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22 May 2008 : Column 421W—continued

to examine whether there are opportunities for reducing the burdens on firms. HM Treasury is currently reviewing the application of the threshold conditions to firms not covered by the directive.

Consumer sales directive

BERR has asked the Law Commission and Scottish Law Commission to review the current legislation, with a view to recommending simplification and rationalisation where possible to make the law easier for all users to understand and use.

Fisheries

The draft Marine Bill was published on 3 April 2008. Consultation on it and the impact assessment closes on 26 June 2008.

Waste and other regulatory regimes

DEFRA and CLG have consulted on improving the interface between the planning and environmental permitting systems. Consultants are now developing a protocol involving the main regulators to deliver a more effective interface when carrying out their respective roles.

Formal consultation on a revised suite of exemptions from environmental permitting is proposed for July 2008, to come into force in October 2009.

The Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007, which came into force on 6 April 2008, replace over 40 statutory instruments with a single set. This is expected
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to result in a reduction of administrative burden of £72.3 million over 10 years.

An informal consultation on a review of inert waste legislation covering the issues raised by the Davidson review closed on 21 March 2008. A summary of the responses and proposals for further action will be available by summer 2008.

Waste framework directive

The Commission guidance on by-products was published in February 2007. Due to the pace of negotiations on the proposed revisions to the EU waste framework directive, DEFRA has not yet published for consultation its draft updated guidance on waste, including the definition of waste, but intends to do so shortly.

Food hygiene training for food handlers

The Food Standards Agency has implemented this recommendation in full.

Road haulage operator licensing

The Department is currently taking part in negotiations on a proposed new EU regulation on access to the occupation of road transport operator—which would replace the existing EC directive that sets European rules on operator licensing. The financial standing requirements form part of those discussions.

For further details on all this, please see departmental simplification plans which can be found at:

Best practice recommendations

The Davidson review recommendations on how the Government could improve their approach to handling European legislation in general have mostly been incorporated into a revised version of The Transposition Guide—guidance for officials on negotiating and implementing EU law effectively—which was published in September 2007:

The Statute Law Database went live in December 2006. It contains secondary legislation made since 1 January 1991. There are no plans to consolidate the secondary legislation until the consolidation of primary legislation is complete.

Impact Assessments

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what requirements his Department places on (a) Ministerial departments and (b) the Office of Fair Trading to produce impact assessments as part of the consultation process on regulatory guidance; and if he will make a statement. [204192]

Mr. McFadden: Government's guidance on Impact Assessments and Consultation are both available online at the location provided. The Government are of the strong opinion that the Impact Assessment process strengthens policy-making, and as such is an integral part of the development of new policy.

The Office of Fair Trading, as an independent entity, may exercise its professional judgment on appropriate adaptations to central Government's Impact Assessment process, in accordance with the particular needs of its regulatory activity. However, OFT recognises the importance
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of maintaining the spirit of the Impact Assessment process in relation to its regulatory activity and apply it where possible.

Impact Assessments:

Consultation:

Internet: Halifax

Mrs. Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of households in Halifax with a broadband connection to the internet at the latest date for which figures are available. [206983]

Malcolm Wicks: Figures for Halifax specifically are not available but the Ofcom “Nations and Regions” report published in May 2007 provided figures for the Yorkshire and Humber region. The report showed 100 per cent. of premises in the region connected to DSL enabled exchanges as well as 42 per cent. of premises able to access broadband through cable technology. Take-up of broadband within the region was at 42 per cent. of all adults in 2006, up from 34 per cent. in 2005 and 57 per cent. of SMEs had broadband connections in 2006. In addition 87 per cent. of the region was covered by at least two mobile operators offering a 3G service, over which mobile broadband could be delivered.

Overseas Trade: USA

Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representations he has made to the United States administration on the enforcement of legal restrictions on the operation of UK businesses in the US. [206566]

Mr. Thomas: We intervene with the US authorities where and when appropriate, when we consider the commercial interests of UK business to be adversely affected by discriminatory US legislation. Most recently we intervened with the Office of the US Trade Representative in relation to the withdrawal of commitments relating to gambling under GATS Article XXI.

Post Offices

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions he has had with Post Office Ltd. about its trials of outreach branches. [204295]

Mr. McFadden: I regularly discuss a range of post office network issues with Post Office Ltd. including the outreach element of the network change programme. I have also had recent discussions with the company about their decision to extend trials of outreach service provision into urban communities.

Post Offices: Essex

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representations he has received on trials of post office outreach branches in Essex. [204724]


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Mr. McFadden: Post Office Ltd has confirmed that, under its network change programme covering East Essex and Suffolk, a number of post offices will be closed and replaced with an outreach service. The company will publish its network change proposals for the South Essex, South Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire area plan, covering Castle Point constituency, in June and it is likely that this will also include proposals for outreach services. Post Office Ltd recently announced that it had decided to extend trials of outreach service provision into urban communities.

Postal Services: Underground Railways

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment his Department has made of the merits of reopening the postal transport system under Central London for Royal Mail purposes. [203950]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 7 May 2008]: The Department has not made any assessment of the merits of reopening Mail Rail. Consideration of the use of Mail Rail is an operational matter for Royal Mail.

Regional Development Agencies: Non-Profit Making Associations

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what each regional development agency’s (a) budgets and (b) objectives are for support for social enterprise in the next three years. [203687]

Mr. McFadden: The RDAs’ proposals for support for social enterprise covering the next three years will be set out in their corporate plans which are currently being finalised and will be published later this year.

Students: Finance

Mr. Charles Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will request the Low Pay Commission to take into account the financial position of students in its report on potential changes to the minimum wage to support younger workers; and if he will make a statement. [203691]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 6 May 2008]: The Government set the Low Pay Commission remit earlier this year. They requested the Low Pay Commission to make recommendations on the national minimum wage, taking into account a wide range of factors, including the position for young workers.

Working Hours: Pregnancy

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the maximum number of hours is that an employer can require a pregnant employee to work; and if he will make a statement. [202520]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 29 April 2008]: The maximum number of hours a pregnant woman can be required to work is 48 hours per week, unless she (the pregnant employee) has signed a waiver.


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However, this may be reduced if the hours of work pose a risk to the expectant mother or her unborn child.

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety at work of all employees, including new and expectant mothers and mothers who are breastfeeding. As part of this duty employers are required to carry out a specific risk assessment paying particular attention to risks that could affect the health and safety of the new or expectant mother or her child.

Employers are obliged to do what is reasonably practicable to control risks such as making changes to the working conditions; hours of work or offer alternative suitable work. If none of these steps adequately reduces the risk the employee must be suspended from work on full pay to protect her and her unborn child.

Transport

A21: Sevenoaks

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the Highways Agency plans to resurface the Sevenoaks section of the A21 with low-noise surfacing. [207221]

Mr. Tom Harris: The agency used quieter surfacing during maintenance works in 2002 on the A21 section from Dibden Lane Overbridge to the A225/B245 interchange at Sevenoaks Weald and on the crawler lane, constructed in 2006, which runs just north of the lay-by near Morleys Lane Interchange to just north of the Gracious Lane Overbridge on the northbound carriageway.

The latest technical surveys for the A21 Sevenoaks Bypass show it is in good condition. Current policy following the 2004 spending review is that roads are only resurfaced when required for maintenance or safety reasons. The Highways Agency therefore has no plans to carry out further resurfacing works on the Sevenoaks section of the A21 with low noise surfacing within its current programme.

When the bypass does require resurfacing in the future, for safety and maintenance reasons, quieter surfacing will be used.

Air Routes: Heathrow Airport

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions she has held with the Civil Aviation Authority on routes for departures from Heathrow Airport. [206953]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Planning and regulation of all UK airspace is the responsibility of the independent aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority. The process for making changes to airspace is governed by the CAA's Airspace Change Process. Under this process it is for an airspace change sponsor to develop and consult upon proposals. It is then for the CAA to assess proposals against regulatory requirements and either approve or reject them.

In accordance with this process, on 21 February NATS launched a consultation on its proposals for changes to Terminal Control North airspace. These
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proposals include changes to departure routes from Heathrow Airport heading to the north and north east.

As part of the regulatory process the CAA might consider seeking the Secretary of State's views on environmental aspects of the proposals and may seek her approval for the change. It would therefore be premature and inappropriate for the Secretary of State, or any other member of this Department, to discuss the specifics of the proposal with the CAA, or any other party, whilst it is subject to the rigours of the independent Airspace Change process.

Airports: Public Safety Zones

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the public safety zones for each airfield in Hampshire were last reviewed. [207198]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Of the two airports in Hampshire where Public Safety Zones (PSZs) have been established, Southampton was reviewed in 1999 and Farnborough in 2004. DFT Circular 1/2002 states that risk contours around airports will be remodelled at intervals of about seven years. A phased review programme covering all established PSZs is due to commence later this year.

Biofuels

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consideration she has given to the merits of amending biofuel targets to base them on potential greenhouse gas savings. [206140]

Jim Fitzpatrick: On 21 June 2007 the Government stated that they aim from April 2010 to modify the renewable transport fuel obligation so that biofuels are differentiated according to their greenhouse gas savings. An informal policy paper examining some of the issues relating to this aim was published in October 2007 and is available at:

Subsequent to the June 2007 announcement, the European Commission published in January 2008 a draft renewable energy directive proposing that only biofuels that deliver a 35 per cent. minimum greenhouse gas saving would be eligible for certificates under such schemes as the UK's RTFO. A draft amendment to the fuel quality directive also proposes that transport fuel suppliers be required to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels, which could effectively incentivise those biofuels which deliver a high level of greenhouse gas savings. Negotiations are ongoing on the detail of both of these draft directives, and the Government will continue to discuss with the Commission and other member states how the stated aims to modify the RTFO in 2010 will fit with whatever requirements ultimately emerge from them.

Mr. Sharma: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the likely effect on global food prices of the EU’s goal to achieve 10 per cent. biofuels by 2020. [206658]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government take very seriously concerns over rising global food prices. A large number
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of factors, including biofuel demand, maybe contributing to the situation. That is why the Secretary of State for Transport has asked Professor Ed Gallagher, chair of the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA), to lead a review into the indirect effects of biofuels production. The review will closely examine the effects of UK and EU biofuel support policies on global commodity and food prices as well as environmental impacts, and the review will report at the end of June.

Further details are available on the RFA’s website at:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has also asked the World Bank to look into food markets and the impacts of subsidies in time for the next G7 meeting of world leaders in June.


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