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Employment Tribunals

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on what date he intends (a) to make and (b) to lay before Parliament, regulations to enable members of the Bar and solicitors in Scotland and

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Northern Ireland who are qualified for appointment as chairmen of employment tribunals in those regions, to be eligible for appointment in England and Wales. [134247]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Work is in progress on the necessary amendment to the Industrial Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 1993 which we aim to make before the end of this year and to lay once statutory consultation is completed.

Petroleum Licensing

Mr. Anthony D. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps are being taken to prepare for future petroleum licensing rounds on the UK continental shelf. [135200]

Mrs. Liddell: I have today initiated a three month public consultation which will look at the potential environmental impact of oil and gas activity in the area between the Shetland and Faroe Islands known as the 'White Zone'.

A formal invitation will shortly be made to oil companies to bid for licences in this area. But before any licences are awarded, I want to hear the views of the public and experts on the environmental impact that these activities might have. Depending on the outcome of this consultation, we may impose conditions on the licences or withhold areas on offer.

For the first time, the Department has commissioned and published an independent strategic environmental assessment of the White Zone, the surrounding area and the possible oil and gas impacts on it. This report will be made available to interested parties and should help promote informed responses to the consultation.

The consultation also asks for views on draft regulations applying the EU's Habitats Directive, which requires the protection of certain species and habitats, to offshore oil and gas activities. Under the regulations, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must consider the requirements of the Directive when taking decisions relating to those activities.

Today's proposals mark a further major improvement to the transparency of our environmental and licensing regimes. They demonstrate the importance Government and industry continue to place on protecting marine habitats and species.

However, it is also important to provide further opportunities for petroleum exploration on the UK Continental Shelf. The proposed changes will provide a stronger legal and environmental framework for future offshore licensing rounds.

The 19th licensing round applications, which should be received early next year, will be the first to be considered under this new approach.

Maintaining oil and gas discoveries over the coming years is vital if we are to sustain an important industry and benefit the UK economy.

Oil Company Profits

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will investigate the profits of oil companies in respect of the sale of petrol and diesel. [134338]

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Dr. Howells: Under UK competition legislation, the Director General of Fair Trading is responsible for monitoring markets and considering complaints about anti-competitive behaviour. If the Director General has any concerns about profitability in this context, he has powers to investigate.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the possible abolition of resale price maintenance on the sale of over-the-counter medicines. [134789]

Dr. Howells: The question of retaining or abolishing resale price maintenance on over-the-counter medicines is a matter for the Restrictive Practices Court. The case is currently before the court.


Reserve Forces and Cadets Association

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 12 May 2000, Official Report, columns 509-10W, what changes there have been to the location and structures of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association since that answer. [134501]

Mr. Spellar: Following the laying of the Defence Council's Reserve Forces Act 1996 (Reserve Associations) Order 2000, the Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations (RFCA) for the South East and Eastern Wessex administrative areas, minus Dorset, have been amalgamated to reflect the South East Government Office and Channel Islands administrative jurisdictions. It will be known as the South East RFCA, with a headquarters at Seely House, Shoe Lane, Aldershot GU11 2HJ. The responsibility for carrying out the Eastern Wessex Association's functions for Dorset moves to the Wessex RFCA, whose administrative area will now reflect that of the South West Government Office region. The Wessex RFCA headquarters remains at 2 Beaufort Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2JS.

These arrangements took effect from 1 October 2000. They are reflected in minor amendments to the RFCA Regulations, details of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. We have also agreed with the RFCAs revised or amended Schemes of Association. Following consultation with their Trade Union representatives, arrangements for those Association employees opting for redundancy have been agreed. These are broadly in line with civil service arrangements. This completes the implementation of the organisational improvements and efficiencies sought in the Strategic Defence Review.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what timetable has been set for Lockheed Martin Systems Integration and Thomson Racal Defence to assess the requirements of the Soothsayer integrated electronic warfare system; and if he will make a statement; [134256]

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Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Robert Walmsley to Mr. Mike Hancock, dated 25 October 2000:

E-business Projects

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what budget his Department has for e-business projects. [132178]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 23 October 2000]: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) does not have a separately identified budget for e-business projects. Exploitation of new electronic means of doing business--which might

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also be labelled as e-commerce, e-Government, or responding to the information age--is taking place across the range of MOD activities. The budget for any given project therefore normally forms part of the wider budget for the individual MOD management area that is responsible for its delivery. Nevertheless, there are a number of MOD projects of this type that are of sufficient size and importance for their individual budgets to be readably identifiable. These include the following:

In addition, the MOD remains committed to using the best available electronic technologies to improve our operational capabilities and enhance the effectiveness of the UK Armed Forces.

Further information on MOD IT projects delivering business support and front-line military capability is available in my letter to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch), dated 25 January 2000, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

In concert with other Government Departments, the MOD is producing a Departmental e-business strategy that will outline how we intend to achieve the Government's electronic service delivery targets. This document is expected to be published later this year and will be updated regularly.

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