Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39

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Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39

Whether it is possible for companies intent upon merging to avoid the obligations in the Transfers of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations by conducting a "merger" by way of share transfer, and, if so, what further steps should be taken to protect employees' interests. My Lords, the regulations are deed to safeguard employees' interests when the business in which they work is transferred to a new employer.

They do not apply in cases of takeover by share transfer as these involve no change in the employer's legal identity or contractual Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39 with the employees. The employees' rights are unaffected and the employing company, if it wishes to seek changes to terms and conditions or to make redundancies, is in exactly the same position after the takeover as it was before. My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer.

Is he aware of the situation in which employees have been affected by a merger as a result of share transfer and the superior rights which exist under the regulations referred to in my Question have not applied? As a result, their union is pursuing the matter in the courts. It appears that a loophole exists. My Lords, I am aware of situations in which share transfer has led to redundancies. However, I would make it clear that there are two separate circumstances. In the first, the legal ownership changes; in the second, it does not.

In the latter case of share transfer, there is the collective redundancies directive under which recourse could be taken for unsatisfactory dismissal. That remains the most effective recourse to justice. My Lords, will the Minister confirm that when two companies merge in this way the redundancy provisions favour the employees to the extent that considerable consultation must take place and the larger the firm the more extensive the degree of consultation?

Will he also confirm that the Government do not support the view currently expressed by London Underground, as opposed to every other employer, that employees should be guaranteed their jobs for 15 years? My Lords, I confirm the noble Baroness's contention that under normal circumstances there is extensive consultation by companies, as is required under merger conditions.

That is well protected by the existing law and frequently takes place. However, there are circumstances in which it does not, which is why a sound and effective law must stay in place.

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I make no statement about London Underground because I am not aware of the circumstances. My Lords, is it the case that such regulations and laws do not exist in the United States?

Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39

Is not that part of the reason why, as the Prime Minister explained, the United States is far more effective in creating jobs and expanding the economy than our sclerotic economies in Europe? If there is a loophole, would it not be correct for the Prime Minister to ask Ministers to expand it so that we can become more like America?

Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39

After all, that is his policy. My Lords, I point out again that there is no loophole. There are two different legal circumstances; change of ownership, which is a takeover circumstance, and share transfer, which is a merger circumstance. They are differently treated in law and that is successful. Although we are consulting, at this time we see no reason to change the basic legal principle which applies. As regards differences between Europe and Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39 United States, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is fully aware of the different circumstances which apply in the markets.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the s was a most unfortunate period for working people in the United Kingdom, being unregulated and unfair? Are not the Government trying to be fair to employers and employees? My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. It is exactly the spirit which lies behind our new Bill which will soon come to this House.

I hope that it is received in exactly the spirit which I then detected in the air. My Lords, without going into the hyperbole of the question, does the Minister agree that there is no evidence whatever that the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations have had the remotest influence on unemployment, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit?

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What action they are taking to improve arrangements for applying salt and grit to public ro in the United Kingdom, including those for which local authorities have responsibilities, in order to reduce accidents in winter conditions. My Lords, arrangements for applying salt on trunk and national ro in the United Kingdom are reviewed on a regular basis in the light of changed circumstances, usage and technological developments.

We encourage local highway or ro authorities to do the same.

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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. Are the Government concerned about reports that some local authorities have been reducing the resources needed to keep ro safe? Does he agree that our climate produces sudden changes in temperature to below freezing in different parts of the country and that that often happens, most unfortunately, at holiday periods and at weekends? My Lords, the situation under the last government, as under this Government, is dealt with through their operation of the Highways Agency in England and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales in relation to their ro.

There is a fairly firm code of practice as to what is required in terms of salt application in that it should be undertaken before the ice forms or snow settles on the ro. We give similar advice to local authorities. However, it is not part of our interpretation of the law or that advice Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39 it is the responsibility of the highways authorities to keep open all ro at all times. My Lords, if the Government were to ignore the back-slidings Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39 such local authorities, would they not find themselves on a slippery slope?

Moreover, in trying to defend them, would not the noble Lord find himself on very thin ice? My Lords, the House will sympathise with anyone who must try to predict the vagaries of the wonderful climate which we enjoy in the United Kingdom. Is the Minister satisfied that the arrangements for distributing funds to local authorities in the United Kingdom are satisfactory to meet the needs of that particular variable in their responsibilities?

In normal circumstances, the allocations which we give to local authorities to cover maintenance of the highway and the removal of obstructions to the highway, which include snow and ice, are adequate. Clearly, there are other means whereby the national government may assist in emergency situations. Whether they will impose a five-year moratorium on commercial growing of genetically modified food until adequate independent research and testing of its health and environmental consequences has been carried out, and whether they will seek a similar moratorium throughout the European Union.

My Lords, no genetically modified crops are grown in the United Kingdom commercially. Therefore, there is no need to introduce a moratorium on commercial growing either in the UK or in the EU. There are some carefully controlled, limited-scale trials taking place. The Government believe that there is no evidence to justify demands for those to be stopped on environmental grounds. My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he accept that a freeze of several years—English Nature suggested three but preferably five—is pro-science in that it allows more research and field trials to be carried out?

That would help to convince consumers that the health and environmental risks have been fully explored as the Consumers Association believes that at present consumers are not convinced. My Lords, two points arise in relation to that. First, as regards the growing of crops, I agree with the noble Baroness that caution is necessary. That is why we have hitherto limited it to fairly small-scale crops being produced in the United Kingdom and why we are giving a very limited approval to field farm-scale experiments.

However, we need to engage in such experiments for the very reason which English Nature drew to our attention; namely, that it is not possible to assess the environmental effects of commercially grown crops without growing them on that scale and measuring that impact on the surrounding habitats and biodiversity. My Lords, does my noble friend accept that there is serious concern about the possibility of the rapid development of herbicide-resistant crops, on the ground that there is already enough poison within the English countryside? While I am sure that the Government will maintain careful consideration of the matter, will they take the point that leadership from Britain in that area may be extremely relevant within the wider Europe?

My Lords, it is very important indeed that the European Union acts as a whole in relation to this matter. The structure of permission is Europe-wide. The way in which we are approaching permission to grow genetically modified crops on that very limited basis takes of the possible danger to the wider environment—plants, insects, other species and habitats which may be affected.

We are adopting a cautious approach. It is necessary to test out those effects on a substantial scale but in limited locations, and in circumstances which are controlled extremely carefully. My Lords, in his reply the Minister said that experiments were carefully controlled. Does he agree that to have only one gentleman, who is a doctor, to keep an eye on Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39 sites in the United Kingdom is not the way to control them carefully? I talk in particular about agricultural crops. My Lords, I am not sure to which resources the noble Viscount refers. Perhaps I may write to him to clarify the situation in terms of resources.

All experimental areas are now monitored by the Health and Safety Executive, which has powers to act if necessary. My Lords, does the Minister agree that herbicide-resistant crops can reduce the use of herbicides and thereby benefit the environment? Will the Government ensure that any moratorium is not used to prevent the development and prosperity of an industry which, subject to vigorous safeguards, is not only economically important but can also benefit greatly the environment and health?

My Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39, we are not, of course, advocating a moratorium in the sense the noble Lord proposes. We believe that potentially there will be great benefit to the world as a whole if we can produce crops that do not require the of herbicides that current technology requires. Nevertheless, there are a lot of unknowns in this. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, indicated, we all need to be very careful. We do not know the full consequences of the new technology. While there is great potential, we must be protective of the environment as well as consumers.

My Lords, on the assumption that Her Majesty's Government may consider it advisable to ask for a moratorium, as inferred by the Question, have the Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39 ever considered the means of practical enforcement of such a moratorium, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Europe as a whole where there is, of course, a widespread disregard of the law in any event?

My Lords, as always, my noble friend has turned the subject into a more general argument. By and large, I would defend the regimes of our partners in the European Union. Everyone in the European Union is concerned that we do not open up problems that the unknown consequences of genetically-modified organisms may produce. Throughout the European Union we are equally convinced that there is some scientific and potentially substantial economic benefit if such organisms can be produced safely. I submit that it is better that we act co-operatively with our European partners in this matter rather than each taking separate decisions.

My Lords, while accepting that there is nothing wrong with genetic modification by the most advanced scientific methods— indeed there may be huge benefits—does the Minister share my concern that we may be driven faster down that road by commercial considerations than is desirable? Is he confident that we have adequate safeguards in place to prevent that happening? My Lords, undoubtedly, there are commercial pressures and money to be made in this area. It is the responsibility of the national and the European authorities to ensure that the interests of the consumer and the long-term interests of the environment are protected.

We have mechanisms and physical controls in place to ensure that that happens. However, we are looking carefully at a of areas, including consumer labelling, where perhaps we need to take some further measures. My Lords, may I help the Minister? The point that my noble friend was making, and which I think he misunderstood in an earlier Question, was that it is public knowledge, so far as I know, that there is but one inspector to look after all odd sites where the experimental crops are grown.

Whatever the resources are that have been allocated in financial terms, it comes down to one man who clearly cannot adequately monitor all those sites. My Lords, as I indicated in reply to the earlier question, I shall need to check on the exact level of resources both for the Health and Safety Executive and for the agricultural side. Clearly, resources for inspection in these areas are always scarce. It is our belief that we allocate them to the best advantage. Indeed, as noble Lords will know, there have already been prosecutions in this area as a result of commercial outfits not completely observing the protections.

I believe that that is a good and indicates that our inspections are working. Will the Government ensure that research institutes which are inquiring into the implications of genetically modified foods do not become so dependent on funds from commercial interests like Monsanto that any scientist employed by them who enters doubts about these foods is liable to be suspended and his research vilified?

My Lords, I note what my noble friend says. In relation to the particular example to which she is no doubt alluding, that is primarily a matter between the institute and the scientists concerned. Our main concern is to broaden the knowledge in this area; and to ensure that it is not driven by particular interests. The Government will approach the advice that they take in that way.

Skinny women need not apply 39 Strathblane 39

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