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13 Jan 2004 : Column 631W—continued


Pre-legislative Scrutiny

39. Mr. Allen: To ask the Leader of the House what recent discussions he has had with Government Departments and Select Committee Chairmen on the programme for pre-legislative scrutiny; and if he will make a statement. [147115]

Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend has regular meetings with Ministerial colleagues to discuss the legislative programme, including the programme for pre-legislative scrutiny. He met the Liaison Committee to discuss pre-legislative scrutiny, among other matters, on 11 November; and he wrote to all Committee Chairmen with a provisional list of draft bills for the current session shortly after the Queen's Speech.

Sitting Hours

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Leader of the House what plans he has to record representations he receives for and against the (a) present sitting hours of the House and (b) September sitting of the House. [146837]

Mr. Hain: To record the many informal representations I receive would be impractical, especially as many do not fall into a clear "for" or "against" category. However, as I announced to the House last week, the Modernisation Committee is to survey Members' views as part of a formal review of the sitting hours change.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Leader of the House what plans he has to review the sitting hours of the House. [147110]

Mr. Hain: As I announced to the House last Thursday, the Modernisation Committee intends to review the sitting hours. I am keen that the Committee should explore a range of options with a view to establishing a new and durable consensus.

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Leader of the House what assessment he has made of the impact of the new sitting hours of the House on the times of committee meetings. [147114]

Mr. Hain: I am aware that some Members have found the time of Standing Committees irksome and am willing to consider this further. I have also discussed with the Liaison Committee the impact of the sitting hours on Select Committee meetings.

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Financial Advisers

Norman Lamb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment he has made of the current qualification levels for financial advisers; and what assessment he has made of whether these are of a high enough standard to protect the public; [147637]

Ruth Kelly: Consumer protection should take account of the requirement that those working in the financial services industry are capable of properly performing the work they undertake at all levels, and that consumers should thereby have confidence in the competence of financial advisers.

The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 charges the Financial Services Authority (FSA) with securing the appropriate degree of protection for consumers. Vetting by the FSA aims to allow only those firms and individuals satisfying the necessary criteria (including competence) to engage in regulated activity.

The FSA sets training and competence policy, including minimum standards for regulated firms and examination standards. The purpose of the FSA is to set the standards of training and competence that firms should reach.

The FSA works closely with both the industry and consumers, and keeps training and competence requirements under review. It carried out a significant review of the qualification regime for financial services in November 2002. In particular the FSA proposed in Consultation Paper 194 (CP194) that the training arrangements should be simplified and competence assessed by using examinations that are 'appropriate' rather than a published list of FSA 'approved' examinations. This proposal gives firms greater flexibility, because they will be able to choose an examination that is appropriate in their circumstances.

The FSA liaises closely with the Skills Council for Financial Services to ensure that consumer protection is at the forefront of training and competence policy. The Skills Council for Financial Services has responsibility to develop world class occupational standards in the financial services sector and to ensure that all sector specific qualifications are based on them.

Financial Services

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on developments in financial services. [148151]

Ruth Kelly: I am replying as the Minister responsible for financial services.

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Under the terms of the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding between the Treasury, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Bank of England (dated 28 October 1997), the FSA have kept me informed of developments at Standard Life, which have led to this morning's statement by the FSA.

The FSA have responsibility for regulatory decisions under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), including the setting up of a review under Section 166. They have informed the Treasury of their decision to commission a review by independent experts into the origins and implications of the significant divergence in the calculation of Standard Life's liabilities.

I will continue to keep the House informed of developments.

Red Diesel

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the estimated loss to his Department was from the fraudulent manufacture and use of red diesel in each of the last five years for which there are records. [145485]

John Healey: HM Customs and Excise's latest estimates of the overall revenue loss from all forms of diesel fraud in Great Britain and the overall revenue loss from all forms of diesel fraud and legitimate cross-border shopping of diesel in Northern Ireland in 2000, 2001 and 2002 are set out in their Annual Report (HC 52) published in December 2003.

The following table sets out Customs' latest estimates of the revenue loss in 1998 and 1999:

£ million

Great Britain(diesel fraud)Northern Ireland (diesel fraud and legitimate cross border shopping of diesel)

Customs believe the great majority of diesel fraud on the British mainland, and a significant loss in Northern Ireland, involve the misuse of rebated or low-tax fuels supplied for non-road use, but a specific estimate of loss from red diesel alone is not available.

VAT (Motorcycle Helmets)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when, and on what basis, motorcycle helmets were made subject to VAT. [147107]

John Healey: Motorcycle helmets which meet the necessary approved standards have been VAT zero-rated since 1 June 1974. The Government have made clear in negotiations on the European Commission's review of reduced VAT rates that we will not agree to the removal of any of our zero or reduced VAT rate derogations.

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Dee Cockle Regulation Order

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects the Dee Cockle Regulation Order to be implemented. [144779]

Mr. Touhig: Responsibility for managing the Dee Estuary rests with the Environment Agency in its role as a Sea Fisheries Committee. As the Dee Estuary straddles the Wales/England border, Defra and the Welsh Assembly will act jointly to make a single Regulating Order under the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967, once the Environment Agency Wales, is in a position to submit a formal application for the Order. The Agency is in the process of obtaining written consents from landowners and it will forward an application when these are received.

Both the Welsh Assembly and Defra will ensure that the application is processed as quickly as possible under the terms of the 1967 Act, but the process can take up to two years.

Fair Trade Products

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether it is the policy of his Department to use fair trade products, as a matter of course, in (a) sales on departmental premises and (b) receptions and meetings involving staff and visitors. [142809]

Mr. Hain: My office does not have a refreshment facility in which it could stock and sell fair trade products.

While there is currently no Government-wide approach to the procurement of fair trade products, we will endeavour to use them for official entertaining, subject to this being value for money.


Children's Green Paper

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what arrangements are already in existence to register children on a national register. [145656]

Margaret Hodge: There are no arrangements in existence to register children on a national register. There are no plans for children to be included on a national register.

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