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Aquaculture Research

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the research projects supported by his Department over the last 10 years into aquaculture research, including the sums spent on each project. [157755]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I am not aware of any, although the research councils, funded by the Department, may be supporting a number of potentially relevant projects, including contributions to the LINK Aquaculture programme. I would be happy to provide further details.

Digital TV (Dorset)

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action his Department is taking to enable television viewers in the Verwood area of Dorset to obtain access to the full range of digital terrestrial television. [158472]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 23 April 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting on 23 April 2001, Official Report, columns 16-17W.

25 Apr 2001 : Column: 280W

Universal Bank

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in discussions on establishing a universal bank at the Post Office; and if he will make a statement. [158770]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Discussions with the banks are at an advanced stage. I hope that they will be concluded shortly.

Parental Leave

Laura Moffatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on his plans in respect of parents' rights to take parental leave. [159150]

Mr. Byers: The Government are committed to helping parents to achieve a better balance between their home and work lives, in ways which enhance competitiveness for business. That is why we published the Green Paper "Work and Parents: Competitiveness and Choice", and have carried out extensive consultation with employers and their representatives, employees and their representatives, and family groups.

25 Apr 2001 : Column: 281W

As part of these consultations we have, among other points, received representations on the existing right to parental leave. In the light of these responses I am today announcing three important decisions.

First, we will increase from 13 to 18 weeks the amount of parental leave available to parents of disabled children. An increase on these lines was almost universally positively received by both parents and employers.

Secondly, parental leave will remain unpaid. Parents gave more priority to other options in the Green Paper, and while paid parental leave was supported by some employee representatives and family groups, employers of all sizes maintained a high level of opposition to its introduction on grounds of cost and the impact of absence levels from the workplace. The cost of paying for parental leave would be excessive for both the state and employers.

Thirdly, we will extend entitlement to parental leave to parents of all children who were under five as at 15 December 1999, when the right was first introduced. Experience since then suggests that parental leave has created fewer practical problems for business than may first have been anticipated, and the time is now right to increase the number of parents who are able to exercise the right. Transitional arrangements will apply for parents of children who have since reached, or will soon reach, the age of five, to ensure that they are not disadvantaged.

A note on the regulatory costs of these measures has been put in the Library of the House. We will publish the necessary draft statutory instrument before the summer.

We will announce the further decisions taken as a result of the Green Paper as they are reached.

Employee Consultation

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who is conducting the review of UK law on employee consultation; and when the review will be completed. [158814]

Mr. Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced on 18 January 2001 that he would review UK arrangements affecting collective redundancies, and that the review would consider whether the current laws were working and in particular whether more should be done to promote effective consultation with employees. As part of the review, the Department of Trade and Industry is holding discussions with companies and trades unions and other interested parties with experience in this field. These are continuing. The review will be completed as soon as possible.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Mr. Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. [159243]

Mr. Straw: The Government are already committed to reviewing the rehabilitation periods in the Act, following a recommendation from the better regulation task force in their review of fit person criteria in 1999. The sentencing

25 Apr 2001 : Column: 282W

framework and its application has changed considerably since 1974 and may change further in the light of current reviews. We believe that the time is right for a fundamental review of the Act as a whole, rather than looking at just a part of it. We are working on preparations for such a review, and will give further details in due course.

Boards of Visitors

Mr. Pond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the review of the boards of visitors. [159244]

Mr. Boateng: I am pleased to announce that the right hon. Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd) presented his report to me on 30 March and I have arranged for a copy to be placed in the Library. I am very grateful to him for the great care and trouble that he and his working party have given to this review of the boards of visitors and the complex issues that arose from it.

Schengen Agreement

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Joint Schengen Authority information web page will be fully operational. [158758]

Mrs. Roche: I understand that the Joint Supervisory Authority, the independent body which oversees the operation of the Schengen Information System, presently maintains a web page providing information about its activities to members of the public.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on his policy towards retaining Schengen Information System material on domestic files after completion of the spot check; [158756]

Mrs. Roche: We have established a programme to take forward the introduction of the Schengen Information System to the United Kingdom. These are both matters I would expect to see the programme address in due course.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on UK participation in Schengen Information System inspections; and what assessment he has made of the report of 9 September 1999. [158759]

Mrs. Roche: It is the Department's policy to be fully involved with the Schengen evaluation process, including consideration of any reports that emerge from such evaluations. If the hon. Member will give me further details of the document in question, I will explore the matter further.

Malcolm Reddican

Ms Blears: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what inquiries he has made of Greater Manchester police with regard to the disclosure of information relating to the death of Malcolm Reddican. [157963]

25 Apr 2001 : Column: 283W

Mr. Charles Clarke: The disclosure of information relating to the death of Malcolm Reddican is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service and Greater Manchester police.

Crowd Control Technologies

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 2 April 2001, Official Report, column 68W, on what date he received the Crowd Control Technologies report published by the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment Panel of the European Parliament Directorate General for Research; and what measures he has taken to implement the recommendation that an independent and objective social impact study be (a) commissioned and (b) published prior to authorisation of purchase orders for new crowd control technology. [158036]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Officials have seen a copy of the report in question, which is not an official report of the European Parliament, and its conclusions have been noted.

The main direction for my Department's future work on baton round systems comes from the Patten Commission report on the future of the police in Northern Ireland. In line with the commission report, full account will be taken of public acceptability and all other relevant issues in our continuing efforts to identify alternatives to the baton round.

Prison Inspections

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which of the prisons and penal institutions where conditions have been severely criticised by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (a) he and (b) other Home Office ministers, have visited; and if he will ensure that a minister makes an unannounced visit to every such institution within a year of an adverse report by the Chief Inspector. [158376]

Mr. Boateng: Ministers undertake a rolling programme of visits to ensure that the full range of types and categories of prison are visited. Additionally, visits, both announced and unannounced, are arranged in response to issues or concerns raised for various reasons, including adverse comments from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.


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