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Employment Practices

30. Mrs. Dean: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to encourage flexibility in employment practices. [25578]

Alan Johnson: Earlier this week the Government amended the Employment Bill to take forward the recommendations made by the Work and Parents Taskforce to place a duty on employers to give serious consideration to requests to work flexibly from parents of young children .

Yesterday we also announced the fourth round of the Work Life Balance Challenge Fund, which will help employers introduce and develop flexible and diverse working arrangements. The aim of the fund is to raise employers' awareness of the business benefits of policies and practices that help employees achieve a better balance between work and the rest of their lives.

Air Traffic Control (Tanzania)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the sale of the air traffic control system to Tanzania. [25953]

Nigel Griffiths: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) on 9 January 2002, Official Report, column 869W.

Small Businesses

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much funding has been allocated to help start small businesses in Portsmouth, South in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [24942]

Nigel Griffiths: A breakdown of the information requested is not available by constituency and could be assembled only at disproportionate cost.

Post Office Network

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the sum allocated in the Comprehensive Spending Review to preserve the post office network will be spent; how much has been spent in 2000–01; and how much will be spent in (a) 2001–02, (b) 2002–03 and (c) 2003–04. [25372]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 11 January 2002]: In the Comprehensive Spending Review 2000, £270 million was allocated to modernise and sustain the post office network over the three years 2001–02 to 2003–04. Of this, £15 million over three years was allocated to the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to help sustain and improve post offices in deprived urban areas. A total of £35 million over three years has been set aside to pilot the concept of post offices as Government General Practitioners. The balance of the

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funding is allocated to supporting the restructuring of the urban network and to providing transitional financial assistance to rural post offices.

In the current financial year, up to £25 million has been committed to funding of the cost of the Government General Practitioner "Your Guide" pilot currently running in Leicestershire and Rutland. The phasing of expenditure on the other planned schemes and initiatives over the spending review period will be determined in the light of the detailed arrangements for implementation as they are finalised.

Food Retailing (Monopolies)

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what powers (a) she and (b) the Competition Commission have to investigate local monopolies of food retailing; and if she will make a statement. [25557]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Fair Trading Act 1973 allows the Director General of Fair Trading or the Secretary of State to make a reference to the Competition Commission in respect of a product or service supplied to the UK market as a whole or to a part of it.

Consignia

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with Consignia regarding recruitment of delivery staff in London. [26706]

Mr. Alexander: The Department has regular discussions with Consignia about a range of strategic issues facing the company. However, the recruitment of delivery staff is an operational issue for the company.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when a new Chairman of Consignia will (a) be appointed and (b) take up his duties. [26565]

Mr. Alexander: Arrangements are in hand to recruit and appoint a new Chairman of Consignia. Recruitment consultants have been engaged and the post has recently been advertised in the press.

In the interim the Board of Consignia have asked Allan Leighton to chair the board.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what factors will affect her decision as to whether Consignia should pay a dividend to Her Majesty's Government for the current financial year. [26567]

Mr. Alexander: In line with the proposals set out in the White Paper "Post Office Reform: A World Class Service for the 21st Century", a number of commercial factors will need to be considered when deciding whether Consignia should pay a dividend to HMG.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she took to inform businesses affected by the foot and mouth epidemic as to the financial assistance available through the regional development agencies and other schemes; what the cost was of marketing such schemes; how many businesses applied;

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how much funding assistance they applied for; how much they received on average; and if she will make a statement. [27038]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 16 January 2002]: It was left to the discretion of regional development agencies and other relevant bodies to decide on how to inform businesses of the help available from them. Information is not available centrally either on publicity costs incurred or on how much assistance businesses applied for under the Business Recovery Fund or other schemes operated by the RDAs. As at 12 December some 5,700 Business Recovery Fund grants had been approved at an average of just over £4,000. No reliable information is yet available on take-up of rate relief.

To date the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme has guaranteed 29 loans to businesses affected by FMD, with an average loan size of £50,258. Of these, 18 were made under the relaxed eligibility criteria introduced in April 2001 and publicised by Ministers. In addition, 84 requests for extended loan terms have been granted to businesses with existing SFLGS loans.

The Small Business Service (SBS) produced and distributed a signposting leaflet to raise awareness of the assistance available to businesses experiencing difficulties as a result of FMD. Around 3.5 million leaflets were distributed through banks, post offices, trade associations and Business Link operators. The total cost of production, printing, storage and distribution of this leaflet was £77,628.

Business advice fact sheets have been posted on DEFRA's website and they have also set up a helpline.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many businesses affected by the foot and mouth epidemic applied for financial aid through the Business Recovery Fund in the south-west; how much they applied for; how much they received on average; and if she will make a statement. [27039]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 16 January 2002]: 1,199 businesses applied for aid through the Business Recovery Fund in the south-west.

Each business was eligible for a grant of up to £15,000. Information is not held centrally by the RDA on the amounts applied for.

The average grant size in the south-west was £8,006.

Departmental Expenditure

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 17 December 2001, Official Report, columns 472–73W, on departmental expenditure, for what reason she is unable to provide reasons for spending outturns lower than planned in subcategories (a) 1 'Department of Trade and Industry: programmes and administration' and (b) 2 'Department of Trade and Industry: science'; and if she will make a statement. [26474]

Ms Hewitt: Full details of outturn against the 2000–01 voted provision for programmes and administration and science will be published in the appropriation accounts to be presented to the House of Commons by 31 January. The departmental resource accounts on an accruals basis will also be presented to the House of Commons by

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31 January. Updated estimates of the outturn for Departmental Expenditure Limits in 2000–01 on an accruals basis were published in the 2001 pre-Budget report (Cm 5318; Table B16).

Broadband

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much of the Third Generator Licence fee money has been spent on broadband infrastructure. [26887]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 14 January 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 17 May 2000, Official Report, column 187W.


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