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Tall Buildings: Guidance

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The guidance note on tall buildings prepared jointly by English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is published today.

The Government expect new development to be well-designed, safe and sustainable, whether it comprises a tall building or low rise. It considers that all buildings should be designed with regard to their likely impact on their immediate surroundings and the wider environment. The policy is set out in PPG1 General Policy and Principles, and is supported by good practice guidance, By Design.

In response to last year's Select Committee inquiry on tall buildings, the Government encouraged English Heritage and CABE to finalise their draft guidance note Guidance on tall buildings, taking full account of the committee's recommendations. The Government consider that such a note, in support of government policy and existing good practice advice, will contribute to sound planning decisions on tall buildings.

The Government therefore welcome the publication of the joint guidance note. The Government consider that the good practice advice provided will be of value to local planning authorities in drawing up their planning policies for tall buildings, and capable of being material to the determination of planning applications.

I will place the copy of the document in the Libraries of the House shortly.

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Licensed Premises: Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recent decisions they have taken in relation to the Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order following the consultation exercise last year and the widespread concern about the increasing number of licensed premises.[HL2000]

Lord Rooker: In January 2002, the Government issued a consultation document on possible changes to the Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order. Responses were to be received by 24 April 2002. We received over 2,000 responses which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has since been considering.

During the course of the parliamentary debates that have taken place on the Licensing Bill, attention has been drawn to an issue on which we received many representations as part of the Use Classes review. There is widespread concern that the inclusion of pubs and bars with other uses such as restaurants and cafes in the A3 Class is contributing to the increase in the number of licensed premises in some areas and that such changes in use do not require planning permission. I have considered these representations carefully and I am announcing today that it is our intention to change the Use Classes Order so as to put pubs and bars into a separate class. The effect of this change will be to require any proposal to change use of an existing building into a pub or bar to apply for planning permission.

I expect to make a full statement on the outcome of our consultation on proposals for changes to the Use Classes Order shortly.

NHS: Mattresses and Fire Regulations

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any mattresses which do not meet the standards laid down in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 have been purchased by, and are in use in, the National Health Service.[HL1860]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Mattresses currently included on the national framework agreement negotiated by the National Health Service Purchasing and Supply Agency meet Health Technical Memorandum 87—the National Health Service fire code document for textiles and furniture. This standard recommends compliance with a higher level of ignition source than the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

However, the framework agreement is not a mandatory contract. NHS trusts are responsible for choosing their own procurement route for these products. Therefore, they may buy products from suppliers that are not listed on the framework agreement. Information about which mattresses are bought by individual trusts is not held centrally.

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Asylum Practitioners: Standards

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received any reports from the Legal Services Commission, the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors and the Office of the Immigration Services commissioner about the alleged poor quality of work done by certain firms acting for asylum seekers; whether the procedures for weeding out incompetent and exploitative advisers are working effectively; and whether they will consult the above organisations on ways of raising standards. [HL1624]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Legal Services Commission (LSC) reports on a regular basis to my department on measures being taken to ensure the quality of publicly funded immigration and asylum practitioners. Funding has been withdrawn from firms if the LSC is not satisfied that required standards are being met. As solicitors are self-regulating there is no requirement for the OSS to report to this department, but the LSC and OSS have worked closely for a number of years to take action against unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners. The OISC has a duty to promote good practice among all legal service providers and has no enforcement power other than referral to designated professional bodies (DPBs), but submits an annual report to the Secretary of State which reports on the effectiveness of each DPB in regulating its members in the provision of immigrant and asylum legal services.

Absences from Work

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the Work Foundation's findings (on 27 January 2003) that overall absence rates in 2002 were 1.5 per cent in the information technology sector; 1.54 per cent in the utilities sector; 2.23 per cent in the manufacturing sector and 7.86 per cent in the public/voluntary sector; and if so, whether they plan any action as a result. [HL1801]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Work Foundation estimates are based upon a small sample of employers. The estimates are therefore subject to significant sampling and non-sampling error. Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, a much larger household survey of employees, suggest that in autumn 2002 absence rates were 1.8 per cent in the private sector and 2.3 per cent in the public sector.

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Burma/Myanmar: British Companies and Export Credits

Lord Jordan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What amounts of export credit were given to British companies trading with Burma/Myanmar during the years 1998 to 2002; and whether there is any government policy that will restrict the granting of export credits for trade with Burma/Myanmar on the grounds of human rights in that country. [HL1613]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) has not supported any amount of export credits to British companies trading with Burma during the years 1998 to 2002. ECGD is off cover for Burma because the risks are unacceptable and in view of the political and human rights situation in Burma, it is government policy not to encourage trade or investment that directly or indirectly benefits the current Burmese regime.


Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that Syria possesses weapons of mass destruction. [HL1733]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are concerned by persistent reports that Syria is pursuing a programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

We regularly urge all states to sign and ratify all the treaties and conventions covering the development of such weapons.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the submissions made to the United Kingdom national contact point for complaints against breaches of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, giving in each case the date of the original submission, the name of the company or companies involved, the country in which the breach is alleged to have occurred, the action taken, and the date of the reply by the National Contact Point. [HL1737]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Since the most recent revision of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which took place in June 2000, the United Kingdom national contact point

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(NCP) has been in receipt of one formal complaint, received on 27 February 2002, in respect of an alleged breach by the company Anglo-American in Zambia. The national contact point replied to this submission on 1 March 2002. Further details with regard to action taken are governed by the confidentiality provisions of the guidelines.

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