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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Unlimited liability for duty is essential to operational effectiveness of the armed forces and, given their unique status, the Services are exempt from the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. However, the Government's view is that Service personnel should not be disadvantaged by being exempt. Levels of Service pay are based on the recommendations of the independent Armed Forces' Pay Review Body, which works on the principle of broad comparability with the pay of civilians in jobs of similar weight and responsibility (derived by job evaluation) against a number of factors. An additional element called the "X-factor" (currently 13 per cent of basic pay) is then added to reflect the overall balance of advantages and disadvantages experienced by members of the armed forces which cannot be taken into account when assessing pay comparability. Soldiers receive the X-factor throughout their careers, wherever they are serving, and it is pensionable. Therefore, they do not receive an increase in basic pay when deployed on operations. The Government believe that the Review Body arrangements are flexible and robust enough to provide a fair level of remuneration for armed forces personnel, especially once all allowances and welfare benefits are taken into account. Over a career, individuals should not be placed at a disadvantage in relation to groups covered by this legislation.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Rules of Engagement for UK forces on deployed operations are always very carefully tailored to reflect the demands of the particular environment in which they are operating, while always reflecting UK domestic law. The Rules for UK troops operating in Sierra Leone differ in several respects from those used in Northern Ireland.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Government are intending to announce the next steps on Regional Planning Guidance for the South East shortly.
Lord Whitty: The UK has submitted 340 candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to the European Commission. During 1999, an EC co-ordinated moderation process decided that all member states' site lists were insufficient. They were asked to submit additional sites. The UK has recently submitted 46 additional candidate SACs to the Commission, and intends to submit further sites shortly. The UK has classified 223 Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee is currently reviewing this list, in consultation with the RSPB, and it is anticipated that further sites will be classified with the aim of completing the UK SPA network in 2000-2001.
The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I am publishing my Guidelines on the Disclosure of Information today. A copy of the guidelines, together with a foreword and an accompanying commentary, is being placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. These documents can also be found on the website for the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers at www.lslo.gov.uk.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): We support the underlying principle of the recently agreed directive and we are keen to see greater clarity and transparency in cross-border transactions.
In line with Cabinet Office best practice requirements, the Small Business Service is currently preparing a consultation document which will be available in the New Year. This document will set out the proposed approach and a number of implementation options.
The responses to this consultation, together with results from discussions with industry specialists and small firms' representative organisations, will be important in ensuring that we implement the directive effectively, and in line with the Commission's transposition requirements, while meeting business needs.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: There are currently 17 major deep mines in production in the UK. There are also a number of smaller deep mines, each producing less than 100,000 tonnes of coal per year. The names and locations of the major deep mines are listed on the attached sheet.
|Clipstone||Nr Mansfield, Nottinghamshire|
|Welbeck||Nr Mansfield, Nottinghamshire|
|Daw Mill||Nr Coventry, Warwickshire|
|Ellington||Nr Morpeth, Northumbria|
|Haworth||Nr Doncaster, Yorkshire|
|Rossington||Nr Doncaster, Yorkshire|
|Maltby||Nr Rotherham, Yorkshire|
|Prince of Wales||Pontefract, West Yorkshire|
|Kellingley||Knottingley, West Yorkshire|
|Riccall||Selby, North Yorkshire|
|Stillingfleet||Selby, North Yorkshire|
|Wistow||Selby, North Yorkshire|
|The Scottish Coal Company Ltd||(Longannet)||Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Hatfield Coal Company Ltd||(Hatfield Colliery)||Doncaster, Yorkshire|
|Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd||(Tower Colliery)||Aberdare, Mid Glamorgan|
|Blenkinsopp Collieries Ltd||(Castle Drift Mine)||Carlisle, Cumbria|
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: No operating aid has been paid to the British coal industry since 1997. The European Commission approved on 15 November a UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme, but as yet payments have not been made under this scheme pending approval for specific pits.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government will stimulate and promote industry investment in higher bandwidth services so that as many people as possible can get faster access to the Internet and other information services. But the market alone will not deliver affordable high-speed connections to all rural areas. We will therefore work through the development agencies in the regions, and with the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to develop effective strategies for the rollout of higher bandwidth services in rural areas, taking full advantage of public sector investment and the opportunities, in some regions, to obtain EU funding. Other stakeholders will also be involved, to ensure that access to broadband services reaches as widely as practicable. We will ask the Countryside Agency to monitor the rollout of broadband in rural areas and we will take this into account in developing policy.
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