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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 21 November 2002


Committee on Standards in Public Life

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am pleased to announce that the Eighth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, entitled XStandards of Conduct in the House of Commons", has been published today by the Committee. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Libraries.


Freedom of Information Act

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Yvette Cooper): My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has today announced that he has placed copies of the Codes of Practice under sections 45 and 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the Libraries of both Houses.



The Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Mr. Stephen Timms): The Department has concluded that there is not a strong enough case for changes to the current regulatory framework. Responses to the consultation highlighted the ultimate cost to the consumer of all of the options identified.

However, the Department will continue to work with operators and users to encourage the maintenance of adequate contingency plans against the possibility of any future operator failure.

Regional Development Agencies

The Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions (Alan Johnson): As part of a rolling programme of appointments, I have decided to appoint 23 new members to the Regional Development Agency boards outside London; the Mayor of London makes appointments to the LDA. The names of the new Board members are set out below.

Twenty-two of these appointments begin on 14 December 2002 and are for three years, expiring on 13 December 2005. To fill a current vacancy, Bryony Rudkin took up post on the EEDA Board on the 14 November. The rolling programme enables the boards to be refreshed and bring new talent and ideas to the boards on a regular basis. I have placed further details of the new appointees in the library of both Houses.

Decisions on appointments have been made following open competition and following consultation with key national and regional players.

NWDA Robert Johnston Maureen WilliamsSEEDA Sarah Hohler Terry Mills Poul Christensen Keith House John Peel
EMDA Neville Jackson Ross Willmott YF John Napier Julie Kenny
EEDA George Kieffer Stephen Castle Bryony Rudkin ONE NorthEast Christine Smith Keith Taylor Kevin Rowan Chey Garland
SW RDA Henry Studholme Judith Reynolds Professor Eric Thomas AWM Ahmed Hassam Richard Hyde

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Flexible Working

The Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions (Alan Johnson): I am today laying before Parliament an affirmative Statutory Instrument which details the procedure which the employer will have a statutory duty to follow when an eligible employee makes an application to work flexibly under the new right.

These new regulations provide the detail to the flexible working provision set out in broad terms in the Employment Act 2002, which received Royal Assent in July. They detail each stage of the procedure and how decisions on applications to work flexibly should be notified to the employee. They also provide an employee with a right to be accompanied at the meeting to discuss the application and, if necessary, at appeal. A companion may be any worker employed by the same employer. The regulations also specify the procedure for making a complaint to an employment tribunal when an employer fails to comply with the right to be accompanied and allows a tribunal to make an award of up to two weeks' pay. A week's pay will be subject to the cap provided under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

These regulations, subject to their approval by both Houses, will be followed by two negative Statutory Instruments. One will set out the details of the eligibility criteria, complaints and remedies. These specify that the maximum amount of compensation an employment tribunal may award for breaches of the procedure (other than failure to allow a companion) or where a decision by the employer to reject the application is based on incorrect facts, is eight week's pay. A week's pay will again be subject to the cap. The other negative Statutory Instrument will concern the extension of the ACAS arbitration scheme to cover the right to request.

The detail of this new right has been the subject of a three-month public consultation. The right will come into effect next April, at the same time as the Government extends maternity leave and pay and introduces paid paternity and adoption leave. Together these new rights will provide more choice and support

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for working parents to help them balance their work and family responsibilities, to the benefit of employers, employees and their children.

A Regulatory Impact Assessment will be placed in the libraries of both Houses today.


Arcade Gaming Machines

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): A Safe Bet for Success, which we published in March 2002, set out the Government's plans for the overall reform of the controls on gambling. We said that we would categorise gaming machines into four groups. Within these categories, Group D amusement machines would have maximum stakes and prizes of 10p and #5 and would be playable by children. Machines in groups A to C would have maximum stakes and prizes of more than 10p and #5, and would not be playable by children.

We have had representations from the gaming machines and arcades industry about machines with non-money prizes, often called 'crane' machines, which are extensively played by children, especially in arcades at the seaside. These currently operate on a maximum stake of 30p, and their operators have pointed out to us that they will not be commercially viable if their stake is reduced to 10p.

The Government believes that children and gambling should be kept apart and has taken careful note of the conclusions which the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport have reached on this issue.

But it is important not to endanger the traditions of family entertainment at the seaside, which people have enjoyed for generations.

We are determined as part of our ongoing reform of the controls on gambling to listen carefully to the business sectors involved, and we recognise that there is a case for allowing children's and family amusement machines which do not offer money or exchangeable token or ticket prizes to keep their current maximum stake of 30p.

We have therefore decided that the stake limit which we will propose to Parliament for Category D amusement machines will be 30p if the machine does not offer prizes in money or exchangeable tickets and tokens, and 10p in all other cases.

This will not affect the maximum prize limit which we wish to see for these machines, which will remain at #5. Nor will it affect the stake and prize limits for machines paying out exchangeable tickets and tokens, which will remain at 10p and #5 respectively.


Marking St. Andrew's Day Overseas

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): British Posts abroad are committed to promoting the interests of Scotland—as well as England, Wales and Northern Ireland—365 days a year. In addition, they are also actively involved in

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marking St Andrew's Day and the other Patron Saints' Days of the United Kingdom where English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish communities, both large and small, are represented in local populations.

St Andrew's Day events will take place across the world from major European and US cities, to further afield in, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South East Asia. Posts have been involved in many of these events, and senior representatives at Post will be attending events organised by the local community. Senior representatives at Posts and prominent members of the local Scottish Societies will deliver a joint message from my right hon. Friend Secretary of State for Scotland and the First Minister of Scotland.


Departmental Performance Report and Resource Accounts

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): Information about the Department's performance during the last financial year is contained in

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