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Electro-shock Weapons

Mr. Rapson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what action is being taken to ban the export of electro-shock weapons, including batons; if she will hold a formal investigation into the trading of these weapons by British companies; and if she will make a statement.[5493]

Mr. Robin Cook: I have been asked to reply.

We are committed to preventing British companies from manufacturing, selling or procuring equipment designed primarily for torture and to press for a global ban. There is clear evidence that certain equipment has been used for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. I can now announce that we will take the necessary measures to prevent the export or transhipment from the UK of the following equipment:

Some of the above goods are not presently controlled and we will be amending the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 to bring them under control.

The acquisition, purchase, possession, manufacture, sale and transfer of electric-shock weapons is already regulated by the Firearms Act 1968 as amended. We are examining how to take forward our commitment to ban the manufacture and possession of the other goods listed.

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Our review of strategic export controls, which is being led by the Department of Trade and Industry, sought views on the extent to which any new legislation should seek to control trafficking in undesirable goods and the brokering of such deals. As my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said on 5 June, Official Report, column 236, we are considering all the responses to the consultation carefully in formulating our proposals, which will be announced soon.

If we are to prevent would-be torturers from procuring such equipment elsewhere, similar controls will need to be implemented by other countries. To this end, we will seek to encourage EU member state to impose similar restrictions to those announced above as a first step towards a global ban. We shall report to the House on progress in this and our other efforts to promote respect for human rights.

Illegal trading in such weapons would amount to an offence under section 5(1) (b) of the Firearms Act 1968. Any allegation that British companies are involved in such activities should be brought to the attention of the police.


Health and Environmental Education

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment his Department has made of the teaching of (a) personal health care, (b) nutrition and (c) environmental awareness in Welsh schools; and if he will make a statement. [9849]

Mr. Hain: The office of Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools in Wales published on 17 June the results of a recent survey "Standards and Quality in Personal and Social Education (PSE)", which covers teaching on health education, healthy eating and the environment in secondary schools. A copy of the publication is in the Library of the House.

The White Paper "Building Excellent Schools Together", published on 8 July, announced a review of the PSE curriculum by ACAC--the Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales--as part of its review of the national curriculum for Wales.

Welsh Assembly

Mr. Alan Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if the Committee of Public Accounts will retain all its existing powers to examine public expenditure in Wales under his proposals for a Welsh Assembly. [10698]

Mr. Ron Davies: It is proposed that the Public Accounts Committee would retain its existing powers under a Welsh Assembly. The Public Accounts Committee may wish to delegate some of its functions, for instance the taking of evidence, to the Assembly's audit committee.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if the Assembly will have powers to designate or vary assisted area boundaries. [10703]

Mr. Davies: No. These functions are performed by the President of the Board of Trade.

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Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what powers the Assembly will have to abolish NHS trusts and take over their powers; and what powers it will have to appoint members to trust boards. [10709]

Mr. Davies: The Government propose that the Assembly will have the same powers in respect of health that I now have. These include powers to establish or dissolve an NHS trust or to extend or curtail its functions, subject to the requirement's of primary legislation.

It will be able to make an order dissolving a trust if it considers this appropriate in the interests of the health service, or on the application of the trust concerned. If dissolving a trust, it will need to make provision for transferring its property, rights, liabilities and staff to another trust, or to a health authority, or to itself.

It will also have power to appoint the chairman and non-executive directors of a trust in accordance with established Nolan principles relating to public appointments.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales to what extent the Assembly, in deciding how much local authorities will be allowed to borrow, will be constrained by Treasury rules or guidelines. [10701]

Mr. Davies: The Assembly will be able to decide for itself what proportion of its total budget should be allocated to local authority credit approvals as against other, competing areas of expenditure.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what arrangements will be introduced to ensure co-operation between the Executive Committee of the Welsh Assembly and relevant Cabinet Committees.[10696]

Mr. Davies: The Secretary of State for Wales will continue to represent Wales's interests on appropriate Cabinet Committees, informed by the views of the Assembly.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales to what extent his powers (a) to establish an economic powerhouse and (b) to reform the multiplicity of national and local agencies, referred to in paragraph 2.5 of the White Paper, are dependent on the introduction of a Welsh Assembly. [10705]

Mr. Davies: The Government's manifesto contained a commitment to establish an economic powerhouse agency. This change would precede the establishment of a Welsh Assembly. However, the reform of this and the other quangos would be incomplete without establishing their democratic accountability to an elected Welsh Assembly, to provide the necessary openness, scrutiny and responsiveness to the needs of Wales.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales for what reasons he has not proposed transferring the powers of the boards of the Welsh executive quangos to the Welsh Assembly. [10699]

Mr. Davies: All non-departmental public bodies in Wales will be subject to local democratic control. The Assembly will make appointments to the boards, set the strategic framework and provide their funding. If it wished, it could appoint members of the Assembly to the boards of these public bodies.

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Under the Government's proposals, the Assembly will--if it so chooses--to be able to transfer to itself the functions of six executives NDPBs.

The Government are proposing to take action to wind up five other executive NDPBs by the time the Assembly is established. The functions of Tai Cymru will be transferred to the Secretary of State and, subsequently, to the Assembly. The Government believe that it makes better sense for the functions of the Development Board for Rural Wales and Land Authority for Wales to be merged with those of the Welsh Development Agency. The functions of the Cardiff Bay development corporation will be transferred to local authorities in its area, while those of the Residuary Body for Wales will disappear.

In the case of the five executive NDPBs that were created by royal charter or royal warrant, it would not be appropriate for a parliamentary Bill to give the Assembly the power to revoke the charters or warrants or to make amendments to them. Amendments to charters and warrants are a matter for Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what studies the Government have (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the effect of the creation of an Assembly on Welsh inward investment. [10704]

Mr. Davies: None. But the creation of a Welsh Assembly will make Wales an even more attractive proposition not just for inward investors but for indigenous companies. It will help us to market Wales in a more cohesive way.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what powers additional to those currently held by his Department will be required by the Assembly to enable it to give extra powers to local authorities. [10710]

Mr. Davies: The Government propose to give the Welsh Assembly a wide-ranging power to transfer functions from various public bodies to local authorities, among others, as set out in paragraph 3.24 of the White Paper.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the existing powers of the Welsh Office to take functions away from local government; and if these will be passed to the Assembly. [10702]

Mr. Davies: I have many powers to take functions away from individual local authorities. They include:

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The Government propose that powers such as these should be transferred to the Assembly, whether or not they have previously been used in Wales. Unless I use the powers in the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 by 31 March 1999, they will cease to have effect on that date and will not be transferred to the Assembly.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what direct participation in the decision making of the European Union the Welsh Assembly will have. [10697]

Mr. Ron Davies: The lead United Kingdom Minister is responsible for co-ordinating and settling the UK policy line in negotiations. Welsh interests will be fully represented. Wherever it is responsible for the activity in Wales, the Assembly will have a role to play in the delegations at the Council of Ministers through keeping them advised of its views. This will supplement existing arrangements whereby the Secretary of State may himself participate in Council meetings and promote agreed UK objectives.

The Assembly will be free to reinforce this at the stage of policy formation through its own scrutiny of proposals which are to come forward to the Council, as well as other important European documents. It will be able to assess these taking into account the distinct needs and circumstances in Wales and to communicate its views effectively to Whitehall. The Assembly will need to work in close partnership with those Whitehall Departments that are responsible for UK policy development and the basis for this relationship will be set out in concordats. The Secretary of State for Wales will continue to participate fully in the formulation of Government policy and to represent the needs of Wales in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales which of the announced five Welsh executive bodies to be abolished before the Assembly is established were due to be abolished within five years; and what is the existing abolition date for each. [10700]

Mr. Davies: Plans already existed to wind up the Cardiff Bay development corporation and the Residuary Body for Wales. The CBDC was provisionally due to be wound up in December 1999; I have decided to extend this slightly to March 2000, to coincide with the end of the financial year and thus allow for a more orderly termination of its affairs. The Residuary Body for Wales had a lifetime of five years written into the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 which established it, and was due to be wound up in February 2000. Its task is, though, almost complete already, and I aim to wind it up in the near future.

I am also taking early steps to wind up two of the six training and enterprise councils in Wales, the Welsh Health Common Services Authority and the Health Promotion Authority for Wales.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales for what reasons his proposals in his White Paper treat the Funding Council for Higher Education differently from the Funding Council for Further Education; and if he will make a statement. [10762]

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Mr. Davies: The traditional independence of the universities has meant that successive Governments have, for decades, left decisions on their funding to specialised, arm's-length bodies; the University Grants Committee and now the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

The proposal that the Further Education Funding Council for Wales should be within the Assembly's reform power does not mean that the independence of further eduction institutions is under threat. The function of funding further education would still remain. However, there are options for reform which the Assembly may wish to consider, taking account of the increasing links between the higher and further education sectors and the position of vocational training, which is currently funded by the training and enterprise councils.

Mr. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales which sections of his White Paper "A Voice for Wales", Cm. 3718, indicate the evolving nature of the proposed Welsh Assembly; and what provisions there are for the people of Wales to vote for or against increases of power or expansion of role. [10781]

Mr. Davies: The people of Wales are being asked to vote on the proposals in the White Paper Paragraph 1.8 deals with the power to transfer functions to the Assembly and annexe A outlines the Secretary of State for Wales's functions which it is proposed to transfer.

Paragraph 1.9 lists certain functions which currently operate on a common basis throughout the United Kingdom and which the Government do not propose to transfer to the Assembly.

If at some future date any additional functions were to be transferred to the Assembly, they would require a transfer order subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

Apart from fresh primary legislation passed by Parliament, transfer orders will be the only means of adding to the Assembly's functions: the Assembly will not have the power to pass its own primary legislation.

Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate votes currently within his Department will remain his responsibility after the establishment of the proposed Welsh Assembly. [10758]

Mr. Davies: The details of the vote structure under a Welsh Assembly are still under consideration.

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