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Sub-post Offices

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria will apply to the allocation of the Your Guide scheme when the pilot project is extended to the sub-post office network. [34791]

Mr. Alexander: We are currently in the process of evaluating the pilot of Your Guide running in Leicestershire and Rutland. In parallel with the evaluation we are working with the e Envoy's Office, other Departments and Consignia to design the form and content of a potential national service should the pilot prove a success.

Regional Assistance Grant (East Sussex)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much regional assistance grant to industry was awarded to each parliamentary constituency in East Sussex in each year since 1992; and if she will make a statement. [34368]

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Alan Johnson [holding answer 7 February 2002]: The regional selective assistance grants for each parliamentary constituency in East Sussex in each year since 1992 is set out in the table:

Regional selective assistance grant awarded in East Sussex from 1992 to 2001

ConstituencyTotal number of grantsTotal (£)
Bexhill and Battle140,000
Hastings and Rye5163,912
Bexhill and Battle5182,000
Hastings and Rye14449,000
Bexhill and Battle71,033,900
Hastings and Rye7430,000
Bexhill and Battle217,250
Hastings and Rye6282,000
Bexhill and Battle17,000
Hastings and Rye4238,000
Bexhill and Battle197,000
Hastings and Rye4226,500
Bexhill and Battle393,000
Brighton Kemptown1660,000
Brighton Pavilion195,000
Hastings and Rye4150,500

Enterprise grants awarded in East Sussex from 1999 to 2001

ConstituencyTotal number of grantsTotal (£)
Hastings and Rye226,800
Bexhill and Battle298,500
Hastings and Rye3175,350

Cable and Wireless

Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she has agreed to allow Cable and Wireless to redeem the special share that the Government holds with the company. [35551]

Ms Hewitt: The Government's special share in Cable and Wireless was redeemed today for its nominal value of £1. This means that the Government no longer hold any shares in Cable and Wireless.

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The Government have made this decision to remove the requirement on Cable and Wireless to obtain the Government's written consent before making certain acquisitions or disposals. This should enable Cable and Wireless to make decisions that are in its own interests and consequently to compete more effectively in the telecommunications sector.

Coal Authority Quinquennial Review

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the report of the first stage of the quinquennial review of the Coal Authority will be published. [35616]

Mr. Wilson: The report is being published today on my Department's website at index.htm. Copies are also being placed in the Libraries of the House.



Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for Women if she will make a statement on the benefits to the economy of flexible working for women. [33981]

Ms Hewitt: The economy needs a high rate of labour participation and both women and men want opportunities for productive paid employment. Flexible working is often the key to women's participation. Employers who adopt flexible working policies report that: staff are easier to attract and recruitment costs are less; skilled staff are retained and better returns are gained from training; staff turnover decreases; staff morale improves and absenteeism decreases; and changing market conditions are dealt with more effectively. In addition to the economic advantages the opportunity to work flexible hours can make a real difference to the lives of women, whether it is the woman or her partner who works flexibly; their families; and, their children.

Retention of staff is key to the stability of an organisation. The typical recruitment costs of replacing an individual have been estimated at £3,900. And these costs do not take account of the investment made in training which is lost if skilled employees have to change jobs. Skills are lost to the economy, for example, when women take lower skilled jobs and less well paid jobs on return from maternity leave. A survey of parents carried out in 2000 found that 10 per cent. of non-employed mothers with dependent children under 16 said that the lack of flexible working opportunities was the main barrier to their finding employment. The continuing pay gap is an indicator of the skills lost to the economy: women's hourly earnings are 81.6 per cent. of men's earnings.

This is why the Government are looking to improve the opportunities to work flexible hours. The Government's Work-Life Balance campaign encourages all employers to introduce ways of working which meet the needs of the business and its customers while simultaneously improving the work-life balance of their employees. In addition, for working mothers and fathers who juggle their work responsibilities with caring for their children, the Government through their Employment Bill are introducing a right to apply to work flexibly for parents

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with children aged under six (or 18 for parents of disabled children). If the new right encourages the participation of just 5 per cent. of mothers alone who are currently economically inactive it will increase the labour supply of women by 55,000.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for Women when she last met ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health to discuss health issues relating to women. [34015]

Ms Hewitt: The Ministers for Women, supported by the Women and Equality Unit, have worked closely with our colleagues in the Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills in the production of a report entitled "Better Services—Better Working Lives" which was published in December 2001.

The report was published as part of the Government's drive to deliver first class public services that are accessible to everyone. Women are the key users of health and education services, whether accessing the services themselves or for their children, and they are also in the forefront of delivering these services. The report which is based on the experiences of women as deliverers and users of these services will help inform future policy- making.


African Visit

Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Prime Minister what the objectives of his forthcoming visit to Africa are; and if he will make a statement. [33781]

The Prime Minister: I visited Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal from 7–10 February. I was accompanied by the Secretary of State for International Development and my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The main purpose of my visit was to discuss with African leaders how to take forward the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) and the G8 Action Plan for Africa. I had fruitful discussions with Presidents Obasanjo, Kufuor, Kabbah and Wade. In an address to the National Assembly in Nigeria I was able to set out the need for a true partnership of shared responsibility and mutual interest between the developed world and Africa. I focused on peace and conflict resolution, good government, trade, growth, health and education—themes we were able to develop further during the visit. I also discussed with President Obasanjo the need for free and fair presidential elections in March in Zimbabwe.

I also addressed the National Parliament in Ghana and outlined the argument for a conception of aid as an investment in the future of Africa and the developed world. I visited the Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, where I met a number of African officers with experience of conflict resolution in Africa. At the Ghanaian Cocoa Research Institute in Tafo and at Suhun Co-operative I saw how Ghanaian farmers are seeking to improve cocoa production and increase the value they can add to their raw product in Ghana and discussed with them the consequences of globalisation.

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In Sierra Leone I saw the real and beneficial impact the UK's commitment to conflict resolution has had and how peace has been restored to a country whose democracy and stability were threatened by armed rebels. It was heartening to see the preparations for democratic elections this May. There is a long way to go, but the healing process is under way in Sierra Leone, in large part thanks to the role played by British and United Nations forces.

In Senegal I attended a seminar hosted by President Wade on the conditions necessary to achieve growth in Africa, with President Kufuor, Vice President Zuma of South Africa, and a number of experts on regional integration President Chirac's personal representative on Africa also participated. On Sunday I visited Ouakam Centre near Dakar for people infected with HIV. HIV/AIDS is having a devastating effect in Africa. But Senegal, which has succeeded in keeping prevalence low, is a beacon of hope. I expressed our continued support for the Global Health Fund.

This visit, as well as being an important expression of UK commitment to Africa, was important in deepening the dialogue with African leaders in the run-up to June's G8 Summit to be held in Canada where the partnership between the developed world and Africa would be a key issue.

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