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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Developing a new strategic vision for the English regions will be the first and most important task for the RDAs. We are issuing statutory guidance to advise them on what Government expect of their strategies. The guidance has been prepared in consultation with all relevant government departments, in particular the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education and Employment. Its publication follows a wide public consultation launched last October. The comments we received enabled us to refine the guidance and we are grateful to all those who responded to our request for comments.
The fundamental purpose of RDAs' strategies will be to improve regional economic performance and enhance regional competitiveness. The guidance stresses the need for RDAs to develop an integrated and sustainable approach in their strategies. The aim should be to tackle business competitiveness and the need to increase productivity and to address also the underlying problems of unemployment, skills shortages, inequalities, social exclusion and physical decay. By integrating economic, social and environmental issues in this way, the strategies will set the context for sustainable economic growth in the English regions.
We want the RDAs' strategies to support and enhance national policies while addressing the particular needs of regions. In this way they will be able to inform and influence national government's economic policies and to provide a framework for the delivery of national and European programmes.
RDAs' strategies will provide focus and coherence not only to the RDAs' own work, but also to the work of their regional partners. The strategies should be the product of regional dialogue, and should identify priorities for action which regional partners can buy into and help to deliver. Only through strong and effective partnership will the RDAs ensure that their strategies command support. Their relationship with the emerging regional chambers will be of particular importance.
We are also giving to the RDAs today a supplementary package of non-statutory policy and programme guidance to underpin the statutory guidance on their strategies. This will include material on regeneration, competitiveness, skills, sustainable development, rural policy, equal opportunities and working with the voluntary and community sectors.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The MoD practice is to pay benefits under the Attributable Benefits for Reservists Scheme when a Reservist has been medically discharged from a period of service in the volunteer reserve or immediately after the end of his or her mobilised service. Following representations from ex-Service personnel, we are investigating whether we should make awards in other circumstances and will make an announcement as soon as this investigation, which has taken some time owing to the complexity of the issue, is complete.
Lord Gilbert: Ms Percy was found guilty of a number of contempts of court for breaching a court order. She was sentenced by the court and it is not for Her Majesty's Government to intervene in respect of that sentence.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Shops may choose their opening hours, except on Sundays, if they are over 280 square metres in area. The restrictions affect Christmas Day but only when it falls on a Sunday. We have no plans to change the present law.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The fifth Central Magistrate's Court in Madrid contacted the Metropolitan Police via Interpol on 14 October. Disclosure of any such enquiries is a matter for the Metropolitan Police.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: It is the normal convention under this and previous governments that discussions which take place between the Prime Minister and Ministers are not routinely disclosed. It has, however, been made public that the Prime Minister made clear to the Cabinet on 22 October 1998 that there should be no discussion at Cabinet, given that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary might have to address the issue in a quasi-judicial role.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has told me that he has received the views of Jeremy Corbyn MP about the case of Senator Pinochet, along with the views of many other MPs, but that he has not discussed the merits of the case with Mr. Corbyn or with any other Member.
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 29 March (WA 10) why in view of the use of the words "to the best of his recollection", the Home Secretary had not met Salvador Allende, the Home Office issued a categorical denial on Sunday 21 March, carried in the Daily Telegraph of 22 March, that "he did not meet Allende"; and[HL1856]
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 29 March (WA 10) that the Home Secretary had to the best of his recollection not met Salvador Allende, whether the Home Secretary informed those from whom he took legal advice about his visit to Chile and its relevance to the Pinochet case; and whether he informed them there was a possibility that he had met Salvador Allende.[HL1857]
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Home Secretary has already given an account of his recollections of his visit to Chile in 1966 in my earlier replies to the noble Lord.
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