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A379

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will meet representatives of Devon county council, the South Hams district council, the Slapton, Stokenham, Stoke Fleming and Strete parish councils and the hon. Member for Totnes to discuss the continued closure of the A379 between Strete Gate and Torcross, Devon and its effect on local business and tourism. [153739]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I fully appreciate that local people want to see as swift a resolution as possible to this situation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham, (Mr. Hill), recently concluded that meeting South Hams district council would not assist the process of finding the most rapid solution possible to this issue. However the Government Office for the South West Region has been asked to liaise with all the bodies concerned to ensure that the urgency of the situation is appreciated and that all work to resolve the problem is undertaken as quickly as possible.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will instruct Devon county council not to pursue a statutory environmental impact assessment before providing a temporary reinstatement of the A379 between Strete Gate and Torcross, South Devon. [153741]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Decisions on whether an environmental impact assessment is required for projects requiring planning permission are in the first place a matter for the local planning authority. Devon county council is the local planning authority, and in this role it has issued a "screening opinion" that an EIA is required. No appeal has been made to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the steps he is taking to arrange for the reinstatement of the A379 between Strete Gate and Torcross, Devon. [153740]

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Ms Beverley Hughes: I fully appreciate the concern which the hon. Member and the people of South Hams feel, and the impact which the closure of this road is having.

Devon county council, English Nature and MAFF are working together to reach a consensus on the way forward. I am advised that jointly Devon county council and South Hams district council are arranging meetings on the 19 and 23 March for all local interested parties to be given the up to date situation in their endeavours to resolve this matter.

The Government Office for the South West Region has been asked to liaise with all the bodies concerned to ensure that the urgency of the situation is appreciated and that all work to resolve the problem is undertaken as quickly as possible.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the cost of conducting a statutory environmental impact assessment before reinstating permanently the A379 between Strete Gate and Torcross, Devon. [153742]

Ms Beverley Hughes: It is not for the Secretary of State to carry out an environmental impact assessment in this situation and therefore the Secretary of State has not made an assessment of the cost.

Gypsy Sites Refurbishment Grant Programme

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will issue the results of round 1 of the gypsy Sites Refurbishment Grant programme. [154040]

Mr. Raynsford: My Department has today written to all local authorities that submitted bids for Gypsy Sites Refurbishment Grant. 75 bids were received for this first round of the £17 million three-year grant programme. A total of 38 projects have been approved for grant funding in 2001-2002. A list of successful and unsuccessful bids has been placed in the Library of the House.

All bids were evaluated against key criteria including: quality of the project plan; outcome of consultation with residents; cost of the project; site condition analysis; previous investment history; site sustainability and certainty of the local contribution element.

Authorities whose bids have been successful are being given evaluation feedback. We consider this is important in its own right. It will also afford authorities the opportunity to improve their bids and resubmit them for consideration in rounds 2 and 3.

We believe that the existing network of local authority owned gypsy sites represents a valuable resource for gypsies. The three year grant programme is in recognition of the importance the Government attach to local authorities keeping their sites in good condition and available for use by gypsies. It is also in line with our aim of providing everyone with the opportunity of a decent home.

The injection of funding, and that which will follow in rounds two and three, will help local authorities extend the useful life of sites; bring them into full use and improve the quality of life for residents. Helping to keep

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gypsy sites available for use is also an important part of Government policy to minimise the disruption that can arise from unauthorised encampments.

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Caplin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress is being made in concluding public service agreements. [154127]

Ms Armstrong: We have today concluded a second group of local public service agreements. The agreements are with the following authorities: Birmingham metropolitan borough council, Cambridgeshire county council, Derbyshire county council, London Borough of Lewisham, London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, Sheffield city council and Sunderland city council. I am arranging for copies of these agreements to be placed in the Library.

Negotiations are continuing with the six remaining authorities taking part in the pilot scheme of local public service agreements. We expect to conclude these agreements soon.

Regional Affairs Committee

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions for what reasons the Regional Affairs Committee has not met in this Parliament; and what plans he has for it to meet. [151159]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 26 February 2001]: Now that the membership of the Committee has been determined, the Government are taking steps to arrange an early meeting of the Committee. This will be discussed through the usual channels.

PRIME MINISTER

UK Youth Parliament

Q12. Mr. Rowe: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to meet members of the UK youth parliament. [152251]

The Prime Minister: I have no plans to do so, although I understand my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has offered to do so. If I have the time I will do so myself.

Overseas Visits (Special Advisers)

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Prime Minister how many written approvals he has issued of overseas visits by special advisers accompanying a Minister since May 1997. [151561]

The Prime Minister: No central log of such approvals is held. However, the cost of special advisers accompanying Ministers on overseas visits is included in the figures published annually on Ministers' visits overseas. Figures for 1999-2000 were published on 28 July 2000, Official Report, column 969W. This showed that expenditure on Ministerial overseas visits in 1999-2000 was £4.6 million compared with £7.9 million in the last year of the previous Administration.

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Departmental Websites (General Election)

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Prime Minister what procedures have been put in place to prevent departmental websites from disseminating material that could be of advantage to the governing party during a general election; and if he will publish them. [152042]

The Prime Minister: Election guidance is routinely issued to all civil servants once an election has been called. The guidance issued prior to the last election covered Government information activity in all its forms. It recognised the need to ensure that, although Departments could properly continue to provide factual explanation of current Government policy, statements and decisions during a campaign, they had to be particularly careful not to become involved in a partisan way in election issues, and to protect departmental systems from serving or appearing to serve a party political purpose. These principles remain unchanged, and guidance for any future general election will build on them to reflect the increasing use of the internet by Government. The guidance will be published when an election is called.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Meat Imports

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the total tonnage of beef imported from the Republic of South Africa in (a) 1998-99 and (b) 1999-2000. [151917]

Ms Quin: The total tonnage of beef imported from the Republic of South Africa between 1998 and 2000, as recorded by the Overseas Trade Statistics, is given in the table.

UK imports from South AfricaPercentage of total beef imports
19983390.17
19992910.13
20002180.09

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much meat has been imported from countries which have recorded BSE in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [152299]

Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The table shows imports of meat in 1999 and January to November 2000 from those countries which recorded BSE in 2000.

Imports of meat(31) 1999-2000 from countries which have recorded BSE

tonnes
19992000(32)
Belgium
All meat42,35043,718
of which beef1,5831,809
Denmark
All meat218,395222,121
of which beef2,7282,837
France
All meat155,621130,063
of which beef8,3045,078
Germany
All meat43,63751,790
of which beef3,2464,241
Irish Republic
All meat192,369182,903
of which beef97,33898,592
Netherlands
All meat333,176367,962
of which beef13,53311,168
Portugal
All meat224301
of which beef(33)1--
Spain
All meat14,12114,144
of which beef1,2081,679
Switzerland(34)
All meat24728

(31) Meat and meat preparations (including poultry, meat and game)

(32) January to November

(33) Less than

(34) 2000 (January-December)

Note:

Data for EU countries are provisional and subject to amendment

Source:

Overseas Trade Statistics


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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who pays the cost of inspection of imported meats from (a) EU and (b) other countries; and if he will make a statement. [152805]

Ms Quin: Meat produced within the European Union may circulate freely within the single market, and is subject to random checks by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) or by the relevant local authority (LA) at the point of destination within the United Kingdom. Depending on the perceived health risk, checks may be random or 100 per cent. Following the recent identification of specified risk material in imports of meat from Germany and the current foot and mouth disease problems in the UK, the MHS has been instructed to step up levels of inspection to ensure that increased volumes of imports can be checked for the necessary health marks and correct documentation. If the point of destination is a meat cutting plant or a licensed cold store, the costs of inspection are charged to the operator of that premises. If the point of destination is a meat products or preparations premises, the costs of inspection are paid either by the Food Standards Agency (for MHS inspection at plants co-located with slaughterhouses or cutting plants) or by the LA (for inspection in plants separate from slaughterhouses or cutting plants).

All meat imported from third countries into the UK must enter at designated UK Border Inspection Posts (BIP) where it is subject to veterinary inspections. The inspection services at the BIP are the responsibility of the

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local authority. UK and EC legislation requires that costs incurred by the local authority while carrying out checks are recovered from the importer.


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