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10 Jul 2001 : Column: 461W
Alan Johnson: The Government intend, in line with the European Employment Directive (2000/78/EC), to introduce legislation to outlaw age discrimination in employment and training and will start public consultations later this year.
Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service was established on 3 April 2000 as an Executive Agency. It has had a successful first year and the first annual report has today been placed in the Library of the House.
The vision of the SBS is for the UK to be the best place in the world to start and grow a business. Its purpose is to build an enterprise society in which small businesses thrive and achieve their potential.
The objectives of the SBS are: to be a strong voice for small business at the heart of Government, ensuring that Government is aware of, and responsive to, the needs of all small businesses; to strive for a regulatory framework which minimises the burdens on business; to develop and maintain a world-class business support service to enhance businesses' competitiveness and profitability; and to champion the importance of entrepreneurship across society, particularly in under-represented and disadvantaged groups.
The SBS will review its plans regularly in response to the needs of small business. In line with the requirement for Executive Agencies to be given operational targets, I have set the following targets for the 200102 year:
Customer satisfaction at least 80 per cent. for all services.
Unprompted and prompted awareness of Business Link branded services among small businesses to rise to 20 and 80 per cent. respectively by March 2002.
All advisers delivering BL services meet new standards by April 2002.
Develop new funding streams to help plug the financing gap for start-ups and small growing firms; first investments for early stage financing of growth by December 2001.
Launch new Business Incubation Fund, by September 2001, and announce first loans by December 2001.
Increase accessibility of support, including loan finance, in under-invested areas, and have at least 105 projects, including 15 Community Finance Initiatives, covering all the English regions up and running by March 2002.
100 per cent. of valid invoices to be paid within 30 days.
Ms Hewitt: I am pleased to announce that I intend to re-appoint the Chairs of the eight Regional Development Agencies in England (outside London) for varying terms. The new appointments, of periods of up to three years, will take effect from 14 December 2001.
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I particularly want to thank Lord Thomas (Chair of the North West Development Agency) for agreeing to stay on until March next year, allowing more time for a successor to be found and for Lord Thomas to complete his six-month term as Chair of the RDA Chairs which begins in October. I would like to thank Lord Thomas for his dedication and commitment to the North West Region over many years and to the dynamic and effective leadership he has given to the RDA since its creation in 1999.
As far as the RDA Boards are concerned, I have decided to aim to increase business representation. I hope to be able to appoint or re-appoint members with current or recent business experience to at least half of the places on board.
I intend to honour the commitment given in Parliament during the passing of the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 to have four board members with local authority experience and at least one with knowledge of rural issues. As before, the rest of the places will go to those with experience of relevance to the work of the RDAs, such as trade unions, further and higher education and the voluntary sector. I expect that most board members may have experience relevant to more than one area of the RDA's work and so hope the boards will reflect as wide a range of interests as before.
Alan Johnson [holding answer 5 July 2001]: The Department is working with the East Midland Development Agency on a range of initiatives to support the regeneration of Warsop and Warsop Vale including the Meden Valley Partnership Special Purpose Vehicle and the Malcolm Sargisson Community Resource Centre.
Mr. Alexander: I have been advised by Consignia (the new name for the Post Office) that Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide are following advice from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about delivering letters and parcels during the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Guidelines have been issued to all staff about deliveries in affected areas, with advice on appropriate precautions.
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Consignia is in constant contact with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The company is offering alternative arrangements to customers, and aims for the full service to be restored when the current outbreak has been eradicated.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what notice her Department has received of alleged breaches of (a) UK sovereignty and (b) international law in areas covered by her Department in the last six months; and if she will make a statement. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department has had a number of representations from the business community about the planning system. We have been consulting widely over the last year with all key stakeholders interfacing with the planning system to explore its impact on business and competitiveness.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about his Department's plans to redesign police helmets; and what criteria he proposes to use to decide on the future design. 
Mr. Denham: There are no specific plans to introduce a new design for police helmets. Standards and specifications are constantly monitored to ensure that all headgear is fit for purpose and affords the appropriate level of protection, including complying with Health and Safety legislation, which has applied to the police since June 1998.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the coroner's inquest into those who died in the Lynx helicopter crash near Tilton on the Hill, Leicestershire on 17 May 1999 will be allowed to proceed. 
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Beverley Hughes: The inquest was adjourned pending receipt of a copy of the Ministry of Defence Board of Inquiry report. Although this has now become available, completion of the coroner's inquiries and the absence abroad of a prospective key witness delayed finalising arrangements for the next hearing. Having regard to the witness's availability and the need to make progress in the interests of the families, I understand that the coroner expects to hold the inquest by late September or early October.
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what remarks were made concerning Oldham in the UK periodic report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. 
Angela Eagle: The United Kingdom's 15th periodic report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) was published in July 1999. The report details the legislative, judicial and administrative measures undertaken in the United Kingdom to address racism. The report provided an overview of the situation in the United Kingdom and did not therefore detail the situation in local areas or towns such a Oldham.
Angela Eagle: Shortly after the disturbance my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary met representatives from Oldham metropolitan borough council and Greater Manchester police, as well as hon. Members representing Oldham, to discuss the situation in the town. As a result, an action plan for recovery, to be prepared in Oldham following a review which will encompass the contribution of all sectors of the local community, is to be prepared within the next four months. The Home Secretary made it clear that the Government, across all Departments, stand ready to offer whatever support and independent advice is needed to help towns such as Oldham (and Burnley, which has of course since suffered similar disorder) begin to heal their divisions and build a better future.
I visited Oldham on 25 June to meet local people about the town's problems at first hand. However, the primary job of tackling the root causes of the complex social and specific problems that give rise to divisions and disturbances of this kind must be done at local level. We do of course welcome any local initiatives that help to address these issues in a constructive manner.
Angela Eagle: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I have sought the views of our race advisers and the Commission for Racial Equality on the issue of racial discrimination in Oldham and the extent to which
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it can be seen as a factor behind the recent disturbances there. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has also met representatives of Oldham council, local police, young people and local hon. Members to discuss this and other aspects of the situation. The Home Secretary has also asked the Government Office for the North-West for its views as to how matters can be improved in this area. I hope that, with our support, those who want to tackle racial discrimination in Oldham and its associated problems will identify what needs to be done over the weeks and months ahead. At the Home Secretary's meeting with local representatives it was agreed that within four months a local action programme would be prepared. This will no doubt contain, among other things, proposals for combating racial discrimination in Oldham.
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