To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with the Chairman of Corus plc in the last two months regarding the future of the steel industry. 
Mr. Alan Johnson:
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has had a number of discussions with the Chairman of Corus in the last two months on a range of issues. It would not be appropriate to divulge the details of commercially confidential discussions between Ministers and companies.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received from the trade unions regarding the future of employment in the steel industry. 
Mr. Alan Johnson:
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is in regular contact, on a number of issues, with trade unions representing employees in the steel industry. In addition, in November I hosted a meeting with trade unions, metals industry representatives and Government which focused on what all parties could contribute to ensure the future competitiveness of the metals industries, including steel.
Humberside Business Link
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will place in the Library details of the time, place, duration, content and nature of the conversations that took place between A4E and the four unitary authorities of Humberside before the awarding of the Business Link services contract for Humberside to A4E; 
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(2) when A4E will deliver its business plan for Humberside Business Links; and for what reason (a) it has been delayed and (b) the existing Business Link was invited by A4E to write the proposed business plan; 
(3) for what reason the bid for Somerset Business Links by A4E was withdrawn; 
(4) if he will list those organisations, firms and businesses whose support was claimed by A4E when it made its application for the Humberside Business Link contract. 
[holding answer 16 January 2001]: The award of contracts for local delivery of Business Link services is an operational matter for the Chief Executive of the Small Business Service. I have asked him to write to my hon. Friend with his response.
Letter from David Irwin to Mr. Kevin McNamara, dated 22 January 2001:
I have been asked by Stephen Byers to respond to the four Parliamentary Questions you have tabled concerning the Small Business Service's decision to make Action for Employment (A4E) the preferred bidder to deliver the new Business Link service in Humberside.
The Small Business Service (SBS) has been developing a new network of local Business Links to begin operations from 1 April 2001. A high standard for award of preferred bidder status to any organisation was set and regional panels were convened to assess paper bids and receive a presentation from each bidding team. The panel was dominated by owner/managers of small and medium enterprises who were carefully briefed to judge the bids against the criteria. In the case of Humberside, after a first round where the existing Business Link partnership failed to meet the criteria, an open competition was held. The regional panel for the open competition was unanimous in its recommendation to me that the bid from Action for Employment (A4E) met all the criteria and clearly made the best offer for SBS customers in Humberside. The issue of local support for A4E was not a contributing factor to their success at the regional panel.
The A4E bid contains statements regarding contact they had with a range of local organisations in Humberside and nationally with whom they would hope to work to provide business support to SMEs in the area, should A4E be the successful bidder.
The four local authorities (which, through the Humber Forum, all supported the unsuccessful bid from the existing Business Link partnership) complained to the SBS that they had been misrepresented in the A4E bid for Humberside. the bid indicates that each of the local authorities had been contacted by A4E but through the Humber Forum, the local authorities have denied that any such contact took place. I asked A4E for details of the contacts they had made and was given the names of the individuals to whom they had spoken in the relavent departments of the local authorities and a note of the conversations that took place. I am content that A4E have not attempted to mislead the SBS by claiming support for their bid which did not exist. I am attaching a list of the individuals with whom A4E spoke.
More recently, when I met some of the representatives of the Humber Forum, they expressed concern about the business planning process being undertaken by A4E. The preparation of A4E's first draft business plan for Humberside has taken a little longer than they had originally hoped because of difficulties in the area, including a negative approach by some of the supporters of unsuccessful bids. Nevertheless, I understand that the process is on track with some initial planning material currently under discussion with our regional manager, and other practical steps in place including the appointment of a Chief Executive for the Humberside operation. It is not the case that the existing Business Link has been asked to write the proposed business plan although A4E have invited the Business Link and other interested organisations locally to contribute to their plan--which is a strategy the SBS would encourage in all its Business Link operators.
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The Humber Forum has sought to draw a parallel between the situation in Humberside and that in Somerset. The A4E bid for Somerset included some errors and overstatements about contacts with local organisations. Even though I accepted that these were not deliberate attempts to mislead, I considered that A4E's mistakes in the Somerset bid made it too difficult for the SBS to support them in their attempts to form the necessary relationships in Somerset. This is significantly different from the situation in Humberside. In particular, both the three local enterprise agencies and the Chamber of Commerce have indicated that they are quite happy to work with A4E and simply want to get on with providing a first rate service to small businesses.
The members of the Humber Forum have repeatedly asked me to undertake a review of the decision to award A4E preferred bidder status in Humberside because of their concerns about the original bid and the progress being made in business planning. I have done so and concluded that there is no evidence to warrant me overturning the recommendation made by the regional panel--especially as it was so clear about the benefits for customers that A4E would deliver in Humberside.
I would be very happy to meet you to discuss this matter further and to facilitate a meeting with A4E if that would be helpful.
Climate Change Levy
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with ASW/Co Steel with respect to (a) climate change levy assistance, (b) rate reduction and (c) financial assistance. 
Mr. Alan Johnson
[holding answer 18 January 2001]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has received correspondence on the climate change levy and is fully aware of the company's concerns. My officials have also met with the company to discuss the levy and other issues of concern.
FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts he has had with UNITA in order to obtain information about Jason Pope. 
[holding answer 8 January 2001]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has raised the case of Jason Pope with UNITA officials many times since Jason's disappearance. This contact has been in accordance with UN sanctions against UNITA with the permission on humanitarian grounds from the UN Angola Sanctions committee.
The last time officials made contact with UNITA representatives to raise Jason's case was in Washington on 9 December 2000. Jason's parents have been informed of this exchange.
We will continue to explore all possible sources of information and assistance to try to establish Jason's whereabouts and the facts of what happened.
Israel (Travel Advice)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last reviewed his Department's travel advice in relation to (a) Israel and (b) Jerusalem; and if he will make a statement. 
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[holding answer 8 January 2001]: The Travel Advice Unit updates its information on each country regularly as circumstances warrant. Our diplomatic missions in each country--in this case, the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and the British Consulate General in Jerusalem--consider changing our advice to British travellers after every significant event involving that country.
Our Travel Advice for Israel was last updated on 22 December 2000. The Travel Advice for Jerusalem was last updated on the same day. The latter advises against all non-essential travel to Jerusalem in the current circumstances.