Friday 30 June 2000
Textile and Clothing Industry
Mrs I Robinson asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment how much of the £10 million of the recently announced initiative for the textile industry will come to Northern Ireland.
The Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Sir Reg Empey): Where Northern Ireland can benefit from the Department of Trade and Industry action plan for the textile and clothing industry, support under the aid package will be available. The precise level of support has yet to be determined, but my officials are taking discussions forward.
Mrs I Robinson asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to detail (a) the total number of people employed in the textile/clothing sector, (b) the number of jobs lost and (c) the number of jobs created in this sector over the last 12 months, and to make a statement.
Sir Reg Empey: At year end March 2000, there were an estimated 18,180 employee jobs in the textiles and clothing industries in Northern Ireland. Between March 1999 and March 2000, the number of employee jobs has fallen by 2,010. Over the year to March 2000, there were 1,249 redundancies in the textiles and clothing industry confirmed to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. There is no information available on the number of jobs created in the sector over this period, but, as the above figures show, employment levels continue to decline. My Department and the industry bodies, the Northern Ireland Textiles and Apparel Association and Northern Ireland Growth Challenge, continue to work together to assist the industry through a difficult restructuring process to focus on value-added activities which offer the best future prospects for the industry.
Mrs I Robinson asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to report progress on ‘Strategy 2010’ and to indicate when it will be implemented.
Sir Reg Empey: Implementation of ‘Strategy 2010’, involving close co-operation with DHFETE and DRD, has included the establishment of the Economic Development Forum and the Information Age Initiative, actions to improve business education links and to promote innovation, and the publication of an energy statement, ‘Vision 2010’.
The Information Age Initiative published its strategic framework and action plan, ‘Leapfrog to the Information Age’, on 4 April 2000.
I am considering, with advice from the EDF, future priorities for the economic development of Northern Ireland, which will be included in the programme for government. This will also be informed by the outcome of the ETI Committee’s inquiry into ‘Strategy 2010’.
Textile and Clothing Industry
Mrs I Robinson asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment what steps have been taken to realise the national strategy for the United Kingdom textile and clothing industry in Northern Ireland.
Sir Reg Empey: My Department is considering carefully the recent report on a national strategy for the UK textile and clothing industry. DETI officials will work closely with the industry bodies to apply the strategy, as appropriate, to enhance the existing incentive scheme and existing initiatives, which are designed to help the industry in Northern Ireland to adapt to meet the global changes in the sector.
Industrial Development Board:
Mrs I Robinson asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment what steps will be taken by the Industrial Development Board in the light of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report ‘Industrial Development Board: Inward Investment’ (HC66).
Sir Reg Empey: In accordance with the procedures relating to Reports by the Committee of Public Accounts, a Department of Finance and Personnel memorandum of reply to this report on inward investment will be issued within two months of the publication of the report. Parliamentary convention precludes me from making any comments until that memorandum of reply has been laid before Parliament.
Industrial Development Board
Mr Shannon asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment what is the amount and percentage of total Industrial Development Board investment awarded to businesses in the Strangford constituency in each of the last 10 years.
Sir Reg Empey: The information requested is set out below.
Selective Financial Assistance offered to businesses in Strangford constituency, 1990-2000
Mr Paisley Jnr asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to detail for the period since devolution (i) the district councils he has visited; (ii) the dates of the visits; (iii) the subjects discussed.
Sir Reg Empey: Since devolution (including the period prior to suspension) I have visited the following councils:
I have also met with representatives of the following Councils at my office in Netherleigh:
I also made a keynote speech to Strabane District Council/Partnership conference at Ballymagorry, Strabane on 21 January 2000.
Mr Gibson asked the Minister of the Environment what assessment has been made of reasons for the recent increase in the numbers of road injuries and fatalities and what steps will be taken to make the roads infrastructure safer.
The Minister of the Environment (Mr Foster): I deplore the high numbers of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The principal causes remain excessive speed and drink-driving. Significant improvement depends critically on changing the attitudes and behaviour of road users. My Department will continue to target its education and publicity efforts at the main causes of road casualties. The Department is also co-ordinating the preparation of a new road safety plan for the period to 2010. The plan will align the activities of DOE, the Roads Service of DRD, the RUC and others in pursuit of a new road safety target for that period. I expect to publish the plan for consultation later in the year.
I have been advised by the Minister for Regional Development that, while human error is the main contributing factor in driver accident rates on the roads, that Department’s Roads Service endeavours to minimise the margin for human error and considers casualty reduction in the design of all road schemes. Furthermore, through its accident remedial and traffic calming programmes, the Roads Service undertakes specific engineering measures to reduce the number of road traffic accidents at locations where accidents have previously been recorded.
Mr Davis asked the Minister of the Environment to detail the number of prosecutions for dog-fouling in each district council area during each of the last three years.
Mr Foster: Information obtained by my Department from district councils shows that in the last three years eight district councils have taken prosecutions under the Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 for permitting dog fouling in prescribed areas, as set out below:
Mr Paisley Jnr asked the Minister of the Environment to detail for the period since devolution (i) the district councils he has visited; (ii) the dates of the visits; (iii) the subjects discussed.
Mr Foster: I visited Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council on 8 December 1999, in connection with the award of borough status to the council. On 19 January 2000 I visited Belfast City Council to meet with the Lord Mayor. On 13 June 2000 I visited Newtownabbey Borough Council’s new offices.
In addition to these visits, I held a reception for the Mayors/Chairmen of all 26 district councils on 27 January 2000 and have met delegations from the following councils: Craigavon Borough (10/1/00 – planning issues); Newtownabbey Borough (14/6/00 – waste management / environmental issues); and Lisburn Borough (21/6/00 – planning issues). I have also agreed a forward programme of contact with all district councils.
Agriculture and Environment
Mr Paisley Jnr asked the Minister of the Environment to detail the members of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission and the input of Northern Ireland representatives to the Commission and to confirm if the Minister was consulted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions before appointments were made to this body.
Mr Foster: Within Northern Ireland, matters to do with the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) are the responsibility of the Department of the Environment.
Membership of the commission, which has a UK-wide remit, is set out below.
The Northern Ireland representative on the commission is Mr John Gilliland, a Londonderry farmer. His application for membership was supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and I signed his letter of appointment on 14 January 2000.
Dr Mowlam, Minister for the Cabinet Office, consulted both me and, during suspension, George Howarth about commission matters, including appointments.
Prof Malcolm Grant (Chair) - Professor of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge;
Ms Julie Hill (Deputy Chair) - Programme Adviser and former Director of Green Alliance
Prof Michael Banner - Professor of Moral and Social Theology at King’s College, London;
Ms Anna Bradley - Director of the National Consumer Council;
Ms Helen Browning OBE - Tenant Farmer, Eastbrook Farm; Founder and Director of Eastbrook Farm Organic Meats Ltd;
Dr David Carmichael - Managing Director of Battle and Pears Ltd, an arable farm concentrating on seed production from combinable crops;
Dr Philip Dale - Leader of the Genetic Modification and Biosafety Research Group at the John lnnes Centre, Norwich;
Dr Ed Dart - Chairman of Plant Bioscience Ltd;
Dr Matthew Freeman - Senior Researcher at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology;
Mr John Gilliland - Arable farmer with a particular interest in sustainable production systems and the pioneering of non food crops;
Professor Robin Grove-White - Professor of Environment & Society, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University;
Dr Rosemary Hails - Ecologist, and Principal Scientific Officer, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Oxford and lecturer at St Annes College Oxford;
Ms Judith Hann - A Freelance broadcaster and writer who presented Tomorrow’s World for 20 years;
Ms Edith lweajunwa - Member of executive evaluation group for NHS Direct, and member of Partners Council for NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence);
Dr Derek Langslow - Scientist specialising in nature conservation/biodiversity;
Professor Jeff Maxwell - Director, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute;
Dr Sue Mayer - Executive Director and Board Member of Genewatch UK;
Dr Ben Mapham - Director of the Centre for Applied Bioethics at the University of Nottingham and Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council;
Ms Justine Thornton - Barrister specialising in environmental law
Dr Roger Turner - Chief Executive Officer, British Society of Plant Breeders.
Planning Service/Performance Targets
Mr J Wilson asked the Minister of the Environment what performance targets have been set for the Planing Service for the year 2000-01.
Mr Foster: The following performance targets have been set for the Planning Service for the year 2000/01:
Volume of Output
1. To publish the following Area Plans in draft form by 31 March 2001
2. To adopt the following plans by 31 March 2001
Quality of Service
1. To achieve a customer satisfaction level of 80% in relation to the determination of planning applications
2. To take 65% of minor applications to District Council within 8 weeks
3. To take 60% of major applications to District Council within 8 weeks
4. To issue 65% of all planning decisions within 14 working days of final District Council consultation
5. To reduce the proportion of invalid planning applications received to 20% overall
6. To reduce the percentage of planning appeals upheld by 5% to 42% overall
7. To issue responses to 93% of property enquiries within 10 working days
1. To reduce Property Certificate Unit costs by 10%
2. To achieve an average Unit Cost for planning applications not exceeding £2,500
1. To maintain expenditure within cash limits and to approved budget plans
2. To maintain full recovery of the costs of determining planning applications
3. To maintain full recovery of the costs of responding to property enquiries
Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency:
Mr J Wilson asked the Minister of the Environment what performance targets have been set for the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency for the period 2000-01.
Mr Foster: The targets set for the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency for 2000-01 are as follows:
* Standard hour costs replace composite unit costs from 1 April 2000.
Environment and Heritage Service:
Mr J Wilson asked the Minister of the Environment what performance targets have been set for the Environment and Heritage Service in 2000-01.
Mr Foster: For 2000-01 the following performance targets have been set for the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS):
1. Progress the waste management strategy by producing an agreed action plan by 30 June 2000 and achieving the first-year commitments, including facilitating the formation of district council partnerships and the preparation of subregional waste management plans by 31 January 2001.
2. Achieve a 10% improvement in 95 percentile trade effluent consent compliance levels, using the the 1997 baseline.
3. Issue 85% of authorisations for emissions from minerals/tar and bitumen/cement plant under the Industrial Pollution Control (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 by 31 December 2000.
4. Evaluate applications for IPC authorisations for the next tranche of industry — glass, ceramics, timber and animal and vegetable processes under the Industrial Pollution Control (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 and draft authorisations.
5. Extend protection for habitats and species by establishing at least 20 additional candidate special areas of conservation (SACs).
6. Contribute to UK and Northern Ireland biodiversity conservation by activating eight species and habitat action plans for which EHS has a lead role.
7. Extend protection for monuments by scheduling 50 historic monuments to bring the total to 1,485.
8. Ensure preservation of state-care monuments by publishing a five-year plan for their conservation.
9. Extend protection for historic buildings by completing the second survey of historic buildings in 20 wards, bringing the total number of surveyed wards to 98.
10. Inform the future deployment of protection resources by conducting a pilot condition survey of monuments (CSM) for 200 archaeological sites in eight major land use types of Northern Ireland landscape.
11. Agree an EHS plan for external communications, including extended use of the EHS web site, and carry out the elements relevant to 2000-01.
12. Promote awareness of the state of the countryside by publishing the findings of the Northern Ireland countryside survey 2000.
13. Promote awareness of historic buildings by publishing information on the second survey (12 wards) through the monuments and buildings record and the Internet.
14. Provide an effective service to at least 1,650 enquirers in the monuments and buildings record.
15. Respond to 90% of written enquiries or requests for information within 15 working days.
16. Determine 85% of applications for Water Act consents and wildlife licences within timescales published in our customer service guides.
17. Agree and implement Investors in People action plan and achieve reaccreditation.
18. Develop and adopt a revised policy on the management of our properties.
19. Control expenditure within the departmental running costs and programme limits voted by Parliament.
20. Establish the average cost of making a payment to a supplier and benchmark the cost with other service providers.
Mr Paisley Jnr asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to give a breakdown by Department of the running costs of chauffeur-driven ministerial cars.
The Minister of Finance and Personnel (Mr Durkan): The running costs of chauffeured ministerial cars for those Departments for which the Department of Finance and Personnel is responsible are as follows:
These figures relate to the initial period (29 November 1999 to 14 February 2000) during which the Executive functioned. Data relating to services provided from 29 May are not yet available.
Mr Paisley Jnr asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to detail for the period since devolution (i) the district councils he has visited; (ii) the dates of the visits; (iii) the subjects discussed.
Mr Durkan: No visits have been made to district councils in the period since devolution.
Public Spending Priorities
Mr B Bell asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to detail his priorities for public spending in Northern Ireland.
Mr Durkan: The public expenditure allocations for 2000-01 as set out in my 15 December 1999 Budget were based on the plans inherited at devolution. The programme of government to be agreed by the Executive Committee will set out the public expenditure priorities for the spending review period 2001-02 to 2003-04.
End-of-Year Financial Flexibility
Mr Hussey asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel what progress has been made in the assessment of end-of-year financial flexibility and to detail the proposed redistribution of any funds available.
Mr Durkan: End-year flexibility returns from Departments have been collated by the Department of Finance and Personnel. These are currently being assessed by the Executive Committee with a view to putting them to best use in the light of emerging pressures and expenditure priorities.
Health Service Expenditure
Mr Close asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel what percentage of gross domestic product is spent on health in Northern Ireland and how this compares to the European average.
Mr Durkan: Expenditure on health in Northern Ireland amounted to approximately £1·3 billion in 1997-98, accounting for 8.4% of gross domestic product. This compares with the EU15, where health expenditure represents 7.9% of the gross domestic product (1997)