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British Aerospace - GEC Marconi

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the meetings the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), as Secretary of State for Trade Industry, and his officials had with representatives of British Aerospace and GEC Marconi to discuss (a) their joint sponsorship of the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome and (b) their merger. [149477]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 8 February 2001]: The commitment to support the Millennium Dome by British Aerospace and GEC Marconi was announced by the previous Administration in 1996. The offer by the companies jointly to sponsor the Dome's Mind Zone was announced on 26 November 1998.

I am advised that neither my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) nor his officials had meetings with the companies to discuss their sponsorship of the Dome.

As the Prime Minister had made clear since his statement with the French and German Heads of Government in December 1997, there was an urgent need to restructure the aerospace and defence industries in Europe to compete in world markets. The right hon. Member for Hartlepool, in his capacity as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and his officials discussed this issue at a number of meetings with representatives of British Aerospace and GEC during 1998.

The Government's position was at all times that it was for industry itself, not the Government, to make specific proposals for restructuring. Any resulting merger would be considered on its own merits by the relevant competition authorities.

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if (a) the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), (b) officials at his Department and (c) representatives of British Aerospace and GEC Marconi, informed him of the joint sponsorship by British Aerospace and GEC Marconi of the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome before he approved the merger of the two companies. [149478]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 8 February 2001]: (a) No; (b) No; (c) No.

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what reasons he turned down the advice of the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading when reaching a decision on the merger of British Aerospace and GEC Marconi. [149481]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 8 February 2001]: The Boards of British Aerospace and GEC announced on 19 January 1999 that they had reached agreement on the principal terms of a proposed reconstruction under which Marconi Electronic Systems would be separated from GEC and merged with British Aerospace.

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The civil aspects of the proposed merger were cleared by the European Commission on 25 June 1999. I considered the military aspects of the proposed merger under the merger control provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1973. The reasons for my decision to seek and subsequently to accept from BAE Systems undertakings in lieu of reference to the Competition Commission are set out in my announcements of 9 September 1999 and 28 March 2000.

Science Funding (North-west)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answer of 25 January 2001, Official Report, column 652W, if he is in a position to report on the recommendations of the North-West Science and Daresbury Development group. [151284]

Ms Hewitt: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry met with the North-West Science and Daresbury Development Group on 31 January to discuss their report. As a result of the meeting the Group submitted supplementary information concerning their recommendations on 16 February for his consideration. He hopes to be able to respond around the end of February.

Credit Company Blacklists

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to investigate credit companies' power to blacklist individuals. [150852]

Dr. Howells: I do not have any current plans to investigate such companies. The Director General of Fair Trading has a duty under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to review and advise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about developments in the UK credit market. If he makes any recommendations, I will study them carefully.

Departmental Policies (Norwich, North)

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will set out, including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effect on the Norwich, North constituency of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [151144]

Mr. Caborn: The Department does not maintain statistical information at constituency level.

My hon. Friend's constituents, like many others throughout Norfolk, will have benefited from my Department's Employment Rights policies which include the National Minimum Wage, Working Time Directive, Part Time Working Regulations and improved Maternity Leave.

In addition, the wards of Catton Grove, Coslany, Crome, Mile Cross and Mousehold are eligible for the Enterprise Grant Scheme.

In the East of England region, my Department's policies have contributed to growth in employment by 62,000 and a fall in unemployment by 45,539; reductions in youth employment (under 24) by 46 per cent. and long-term unemployment (over 26 weeks) by 65 per cent.

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In the constituency of Norwich, North there has been a drop in unemployment by 2.7 per cent. (964 people), a reduction in youth unemployment (under 24) by 46 per cent, in line with the region as a whole and a reduction in long term unemployment (over 26 weeks) by 44 per cent.

Postal Services Act

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has laid the draft order defining turnover for the purposes of the 10 per cent. limit on financial penalties as required by section 30 of the Postal Services Act 2000; and if he will make a statement. [151888]

Mr. Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has today laid a draft order defining turnover for the purposes of section 30 of the Postal Services Act 2000. A consultation document on this draft order was published on the DTI website www.dti.gov.uk on 19 December. The consultation came to an end on 31 January. The Department is grateful to those who responded. The policy behind the draft order has not altered but a number of minor changes have been made. The reference to "enforcement action" has been removed as it was deemed to be unnecessary. Some minor changes to annualisation in the first year have been made to minimise unfairness. Finally, the multi-year calculation has been simplified so that whole years are used rather than fractions of years. Subject to the approval of both Houses, the draft order will enable the Postal Services Commission to impose appropriate financial penalties in support of its enforcement of the new postal licensing regime.

Strategic Arms Exports Bill

Ms Glenda Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the content and timetabling of the forthcoming draft bill on strategic arms exports; and what discussions he has had with non-governmental organisations. [150970]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 26 February 2001]: Full details of the Government's proposals for new export control legislation will be set out when the draft Export Control Bill is published. It is not possible at this stage to give a precise date but we hope to be in a position to publish the Bill within the next few months.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met representatives of non-governmental organisations last November to discuss issues relating to the proposed Export Control Bill, including the Government's proposals for new controls on arms trafficking and brokering. Ministers and officials have also held other meetings with NGOs to discuss these issues.

Ms Glenda Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if monitoring of the end-use of UK arms will be covered in the forthcoming draft legislation on strategic arms exports. [150971]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 26 February 2001]: The Government have already taken steps to minimise the risk of UK arms exports being diverted from the stated end-use or end-user. These include new measures to strengthen the process of risk assessment at the export

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licensing stage. We also regularly seek additional details of proposed end-use and end-users, including through our overseas posts.

UKAEA

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the progress of the Quinquennial Review of the UKAEA. [151889]

Mr. Hain: In line with Cabinet Office guidance, the review is being carried out in two stages. I am now in a position to make an announcement about the outcome of Stage 1 and the basis on which work will be taken forward.

The review team recognises the progress which UKAEA has made since 1996 and commends its performance and commitment to improvement across the full range of its activities. However, it identifies a number of options for organisational change and raises fundamental issues relating to UKAEA's primary role in managing nuclear liabilities on behalf of the taxpayer and restoring the environment at the sites for which it is responsible over the next 60 years--for example about funding arrangements, the regulatory framework and the way in which it operates, waste management and the long-term availability of relevant knowledge and skills.

The Government consider it essential that nuclear liabilities should be dealt with safely, cost effectively and in a way which inspires public confidence. Significant challenges are involved and there is an absolute requirement that the public should have confidence in the arrangements in place for dealing with them. The ideas and issues raised by the review team will therefore be explored further with a view to establishing whether there is a case for changing present management arrangements. The review team will also consider what action might be taken to attract more companies into the nuclear decommissioning market and to promote competition for decommissioning contracts let by UKAEA.

As regards other UKAEA activities, Stage 2 of the review will focus on testing options for:





This represents a considerable work programme which will take some time to complete. Given the importance of these issues, it is essential that the correct conclusions are arrived at. UKAEA staff, Trade Unions and other interested parties will have the opportunity to contribute views as the work proceeds.

I will make a further announcement once the Stage 2 work has been completed and decisions have been taken on the review team's recommendations.


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