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The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): The Government have always been clear that county councils and other authorities with strategic planning expertise would play a key part in preparing draft revisions of regional spatial strategies and in their implementation. Draft planning policy statement 11, which we published for consultation in October, sets out in some detail how the county councils and these other authorities can assist the regional planning body, including exercising functions on behalf of that body within a partnership arrangement.
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill already encourages regional planning bodies to enter into arrangements with county councils and these other authorities but it does not require them to do so. The Local Government Association, the County Councils Network and others have expressed concern that, without a guarantee of involvement for county councils on the face of the Bill, their role could be marginalised under the new arrangements.
I have discussed with the Association and the County Councils Network how we might secure in legislation our policy intention for the future role of county councils without creating unnecessary bureaucracy or providing opportunities for unreasonable delay or obstruction. I am pleased to announce to the House that, as a result of these discussions, we will be tabling an amendment to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill that is currently in the House of Lords. Whether or not the Bill is amended is ultimately a matter for that House to decide.
This amendment would require regional planning bodies to seek advice on the preparation, review and monitoring of the implementation of regional spatial strategies from county councils and other authorities with strategic planning expertise. They would in turn be under an obligation to provide advice, providing that their delivery of services was affected in some way. I
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would also amend our draft planning policy statement 11 on regional planning to explain in more detail how this would work in practice.
The amendment would also allow regional planning bodies to enter into arrangements with counties, other authorities with strategic planning expertise and district councils to carry out functions on behalf of the regional planning body.
I am delighted that, in the light of this proposal, the Local Government Association and the County Councils Network have agreed to give their full support to making the new regional planning arrangements a success. I look forward to our promoting together a system that I believe will deliver better strategic plans for our regions in the years ahead.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): "Creating sustainable communities: Making it Happen: Thames Gateway and the Growth Areas" published in July 2003 announced outline plans for a £164 million package for the three newer growth areas of Ashford, Milton Keynes-South Midlands, and London/Stansted/Cambridge. Commitments were made then to fund individual schemes to a total value of £88 million.
I am announcing today detailed allocations for a further £63 million from the £164 million package. This includes £11.5 million allocated to environmental projects in Ashford, Milton Keynes/South Midlands and London/Stansted/Cambridge to kick start the Government's long-term vision for green spaces. They will improve landscapes, country footpaths and valuable habitats in those areas. More than £50 million has been awarded to 18 other projects to provide key transport and economic infrastructure for three growth areas.
A £1.5 million kickstart to the new River Nene Regional Park in Northamptonshire.
Three new areas of woodland and a new cycle path through the Forest of Marston Vale, improving poor quality land and providing green buffers between the growing towns of Bedford and Milton Keynes.
Protecting and improving valuable habitats, including chalk downland at Dunstable Downs, and fenland at Wicken, north of Cambridge.
New footpaths and bridges to improve access to the Lee Valley Regional Park in north-east London.
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The sum of £2.8 million for schemes to support job creation and improve the urban environment in Corby, £1.7 million to improve the town centre in Aylesbury and £3 million to regenerate the historic Bletchley Park complex.
An additional £4.5 million to kick start the regeneration of Ashford town centre, on top of the £9 million announced in July, 2003.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved further licences to export Military List Goods to Iraq. The arms embargo against Iraq remains in place under United Nations Security Council resolution 1483 (2003), with the exception of
(ii) small arms ammunition which is to be provided to the Coalition Provisional Authority for use by the Ministry of the Interior in Iraq.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): Following consultations with this Department, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry issued a licence for the export to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) of bomb disposal suits and equipment. This equipment will be used by the Royal Nepalese Army, who are part of the Ituri Brigade of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).
UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1493 (2003), adopted on 28 July 2003, implemented an embargo on the provision of arms and any related material to all armed groups operating in the east of the country.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The Department of Trade and Industry is helping business and other stakeholders adapt to changes to employment law and practice. Beginning in 2004, the DTI will implement those changes, which arise from within the UK and on which the Department leads, on only two dates in each year. It will also say at the beginning of each year, through an annual statement of forthcoming employment regulations, what those changes are expected to be.
October 1when the minimum wage is revised
Section B details changes to employment law and practice that are due to commence on 1 October 2004
Section C details employment regulations arising from Europe where the coming into force date is different and not aligned to either common commencement date
Section D details other key activity by DTI that will impact on the employment law framework in 2004 and beyond.
These regulations will apply to the private recruitment industry and will largely update the existing requirements that govern their conduct. Regulations that are out of date and unnecessary are being repealed.
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6 April '04 Extension of Acas Arbitration Scheme to Scotland
ACAS presently provides an arbitration service to resolve complaints concerning unfair dismissal and flexible working, as an alternative to resolution at Employment Tribunal in England and Wales. This Order will provide arbitration for complaints arising in Scotland. It only impacts on those employers and employees in Scotland who are seeking to use arbitration to resolve a complaint.
The amendments introduce a system of fair piece rates for output workers (workers that are paid according to how many pieces they produce). Output workers will either have to be paid the minimum wage for all hours worked, or paid under a system called rated output work.
The Low Pay Commission has recommended that on 1 October 2004 the National Minimum Wage should rise to £4.85 per hour for adult workers and £4.10 per hour for those aged 1821. It is due to report on any fine-tuning of this recommendation in light of economic conditions in February 2004.
The Government have also asked the Commission to report by February 2004 on the possible introduction of a minimum wage for workers aged 16 and 17. It is possible that a new minimum wage rate may be introduced for this group in October 2004. The Government will not make any decision until the Commission has reported.
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1 October '04 Discipline and Grievance Code of practice
To take account of the new statutory procedures a revised version of the widely-used ACAS Code of Practice will take effect. The Code of Practice sets out practical advice and guidance for dealing with disciplinary and grievance matters in the workplace.
Amendment of existing EAT Rules arising out of the Employment Act 2002 relating to the handling of costs and expenses. The EAT President has also tabled proposals for changes to the appeal process. The changes will only impact on employers and employees who are resolving a dispute at the EAT.
The new regulations and rules of procedure will seek to modernise the tribunal system and render it more efficient. The regulations will cover both England and Wales, and Scotland and will impact on employees and their employers who are seeking to resolve a dispute at an employment tribunal.
Both applicants and respondents (typically employers) will be required to use new forms when dealing with an employment tribunal case. These new forms will require both parties to share more information earlier in the tribunal process. The changes will impact on employees and their employers who are seeking to resolve a dispute at an employment tribunal.
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1 October '04 TUPE Regulations
The revision of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 (TUPE) take on board amendments to the EC Acquired Rights Directive and will provide more clarity over whether or not the regulations apply to particular contracting-out or analogous situations. They will apply to all businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The commencement dates of regulations arising from Europe are not fully within the control of the DTI. Section C details employment regulations arising from Europe where it has not been possible to align the coming into force dates with either of the two common commencement dates.
The Regulation for the European Company Statute, which is entirely voluntary, takes direct effect in all Member States on 8 October. The Regulation is supplemented by a Directive covering the employee involvement arrangements that apply to a European Company. The regulations implementing the Statute will also implement the Directive. It is not possible to align the date with either common commencement date.
Section D highlights other key activity by DTI that will have an impact on the employment law framework in 2004 and beyond. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list. Detailed information on new and existing employment regulations and policies is available on the DTI website www.dti.gov.uk/er
Details of new employment policies and issues under consultation are available on the DTI website. The web page is updated regularly and contains an option to be notified by email whenever a news items is added.
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rights. It is too early to say with certainty when any employment regulations arising from the Bill will commence which will depend on when the Bill receives Royal Assent.
The law requires the upper limits of the various employment tribunal awards and payments to vary in line with the movement of the Retail Prices Index. These annual changes take effect on 1 February each year and impact on employees and their employers who seek to resolve a dispute at an employment tribunal.
The standard rates of SMP, SPP and SAP are to be increased to £102.80 per week (or 90 per cent. of the person's average weekly earnings if that is less than £102.80). The changes will be included in the Department for Work and Pensions annual uprating orderthe Social Security Benefits Uprating Order 2004. For 2004, the increased rates will apply from Sunday 4 April. This is because SMP payment weeks typically begin on a Sunday and follows the precedent for previous years.
Implementation of the Information and Consultation Directive, which gives employees in larger firms new rights to information and consultation about the business and the prospects for employment. The intention is to publish a revised version of regulations and draft guidance early in 2004, and to lay the final version of the regulations in Parliament when the Employment Relations Bill has received Royal Assent in 2004. The legislation will come into force in Spring 2005.
Implementation of the amended Equal Treatment Directive, which requires equal treatment for men and women. It strengthens the principle of equal treatment contained in the 1976 Equal Treatment Directive. It takes a similar line, where appropriate, to the
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Employment and Race Directives under Article 13. Further consultation will take place during 2004. Legislation will come into force no later than October 2005.
Implementation of the elements of the European Discrimination Directive which will outlaw discrimination in employment on the grounds of age. The aim is to make draft regulations by end 2004, after further consultation in the Spring. To allow businesses and employee representatives sufficient time to prepare for the changes, the regulations will not be brought into force until October 2006.
The harmonisation of the commencement dates of employment regulations stems from a recommendation in the Better Regulation Taskforce 2002 report "Employment Regulation: Striking a balance". The Taskforce reported that a common complaint by employers was that changes to employment policy seem to happen in an uncoordinated fashion. It proposed common commencement dates for employment policy.
6 April (the beginning of the tax year) and 1 October (when the minimum wage is revised) will become the two set commencement dates for domestic employment regulations for which the DTI is responsible.