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10 Jan 2005 : Column 184W—continued

Weed Killers

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has conducted into the effects on (a) crops and (b) animals of using Roundup Biactive as a weed killer; and if she will make a statement. [206207]

Alun Michael: All pesticides, including Roundup Biactive, marketed in the United Kingdom must be approved before use. Approval is only granted provided comprehensive scientific data has been supplied and evaluated by the regulatory authority to ensure that there will be no adverse effects on crops or risks to non-target animals. These expert evaluations are scrutinised by the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides before approval is granted by Ministers.
 
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It is for companies to supply the necessary data to support approval. Government departments do not carry out separate investigations to evaluate applications. However, incidents involving the use of pesticides are investigated and if these investigations indicate a need to amend or revoke existing approvals then appropriate action will be taken.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether local authorities have banned the use of Roundup Biactive; and if she will make a statement. [206208]

Alun Michael: Defra is not aware of any action taken to ban the use of Roundup Biactive. This is an approved pesticide product and its use is legal provided the conditions of use described on the label are followed.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the complaints made by residents of St. Just in Cornwall about reactions to the use of Roundup Biactive; and if she will make a statement. [206209]

Alun Michael: Defra officials are not aware of any recent complaints made by St. Just residents. References have been found on non-governmental internet sites but these refer to complaints made in 1995. There is no indication that these complaints or any subsequent complaints were reported to enforcing agencies, or that they generated investigations at that time.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what monitoring she carries out on the use of pesticides as weed killers by (a) Government agencies and (b) local government; and if she will make a statement. [206210]

Alun Michael: The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for monitoring the use of pesticides at work. Local authority Environmental Health Officers are responsible for matters regarding the use of pesticides in home/garden situations.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her Department's guidance on the use of materials containing Glyphosate. [206211]

Alun Michael: All pesticides, including those containing Glyphosate, are subject to the approval process. Approved products will have specific conditions for their use which are to be reproduced on the product label. For those pesticides used in farming, there is additional general guidance on safe practices contained within the statutory Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings. Where pesticides are used in amenity areas general guidance is contained in the industry's voluntary Code of Practice for the Use of Approved Pesticides in Amenity and Industrial Areas.

Officials are currently working on a new statutory Code which will incorporate both of the above Codes. This is likely to be published in the summer of 2005.
 
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EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Accountancy

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the Association of Accounting Technicians' position within the sector body, the Accountancy Occupational Standards Group. [206268]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Association of Accounting Technicians is one of four bodies that sponsor the Accountancy Occupational Standards Group. The other three are: the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much additional work has been required of course providers offering the Modern Apprenticeship in Accountancy and Payroll through the Association of Accounting Technicians since the introduction of the Technical Certificate requirement. [206270]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council. Mark Haysom, the council's chief executive, will write to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the House Library.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much funding the Learning and Skills Council has given to centres providing Modern Apprenticeships in Accountancy and Payroll through the Association of Accounting Technicians; and how much centres received for this Modern Apprenticeships course in the year prior to it receiving proxy status for Technical Certificates. [206271]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council. Mark Haysom, the Council's Chief Executive, will write to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the House Library.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will request the Adult Learning Inspectorate to inspect NVQ and Modern Apprenticeships courses in accountancy and book-keeping. [206272]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Adult Learning Inspectorate (the ALI) inspects all providers delivering work-based and adult learning funded by the Learning and Skills Council, including NVQs and Modern Apprenticeships in accountancy and book-keeping. The ALI also carries out a programme of thematic surveys/studies in agreement with the Department. In June 2004, the ALI published the results of a thematic survey of the area of learning covering business administration, management and professional, which includes specialist provision in accounts.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will examine mechanisms to ensure fair and open competition in the qualifications market in the fields of accounting and related occupations. [206548]


 
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Mr. Ivan Lewis: The qualification market is an open market with employers and individuals free to choose whichever qualification best meets their needs.

Before approving any qualifications as eligible for public funding, the Department takes advice from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Only qualifications that have met the QCA's published accreditation criteria are approved.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many guided learning hours are required to complete the Association of Accounting Technicians Book-keeping Certificate programme; and what representations she has received from course providers on how many hours are being offered. [206549]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Association of Accounting Technicians Book-keeping Certificate Level 2 (100/3075/X) has 120 guided learning hours.

My right hon. Friend has had no representations from course providers on how many hours are being offered.

Adoption

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to assist potential parents in the process of adopting children; and if she will make a statement. [206052]

Margaret Hodge: As part of the Government's commitment to modernising the adoption service, a number of changes have been introduced to improve the service from the perspective of adoptive parents by making it fairer, more transparent and more consistent.

National adoption standards were issued in August 2001 to ensure that looked after children, birth families, prospective adopters and the general public understand what they can expect from the adoption service.

The Adoption Register for England and Wales, which has been fully operational in England since April 2002, has been established as a tool for helping to match children in need of adoption with approved adopters.

The Independent Review Mechanism came into operation on 30 April 2004 and gives a prospective adopter the right to apply to an independent body for a review of their case if his adoption agency does not propose to approve him as suitable to be an adoptive parent.

In line with commitments made during the passage of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, a new national framework for adoption support services was implemented in October 2003, to encourage more people to adopt looked after children by helping to ensure the support that adoptive families need is available.

As promised in the White Paper, "Adoption: a new approach", the Government undertook a fundamental review of the adopter assessment process and the operation of adoption panels. The review was informed by a Stakeholder Group of representatives from across the adoption field and the findings were the subject of a consultation document published on 8 October 2002. Based on the responses to the consultation, the debates when the 2002 Act was before Parliament and the responses to the more recent consultation on draft
 
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regulations and supporting guidance on the adopter assessment process and the operation of adoption panels, the Government intends to make important changes to the way that prospective adopters are assessed and approved when the 2002 Act is implemented in full. This will enshrine the Government's commitment to remove perceived blanket bans so that every application to be approved as an adoptive parent will be judged entirely on its merits. The process of assessment, preparation and approval will be clearly set out in regulations, statutory guidance and practice guidance to ensure greater consistency across England and improved transparency for prospective adopters about the process.

In addition, when the Adoption and Children Act 2002 is implemented in full next year, unmarried couples will, for the first time, be able to apply to adopt jointly.


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