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Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many sub-post offices have (a) closed and (b) reduced opening hours which are located in (i) Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, (ii) the Dumfries and Galloway region and (iii) Scotland in each of the last five years. 
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Ms Hewitt [holding answer 5 February 2002]: I am informed by Post Office Ltd. that data by country before 1998 are not available and that regional data are not collated in the form requested. Data on reduced hours opening of sub-post offices are not held historically.
Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many retailers have indicated to her Department that they (a) would never open on Christmas day, (b) would consider opening on Christmas day and (c) intend to open on Christmas day, in the last five years. 
Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will publish recent representations her Department has received from retailers about Sunday trading hours when Christmas eve falls on a Sunday. 
Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will publish recent representations her Department has received from large garden centres about trading on Easter Sunday. 
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Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 17 January 2002, Official Report, column 419, on Consignia, what sums are being invested by the Government with respect to the steps that need to be taken to maintain the delivery service in rural areas and the rural network, broken down by (a) Scotland, (b) England (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland. 
Mr. Alexander [holding answer 28 January 2002]: The Postal Services Act 2000 provides that it is the primary responsibility of the postal regulator (Postcomm) to exercise its functions in a manner best calculated to ensure the provision of a universal postal service. It is therefore for Postcomm to determine how the universal service obligation is implemented in the interests of consumers. Currently Postcomm requires Consignia plc, in the licence, to provide a universal postal service.
£480 million has been invested by Government in the Horizon programme to automate the entire post office network and £270 million of support over three years has been committed by Government for modernisation of the network. In addition, 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. Advice on transitional financial assistance on a UK-wide basis to the rural post office network from the Postal Services Commission is currently under consideration.
Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the remit is of the Competition Commission with respect to considering the need for firms to compete globally when investigating merger and acquisition activity in the UK. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: When conducting an inquiry into a merger, the Commission is required to determine whether the creation of a merger situation operates, or may be expected to operate, against the public interest. In conducting its inquiry into the public interest effects of the merger the Commission considers all matters which appear to it to be relevant.
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Ms Hewitt: We have introduced a number of complementary initiatives designed to encourage better interaction between universities and industry. This will enable businesses to access and benefit from the universities' research capabilities, and universities themselves become more responsive to the needs of industry.
In October 2001 the Government made awards in excess of £100 million under three competitions (the Higher Education Innovation Fund £80 million, Science Enterprise Challenge £15 million and University Challenge £15 million) to encourage the transfer of knowledge from the science base to industry.
We have expanded the successful TCS scheme which enables high-quality graduates to draw on academic support and expertise while working in a company on research projects of value to industry. We have increased TCS activity by 25 per cent. during 2001; from 730 to 918 current TCS Programmes.
DTI and its co-sponsors have approved 18 Faraday Partnerships focused on areas of major industrial importance to the UK. Each partnership is designed to promote better exploitation of research and technology by creating partnerships between universities, intermediary bodies (eg research and technology organisations, private sector laboratories, etc.), business end-users and suppliers of finance. A further six partnerships will be selected later this year to enable us to fulfil our White Paper commitment to set up a national network of 24 Faraday Partnerships by 2002.
The Government have continued to support the LINK collaborative research scheme which is aimed at promoting the development and transfer of new technologies between universities and companies. Expenditure across Government in support of LINK was £41 million in 200001. The Government announced seven new LINK programmes and committed £12 million in 200001 to a further round of Foresight LINK Awards projects, complementing current LINK programmes in Foresight priority areas. There are currently a total of some 380 LINK university/company research projects under way.
Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if she will make it her policy to promote innovation in the textile and clothing industry by supporting a series of sector-specific events highlighting best practice in product innovation; 
(3) if she will undertake a study of the reasons for the differing performance of the clothing industries in (a) Italy, (b) Germany, (c) France and (d) the UK; 
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(5) if she will undertake to fund activities that will lead to the development of stronger networks among (a) technical textile manufacturers, (b) universities and colleges and (c) other parts of the supply chain in the textile industry; 
(6) if her Department will arrange a series of regional seminars to highlight the availability of funding for technological innovation in the textile and clothing industry; 
(7) if she will establish a flexible support fund to support individual companies in the textile and clothing industries undertaking small-scale innovation and developmental work; 
(8) if her Department will continue to fund technology transfer activities involving technical textile companies and academic institutions; 
(9) if she will undertake to fund a study of best practice in the Italian textile and clothing industry and how it might be adapted to the UK; 
(10) if she will make it her policy to ensure the availability of funding to support technological innovation in the textile industry; and if she will make a statement; 
(11) what steps she is taking to enable traditional textile companies to diversify into technical textiles. 
Ms Hewitt: It is a priority for my Department to support a healthy UK textiles and clothing industry and to work alongside the industry's own Textile and Clothing Strategy Group (TCSG) in helping to improve the industry's productivity and competitiveness. I attach particular importance to helping the industry to innovate and develop new world-beating products. The Government have invested more than £80 million in the industry since 1997. And in the last year alone, we have invested about £8 million focused principally on developing the technical textiles market, employment and training opportunities, help for the supply chain, design skills, the benefits of 3-commerce and export support.
My Department is working closely with the TCSG to raise awareness and encourage participating of textile and clothing manufacturers in a variety of research, technology transfer and best practice programmes.
A programme of 10 regionally tailored road shows, "Textile and Clothing Funding Unzipped", is under way in key textiles and clothing regions underpinned by a dedicated website signposting companies to sources of help and support for technological innovation, for R&D and for capital investment, including information on collaborative EU programmes such as Link and Eureka. "Unzipped" road shows have so far been held in Melton Mowbrayeast midlands in March 2001, Boltonnorth-west region in October 2001, HuddersfieldYorkshire and Humber region in October 2001, Port Talbotsouth Wales in November 2001, Llandudnonorth Wales in November 2001, London in December 2001 and continues in Sunderlandnorth-east region on 6 February 2002, Solihullwest midlands on 5 March 2002, Edinburgh on 14 March 2002 and Belfast on 20 March 2002.
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Particular focus has been given by my Department to supporting the development of Technical Textiles. Since 1998 22 collaborative and innovative technical textiles projects have been supported and a further seven new projects are currently in development. In April 2001 a Technical Textiles Project Co-ordinator was appointed to increase networking within the sector and bring together project consortia of technical textile companies and academic institutions. To help in this objective regional seminars have been held to highlight the availability of funding for technical textile innovation and to encourage traditional textile companies to diversify into this sector. My Department is supporting the work of TechniTexthe Faraday Partnership for technical textiles comprising hub partners Heriot-Watt university, the university of Leeds, UMIST and BTTG. We welcome the industry initiative to explore the possibility of setting up of a TT trade association, which would help broker stronger links across the sector.
We continue to seek to involve UK textile manufacturers in research collaborations with universities. Currently we are funding two such research partnerships through Foresight LINK Awards. The two projects are aimed at researching new fire resistant textiles, and a prototype automated sorter for the detection and removal of natural and synthetic contaminants in wool and cashmere. We are also funding a EUREKA project with the objective of creating a pilot line for the manufacture of texturised, mass stained, fine polypropylene yarn.
We are already supporting a variety of collaborative initiatives in the textile and clothing sector as a whole aimed at fostering stronger networks between strategic partners through the Innovation Budget and through best practice programmes such as the Industry Forum Adaptation scheme, which is currently funding a major initiative aimed at improving supply chain efficiency in the textiles and clothing sector.
My Department is aware that the industry has been in discussions with a view to developing British wool textile as a generic brand. In consultation with the TCSG my Department is carrying out a comparative study of the UK and Italian clothing manufacturing industries, focused on the wool and worsted weaving and men's tailoring sectors. The results of this study will be disseminated to the industry and will inform decisions about any future research projects.
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