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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): I have arranged for copies of Dame Elizabeth's 1998 Report to be placed in the Library today. I welcome the report and note Dame Elizabeth's recommendations, which will receive careful consideration.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office, (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Copies have today been placed in the Libraries of the House of the New Millennium Experience Company's Annual Report and Financial Statements for 1998-1999.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have today placed copies of the Chief Inspector's annual report in the Library of both Houses. The Annual Report records the significant achievements of the local Magistrates' Courts Committees in rising to the challenges of this Government's modernisation agenda.
The programme of amalgamating local Courts Committees to align their boundaries with others in the criminal justice system is on track, leading to better planning and communication between agencies; and local Courts Committees are becoming more accountable and more businesslike in their approach to performance management and improving the efficiency of their administration of the courts.
The Chief Inspector highlights areas for improvements in the future. My department is providing the national framework to support committees in their administration of local justice into the next millennium. Local committees have, for the first time, been set performance targets in a Public Service Agreement for 1999-2000. I have increased their accountability to their local community by requiring Committees to produce an annual report covering key areas of performance.
The Access to Justice Bill provides new powers for me to introduce a code of conduct for committee members, maintaining the highest standards in public life. I have also taken powers to ensure that specific recommendations made by the Inspectorate are implemented, intervening where the service provided in an area is falling short.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health is today publishing his response to the Inquiry Report. Copies have been placed in the Library. We have accepted the broad substance of the Inquiry Report and are taking appropriate action to ensure that its concerns are properly addressed.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Under the current map, about 30 per cent. of the population in England, 64 per cent. of the population in Scotland, and 71 per cent. of the population in Wales are covered. Under our proposals, which have yet to be approved by the Commission, about 25 per cent. of the population in England, 49 per cent. of the population in Scotland, and 71 per cent. of the population in Wales would be covered.
Lord Simon of Highbury: Many wards could not be included because, individually or in groups, they were isolated. However, it is not possible to list them individually, because the exercise of identifying the compact contiguous groups of wards with a population of over 100,000 was not undertaken independently of the exercise of combining areas of need with major areas of opportunity for employment creation, investment and regeneration.
The Government have not regarded national, regional, county or mountain boundaries as being a limiting factor in forming contiguous groups of wards, nor, within reason, have they regarded rivers or parts of the sea as being a limiting factor in forming contiguous groups of wards.
Lord Simon of Highbury: Each ward was considered individually against the criteria described in Annex C. As the document states, they were aggregated to form compact contiguous zones of over 100,000 population with the aim of combining areas of need with major areas of opportunity for employment creation, investment and regeneration.
Lord Simon of Highbury: The manufacturing indicator was used both to suggest possible future labour market weakness due to the long-term decline in the national market share of employment which is expected to continue, and to indicate possible areas of opportunity where regional industrial aid could be an appropriate policy response. The employment participation rate indicator takes account of employment in all sectors.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Government have no such plans. Officials are studying practice and trials in a number of countries overseas, including the United States, through the OECD Expert Group on the Harmonisation of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology. All available research data are used in the regulatory process, including data from other countries. However, the UK ecosystem is unique and therefore information from other countries is not always relevant.
Lord Whitty: The decision to install traffic lights on the A.2 at Kender Street, London SE14, was taken by the highway authority, the London Borough of Lewisham, as part of the implementation of its red route proposals for the A.2.
The signals provide a controlled crossing for pedestrians wishing to cross New Cross Road and form one element of a co-ordinated system of traffic lights including revised traffic signals at the junction of New Cross Road and Queen's Road. The council took the decision to switch on the traffic signals at Kender Street prior to the completion of the rest of the scheme because the new signals replaced a zebra crossing at the location. Had the council not done so, pedestrians would have continued to have difficulty in crossing New Cross Road. We understand that the civil engineering works being undertaken by the council have fallen behind programme and will not be ready for some weeks. Once all the work is complete, in early September, the scheme should improve public transport and pedestrian facilities in the area without undue delay to other road users.
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