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Post Office

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has approved the Post Office's five-year Strategic Plan 2001 to 2006; and if he will make a statement. [158292]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The Government have approved the Post Office's five-year Strategic Plan for 2001-06, endorsing the Board's view that this should be the basis on which management should drive the business forward. This is a five-year rolling Plan which is updated annually. The Plan represents a key element in the new arms-length relationship that the Government have established with the Post Office in fulfilment of the reforms described in the White Paper published in July 1999. The Post Office is continuing to build on last year's Plan. Nevertheless, it recognises that there remains much to do in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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The key features of the Strategic Plan are commercially confidential, and as such will not be published. In approving the Plan, the Government have maintained the medium term target for the Post Office to achieve a 13 per cent. return on capital employed for its operational business. This excludes the network of post offices and any non-operational interest arising from past surpluses. Return on capital employed is defined as profit before interest payable and tax, but after operating interest receivable, divided by operating capital employed.

Steel Plants

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to introduce set aside systems for steel plants until the depression in the steel trade ends. [157786]

Mr. Alan Johnson: My Department has no plans to introduce set aside systems for steel plants.

Electrical Waste

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of schemes for retail take-back of electrical waste in (a) Austria, (b) Germany, (c) the Netherlands and (d) Switzerland. [157610]

Ms Hewitt: Detailed assessments for the four named countries have not been undertaken. The formal take-back schemes are relatively new and vary greatly in scope and approach to funding. Direct comparison is difficult. Switzerland (1998) and the Netherlands (1999, 2000) have both legislated for retailer take back but the Government are unaware of any formal assessments by the Swiss or Dutch Governments. Germany has developed a draft ordinance (1999) which is currently the subject of a review. Austria introduced a draft ordinance in 1994 covering only lamps and white goods. This is currently being reviewed by the Austrian authorities.


Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will include energy from waste by pyrolysis in the renewables obligation. [157227]

Mr. Hain: No firm commitment can yet be made regarding the status of pyrolysis or other energy from waste technologies under the Renewables Obligation. My Department is still considering the responses to the consultation document on the Obligation. A summary of the responses was published on 20 March, and we will publish our revised proposals as soon as possible.

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will assess the benefits of energy from waste generated by pyrolysis; [157225]

Mr. Hain: Pyrolysis may prove to be a cleaner means of energy recovery from waste than incineration and cost-effective at a smaller scale. This could contribute to achieving the proximity principle proposed in the Government's Waste Strategy and complement local recycling schemes.

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My Department is currently supporting three research projects assessing the potential of pyrolysis through its New and Renewable Energy R&D Programme. These are two projects monitoring the waste gas technology installation at the Nash sewage works near Newport, South Wales and a comparative technical assessment of energy conversion technologies for municipal solid waste concentrating on pyrolysis being undertaken by Mitsui Babcock.

In addition, the Department's Programme supported earlier monitoring work with Compact Power that helped them move from pilot to demonstration.

The Programme maintains strong links with the IEA Bioenergy Agreement and through participation in this has access to relevant work in most other OECD countries.

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will assess the potential effect of pyrolysis on the level of the waste stream to landfill. [157226]

Mr. Hain: The extent to which pyrolysis reduces the volume of waste to landfill depends very much on the pyrolysis technology employed. Some of these technologies produce a glass-like residue that can be used for road aggregate avoiding almost any landfill stream, some a lighter ash and some a charcoal-type material that can be quite bulky. However, I do wish to find ways of encouraging new technology that converts waste into renewable energy, after maximum recycling.

Employment Tribunals (Scotland)

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many persons have been appointed chairman or part-time chairman of employment tribunals in Scotland without being a Scottish advocate or solicitor of not less than seven years' standing. [157611]

Mr. Alan Johnson [holding answer 9 April 2001]: Part-time Chairmen of Employment Tribunals in Scotland are appointed by the Lord President of the Court of Session in accordance with Section 5a of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 1993.

Telecommunications Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome of the Telecommunications Council held in Brussels on 4 and 5 April was; what the Government's voting record at the Council was; and if he will make a statement. [157538]

Ms Hewitt: I represented the UK on the telecommunications aspects of the Transport and Telecommunications Council held in Luxembourg on 4-5 April.

The Council reached political agreement on common positions in respect of three proposals for Directives arising from the European Commission's 1999 communications review: on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services; on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities; and on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services. I strongly welcomed this

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agreement as a significant step toward fostering the competitive communications markets that are a vital element in the European Union's target to be the most successful knowledge economy in the world by 2010.

The Presidency gave a progress report on a fourth proposal for a Directive, on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services.

The Presidency indicated that it expects the Council to reach common positions on all four proposals at the next Transport and Telecommunications Council, to be held in Brussels on 27-28 June.

The Presidency also indicated that it expects the Council to reach common positions on proposals for a Regulation on the implementation of the Internet top level domain "EU" and on amending Directive 97/67/EC with regard to further opening to competition of Community postal services at the next Transport and Telecommunications Council.

The Council also held discussions on a Commission Communication on the introduction of third generation mobile communications in the EU; on the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, including network security and a Commission Communication on creating a safer information society by improving the security of information infrastructures and combating computer- related crime; and on international aspects of the organisation and management of the Internet.

The Commission provided information on implementation by member states of the Regulation on unbundled access to the local loop.

Engineers (Recruitment)

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets he has set for the recruitment of engineers in the next 10 years; and what account he has taken of the current level of UCAS acceptances for engineering degrees. [156167]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The Government do not set targets for the recruitment of engineers. However, we do listen carefully to employers when developing strategies to meet future skills needs in engineering. We also take account of statistical data and research reports from a wide variety of sources, including UCAS. The National Training Organisations (NTOs) also have a key role in providing detailed and accurate information on future skills issues across a range of sectors and we hope to see this role developed and enhanced as a result of the current consultation exercise aimed at strengthening the NTO Network.

It has, however, become increasingly apparent that there is a need for improved information on the developing skills needs in engineering over the longer term, particularly in relation to the new technologies. The need for such information was recognised as a key issue for the Hawley Review of the Engineering Council set up by my noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation in October 1999. It is currently being considered in further detail by the Education and Training working group set up by the Engineering Council as part of the transitional arrangements for the establishment of the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) in October

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2001. Lord Trefgarne, Chairman of the Engineering and Marine Training Authority (EMTA), the National Training Organisation for engineering manufacture, chairs this group.

The Government recognise the fundamental importance of maintaining an adequate flow of bright and well- motivated people into engineering and we continue to support a wide range of initiatives aimed at promoting engineering as a rewarding and challenging career. These include the Campaign to Promote Engineering (CPE) and the Science Engineering Technology Mathematics Network (SETNET).

The latest initiative in this area is the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Delivery Programme, to which DTI has committed £6 million over the next three years. This aims to provide young people and their science teachers with access to the very best business-sponsored support materials and schemes by providing a single point of support through each Learning and Skills Council area in England (separate arrangements will apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). The key objective for the programme will be to ensure that every young person in the UK under 16 should have the opportunity to experience an appropriate STEM activity at least once in each Key Stage.

The STEM Delivery Programme will also include the establishment of a nation-wide Science and Engineering Ambassadors Scheme (SEAS) to encourage younger people engaged in careers in science and engineering to go back into schools to encourage others to follow them. This will be launched jointly by DTI and DfEE at the start of Science Year in September 2001.

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