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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 8 November 2004


Education, Research and Technology Transfer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson): On 31 March 2003 I announced the Government's final decisions in response to the O'Hare report on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's arrangements for the provision of agri-food education and research and development (R&D) in Northern Ireland.

I am today announcing my intention to set up an advisory non-departmental public body to provide independent advice on education, R&D and technology transfer in response to one of the O'Hare report recommendations. The body will be called the DARD research and education advisory panel.

The body will comprise a chairperson and eleven members, five with scientific or education expertise, one with economics expertise and five with knowledge and experience of one or more of the four themes underpinning the DARD business strategy 2004–05: namely competitiveness of the agri-food sector, animal, fish and plant health, environmentally sustainable activity and development of the rural economy and society.

Members will be appointed by an open and transparent process, following the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice. It is intended that these positions will be advertised in a range of local and national publications during the week commencing 8 November 2004. Details of the appointments will also be placed on the DARD website, http://www.dardni.gov.uk/ and the public appointments unit website http://www.publicappointments.gov.uk/.

It is anticipated that the body will meet four times per year and will consider such strategic issues as:

It will play a key role in the development of the Department's forthcoming strategies for agri-food education, R&D and technology transfer in Northern Ireland and, in doing so, will be required to consult industry and other stakeholders.
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The body will perform a purely advisory role. It will not have a budget nor employ any staff. A review of the body will be carried out before the end of its first four years of existence.

I am confident that this new body offers the best option for the provision of consistent, high quality and independent advice to the Department about the future provision of agri-food education and research.

Further Information

The O'Hare review was conducted by an independent panel, consisting of three ministerial appointees. The panel's report was completed in April 2002. Public consultation on the Government's response to the O'Hare report took place between 25 November 2002 and 28 February 2003.

The O'Hare report made a total of seven recommendations for the future provision of undergraduate and postgraduate education and R&D in agriculture and food science in Northern Ireland. One of these, in relation to a new central decision making process, recommended the setting up of an independent expert advisory committee consisting of an independent chairman and approximately 10 members to provide advice on education, R&D and technology transfer. The report also suggested that the committee would receive representations from consumers and from industry, education, R&D and other stakeholders including through ad-hoc working groups. The Government accepted this recommendation.

Work is continuing within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to implement the remaining measures arising from the Government's final response to the O'Hare report announced by Ian Pearson on 31 March 2003.

Education and Library Boards

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Barry Gardiner): The statements and summary of the 2000–01 education and library boards' accounts were deposited in the Libraries of both Houses today.

Weights and Measures Triennial Report

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Barry Gardiner): Today I have deposited a copy of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's Weights and Measures Triennial Report for the period from 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2002 in the Libraries of both Houses. The report gives an overview of the Department's proceedings under the Weights and Measures (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 and generally about the operation of the order. It also includes details of the provisions enacted by the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2000.


Surveillance Commissioners

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am pleased to announce that I have approved the re-appointment of the right hon. Lord Sutherland, the right hon.
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Sir Michael Hutchison and Sir Charles McCullough as surveillance commissioners under the terms of section 91 of the Police Act 1997.

Their re-appointments start on 1 November 2004 and are until 31 October 2007.


Regional Development Agencies

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Jacqui Smith): I would like to inform Members of the House that, as part of a rolling programme of appointments, I have decided to appoint two new board members to the South West of England Regional Development Agency. The new appointees will take up their positions on 14 December 2004 and their names are set out below.

The new board members will replace members whose terms of office end in December this year, and they will bring experiences from business and local authorities.

I have also agreed to extend the appointment of Nigel Costley by one year, so that his appointment is due to end on 13 December 2005.

Decisions on the appointments have been made following open competition in accordance with the guidelines set down in the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice, and following consultation with key national and regional players.

SWRDA (New Members)

Christine Channon

Alan Courts

SWRDA (one-year extension to appointment)

Nigel Costley

UK Company Participation

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Douglas Alexander): Details of UK Trade and Investment's £16 million programme of support for UK company
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participation in supported groups at overseas exhibitions, seminars and sector focused outward missions will be placed in the Library of the House. Accredited trade organisations that bid for support to arrange groups are being informed.

These overseas exhibitions, seminars and sector focused outward missions continue to be an important component of trade development work worldwide. UK Trade and Investment recognises that accredited trade organisations need the flexibility to react to changing international events and opportunities. The operation of the programme during the 2005–06 financial year will continue to provide this flexibility, within the constraints imposed by the overall budget provision, and the need for prudent budget management and efficient administration.



The Minister for Pensions (Malcolm Wicks): We are aware that trustees of schemes whose sponsoring employers are currently in financial difficulty are uncertain as to whether they would be able to be considered for PPF compensation once the PPF is launched next year.

The Government are now able to state that eligible schemes, whose sponsoring employer has already entered insolvency proceedings may still be able to receive PPF compensation. The scheme will still have to satisfy other PPF eligibility criteria—in particular, the sponsoring employer will need to have an insolvency event after the introduction of the PPF and the pension scheme must not have commenced wind up prior to that date.

The Pensions Bill provides a power that could be used to exclude schemes that have an insolvency event before the PPF is launched. We wish to make it clear that we have no plans to use this power.