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Small Firms: Investors in People Scheme

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: Government departments have no one definition of a small firm. The national target for education and training for Investors in People already covers organisations with 50-199 employees, and 8,706 organisations in this group are committed to, or recognised against, the Investors in People Standard.

DTI figures estimate that there are around 1.2 million enterprises with fewer than 50 employees in the UK,

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excluding sole proprietors. The number of organisations with fewer than 50 employees engaged with the Investors in People Standard is 13,096. My department is working with TECs and Investors in People UK to develop innovative approaches aimed at smaller firms. Until that work is completed no estimate can be made of potential penetration over the next three years.

Asylum Seekers: Food Voucher Proposal

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the decision by Mr. Justice Carnwath in Regina v. Newham London Borough Council ex parte Gorenkin (13 May 1997), they will introduce a measure to amend Section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948 to empower local authorities to provide food vouchers to asylum seekers in need of care and attention where residential care has not been provided by the local authority.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948 is about the provision of residential accommodation for those who need care and attention and who need to be looked after in that accommodation. We do not intend to introduce legislation to empower local authorities to provide for people for whom they have not arranged accommodation.

Nurse Prescribing

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their timetable for the introduction of nurse prescribing on a national basis; and

    Whether they have estimated the additional costs of a national scheme for nurse prescribing, and, if so, what are those costs; and

    Whether they have made provision in their 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000 expenditure plans to allow for nurse prescribing on a national basis.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Decisions on the introduction of nurse prescribing will be made in the light of our findings from the extended pilot which commenced in April 1997.

Parental Leave

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, when implementing the Parental Leave Directive, they intend to make provision for paid parental leave.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Government have no plans to introduce a statutory right to paid

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parental leave. We believe that the right to limited unpaid parental leave, as provided by the Parental Leave Directive, is a fair minimum standard which will help parents to reconcile their working and family lives without placing excessive burdens on employers.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will extend to men protection against dismissal for taking time off work to care for a sick child.

Lord Simon of Highbury: The EU Parental Leave Directive, which the Government is pledged to implement, states that workers shall be entitled to "time off from work.....for urgent family reasons in cases of sickness".

EU Wildlife Trade Regulation: Licence Charges

Lord Winston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to introduce charges for licences issued under the new EU Wildlife Trade Regulation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Government have decided that it would be appropriate for businesses and individuals importing or exporting specimens of wildlife species covered by the new EU Wildlife Trade Regulation to make a contribution to the costs of the licensing service operated by the Government. To provide for this, we have laid before Parliament Statutory Instrument No. 1421. This instrument, which will come into effect on 1 July 1997, will require applicants for import or export licences to pay a fee.

In response to concerns expressed by wildlife traders, the scheme has been modified to ensure that businesses and individuals are not adversely affected by the introduction of fees. Applicants will have to pay only a proportion of the actual costs of processing licence applications. The basic fee will be £10.00 per species for animals, and £7.00 per genus for plants and corals, with a discount for larger consignments. Tourists bringing home holiday souvenirs made from controlled species will pay a fee of £5.00.

The new EU Regulation will prohibit the sale and purchase of certain species unless a specific exemption has been granted. We have no plans at present to introduce fees for such exemptions.

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The Government will have discretion to waive fees in non-commercial cases which will have benefits for the conservation of the species concerned.

Buses: EU Directive Proposal

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What European legislation or proposals for legislation affect (a) British double decker buses and (b) the British midi-bus.

Baroness Hayman: We are expecting shortly a proposal for a directive on the construction standards for buses and coaches which could have implications for future bus designs.

Japanese Knotweed

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the occurrence and rate of spread of fallopia japonica (Japanese Knotweed) in the UK: what plans they have for combating this spread; and what action is currently in hand to bring these plans to fruition.

Baroness Hayman: Japanese Knotweed is thought to be widespread in the UK. However, there is no centralised up to date information on the current distribution and rate of spread of this species.

It is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is covered by Section 14. This makes it an offence for private landowners and local authorities to plant, or otherwise cause to grow Japanese Knotweed in the wild. We have no additional plans to combat this species.

"Marchioness" Sinking: Public Inquiry Proposal

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will confirm the undertaking given by the present Deputy Prime Minister in a letter to The Times of 12 August 1991 and in a Labour Party press release dated 15 August 1991 that "the next Labour Government will grant a public inquiry immediately" into the "Marchioness" and "Bowbelle" disaster; and, if so, whether legal aid will be made available for this purpose for the families involved.

Baroness Hayman: The Government are considering the case for a public inquiry into the disaster, and will make an announcement as soon as a decision is reached.

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