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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The data published by Experian draw on the sales ledger information of many different companies and report the number of days the subject company takes to pay its invoices. One very good reason for apparently lengthy payment periods among some companies is that many agree terms of 60 or more days. Seemingly slow payers could therefore, actually, be paying within the terms agreed with their suppliers.
The Government are, however, commited to improving the payment culture of the UK and have introduced a range of measures to help businesses tackle the problem of late payment of commercial debt, including the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. In addition, the Government support the recently approved EC directive on combating late payment in commercial transactions and propose to consult the businesss community during transposition.
We recognise, however, that legislation is one part of a package of measures introduced to improve payment practices in the UK and will continue to work in partnership with the business community, through the Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG), to help businesses benefit from the increased opportunities that a healthy cash flow can bring.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): To the end of March 2000, the number of young people who have started on New Deal Options, all of which have a training element, and those that have started self employment is shown as follows:
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Baroness Blackstone: It depends on the condition of the grant, but normally if the grant is for ICT then the expenditure should be confined to ICT. However, if, for example, a school was to use an ICT grant to put ICT facilities into a language laboratory and were then to use that laboratory to teach a range of subjects, we would regard that as being a reasonable use of such funding.
Baroness Blackstone: We intend to involve the Learning and Skills Council in the delivery of European Social Fund (ESF) Objective 3 activities, subject to the passage of the Learning and Skills Bill. Our aim is to move to a co-financing approach to improve the targeting and simplify the delivery of this element of ESF. The detailed implementation arrangements have yet to be finalised, and are subject to consultation, but the intention is that local Learning and Skills Councils will apply to the Objective 3 Regional Committees for the allocations in respect of learning and skills activities in their areas. The local councils would then contract with providers to deliver specified activities which met the objectives of the LSC and the Objective 3 Regional Development Plan. The local councils would allocate to those providers both ESF funds and any LSC funds needed to match them.
Baroness Blackstone: The vast majority of young people sanctioned for not attending New Deal options as required are only sanctioned on one occasion. We take that to be evidence that those participants who are sanctioned subsequently comply with their responsibilities.
Baroness Blackstone: The remark was made in the context of jobseeker's allowance (JSA), which is an active benefit. The three labour market conditions of entitlement for JSA are that jobseekers must be available for work, must seek work actively each week, and must enter into a jobseeker's agreement setting out the type of work they are looking for and the steps they intend to take in order to find it. In addition, jobseekers are liable to a benefit sanction if they cause or prolong their own unemployment through certain acts or omissions which they could reasonably have avoided.
Certain jobseekers have other specific obligations: for example, the New Deal for Young People offers high quality help and support to young people who have been unemployed for more than six months. In return, participants are expected to find work or to take up one of the four options offered. There is no option of remaining on benefit without participation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We are considering Countryside Agency expenditure plans from 2001-02 to 2003-04 as part of the Spending Review 2000. Decisions about future funding will be taken following the announcement by Her Majesty's Treasury of the overall settlement for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, which is expected in July. Details of the Spending Review are not disclosed until finally announced.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Chinook Mk2 had a complete set of Flight Reference Cards in June 1994. These contained all the normal and emergency operating drills in force at that time, including drills for a possible FADEC malfunction.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My department has received two applications for designation of military wrecks that lie in UK territorial waters under the provisions of the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence, together with other government departments, has been assisting with diving associations' plans for self regulation through the development of a code of practice for diving on wrecks.
The aim of the code is to re-educate divers to adopt best practices when diving on all wrecks. Current training and other publications issued by the diving organisations will be reviewed to take account of the legal and moral responsibilities of those who dive on wrecks. In addition, a new wreck law course is being piloted. Information on "respecting our wrecks" already appears on the diving associations' web sites.
Mechanisms for enforcement of the code of practice and other initiatives, which could result in expulsion from an organisation, are already in place in the associations' constitutions. Any member behaving in a way calculated to be prejudicial to the interests of the club could be expelled. The diving organisations are fully committed to changing the way a small minority abuse the wrecks they dive on.
It is expected that this code will be introduced by the diving associations shortly. The Government will assess compliance with the code and review policy accordingly in the light of subsequent developments.
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