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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Ministry of Defence is announcing today that it has plans to allocate up to £2 million for veterans' projects over the next three years.
The new Challenge Fund will be used in co-operation with partners in the ex-service organisations, non-governmental organisations and public sector to pump-prime new projects or research or buy into existing activities in order to give them a veterans-related dimension.
We want this fund to be used to help address the identifiable gaps in existing activity or knowledge that will need to be filled if we are to deliver the agreed Strategy for Veterans. The Strategy for Veterans identifies three key areas for further work: ensuring that as many service personnel as possible make the transition from service to civilian life successfully, that those who do not make a successful transition receive appropriate support, and that the contribution of the services and veterans to national and international security is properly understood in wider society. We would like the fund to be used to support a few projects in each area.
£500,000 has been made available for the remainder of this financial year and up to £750,000 is planned for each of the next two financial years. Arrangements for the longer term will depend on the success of the fund over this initial three-year period.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government will make an announcement in due course in response to the consultation on the future of Great Britain's equality institutions launched last October (Commons Hansard: 22 October 2002; col. 246W), which looked at the possibility of creating a single equality body among other options. As the consultation document made clear, no new body would be established before 2006.
The Government are taking forward a significant legislative agenda on equality matters. This includes introducing protection against discrimination in employment and vocational training on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion and belief and age to implement the EU Employment and Race Directives. We are also strengthening and widening existing disability legislation, providing rights of recognition for trans-gendered people and looking at how same-sex partnerships might be recognised. These are far-reaching changes which will need time to bed down once they are introduced. We do not believe that a single equality Bill is the most appropriate way forward.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): On 20 October 1980 the Council of European Communities adopted Council Directive 80/987/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer.
Specifically, the Pension Schemes Act 1993 provides that certain unpaid pension scheme contributions can be claimed from the National Insurance Fund, through the redundancy payments offices, if the employer sponsoring a pension scheme becomes insolvent. If a claim is successful funds are paid to the trustees of the pension scheme being wound up.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): A further draft version of the guidance will be placed on the DCMS website (www.culture.gov.uk) in due course. Any individual or organisation will be free to make comments on its contents prior to its presentation to Parliament for approval. The Act requires the draft guidance to be approved by both Houses prior to it being issued. The first draft of the guidance has been available on the website since February and a number of residents associations and other parties have provided the department with comments which are helping to inform the development of the further draft.
The Bill will make major changes to the way in which gambling is regulated and controlled in Great Britain. It will build on the work undertaken by Sir Alan Budd and the gambling review body that he led.
It is based on the three key principles. First, the principle that the system of gambling law and regulation must keep the gambling industry free of crime. Our industry has a high international reputation for integrity, which must not be put at risk. Secondly, the law must ensure that gambling is conducted fairly, so that players know what to expect. Thirdly, there must be effective protection for children and the vulnerable.
The controls we have on gambling today date from the 1960s and 1970s. They have served us well, but have failed to keep up with society's attitudes to gambling and developments in technology and the leisure industries. They need to be modernised. But modernisation must not be allowed to generate an upsurge in problem gambling. I am determined that we will maintain the highest standards of social responsibility.
Sir Alan recommended the establishment of a new national regulator for all forms of gambling. It was proposed that this regulator, the gambling commission, should license gambling operators and key individuals involved in the provision of gambling, and that local authorities should license gambling premises.
In A Safe Bet for Success (published in March 2002, Cm 5397) we accepted the vast majority of the gambling review's recommendations. We have been working closely with the interested industries, representatives of groups encouraging responsible gambling, local authorities, consumer groups, other government departments and the devolved administrations to prepare draft legislation that would give effect to this new system of regulation, which will be centred on the creation of a new national regulatorthe gambling commission.
The proposals published today allow for the establishment of a gambling commission, transforming the Gaming Board for Great Britain into a new body with wider functions, greater flexibility to act and stronger enforcement powers.
The clauses describe the three purposes of gambling regulation, which will guide the work of the Commission. They outline the ways in which the commission will be able to use codes of practice to ensure best practice across each sector of the gambling industry. Codes of practice issued by the commission will be an important feature of the new legislation, giving the regulator more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances that may raise issues of consumer protection or threats to vulnerable people.
The draft Bill goes on to describe the principal function of the gambling commissionthe licensing of gambling operations and key personnel. The commission will have flexibility to impose licence conditions on categories of licences and, where necessary, on specific operators. It will also have powers to review licences where it believes conditions have been breached or where there is some threat to the three objectives of regulation.
The Government remain committed also to the sale of the Totalisator Board and the abolition of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. We will bring forward legislation to achieve these objectives as soon as parliamentary time becomes available. Should parliamentary time become available prior to the introduction of a gambling Bill, we will leave open the
I understand that a Joint Committee of both Houses is to be convened to examine the Government's draft proposals. The draft gambling Bill is precisely the sort of legislation, cutting across party lines but with some potential for controversy, that will benefit from pre-legislative scrutiny by both Houses. Such scrutiny will improve the legislation and build parliamentary understanding and public confidence, enabling us to strike the right balance between deregulation and the protection of young and vulnerable people.