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Mr. Wilson: In total, more than £600 million has now been paid out. Progress on Vibration White Finger has been maintained, and there are clear signs of progress on respiratory disease. Well over 1,000 medical assessments are now being carried out each week. We expect to see the number of full and final offers increasing sharply over the next few weeks. I recognise the need for constant vigilance to ensure that improvements are sustained.
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Mr. Wilson: As at 14 October the Department has made 40,000 interim payments to respiratory disease claimants, and 40,000 to Vibration White Finger claimants. However, the Department is not able to quote these as a percentage of claimants as some claimants may have received more than one payment.
Mr. Wilson [holding answer 23 October 2001]: The number of coal miners whose date of death is after their date of claim, and who have not received any compensation, including interim payments, for respiratory disease is broken down as follows:
|Number of claimants who have not received any compensation for respiratory disease|
Mr. Wilson: We are about to introduce the Renewables Obligation which will provide a substantial long-term incentive to the renewable energy sector as a whole with the potential to create a market worth over £1 billion per annum by 2010. We are backing up our commitment to the Obligation with additional initiatives worth over £260 million over this and the next two financial years.
Ms Hewitt: The favourable macroeconomic framework the Government have established, together with our policies to foster productivity and help firms innovate and grow, are the best way to ensure the future competitiveness of the UK manufacturing sector.
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Ms Hewitt: My Department provides considerable financial and other assistance to the Textile and Clothing Industry. The focus for much of this assistance is the priorities identified by the industry itself in the report of the Textile and Clothing Strategy Group, "A National Strategy for the UK Textile and Clothing Industry", which was published in June 2000. Current priorities include support for the development of innovative technical textiles, the supply chain, the fashion industry, training and skills, e-commerce, and public procurement.
29. Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action her Department has taken to support the regional economic competitiveness of the north-west after 11 September. 
Ms Hewitt: The North West Development Agency is preparing a report assessing the impact of the events of 11 September and its aftermath on the economy of the region and identifying what needs to be done. The events underline the importance of existing programmes of advice and assistance, and the urgency of the review of the Department of Trade and Industry's business support activities that I initiated earlier this year.
Nigel Griffiths: The Government provide a wide range of help for small businesses, including support from the Small Business Service, which, through its national network of Business Link Operators provides information, advice, or access to experts on just about everything needed to start and run a business.
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Mr. Alexander: The Government are working to ensure that broadband services are available in all parts of the country. To this end we are developing a strategy together with all interested parties. The £30 million fund for regional development agencies and the devolved Administrations is focused on extending broadband networks to those who are not offered access by the market, including in rural areas. In Wales, the National Assembly is carrying forward its own work on broadband in rural areas with our support and assistance. The Assembly First Minister made an announcement on 24 October regarding, investment to speed roll-out in the public sector.
Mr. Alexander: The Government are committed to providing transitional financial assistance to rural post offices and decisions on this will be taken following advice from the Postal Services Commission which is expected later in the autumn. In addition, implementation of the Performance and Innovation Unit recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Government, will help to modernise and sustain the whole post office network. We have made available a £2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or reopen post office facilities in rural areas where traditional services would otherwise close.
Ms Hewitt: My Department's support for manufacturing is wide-ranging; from schemes to encourage innovation and collaboration with the science base, to work with specific sectors on targeted programmes to enhance their competitiveness, to exporting services and regional and local support. I am strengthening assistance to manufacturing industry through our increased support for the regional development agencies to raise innovation, enterprise and skills. We are taking forward our announced initiative to provide a manufacturing advisory service, based on provision of services on a regional basis. We are also introducing measures to help workers develop their skills and increase their prospects of finding new employment if they lose their jobs.
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