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13 Jan 2003 : Column 433W—continued

Vocational Training

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what funding the Department of Employment and Learning is making available to

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vocational training for young adults with learning difficulties; which units are receiving this support; and how much they are receiving. [88922]

Jane Kennedy: Jobskills is the Department's primary vocational training programme, aimed mainly at 16 and 17 year old school leavers, but with provision for young people with a disability, including those with a learning difficulty, to enter the programme up to their 22nd birthday. The programme's Access strand offers bespoke training to entrants with learning difficulties, and provides enhanced duration and funding support and training periods of up to 156 weeks. Access trainees follow training toward approved qualifications up to and including National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 1.

The Department provides additional funding to further education colleges for students with learning difficulties through the Additional Support Fund and weightings in the FE Funding Formula. A breakdown of funding between those students on vocational or non-vocational courses is not available.

The Department's Disablement Advisory Service provides funding to organisations to provide vocational and pre-vocational training, as well as other services for people with learning disabilities of all ages. It is not possible to provide an accurate breakdown of how much will be provided towards vocational training specifically for young adults with learning difficulties. The estimated amounts to be paid to organisations providing vocational training, among other services, in the 2002–03 year are:

The Orchardville Society23,000
Parkanaur College250,000

Water Charges

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to introduce direct water charges in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [89442]

Angela Smith: The Secretary of State has asked me to respond to your question, as I have responsibility for water and sewerage services.

In his budget announcement on 11 December 2002, my colleague Ian Pearson MP stated our intention that Water Service become a self-financing organisation. In principle, this will involve the introduction of domestic water and sewerage charges for Northern Ireland households. Water Service's non-domestic customers already pay water charges.

I am committed to full and inclusive consultation on our proposals for the reform of water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland.

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Wet Weather Payments

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with DEFRA regarding applications to the EU for wet weather payments; and if he will make a statement. [88912]

Mr. Paul Murphy: DEFRA has been made fully aware of the difficulties experienced by the Northern Ireland agricultural industry as a result of the unprecedented wet weather during a large part of the 2002 growing season. It has indicated that it will facilitate any approach to the EU Commission seeking state aid approval for a possible financial assistance package, assuming that there is sufficient evidence to support such a case and that the necessary resources can be identified from within the Northern Ireland Block.


Flexible Working Hours

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to introduce a right to flexible working hours for employees with families; and if she will make a statement. [89809]

Alan Johnson: From 6 April 2003, parents with children under six, or disabled children under 18, will have the right to ask their employers for flexible working arrangements. Employers will have a statutory duty to consider these requests according to a set procedure. This includes confirming their decision in writing to the employee, and where the request cannot be accommodated, explaining the business reason and why it applies in the circumstances.

Guidance to assist employers and employees to use this right is available on the DTI website and will be expanded later this month: Individual advice will be provided by the Acas Helpline 08457 47 47 47, and DTI will be running an awareness raising campaign in the national press in the run up to 6 April.

The Government are committed to providing working parents with more choice and support to help them balance work and child care in a way that benefits employers, employees and their children. The new right is part of a package of measures, including improvements to maternity pay and leave, the introduction of two weeks' paid paternity leave, and the introduction of paid adoption leave roughly equivalent to maternity provisions. These are in addition to existing rights to parental leave and time off for dependents.


Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her Department is doing to support the Government's policy on accreditation. [88087]

Ms Hewitt: Accreditation, as a means of providing assurance of the competence of certification, inspection, testing and calibration services, is a voluntary activity which none the less makes an important contribution to the competitiveness of UK businesses. In order to ensure that accreditation is authoritative and operates in the public interest, my Department, on behalf

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of Government as a whole, has established a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) which places a number of duties and obligations on both parties and gives recognition to UKAS as the sole national body for the accreditation, against recognised standards, of certification and inspection bodies, testing and calibration laboratories. My Department is responsible for ensuring that the duties and obligations set down in the MoU are met by both parties. We are also supporting an accreditation awareness campaign, being run by UKAS, aimed at raising the awareness in business and Government of the benefits of using UKAS accredited services.

Animal Welfare

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if she will make a statement on plans to establish a primate breeding facility at the military research centre at Porton Down, indicating (a) what the maximum number of monkeys held will be, (b) from where the original monkeys will be obtained, (c) what species of monkey will be bred there and (d) for what purposes these monkeys will be used; [89080]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 8 January 2003]: The monkeys will be used to help scientists continue vital research into serious diseases and conditions including HIV, malaria, stroke, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease. They will not be used for chemical and biological defence testing.

The facility under construction at Porton Down is part of a continuing effort to improve further the care and welfare of laboratory animals across the academic sector. The project, a partnership involving the MRC, The Wellcome Trust, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, has been in the planning for almost three years.

The new facility will replace an existing UK academic breeding facility for Rhesus Macaque monkeys. The colony is being relocated because the new facility at Porton Down will offer state of the art accommodation, care, and welfare in a secure setting. The aims of the facility are broadly two-fold:

The facility is designed to house about 250 macaques. It is expected that this will be sufficient to supply approximately 100 animals for use in academic medical research each year. This does not represent an increase in the use of such monkeys in the UK university sector.

Primates from the new breeding centre will only be used in scientific procedures licensed by the Home Office under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This means that the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, and refinement) will be fully applied. Under the 1986

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Act no animals can be used in scientific procedures if alternatives are available, and primates can only be used if no other species are suitable and readily obtainable. The number used and the suffering experienced must be minimised.

The establishment of this new facility further promotes policy on the 3Rs in that:

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government is taking to encourage the World Trade Organisation to allow countries to impose restrictions on the import of products that compromise animal welfare. [89082]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 8 January 2003]: Because trade is a matter of Community competence, the UK has been working with other EU member states to progress this issue for a number of years. Animal welfare issues have been included in the EU's WTO negotiating priorities for some years. At Doha, the EU successfully negotiated the Doha mandate so that the issue of farm animal welfare would be taken into account as part of the current Agreement on Agriculture negotiations, which are due to be concluded by the end of 2004.

It remains extremely difficult to reach agreement on changes to WTO rules to allow countries explicitly to limit imports of goods based only on the way in which a product was made (under which would fall consideration of whether a production method took account of animal welfare standards). Many WTO member states are highly suspicious of the EU's motives and fear that animal welfare production standards will be used as a disguised form of protectionism. This is a concern for developing country governments in particular. This issue is not on the agenda for the current Doha trade round, but the EU continues to discuss this issue in all relevant WTO fora and is working hard to try to build trust and understanding for the EU's


The recent Commission Communication (COM(2002) 626 final) on Animal Welfare Legislation of 18 November offers a useful overview of the Commission's approach to improving animal welfare issues internationally, including through the WTO.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans the Government has to introduce a clearer labelling system to enable consumers to tell whether products have been tested on animals. [89083]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 8 January 2003]: I have no such plans. The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations already contain provisions

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allowing manufacturers who wish to label their products Xnot tested on animals" to do so. The recently agreed 7th Amendment to the Cosmetics Directive requires the European Commission to bring forward new guidelines on animal testing labelling to make it easier for manufacturers to make honest claims about animal testing.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of cosmetics sold in the UK were tested on animals, in the last year for which figures are available. [89085]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 8 January 2003]: This information is not held centrally.

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