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Parliament: Visitor Statistics

Lord Palmer asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): In the year to 23 July 1997:

(a) 45,256 visitors were admitted to the public galleries of the House of Lords and 128,506 visitors were admitted to the public galleries of the House of Commons; and

(b) 117,231 visitors were admitted to the line of route.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Research Grants

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What funds have been granted to the Institute of Psychiatry for research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and allied syndromes by the Medical Research Council since 1987.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Since 1987, the Medical Research Council have awarded one grant to the Institute of Psychiatry for work involving Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Professor A. H. Mann at the Institute was awarded a grant worth £94,610 for a study entitled An epidemiological approach to the study of Chronic Fatigue in primary care settings. This finished in 1993.

Scottish Devolution and the Union Flag

The Earl of Munster asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that any changes will be necessary to the design of the Union Flag after Scottish devolution.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): No changes would be necessary because Scotland would still be part of the United Kingdom.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Complaints Report

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received the annual report for 1996 of the Complaints Audit Committee of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: A copy of the report, publication of which was delayed by the election, has been placed in the Library. It is a wide-ranging and informative document and we are grateful to the committee for its comments and recommendations. These are already receiving careful consideration.

Firearms Consultative Committee:Annual Report

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will lay before Parliament the eighth annual report of the Firearms Consultative Committee.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have placed a copy of the annual report of the Firearms Consultative Committee in the Library today.

Probation Officers: Training and Qualification

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the future qualification and training arrangements for new probation officers.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We hope to proceed quickly to develop a Diploma in Probation Studies, located in higher education and combined with a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), which will become the qualification for new probation officers. We intend that the new arrangements should be employment led and delivered by a consortia of probation services which will manage the recruitment and selection of trainee probation officers.

The combined diploma and NVQ will offer a mixture of academic teaching and work-based supervised practice, all based on the occupational standards that will be developed for probation officers. The new qualification should be delivered through flexible teaching methods which take account of trainees' previous work, academic qualifications and experience so that a wide range of recruits can be attracted to the probation service.

We have decided that training for new probation officers should no longer be linked to social work education. We will be supporting the development of a new and separate Diploma in Probation Studies, which will equip the probation officers of the future to play their full part in this Government's plans for an integrated approach to working with offenders. It will focus on probation's top priority role of protecting the public and reducing crime through effective work with offenders. There will, therefore, be no further funding or support from the Home Office for the Diploma in Social Work.

These arrangements will be developed in partnership with probation service organisations and higher education institutions to provide high quality training for high quality recruits.

Ashford Great Park Development:Church Commissioners' Report

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received the Reports from the Audit Committee of the Church Commissioners about the Commissioners' involvement in the Ashford Great Park development project.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have received these reports and have placed copies of them in the Library.

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Forensic Science Service: Annual Report and Accounts

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will lay before Parliament the annual report and accounts for the Forensic Science Service.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have today laid before Parliament copies of the Forensic Science Service annual report and accounts for 1996-97.

Fire Safety Regulations

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will comment on the implementation of the general fire safety aspects of the European Community Framework and Workplace Directives.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: After consulting my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, my honourable friend the Minister of State (Mr. Howarth) announced on 16 July that we proposed to implement the outstanding fire safety elements of the European Community Framework and Workplace Directives. Today, my honourable friend has signed and laid before Parliament the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997, made under the European Communities Act 1972, to apply throughout Great Britain. A Compliance Cost Assessment is attached to the regulations showing that the estimated costs to employers attributable to these regulations will be less than £30 million. He has placed copies of these documents in the Library. To assist employers, there will be a package of user-friendly guidance comprising a handy free card summarising the regulations and employers' rights and a short booklet, both of which will be widely available.

The regulations take into account the views expressed in the many responses received during the consultation exercise carried out last year and the representations received since then from business interests and the fire service. We are grateful to business and fire service representatives for the assistance they have given to our officials during the drafting of the regulations and supporting guidance.

Where appropriate, the regulations have been drafted using copy-out language. This ensures that there is full compliance with the directives but that no unnecessary costs are imposed on business.

The regulations put the primary responsibility for fire safety in the workplace upon employers. It is for them to determine and provide the measures they believe to be necessary to meet the risk from fire identified in their premises. In this way, what is provided will be appropriate to the risks, and tailored to the specific circumstances of the workplace. The regulations incorporate a new approach to fire safety enforcement. Most significant breaches of the regulations can be dealt with by civil sanctions, with the onus of proof on the

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fire authority rather than the employer. However, to emphasise the importance of fire safety, criminal sanctions will remain for serious risks.

The regulations include some of the user-friendly enforcement safeguards of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. They will be enforced by the fire authority, which will use the employer's own assessment of the risk from fire as a starting point. The fire service has an important role to play. It will offer employers advice and assistance in meeting their obligations and avoiding over provision.

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The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations will come into effect in England, Scotland and Wales on 1 December 1997 and will make explicit what is already implicit in United Kingdom law. In light of the existing general duties of care which employers owe to their staff, businesses should, for the most part, already have in place what these regulations require of them. As standards of fire safety in the workplace are already generally high in Great Britain, most businesses will have little to do, and this is reflected in the total estimated compliance costs of less than £30 million. These are significantly lower than the previous estimates of costs of more than £1.7 billion which were associated with earlier drafts of the regulations.



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