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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Sixty-seven practice directions came into force on 26 April. All of them are available free of charge from my department's website (www.open.gov.uk/led). Sixty had been published by the Stationery Office by 26 April. The remaining seven have been available on request since then, from the website since 7 May and will be distributed to Stationery Office subscribers on 26 May.
The Lord Chancellor: The review concluded that the Public Record Office had greatly benefited from agency status and that it continued to perform an essential function of government. It recommended that the Public Record Office remain a government department and an executive agency. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
The review also recommended a fresh look at some elements of the Public Record Office's work and the exploration of further opportunities for private sector involvement. These recommendations were, where appropriate, carried forward within the Public Record Office's Comprehensive Spending Review and implemented.
The Public Record Office is now well placed to lead essential changes in the introduction of electronic record keeping in government and the provision of on-line services for the public. It is also leading on improving records management and storage across government. Its education programme is being expanded, particularly in the direction of Internet services to benefit schools and lifelong learners nationally.
In the light of the review recommendations and of the Comprehensive Spending Review, a new framework document has now been prepared to cover the next five years. This concludes the final stage of the office's Quinquennial Review.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Government currently give £174,942 in grant-aid support of 24-hour helplines for victims of domestic violence. The figure as of 1 May 1997 was £108,337.
The Department of Health and Social Services and the Northern Ireland Office gave £59,337 to the Northern Ireland Women's Aid domestic violence helpline in the year 1997-98. Total grant payable for the current year will be £90,942.
Baroness Hayman: The period of consultation was determined by the expert group appointed to give advice on the changes necessary to mental health legislation to bring it into line with current patterns of care and treatment and to support the Government's mental health strategy.
There is, we understand, no scope for extending the deadline for comments. However, while we regret that some organisations and individuals have had difficulty in making a response within the time-frame, we must make it clear that this is an informal, preliminary consultation in preparation for the committee's report to ministers. Once the committee's report has been received, the Government will issue their own proposals, which will be the subject of full, wide-ranging consultation.
Baroness Hayman: Pay is negotiated in the Scientific and Professional Staffs Whitley Council. At a meeting on 17 March, the Management Side offered a pay increase of 2.8 per cent. The Staff Side rejected this. Our offer remains open.
Separately, negotiations are also in progress to resolve equal pay claims submitted by some speech and language therapists following industrial tribunal findings in three lead cases and expert consideration of equal value in a number of others.
Baroness Hayman: The national evidence-based clinical guidelines being prepared under the auspices of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have not yet been published. They are to be peer reviewed and considered by relevant professional bodies and organisations before publication. This is expected later this year.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): In July 1998, the European Commission confirmed that the measures which the United Kingdom proposed to take for ensuring an economic link between UK flagged vessels and populations dependent on fisheries and related industries were compatible with Community law. Those measures took effect from 1 January 1999. A paper setting out the new requirements was placed in the Library of the House on 30 July 1998.
Lord Donoughue: The Government believe that, where it is necessary to establish limits on the level of vitamins and minerals in dietary supplements sold under food law in order to protect the public, such limits should be based on safety considerations. They made this view clear in their formal response to the European Commission's June 1997 discussion document on the addition on vitamins and minerals to foods and food supplements. Officials have promoted this view in discussions with the EU Commission, and at meetings attended by the Commission and representatives of other member states, and will continue to do so when suitable opportunities arise.
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