone to cover the possibility of a gap in medical cover due to the roulement of UN troops. We would hope to be able to continue to draw on the medical facilities provided by UNAMSIL, for whose support we are most grateful, but it is essential to ensure that emergency cover is in place. The team will be withdrawn as soon as possible once alternative arrangements are available.

Together, these deployments will mean an increase in UK forces on the ground in Sierra Leone to between 550 and 600.

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Chinook Helicopter ZD576

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Concerning the crash of the Chinook helicopter ZD576 on 2 June 1994, whether they accept the statement by witness 15, Squadron Leader North, that the third crew member, Master Air Loadmaster Forbes, was the most professional crewman he had flown or served with and that his attention to detail and spatial awareness led one to believe that he held a navigator's brevet.[HL72]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have no reason to doubt that this was Squadron Leader North's honestly held opinion.

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept that on 2 June 1994 the third crewman, Master Air Loadmaster Forbes, could have been in the jump seat or standing behind the pilots on the flight to the Mull of Kintyre.[HL73]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: From the positions of the casualties relative to the wreckage, we cannot be certain where the two rear crewmen were at impact. However, it is possible that one of the rear crewmen was either sitting in the jump seat or standing behind the pilots.

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 27 July (WA 70-71), if the Chinook helicopter ZD576 were overflying the Mull of Kintyre on a direct course to Inverness, what is the highest mountain which it would have had to overfly on this route; and whether the air temperature at the necessary safe flying height would be too low to meet icing restrictions.[HL103]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A direct course from the Mull of Kintyre to Inverness would traverse the Grampian Highlands and the highest point would be approximately 3,700 feet. The precautionary icing restrictions on the Chinook Mk2 at the time of the Mull accident would have prevented any overflight of the Grampians at safety altitude. However they would not have prevented a flight over the Mull of Kintyre to the second waypoint at Corran.

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