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Manufacturing (Regulations)

15. Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will calculate the number of regulations imposed on manufacturing businesses since May 1997. [133651]

Mr. Stringer: This information is not kept in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate expense.

Since August 1998, every regulation likely to have an impact on businesses, charities or voluntary organisations has been subject to a thorough assessment procedure. These regulatory impact assessments are placed in the Libraries of the House. The particular business sectors upon which each regulation impacts are not recorded separately.

Drug Trafficking

16. Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what action the UK Government are taking to tackle international trafficking in drugs. [133652]

Marjorie Mowlam: The Government are working in close partnership with the enforcement and intelligence agencies to tackle international trafficking of all drugs, particularly Class A drugs which pose the greatest threat. Overseas activity is concentrated on the key source and transit countries to disrupt the movement of drugs to

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Europe and the UK. In this country, every effort is being made to tackle the organised criminal enterprises involved in illicit drug trafficking.

Rural Affairs Committee

17. Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the work of the Rural Affairs Committee. [133653]

Marjorie Mowlam: The Ministerial Group on Rural Affairs co-ordinates Government policy on rural issues. Recently, it has been working on the Rural White Paper.

Focus 5000

18. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Focus 5000 group in helping shape Government policy. [133654]

Mr. Ian McCartney: I take it that my hon. Friend is referring to the People's Panel. An independent interim evaluation of the Panel was published and referred to on 23 May 2000, Official Report, column 451W. Copies were placed in the Library. The evaluation report concluded that the Panel was a "valuable asset" and had

A full evaluation of the effectiveness of the Panel in helping shape Government policy will be carried out early in 2001.

Leak Inquiries

19. Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many leak inquiries have been commissioned by Departments in the last 12 months. [133655]

Mr. Stringer: Since 1 October 1999, the Cabinet Office has been notified of 19 leak investigations commissioned by Government Departments.


22. Jane Griffiths: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps she is taking to ensure diversity in appointments to quangos. [133660]

Mr. Stringer: The Government are keen to ensure that those serving on the boards of public bodies are as representative of society as possible. It is committed to the equal representation of women and men in public appointments and a pro-rata representation of members of the ethnic minorities. Is also wants to encourage more disabled people to participate in public life.

The Public Appointments Unit in the Cabinet Office produces annually the Government's overall action plan in relation to equal opportunities in public appointments. The publication also includes departments individual action plans specific to their own bodies. "Quangos: Opening up Public Appointments 2000-2003" was published on 24 May 2000 and provides details of what steps are being taken to increase diversity in public appointments.

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Better Regulation Task Force

23. Mr. Fallon: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many recommendations of the better regulation task force have so far been implemented; and how many remain outstanding. [133661]

Mr. Stringer: The independent better regulation task force has, since its inception in 1997, produced 14 substantive reviews which have made a total of 264 recommendations. Of the 250 the Government have so far responded to, 204 have been accepted in full, 11 accepted in principle and eight accepted in part. The Government are considering a further 21 recommendations. We have not accepted six of the Task Force's recommendations.

The recommendations are a variety of types: some involving primary legislation; others about changing the practices of those in the regulatory and enforcement environments; and others applying to all areas of Government activity, for example on the quality of guidance. For this reason it is not possible to quantify how many have been implemented.

26. Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the work of the better regulation task force. [133665]

Mr. Stringer: The independent better regulation task force has recently published its third annual report (available in the Library of the House) which sets out its achievements over the last three years and indicates its likely work programme for the coming year.

Press Officers

24. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the role of departmental press officers. [133663]

Marjorie Mowlam: The role of departmental press officers, as outlined in the guidance on the work of the GIS, is to ensure that Government policy and actions are explained and presented in a positive light and that the best possible opportunity is taken to convey its messages to the public through the media. The work of departmental press officers is explained in more detail in the guidance on the work of the GIS and the GICS handbook, copies of both are available in the Library.

"All Our Futures"

25. Ms Perham: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on progress in implementing the recommendations of the report of the better government for older people programme entitled "All Our Futures". [133664]

Mr. Ian McCartney: We are considering our response to the recommendations and how they can best be implemented. This involves discussions with other Government Departments, the Local Government Association and the Better Government for Older People Steering Group. Good progress is being made and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will respond in due course.

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Better Government Programme

Mr. Quinn: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the delivery of the better government programme in Yorkshire and Humberside. [133647]

Mr. Ian McCartney: The Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber is working with other stakeholders to modernise services across the region and I am pleased to say that excellent progress is being made.

Two examples from the region are cited in "Citizens First", the Modernising Government Annual Report: the Inland Revenue's translation service, which is being piloted with 128 languages in South Yorkshire; and the introduction of videolink kiosks in East Yorkshire which makes it easier to access local services such as police, law centres, NHS Direct, council departments or the Benefits Agency.

Much more detail about Government service than I can give here may be found in the reports monitoring progress towards the targets for electronic service. These include details of the innovative approaches that Departments have planned for future services.

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The spring 2000 report has been placed in the Libraries of the House. My Department is preparing the autumn 2000 monitoring report which I will also be placing in the Libraries of the House.

New Regulations

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office in what form monthly statistics on departmental returns concerning new regulations are available. [135992]

Mr. Stringer: The lists of monthly returns by Departments of regulatory proposals that have an impact on business, charities and voluntary bodies are published on the Cabinet Office website at and subsequently in the six monthly Command Paper of Regulatory Impact Assessments. Both list proposals in date order, with a contact name and telephone number of an official in the appropriate Department who can provide details of the measures and any relevant consultation document or regulatory impact assessment.

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EU (Trades Unions)

Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on proposals for (a) an EU-wide minimum wage and (b) EU- wide collective bargaining by trades unions. [135377]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

(a) Article 137(6) of the Treaty establishing the community specifically excludes action on pay. Therefore pay remains a matter for member states. The introduction of an EU minimum wage would run contrary to that position.

(b) It is for employers, employees and their representative organisations to agree whether and at what level any bargaining might take place, subject to the requirements of national laws and practices.

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