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Small Businesses

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to the answer of 5 December 2001, Official Report, column 306W, on small businesses, if she will identify the title of the Government response and the date it was issued; and if she will place a copy in the Library. [22364]

Nigel Griffiths: The "Government Response to the Better Regulation Task Force Shopkeepers Report" was issued on 17 October. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House. It is available on the Cabinet Office website at the following address: http:// response localshops.htm

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what structures exist to facilitate communication between her Department and small businesses. [21807]

Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service provides a focal point within Government for small business issues. SBS has a wide variety of contacts with small firms themselves, their representative bodies, and the various other organisations, such as regional development agencies, with an interest in helping small firms. The Small Business Service also has a programme of research to identify the needs and concerns of small businesses.

The Small Business Council, made up primarily of small business owners, was appointed to advise the chief executive of the Small Business Service and report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on issues affecting small businesses.

The council organised 12 town hall meetings in spring 2001, meeting small businesses owners across the country to hear their views on issues affecting small businesses. These findings were incorporated in the council's first annual report 2001 outlining 22 recommendations to Government to help SMEs operate more successfully.

The Ethnic Minority Business Forum (EMPF) was set up to strengthen the dialogue between Government and the ethnic minority business communities to ensure that the Government are addressing the needs of all businesses.

Manufacturing Summit (Birmingham)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the (a) Ministers, (b) Government officers, (c) Members of Parliament and (d) delegates attending the Manufacturing Summit in Birmingham on 5 December; what criteria were used to select them; and what the terms of reference were for the event. [20542]

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Ms Hewitt [holding answer 5 December 2001]: The full list of delegates is as follows:

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In addition, there were 31 observers from Government Departments and from the other organisations represented at the summit.

Delegates were selected on the basis that there should be a good, representative spread of manufacturing interests around the table, which would lead to a manageable and informed discussion.

There were no specific terms of reference for the event. Its purpose was to provide an opportunity for government and its partners to come together and share views on what the key issues are, and to focus on the practical steps for dealing with them.

Broadband Services

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to encourage the wholesale market for broadband capacity in areas with no current broadband infrastructure. [20648]

Mr. Alexander: On 3 December I set out a range of actions in the Government response to the broadband stakeholder group to further intensify competition, drive up demand, stimulate the production of new broadband content and facilitate broadband rollout in rural areas. We have also provided £30 million for regional projects to extend broadband networks, while challenging the industry to market and price broadband services effectively. Oftel has additionally required the provision by BT of wholesale ADSL on non-discriminatory terms.


Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with Consignia about proposed changes to the delivery of the mail. [20355]

Mr. Alexander: The Department has regular discussions with Consignia about a range of strategic issues facing the company. Consignia's proposals in relation to the delivery of mail are operational issues for the company provided that it remains within the terms of the licence issued to it by the Postal Services Commission.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the financial position of Consignia for the current financial year; what resulting action she has asked the chairman to take; and what action she plans to take in respect of the chairman. [18921]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 29 November 2001]: As shareholder we are obviously disappointed at the losses made by Consignia for the current financial year. It is clear that the company urgently needs to improve its performance. The company has been given the greater commercial freedom that the management and the unions had long wanted and its challenge is now to improve its performance.

The Government as owner of Consignia are actively taking steps to strengthen the company's management. Earlier this year a new Finance Director (Marisa Cassoni)

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joined the Board; this was followed by the appointment of Allan Leighton to the non-executive team to take a special interest in the post office network; a Chief Executive of the new Post Office Ltd. (Consignia's network subsidiary) is currently being recruited. The appointee will be on the main Consignia Board.

Regional Development Agencies

Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what decisions she has made about the future membership of the boards of the eight regional development agencies outside London; and if she will make a statement. [22727]

Alan Johnson: I am pleased to announce 39 new appointments to the Regional Development Agency boards; their names are as listed. These appointments begin on 14 December 2001 and are for three years, expiring on 13 December 2004. 50 per cent. of board members now have current or recent business experience. 35 per cent. of the new appointments are women and 18 per cent. are from ethnic minorities. I have placed further details of the new appointees in the Libraries of the Houses.

Decisions on appointments have been made following fair and open competition and following consultation with key national and regional players.

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