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Phoenix Fund

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what financial targets are to be set for community finance initiatives funded from the Phoenix Fund by the Small Business Service; and if he will make a statement. [156259]

Ms Hewitt: CFIs can take a variety of forms, in a legal and operational structure as well as operation of different lending models. Combined with the fact that the CFI sector within the UK is still developing and a number are still in their formative stages, the imposition of operational financial targets as part of the Phoenix Fund support is not deemed to be appropriate at this time. All supported CFIs are being actively encouraged to work towards operational sustainability and this was considered as part of the application assessment process.

The Small Business Service and HM Treasury are currently working with relevant private sector organisations towards formation of a high quality, professional and adequately resourced Trade Association for the community development finance sector. It is

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envisaged that any Trade Association will, once operational, formulate performance indicators to assist members with comparison of their performance to "best practice" and similar organisations. CFIs supported through the Phoenix Fund will be encouraged to seek membership of any such Trade Association.

The purpose of the CFI elements of the Phoenix Fund is to encourage entrepreneurship within disadvantaged groups and communities, through stimulating the growth and development of the CFI sector in the UK. CFIs supported through this programme are required to provide quarterly reports in a format prescribed by the Small Business Service, in order to monitor the impact on the disadvantaged target group or community of each CFI.

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria are used to evaluate bids from community finance initiatives for Challenge Fund support from the Phoenix Fund; and if he will make a statement. [156258]

Ms Hewitt: CFI support from the Phoenix Fund is allocated on a competitive challenge basis. The assessment process has two elements being, (i) review by SBS against key criteria stated in the bidding guidance, (ii) an independent assessment panel to advise the SBS Chief Executive on the final award of Phoenix Fund support. In reviewing the bids the panel was concerned with the soundness of each proposal, its impact on entrepreneurship in areas of disadvantage, impact on the growth of the CFI sector in the UK and development of appropriate models and good practice.

Bidding guidance for the first round of Phoenix Fund support for CFIs was issued in June 2000 and copies are held in the Library of the House.

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what priority is given to community finance initiatives that are national in scope within the Challenge Fund element of the Phoenix Fund; and if he will make a statement. [156260]

Ms Hewitt: CFI support from the Phoenix Fund is allocated on a competitive challenge basis. The assessment process had two elements being, (i) review by SBS against key criteria stated in the bidding guidance, (ii) an independent assessment panel to advise the SBS Chief Executive on the final award of Phoenix Fund support. In reviewing the bids the panel was concerned with the soundness of each proposal, its impact on entrepreneurship in areas of disadvantage, impact on the growth of the CFI sector in the UK and development of appropriate models and good practice.

Within the context of this challenge process no preference or priority is given to whether an applicant organisation operates at a national or local level. The PAT 3 recommendation which underlies the CFI support programme was to support CFIs in disadvantaged areas and deprived groups. As part of the assessment against key criteria, consideration is given to whether an applicant

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organisation demonstrates a clear focus on disadvantaged areas or deprivation and how it compares against other applications which have a clear focus on social exclusion and deprived groups.

Coal Health Compensation Scheme

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress there has been on reaching a settlement to enable compensation to be paid to surface only and mixed underground/surface claimants under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme. [156751]

Mr. Hain: The Department accepted liability for surface dust in a minute to Parliament dated 10 July 2000. However, questions remained over the extent of that liability.

The Department's medical advice is that surface-only workers in jobs categorised as 'dusty' may well suffer from chronic bronchitis or temporary exacerbation of asthma because of exposure to the sort of particles which form visible dust. However, it is the much smaller particles of 'respirable dust'--not visible to the naked eye--which cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At the respirable dust levels recorded by the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) and using the figures for loss of lung function accepted by the Judge, the Department's medical advice is that there is very little likelihood of men in surface-only 'dusty' work developing COPD, even over a whole working lifetime.

Claimants' solicitors do not share the Department's position. To move matters forward, the Department and the claimants' solicitors are carrying out a joint study on surface dust issues. The results of the study will be put to each side's medical advisers and will help to inform any final settlement.

The study is in two parts:



On 'mixed' (underground/surface) claims, the Department has reached a negotiated agreement with claimants' solicitors and arrangements are being made to incorporate the claims within the terms of the Claims Handling Agreement so that compensation can be paid out as soon as possible. The position on mixed workers is different from surface only workers. The Department's view is that people with mixed claims may well have legitimate claims for dust-related COPD for the surface element of their claim because their exposure to dust underground will have taken them over the 'threshold' after which further exposure to dust will cause them further incremental disability.

Regional Selective Assistance

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on how much regional selective assistance has been offered to companies investing in the English regions since May 1997. [156753]

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Mr. Caborn: A total of £581.6 million has been offered as follows:

£ million

Region/countyGrant value
Eastern
Bedfordshire1.4
Cambridgeshire1.1
Essex0.4
Norfolk1.3
Suffolk0.3
Total4.5
East Midlands
Derbyshire6.6
Leicestershire0.4
Lincolnshire1.5
Nottinghamshire32.2
Total40.7
London
North East London2.6
North West London3.4
South East London0.4
Total6.4
North East
Cleveland12.2
Durham25.8
Northumberland9.5
Tyne and Wear106.3
Total153.8
North West
Cheshire22.1
Cumbria4.8
Greater Manchester28.0
Lancashire6.3
Merseyside89.1
Total150.3
South East
East Sussex1.8
Isle of Wight3.4
Kent12.4
Total17.6
South West
Cornwall14.0
Devon22.0
Dorset1.6
Total37.6
West Midlands
Hereford and Worcester0.9
Shropshire0.9
Staffordshire9.7
Warwickshire25.5
West Midlands63.1
Total100.1
Yorkshire/Humberside
Humberside15.5
North Yorkshire0.3
South Yorkshire48.9
West Yorkshire5.9
Total70.6
Grand total581.6


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Absence Management

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on how employers manage absences. [156752]

Mr. Byers: The Green Paper, "Work and Parents: Competitiveness and Choice", indicated that my Department would be undertaking research on how employers manage absence.

In the absence of that research, the costing of policy options considered in the Green Paper made an assumption about the cost to employers of covering for absences. The specific assumption made was that the cost of a week's absence to an employer was 24 per cent. of labour costs.

Information gathered during the consultation process and emerging findings from research commissioned by my Department, suggest that this assumption was too high. It is important to distinguish situations where an employer covers absence by taking on a temporary replacement from situations where the employer manages absences by internal reallocation of work. The costs of each will be different. Where a temporary replacement is hired, the employer faces the one-off costs of recruitment. In contrast, if work is reallocated, there are no recruitment costs but there are likely to be recurring costs to the business. The decisions employers take on how to cover for any specific absence will depend upon the length of the absence, its nature (whether planned or unplanned), the size and nature of the business, and the skill level the post requires.

The partial regulatory impact assessment (RIA) given in answer to question number 156754 explores these issues further. Full details are given in Annexe 2 of this RIA.


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