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35. Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many new spin-out companies have emerged from British biotechnology in the last year. [144563]

Mrs. Liddell: It is estimated that at least 90 new biotechnology businesses were formed in the UK during 2000. This number includes both companies developing products (e.g. new drugs, diagnostics) and service companies (e.g. bioinformatics).

Of these new companies over 40 per cent. received help from DTI support schemes specifically designed for the biotechnology sector.

There is no national database containing information on biotechnology business formation and the above information was obtained from the regional biotechnology networks and Government support programmes.

Universal Bank

36. Mr. Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on progress towards the establishment of a universal bank. [144564]

Mr. Byers: Good progress is being made with the development of universal banking services. Agreement in principle was reached on 20 December 2000 with six banks, Barclays, Lloyds TSB Ltd, RBS/Nat West, HSBC, Abbey National and the Halifax, to contribute towards universal banking Services at the Post Office. Discussions continue with other banks and building societies to examine what contributions they can make.

Ilisu Dam

37. Ms Kingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on his Department's involvement with the Ilisu dam project in Turkey. [144565]

Mr. Caborn: In 1998 the Export Credits Guarantee Department received an application from Balfour Beatty for export credit support in respect of their proposed participation in the Ilisu dam project.

In December 1999, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry published two reports which we commissioned on environmental and social aspects of the project, he made it clear that before

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a decision is made on the availability of ECGD support, we will need to be satisfied on a number of conditions, in particular:

We need to see and assess the final version of the environmental impact assessment report and the resettlement action plan in order to determine whether our conditions have been met. We expect the environmental impact assessment report to be made available to the export credit agencies shortly. The resettlement action plan may be made available at the same time. The environmental impact assessment report will be made publicly available before any decision is taken regarding export credit support from the UK. As we are not the owners of the reports we cannot be more specific about timing.

The Export Credits Guarantee Department is in regular contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and trade partners regarding the project and all these Departments will be consulted prior to a decision being taken.

Aviation Fuel

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to support the development and use of bioaviation fuels. [145724]

Mrs. Liddell: Together with the airline industry and others the DTI is reviewing a modest proposal to investigate the use of a fuel derived from biomass as a substitute for aviation kerosene.

Such a fuel would need to meet the quality criteria for aviation kerosene.

Special Shares

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the nature was of the representations he received about his Department redeeming its special shares in Powergen and National Power; and what criteria were applied in the process that led to his Department redeeming the shares. [145731]

Mrs. Liddell: The companies each wrote to my Department seeking redemption of their respective special shares. It is the Government's policy to consider any such request on its merits.

In assessing whether to redeem the special shares my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry took into account whether the special shares were

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still valid and necessary in the context of a competitive market and a strengthened regulatory and competition framework.

In line with NAO/PAC guidance, once my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had taken a decision to redeem each special share he then also sought additional consumer benefits from the companies concerned.

Takahama Mox Fuel

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what will happen to the returned Takahama Mox fuel when it is imported from Japan into the United Kingdom. [146046]

Mrs. Liddell: This is a matter for BNFL. I understand that the options for managing the fuel once in the UK are still being considered. The chosen option will have to meet all of the relevant regulatory requirements.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on which date he first received advice from the British Embassy in Japan that discussions should begin with the Japanese Government and electricity industry on the issue of returning the Takahama Mox fuel to the United Kingdom, following the discovery of the data falsification at Sellafield. [146044]

Mrs. Liddell: The chronology on these issues is contained in my letter to the hon. Gentleman on 21 November 2000, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

Minimum Wage

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what specific measures his Department has introduced to raise the awareness of the national minimum wage and the national minimum wage confidential helpline among ethnic minorities. [146087]

Mr. Alan Johnson: In the autumn of 1999, the Government ran a national minimum wage publicity campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the national minimum wage among ethnic minority communities. This was the first DTI campaign specifically to target ethnic minorities--especially Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afro-Caribbean communities--in known low pay areas. The campaign also aimed to reassure people in these communities that complaints about underpayment of the minimum wage would be treated confidentially, and that enforcement is fair and effective. The confidential helpline number (0845 6000 678) was featured strongly.

To complement the publicity campaign in September-October 2000 to raise awareness of the increase in the main rate to £3.70, in September 2000 my Department wrote to around 750 ethnic minority intermediaries such as community advice centres, career groups, religious bodies and business representatives telling them about the increase and to remind people that complaints about underpayment to the helpline will be treated in the strictest confidence. The letter also explained that guidance on the minimum wage is freely available in a number of languages, including the main Asian ones, by contacting the minimum wage helpline; and for those

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people who cannot speak English or would prefer to converse in their native tongue, the helpline has access to translation services in over 30 different languages.

Israel (Exports)

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his policy is concerning the export to Israel of goods whose export is controlled for strategic reasons; what changes were made to his policy during 2000; and if he will make a statement. [145332]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 15 January 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

Applications for licences to export to Israel arms or other goods controlled for strategic reasons are considered on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national criteria that I announced on 26 October 2000, Official Report, columns 199-203W. This means inter alia that we will not issue licences where there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used for internal repression or external aggression or to provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions.

We assess all applications, and make judgments, both against the criteria and in light of the information available at the time. No changes have been made to this policy in 2000. Inevitably however, unexpected events do happen and can alter the basis of those judgments.

We have no evidence that equipment or components licensed for export to Israel by this Government have been used by Israeli security forces against civilians in the occupied territories or in southern Lebanon. We would be concerned if such evidence came to light. We continue to monitor the situation closely.

We are, and have been, in regular direct contact with the Israeli Government as part of our inquiries to confirm that equipment and components licensed for export form the UK have not been used against civilians in the occupied territories and have received an assurance from the Israeli Government that no equipment or components licensed for export from the UK have been used against civilians during the recent disturbances.

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