Previous Section Index Home Page

Universal Bank

Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the implementation of universal banking services. [23090]

Mr. Alexander: Good progress is being made on universal banking services in advance of the migration of benefit payments to ACT in 2003. Through universal banking services there will be post office access to a range of bank accounts. This will enable all those who wish to do so to continue to be able to collect their benefits in cash at post offices. The Government are currently negotiating with the Post Office for the provision of the Post Office Card Account and is developing a detailed migration and marketing strategy for the transition to ACT.

The emphasis of the ACT migration and marketing strategy will be to ensure that each customer has the best account for his or her circumstances. Conventional and

17 Dec 2001 : Column: 120W

basic bank accounts offer more services and do not have the limitations of the Post Office Card Account so are likely to be the best option for the vast majority of people.

Our operational assumption is that around three million benefit and tax credit recipients will open a POCA, but there will not be a cap on numbers or eligibility criteria for a POCA. For most people the best account will be a conventional bank account or a basic bank account, whether new or existing. The vast majority of claimants already have an existing bank account and we expect that they will choose to use them when they start to be paid by ACT.

If claimants do not have a bank account, staff of the Government Departments concerned will discuss options with them to help them take the best choice for their circumstances.

Whatever type of account is used we remain fully committed to meeting the Prime Minister's pledge that those who wish to do so will be able to continue to get their benefits in cash at post offices, in full and without charge.

South West of England

Regional Development Agency

Mr. Butterfill: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the South West regional development agency has provided support to the South West regional convention; and if she will make a statement. [23625]

Alan Johnson: The South West regional development agency has provided no financial support for the South West regional convention.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will answer the question tabled by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam on 26 November 2001. [23318]

Mr. Alexander: I answered the question on 11 December.

Sub-Post Offices

Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on moneys available under and progress on the urban development fund for urban sub-post offices. [19493]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 3 December 2001]: Staff of Post Office Ltd. are working up detailed proposals in consultation with my officials on how best the urban network of post offices should adapt to changes in the marketplace and how Government funding to assist such adaptation should be structured.

Equal Pay

Barbara Follett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she has taken to encourage business associations to produce guidance on voluntary equal pay reviews. [15728]

Ms Hewitt: The official guidance on voluntary equal pay reviews is that published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) as a statutory code of practice on equal pay in 1997. The Government have recently

17 Dec 2001 : Column: 121W

provided the EOC with an extra £100,000 to produce a model for voluntary pay reviews. It will offer a technical example for employers in how to review the pay of their male and female employees and will soon be piloted so that it is shown to be workable for business and effective for women.

The Employers' Association for Local Government has produced equality guidance which includes advice on pay reviews. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development has also produced an "Equal Pay Guide" for its members who are generally personnel managers.

The Government have recently announced the annual Castle Awards for employers to encourage them to undertake and act on voluntary pay reviews. They will recognise employers' excellence in addressing equal pay and related issues. Earlier this year the Government appointed 'Fair Pay Champions' from business, the public

17 Dec 2001 : Column: 122W

sector and trade unions to help with our drive towards achieving fair pay for women through promoting and sharing good practice and heightening awareness of employment rights and responsibilities.

Flooding (Ilford)

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment her Department has made in the last 12 months of the impact of flooding of the River Roding on businesses in Ilford, North; and what assistance is available to businesses in the event of further flooding. [15528]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 16 November 2001]: We have made no such assessments.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is the responsible Department for matters dealing with the consequences of floodings. They are considering whether help can be given to all those affected.

17 Dec 2001 : Column: 123W


Live Animals (Export)

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many live (a) sheep and (b) pigs were exported for (i) slaughter, (ii) further fattening and (iii) breeding in 2001, broken down by country of destination. [13548]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 9 November 2001]: The total number of live sheep and live pigs certified for export from the UK during 2001 for breeding, slaughter and fattening are shown in the following tables:

Live sheep
Country of destinationBreedingFatteningSlaughter
Republic of Ireland4,5372,226130,244

Live pigs
Country of destinationBreedingFatteningSlaughter
Republic of Ireland482020,797

These figures are derived from the computer system used to issue export health certificates and are subject to updating and amendment.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the areas of outstanding natural beauty in the Buckingham constituency. [16254]

Mr. Meacher: Part of the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty lies within the Buckingham constituency.

UK Fuel Poverty Strategy

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy specifies a target date for achieving the objective of ensuring that as far as reasonably practicable persons in England and Wales do not live in fuel poverty. [17941]

Mr. Meacher: The UK Fuel Poverty Strategy sets a target date of 2010 for assisting all vulnerable fuel poor households, as well as all other fuel poor households

17 Dec 2001 : Column: 124W

living in social sector housing. Together these two groups represent some 90 per cent. of all the fuel poor households in England in 1998.

The Strategy therefore meets the terms of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 for England in ensuring that as far as reasonably practicable, persons do not live in fuel poverty. We intend to work with interested groups to develop practical, cost-effective mechanisms for assisting the remaining group of fuel poor: the healthy adult households living in private sector housing.

Fuel poverty is a devolved matter and it is the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales to comment on the situation in Wales.

Household Waste

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what measures she is taking to reduce household waste; [18012]

Mr. Meacher: Tackling the amount of waste produced is the first priority in the hierarchy for waste management decisions set out in the Government's Waste Strategy 2000. The Government are supporting the National Waste Awareness Initiative and have issued guidance to local authorities on their powers under the Waste Minimisation Act 1998.

The Government have implemented the Packaging Directive and a voluntary agreement on the recycled content of newsprint. Further legislation on electrical and electronic equipment and batteries will follow and a voluntary agreement on direct mail and promotions (junk mail) is planned. These are all designed to reduce the amount of waste arising from these products and their impact on the household waste stream.

Local authorities are experimenting with a range of measures to encourage minimisation. Waste minimisation will be one of the issues considered in the recently announced review of the waste strategy by the Performance and Innovation Unit.

Next Section Index Home Page