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Lord Richard: The September 1997 Part-Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will be opened in Strasbourg on 22 September. The delegation from the United Kingdom for the session will consist of 23 members of the Labour Party, nine of the Conservative Party and four members from the minority parties. The delegation will serve in place of the current delegation from the opening of the September 1997 Part-Session.
The appointments of representatives and substitutes have been made on the basis of nominations by the parties concerned, in accordance with the resolution of the House of Commons on 22 May 1992, Official Report, column 682, and of this House on 18 June 1992, cols. 290 to 292.
The Hon. Member for Birmingham Hodge Hill (Mr. Davies), who will act as leader; the Hon. Members for Tooting (Mr. Cox), for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe), for Sunderland North (Mr. Etherington), for Newport West (Mr. Fynn), for Glasgow Maryhill (Maria Fyfe), for Hull North (Mr. McNamara), for Leicester South (Mr. Marshall), for Knowsley South (Mr. O'Hara), for Glasgow Baillieston (Mr. Wray), Lord Kirkhill and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Representatives from the Conservative Party will be:
From the Government Benches--the Hon. Members for Keighley (Ann Cryer), for Wolverhampton South West (Jenny Jones), for Bristol North West (Mr. Naysmith), for Dover (Mr. Prosser), for Stourbridge (Debra Shipley), for Basildon (Angela Smith), for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith), for Leicestershire North West (Mr. Taylor), for
Lord Simon of Highbury: The Minister attends meetings where they are relevant to his responsibilities and do not give rise to conflicts of interest. The Minister for Science, Energy and Industry is responsible for energy policy and the oil and gas industries.
Lord Simon of Highbury: My department is currently working with the Department for International Development and others to consider the ways in which UK trade and commercial policies can promote sustainable development. The Government's forthcoming White Paper on International Development will set out the detail of policies designed to achieve that objective.
Lord Simon of Highbury: The precise costs and benefits of the Parental Leave Directive will depend on how it is implemented in the United Kingdom. The timetable for implementation has not yet been finalised, but the Government intend to consult on the best way to implement the directive.
The Government are determined to promote a more ethical payment culture in the UK and that is why we have responded to the calls from small businesses and announced a new package of measures to tackle late payment, including the introduction of The Fair Payment of Commercial Debts Bill.
Lord Simon of Highbury: The Government are committed to changing the payment culture that exists in the UK. We will work closely with the European Commission and other member states to ensure that small businesses are paid promptly both in domestic and European markets.
I understand that, in order to improve its payment performance, the European Commission decided on 10 June 1997 to pay interest on all payments which are made after more than 60 days. This is in line with the recommendation on payment periods in commercial transactions issued by the European Commission to member states of 12 May 1995.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Yes. Section 10 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 allows expanding ammunition to be held on a specially conditioned firearm certificate or visitor's firearm permit for use in connection with shooting of deer or vermin; other wildlife in connection with estate management; the humane killing of animals; or the shooting of animals for the protection of other animals or humans. It also provides an exemption for registered firearms dealers who possess expanding ammunition in the ordinary course of their business.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I announced on 15 May that in future all parliamentary Questions about the Prison Service in England and Wales will be answered by a Home Office Minister and not by the Director General or another senior Prison Service official. I made clear that this will enable Ministers to answer personally to Parliament for what is done in our prisons rather than leave it to their civil servants.
The Government have made clear that we have no plans to end the Prison Service's status as an executive agency. It has been the practice, since the service became an agency in April 1993, for the Director General to deal with correspondence from Peers and honourable Members on matters which fall within his delegated responsibilities. Peers and honourable Members have been encouraged to write directly to the Director General on such matters, or where they see fit, to governors of individual establishments. In this way day-to-day management matters, often concerning the case of an individual constituent, can be dealt with more efficiently and expeditiously.
If Peers write to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and my honourable friend the Minister of State (Ms Quin), or myself about day-to-day prison management issues, we will normally ask the Director General to reply in the first instance. However, if Peers are not content with the reply received from the Director General, they should take the matter up with Ministers in writing or by way of a parliamentary Question.
Correspondence about the way in which Ministers exercise their responsibility for the Prison Service, including the strategic direction of the service and overall issues of policy and resources, should continue to be addressed to Ministers, as should correspondence about decisions relating to the release of prisoners on parole or life licence.
These arrangements are intended to clarify lines of accountability and to ensure that Peers receive replies as quickly as possible. We are most happy to deal with any concerns that Peers may have about these arrangements.
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