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Postal Services Act

Mr. Anthony D. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the remaining provisions of the Postal Services Act 2000 will come into force; and if he will make a statement. [155962]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I have now made a further Commencement Order to bring into force by today the remaining major provisions of the Postal Services Act 2000. The order includes a number of provisions smoothing the transition to the new statutory framework, and applying the schemes under which the Post Office has traditionally carried out its postal and postal order business to the future Post Office company and its subsidiaries. The only provisions of the new Act still to be commenced are a few repeals of the Post Office Act 1969 which are being retained until the Post Office is dissolved in accordance the new Act.

The new Act will thus became fully operational today and the business of the Post Office has been transferred to the company nominated as the Post Office company, ie Consignia Holdings plc. The operational functions of the Post Office company will be carried out by its wholly owned subsidiary, Consignia plc.

In accordance with Part II of the Act, the Postal Services Commission has granted a licence to Consignia plc permitting it to provide the postal services which are restricted under section 6 of the Act, and requiring it to provide a universal postal service throughout the whole of the United Kingdom at a uniform tariff. Consignia plc

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(registered number 4138203 of 148 Old Street, London EC1V 9HQ) is thus a universal service provider for the purposes of the Postal Services Act 2000.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has confirmed the appointment of the current members of the Post Office as the initial directors of the Post Office company and the directors of Consignia plc.

The implementation of the Act and the issuing of the licence heralds the completion of the reform programme described in July 1999 in the Post Office Reform White Paper and sets in place a Post Office company with the greater commercial freedom that it needs to meet the challenges of the changing postal markets, and provides the framework in which postal users can look forward to the evolution of the modern and effective postal services that are essential for the business and social life of the nation in the 21st century.

Climate Change Levy

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the climate change levy rebates have been cleared by the EU Commission under the state aids provisions; and if he will make a statement. [149887]

Mr. Timms: I have been asked to reply.

The Government are seeking approval under EU state aids rules for 80 per cent. discounts from the climate change levy for energy-intensive industries and businesses that negotiate agreements to improve energy-efficiency. An amended version of the EU state aids guidelines for environmental measures was published recently, and the Government are confident that these discounts and negotiated agreements will be approved as falling within the scope of these guidelines.


Departmental Report

Mr. McFall: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when she plans to publish the 2001 Departmental report for her Department. [155632]

Clare Short: The Departmental report 2001 for my Department is published today. It looks back at a year in which considerable progress was made in strengthening international efforts to reduce poverty: 22 countries have now qualified for HIPC debt relief; increasing numbers of poor countries are producing comprehensive poverty reduction strategies; and the European Union has agreed to duty-free access for all imports except arms from least developed countries. As this report shows, the Department for International Development is a driving force behind these and many other efforts to reduce global poverty.

This year's report provides a more detailed assessment of progress against the International Development targets broken down by region. The report also shows progress in meeting the objectives set in our 1998 Public Service Agreement which are based on the performance of our top 30 partners in achieving the International Development targets. The 2000 Spending Round agreed substantial additional resources to enhance our existing efforts. Our plans for allocation of these resources are set out in the report.

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Mr. Rowe: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the aid Britain gives to Sudan reaches areas in the south and in the Nuba Mountains. [154905]

Clare Short: We meet urgent humanitarian demands in Sudan wherever they arise. The mechanisms in place are the standard reporting and accountability procedures that are part of our funding agreements with international non-government organisations and United Nations agencies. Our officer at the British Embassy in Khartoum regularly monitors and reports on progress and the impact of assistance provided. DFID staff also regularly visit to monitor our support and assess humanitarian needs. In addition, the Embassy regularly presses the Government of Sudan for access to all areas of need by the organisations and UN agencies we support.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions her Department has had with the (a) Department of Trade and Industry and (b) Foreign and Commonwealth Office concerning the role of UK companies' investment in Sudan. [155137]

Clare Short: We have regular contacts with other Government Departments about the impact of investment on development in Sudan.

Mr. Rowe: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much aid the Government gives to Sudan. [154904]

Clare Short: Our support to Sudan is designed to meet urgent humanitarian needs. A small proportion is also spent on support for civil society and on international and grass roots efforts to build peace.

In the last five years the UK has provided the following amounts of aid to Sudan:



Ministerial Visits

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Prime Minister what authority is necessary for Ministers to take (a) a spouse and (b) a partner on an overseas visit paid out of public funds; and how many such visits have taken place, and by which Ministers, since May 1997. [143162]

The Prime Minister: Ministers require my approval if they plan to take a spouse or partner on an overseas visit at public expense. However, no central record is kept of whether such visits actually take place after allowing for cancellation or postponement for parliamentary business or other reasons. Where a spouse or partner has accompanied a Minister on an overseas visit the cost is included in the figures published annually on Ministers'

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visits overseas. Figures for 1999-2000 were published on 28 July 2000, Official Report, column 969W. This showed that the cost of travel in 1999-2000 was £4.6 million compared with £7.9 million in the last year of the previous Administration.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the visits overseas undertaken by Government Ministers costing in excess of £500 between 2 May 1997 and 31 December 2000 indicating (a) the cost, destination and purpose of the visit and (b) if the Minister was accompanied by a partner or spouse, indicating the name of their partner and the contribution to the cost of the trip made by the Minister towards the partner's expenses. [148563]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 2 February 2001]: Lists of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more for the periods 2 May 1997 to 31 March 1999 and 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000 have already been placed in the Libraries of the House. The annual list for travel during the period 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001 will be published in due course. In relation to the information requested about spouses or partners accompanying Ministers overseas I refer the hon. Member to my answer earlier today to the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), Official Report, columns 438-39W.

Departmental IT Projects

Mr. Field: To ask the Prime Minister (1) if he will list the IT projects being undertaken at No. 10; and if he will state (a) the expected completion date and (b) the cost of each project; [151843]

The Prime Minister: I refer my right hon. Friend to the reply given to him by the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office on 16 March 2001, Official Report, columns 770-71W.

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