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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 13 December 2001


Political Developments

Mr. Joyce: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on political developments in Northern Ireland since 1 December. [23080]

Dr. John Reid: We believe the time is now right to extend to hon. Members who have not taken their seats at Westminster—that is, at present, four Sinn Fein members from Northern Ireland—access to certain facilities and accompanying allowances here. We believe that, as well as enabling their constituents' interests to be better represented, this would be consistent with the progress made in implementing the Belfast Agreement, including recent steps to establish on a more stable footing the political institutions provided for in the Agreement, in which Sinn Fein participate fully. This is however entirely a matter for the House, and we shall therefore be tabling a motion on the subject for debate next week.

Police Service

Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will publish a timetable for the implementation of lateral entry, secondments and other north/south co-operation issues between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana. [23250]

Jane Kennedy: I have today published a timetable, which has been agreed with the Irish Government, identifying how both Governments intend to implement the Patten recommendations on co-operation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana, including lateral entry and secondments to the two police services on a reciprocal basis. Copies of the timetable have been placed in the Library of the House.


Trade Unions (Buckingham)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the level of trade union membership among firms in the Buckingham constituency. [22642]

Alan Johnson: None. A reliable estimate cannot be made using the data held by central Government.


Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to increase employment opportunities for those who rely on schemes providing home-based work. [21253]

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Miss Melanie Johnson: There are no specific plans to increase employment opportunities for those who rely on schemes providing home-based work at present, although such opportunities may be available in companies that are developing work-life balance initiatives for the benefit of their business, employees and customers.

Adult Education (Financial Impact)

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impact on (a) women's and (b) men's wages of years spent outside the labour market for educational reasons. [21778]

Ms Hewitt: The Women and Equality Unit published a report on the Gender Pay Gap on 5 December. This included an analysis of available research on the impact of qualifications on women's and men's wages and found that the evidence varies across studies. None the less, although it is difficult to identify the precise size of the impact, acquiring qualifications has a positive impact on wages and labour market participation for both men and women. Estimates of the relative impact also vary by qualification. Research commissioned by the skills taskforce suggests that private returns to A-levels are slightly higher for women, while returns to first degrees are broadly equivalent by gender.

Near Earth Object Task Force

Ann Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the Government's response on 24 February to the recommendations contained in the report of the Near Earth Object Task Force. [23492]

Ms Hewitt: An updated response is nearing completion and will be published shortly. Copies will be put with the report and the Government response which were placed in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy of this response and press release will also be found at www.nearearthobjects.co.uk

Equal Treatment Directives

Mr. Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the Government will consult on its plans for implementing the Equal Treatment Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC. [23491]

Ms Hewitt: Yes. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, the Minister responsible for equality co-ordination, has today published a consultation document about our proposals to take forward implementation of the Employment and Race Directives in Great Britain.

I have arranged for copies of the document to be placed in the Libraries of the House. We have asked for responses by the end of March 2002. The proposals build on our current arrangements for tackling discrimination. They will involve: introducing new legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, age and sexual orientation in the areas of employment, occupation and training; and making some adjustments to the Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).

We intend to have the new provisions on race, religion or belief and sexual orientation in place in 2003; on disability in October 2004 to coincide with the planned

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implementation of other aspects of the DDA; and on age by the end of 2006, taking full advantage of time allowed in order to assist sensible implementation.

These proposals provide a practical and sensible way forward which will benefit both business and individuals by promoting best use of people's talents and potential.

Oil and Gas Infrastructure

Mr. Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on the preparation of guidance on the use of legal powers to settle disputes over third party access to upstream oil and gas infrastructure. [23490]

Mr. Wilson: I have, today, placed in the Library of the House a copy of a consultation document from my Department which seeks industry's views on proposed guidance on how, if asked to intervene, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would use longstanding powers, now in the Petroleum Act 1998 and other legislation, to settle disputes over access to infrastructure.

Access to infrastructure is a key element in the process of extracting the UK's petroleum resources. The proposed guidance builds on consideration of the results of an earlier consultation. It is intended to reduce industry uncertainty about the operation of the regulatory regime and is one element of the Government's policy aimed at addressing barriers to exploration and development on the UK continental shelf.


Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what further measures she will take to enforce the age restrictions on the sale of fireworks at (a) new year and (b) fireworks night 2002. [22663]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Enforcement of the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 is the responsibility of local authority trading standards departments. I have sought feedback from trading standards departments on levels of compliance and enforcement issues following this year's fireworks season.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what recent representations she has had regarding the inappropriate use of fireworks; [18155]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department has received representations from the public concerning the impact of noise, the misuse of fireworks in public places and issues of safety.

Under current legislation it is an offence under section 80 of the Explosives Act 1875 to throw or set off fireworks in any highway, street or thoroughfare or public place. The power to enforce this section of the Act rests with the police.

All fireworks sold to the public must also comply with the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997. The regulations, among other things, ban certain types of larger and more

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powerful products from retail sale, set the minimum age for purchasing fireworks at 18 years and require that all fireworks for sale must comply with the British Standard (BS7114). Local authority trading standards officers enforce the regulations.

In addition the Department runs an annual fireworks safety campaign, working closely with police, fire brigades and local authorities to promote safety messages during the firework season. This year over 25,000 safety toolkits were distributed to schools for use in the classroom to heighten awareness of the dangers of fireworks and to promote considerate behaviour.

We believe that the current restrictions on the sale of fireworks and rules on their use, backed up by an active safety campaign, provide the right level of control over the sale of fireworks. We have no present plans to introduce further controls but will continue to keep the position under review.

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