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Export Credits Guarantee Department

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the loss of interest on notional capital required to cover Export Credits Guarantee Department claims was in each of the years 1997 to 2001. [27217]

Ms Hewitt: ECGD did not employ the concept of notional capital for these years. However from records available, notional interest required to fund claims under ECGD's Account 2 can be calculated as shown in the table.

£ million

YearNotional Interest

(26) First nine months.

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South East Euro Awareness Forum

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if she will list the publications issued by South East Euro Awareness Forum, indicating (a) the number of copies produced and (b) the cost to public funds for each item; [27796]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The South East Euro Awareness Forum (SEEAF) is one of 12 Regional Euro Fora across the UK. The Regional Euro Fora are led by senior local business people and include representatives from business, national and local government bodies, as well as key business support bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, Trade Partners UK and Business Links.

The Fora were formed to increase the level of preparations by SME's for the introduction of the euro in the euro area and to advise about the possible impact on UK business.

Since its formation in 1998, £222,000 has been allocated to SEEAF.

The Forum has:

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Information is not available on the number of businesses from Buckinghamshire attending events or contacting the helpline.

SEEAF does not have a database listing those businesses that intend to trade in euro.

Sub-post Offices

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to boost trade in sub-post offices following the decision to remove the ceiling on the number of post offices card accounts; and what capacity there will be for extending the range of services available, with particular reference to passport forms. [28681]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 18 January 2002]: On the matter of the number of Post Office Card Accounts, there has been no ceiling. I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Phil Sawford) on 17 December 2001, Official Report, columns 119–20W.

Post Office Ltd. continually seeks opportunities to widen the network's client base in order to develop new products and services which will benefit customers and to ensure a viable future for the post office network. The horizon automated platform which computerised the whole of the post office network, should help this expansion.

Post Office Ltd. is already an agent for the United Kingdom Passport Agency.

Crown Post Offices

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the Crown Post Offices in the United Kingdom, identifying those that are running at a loss. [27650]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 15 January 2002]: I understand from Post Office Ltd. that the Crown office network is operated in accounting terms as a single entity, as income is collected centrally from Government and commercial clients.

Second Class Post

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to abolish the requirement for second class post; and if she will make a statement. [26698]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 21 January 2002]: Under the terms of the licence issued by the Postal Services Commission to Consignia the company is required to deliver second class post. Any changes to the terms of the licence would have to be authorised by the Postal Services Commission. Consignia has no proposals to withdraw the service and the Commission has no plans to change the licence.

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Rural Post Offices

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many rural post offices are barred from handling (a) driving licence and (b) passport applications. [29390]

Mr. Alexander: Acting as an agent, Post Office Ltd. is dependent on the level of service required through post offices by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the United Kingdom Passport Agency (UKPA). Currently the UKPA service which checks and dispatches completed passport applications is offered at 2,000 offices and motor vehicle licensing (MVL) services are offered at 4,091 offices. Currently figures indicate that 90 per cent. of people are within one mile of a post office outlet which offers these MVL services.

Manufacturing Research Centres

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many Government sponsored Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres there are in Scotland; and what is the level of funding for each. [29579]

Mr. Wilson: The Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres (IMRCs) are funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of their Innovative Manufacturing Programme. The first 12 IMRCs were announced in November 2001 and were awarded on the basis of national excellence in manufacturing research. Although none of the 12 initial centres is located in Scotland a tranche 2 IMRC involving Glasgow, Cardiff, Cambridge and Surrey universities has been approved for funding. The start date is currently under negotiation, and Glasgow university are expected to be awarded more than £1 million. Another tranche 2 centre at Heriot-Watt university in the area of Photonics is currently under review.

Parliamentary Questions

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many answers to parliamentary questions have not been answered by her Department under exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information in each year since 1994. [29426]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 22 January 2002]: The information cannot be readily obtained from the Department's database and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Digital Television

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of television sets installed in the UK are able to receive digital signals; and what percentage the Government regard as a minimum requirement as an installed base before switch-off of analogue transmissions can be effected. [30151]

Ms Hewitt: All television sets installed in the UK are capable of receiving digital signals provided that they have an external set top box or an integrated digital tuner.

The Government have set three conditions which must be met before the analogue signal is fully switched to digital. These are availability, affordability and accessibility. The availability condition requires that

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everyone who can currently receive analogue transmissions (99.4 per cent. of the UK population) will be able to receive the equivalent digital signal. The affordability test requires that consumers do not face unacceptable switching costs when converting to digital services. As a target indicator of affordability, 95 per cent. of consumers should have access to digital equipment before switchover is completed.

When we first announced these criteria in September 1999 we said that digital switchover could start to happen as early as 2006 and be completed by 2010. We remain convinced that this timing is realistic.

The Digital Television Action Plan, which was issued on 20 December 2001, contains a commitment to review progress towards digital switchover, with particular reference to the accessibility, availability and affordability tests. A first report is due by the end of March 2002.

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