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Intellectual Property Rights

Tony Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, if the Government will recommend extending TRIPS implementation deadlines for all developing countries. [78220]

Ms Hewitt: I have been asked to reply

The TRIPS Agreement lays down procedures for extending implementation deadlines for the Least Developed Countries (LDC). The general implementation deadline is 2005 but an extension to 2016 was agreed for pharmaceutical products at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha. There is no specific mechanism for extending TRIPS implementation deadlines for all developing countries.

The UK government works through the EU on issues relating to the TRIPS Agreement. The UK government supports the development of objective criteria to form the basis upon which extensions of TRIPS transition periods should be agreed. The UK government therefore supports the introduction into TRIPS of a mechanism for extending transition periods for individual developing countries.


Equal Pay

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Minister for Women, what assessment she has made of the impact of the Government's policies on reducing the disparities between men and women's pay. [78825]

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Ms Hewitt: Since the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970, the pay gap has reduced from 37 per cent to 19 per cent. today. Action taken by the Government to close the pay gap is having a positive impact.

We are leading by example, through our commitment to equal pay reviews in the Civil Service. We are making it easier for women to get equal pay through changes in the Employment Act 2002. We are making it easier for employers to pay fairly through the work of the Fair Pay Champions and the Castle Awards. We are tackling the wider causes of the pay gap by helping mothers stay attached to the labour market, investing more resources in childcare, improving the skill levels of those already in the labour market and helping employers make the most of their female workforce.


War Memorials

Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps he is taking to protect war memorials in England and Wales. [80103]

Hilary Benn: With assistance from Friends of War Memorials, the Imperial War Museum, English Heritage, and others, we are tomorrow publishing a code of practice on the preservation and management of war memorials. A copy of the text is being placed on the Home Office web site and is in the Library. A leaflet will be available shortly.

Race Equality

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he will publish the third edition of Race Equality in Public Services. [80104]

Beverley Hughes: I have today placed in the Library a copy of the document ''Race Equality in Public Services''. The publication shows a number of areas of general improvement in public service delivery and in representation of ethnic minorities in the public sector workforce.

Smoking (Public Places)

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans he has to ban smoking in public places. [77808]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

The Government has no plans to ban smoking in public places. Instead, we want to work with businesses and others to achieve real change, highlighting and building on best practice. We have worked closely with the hospitality trade to develop a public places charter designed to provide customers with clear information on the type of smoking policy operating in a particular establishment and allow them to make an informed choice.

Specifically aimed at local action, the Department this year has provided project funding to local tobacco control alliances to tackle health inequalities and passive smoking. Local alliances are promoting smoke free areas in workplaces and public places. These

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projects will be evaluated and examples of good practice will be shared across the tobacco control alliance network.

Passports (Hong Kong)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what representations he has received from Sir James Hodge concerning the status of BNOCO BDTC passports in Hong Kong. [78874]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has not received any representations from Sir James Hodge, HM Consul General in Hong Kong about the status of BN (0) passports in Hong Kong. Sir James, however, has received two approaches from the Indian Community on this subject.

Immigration Control

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans he has to improve immigration control to ensure that people coming into the United Kingdom do so in accordance with the Immigration Rules. [80101]

Beverley Hughes: The Government are firmly committed to ensuring that those who seek to migrate to the United Kingdom do so properly under the Immigration Rules, and that those who do not have such grounds are prevented from doing so.

Throughout this year there has been an increase in the number of Zimbabwe nationals who on arrival at UK ports are found to be inadmissible. Therefore, from 00.01 hours on Saturday 9 November we will require nationals of Zimbabwe to obtain visas to come to the United Kingdom. Zimbabwe nationals will also have to obtain a Direct Airside Transit Visa when they intend to remain airside while in transit through the United Kingdom.

To avoid any undue hardship for those who have already made their travel plans, we have agreed to the operation of the following grace period. From 00.01hours on 9 November to 23.59hours on 15 November, any Zimbabwe national who purchased their ticket on or before 7 November and is travelling to the UK on a direct journey from Zimbabwe, will not be refused entry solely on the basis of not holding a valid visa.


Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans he has to meet Governor Ridge, the Head of Homeland Security, on his visit to the United Kingdom, and if he will make a statement. [80102]

Mr. Blunkett: I met Governor Ridge and his staff yesterday and will have further meetings with them today for a discussion of the current terrorist threat and the measures we are both taking in response. To assist Governor Ridge, I have prepared a briefing paper on the

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UK dimension, a copy of which is available in the Library and on the website

National Insurance Numbers

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he expects the Department of Work and Pensions to make progress in respect of delays in issuing national insurance numbers and consequent non-payment of housing benefit. [73689]

Malcolm Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

In April 2001, the Department introduced an Enhanced National Insurance Number Process to provide more secure procedures for the allocation of national insurance numbers (NINOs) to adults living in the UK. These tighter controls combined with an increasing number of applications have regrettably led to delays in allocating permanent NINOs. Jobcentre Plus is addressing this through a national recovery plan implemented in April this year. We expect the backlog of applications to be fully cleared by March 2003.

However, the payment of Housing Benefit is not dependent on a customer having a NINO, as long as sufficient information and evidence of identity is provided for a NINO to be traced or allocated. Once the local authority is satisfied that this has been provided, and that all other conditions of entitlement have been met, Housing Benefit should be paid.


Firefighters' Strike

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what preparations she has made to ensure the safety and continuity of service to the public in the event of a firefighters' strike; and what the cost is to the Department of these actions. [77663]

Mrs. Liddell: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my rt. hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions, on 28 October 2002, Official Report,columns 527W. The cost of providing emergency cover in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive and will depend on the extent and nature of any industrial action.

Skills Migration

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on the impact of regional gross domestic product disparity of skills migration. [79494]

Mrs. Liddell: The Government are working to increase wealth in all parts of the UK. Economic stability and sound public finances provide the foundation for rising prosperity.

The decision to migrate is affected by many factors that contribute to the quality of life.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many (a) parliamentary questions and

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(b) letters to her from hon. Members in this session remain unanswered, broken down by those which are (i) one month old, (ii) two months old, (iii) three months old, (iv) four months old and (v) over six months old. [79944]

Mrs. Liddell: No parliamentary questions or letters from hon. Members remain unanswered at the end of this session.

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