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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Government encourage forces to share best practice in a number of ways, although operational decisions are the responsibility of the chief officer of police.
Through the Crime Reduction Programme, we are funding a variety of projects to evaluate the most effective approaches in different circumstances. The results will be made available to all forces and their crime and disorder partners to help them tackle their own crime problems. Under best value, police authorities are required to compare the way they carry out all their functions with other authorities and outside organisations as part of a continuous process of performance improvement. We have provided £1 million funding for the Beacon Scheme for police
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is pleased to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the appointment of Sir Alistair Graham as Chair of the Police Complaints Authority and that he has appointed Mrs Wendy Towers as a Member of the Authority.
Mrs Towers was previously a full time member of the Parole Board and had earlier followed a career in personnel management. She will take up her post on 7 February and her appointment is also for an initial three-year period.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Prison Service responds to recommendations for improvement made by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons in his inspections. In the last year, the Prison Service has enhanced its management of under-performing prisons. To strengthen this development, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is announcing today the establishment of a working group on Targeted Performance Improvement. Its terms of reference are to develop proposals for enhancing management arrangements to:
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The grant of British citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981 requires certain statutory requirements to be met and, in some cases, involves the exercise of discretion. Although some registration provisions statutorily exclude certain applicants on the basis of nationality (for example, British nationals alone have an entitlement to British citizenship if they meet certain residence requirements) an applicant's national origin is, for the most part, irrelevant when it comes to the exercise of discretion. Exceptions have been made in the past in relation to one or two groups of people in Hong Kong for reasons connected with the territory's special circumstances. Similar flexibility may be needed in the future.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): This Government consider that parents of children born before 15 December 1999 do not have directly effective rights under the EC Parental Leave Directive because the directive has been fully implemented.
The Government accept that directly effective rights can arise where a directive has not been implemented and where the rights which it provides are sufficiently clear, precise and unconditional. However, we do not believe that either of these conditions is satisfied in respect of this directive.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The size of the industry will depend on a number of economic factors, including the nature of the electricity generating market, the internationally traded price of coal and the ability of the industry itself to become more competitive.
DTI Ministers meet representatives of the coal mining industry on a regular basis. Most recently my right honourable friend the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe met representatives of the UK Coal Producers Association on 26 January to discuss the prospects for the industry. During the course of January my right honourable friend also met a number of representatives of the coal industry, mining unions and the coalfield communities. She and officials will stay closely in touch with the industry.
My right honourable friend the Minister for Trade met mining machinery representatives on 7 December to discuss the industry's future prospects. During 2000, DTI officials will continue to maintain regular contact with the sector and ensure that Ministers are kept informed of key issues. Ministers would also be willing to consider any specific requests for further discussions from the industry.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The proportion of imported gas used in power stations in the year 2010 will depend on a wide range of factors including the amount of gas used in power stations and the relative costs of developing new gas fields within the UK and abroad.
Analysis carried out for our October 1998 White Paper1 suggested the UK was likely to become a net importer of gas some time between 2003 and 2009, that import requirements would be modest initially, but that by 2020, the UK might need to import between 55 per cent and 90 per cent of its gas requirements.
The programme of electricity market reform announced in the White Paper is designed to remove distortions in the electricity market that encouraged excessive construction of new gas-fired power stations.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Department of Trade and Industry Ministers and officials became aware of problems at TransTec plc when suspension of its shares was announced on 24 December 1999.
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