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Information and Consultation Directive

26. Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the impact of the information and consultation directive on British business. [33820]

Alan Johnson: The directive will help reinforce what the Government are already doing to promote partnership at work, and through partnership to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of British business.

Barcelona Summit

27. Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her objectives will be at the forthcoming Barcelona summit with special reference to industrial competitiveness. [33821]

Ms Hewitt: At the Lisbon summit in March 2000, Heads of Government acknowledged that Europe needed major structural reform to succeed in the global economy and that companies needed flexible, strong and open markets to enable them to improve their competitive position and create new jobs. The summit set out two ambitious goals: to make the EU the most competitive

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economy in the world and to create full employment by 2010. The Barcelona summit marks the end of the second year of this 10-year programme.

The Government are a strong supporter of the Lisbon agenda and want the Barcelona summit to reaffirm the EU's commitment to economic reform. In doing this we need to take stock and evaluate progress against the conclusions agreed at Lisbon and set out a future programme of work to ensure that momentum is maintained.

The EU has made good progress in a number of areas—for example, updating the regulation of telecommunications—but progress has been less encouraging in others. We are still waiting for agreement on a Community Patent and updated public procurement rules. We will be looking to Barcelona to give a political push in those areas where negotiations have progressed less positively.

Postal Services

28. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she next expects to meet Consignia management to discuss their business plan for 2002–03. [33822]

Mr. Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has regular meetings with Consignia management to discuss a range of issues relating to the future of the company.

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the future of the universal service obligation for mail delivery services. [33801]

Mr. Alexander: The Government consider the maintenance of a universal postal service in this country to be of the highest importance. That is why we enshrined the obligation in primary legislation in the Postal Services Act 2000 and gave the postal regulator (Postcomm) the primary duty 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.

Technology Transfer

29. Mr. McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what she is doing to encourage technology transfer from academia to industry. [33823]

Mr. Wilson: The Government's White Paper, "Excellence and Opportunity: a science and innovation policy for the 21st century", published last July, set out a comprehensive range of measures to help promote technology transfer from academia to industry; and we have made some excellent progress here.

Last October we announced awards totalling over £100 million to help universities grow their capability to interact with business and to realise the business opportunities offered by science—including further science enterprise centres and seed-corn funding to assist the transformation of good research into good business. We have doubled the number of new starts for Faraday

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Partnerships to link the science base to business networks, and expect to have reached our target for a national network of 24 partnerships by the end of the year. We have increased our funding of the successful TCS scheme.

Total TCS activity grew by 25 per cent. during 2001; from 730 to 918 current TCS programmes. TCS enables universities and businesses to work together using high calibre graduates drawing on academic support and expertise while they work in companies on "business- driven" projects.

We are also continuing to provide support for collaborative research and development under the Link programme and have committed £12 million in 2000–01 to a further round of Foresight Link Awards projects complementing current Link programmes in Foresight priority areas.


Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he intends to reply to the letter dated 24 September 2001 from the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East on fines for the non-delivery of accounts to Companies House. [28009]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 17 January 2002]: I replied on 13 February 2002.

Single Tier Exemption

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many representations her Department has received since the Trading Schemes Act 1996 to amend the definition of single tier established in the Fair Trading Act 1973, so that more than a single master franchise of a trading scheme may be permitted in the UK; if proposals permitting a change to exempt certain multi-level schemes were considered in her Department when drawing up S.I., 1997, No. 1887; if she will place in the Library details of her considerations in opting to maintain the single tier exemption in 1997; and if she will make a statement. [26153]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 15 January 2002]: Current legislation on trading schemes does not prohibit more than one master franchise from operating in the UK. However, each master franchise would have to comply with the relevant provisions of the trading schemes legislation.

The legislation is intended to protect scheme participants or potential participants whose ability to take commercial risks is similar to that of consumers and not to restrict normal business format transactions. The 1997 regulations therefore exclude from controls single-tier schemes or schemes where participants are registered for VAT. Some exemption of certain multi-level schemes was considered but it was concluded that this carried the risk of creating loopholes in the controls.

A copy of the summary of responses to the consultation which preceded the 1997 regulations has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will establish an inquiry into the implications for UK corporate accounting practice of the collapse of Enron. [30084]

Miss Melanie Johnson: No. There are major differences between the accounting requirements in the UK and the US, which make it unlikely that the principal accounting factors we understand to have been involved in the collapse of Enron would be replicated here. We are, however, following developments in the US. The UK Accounting Standards Board has been playing a leading role for some time in international discussions of accounting requirements in this area.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when, and by whom, the relevant ministers were informed of the problems at Enron Corporation. [31937]

Mr. Wilson: In accordance with previous Administrations it is not our practice to disclose internal advice to Ministers which is exempt under exemption 2 of the Code of Practice on access to Government information.

Dual-use Export Licences

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many dual-use export licences have been granted for the category code 5A001b4a since 1997; how many items were contained within each export licence application granted; and what were the countries of destination and the end-users for the equipment. [32281]

Nigel Griffiths: It would entail disproportionate cost to establish the number of licences issued by destination for the category code 5A001.b.4.a since 1997.

Details of all export licences, including those for digitally controlled radio receivers controlled under category code 5A001, are published by destination in the Government's annual reports on strategic export controls. Copies of the 1997,1998, 1999 and 2000 annual reports are available in the Libraries of the House. The 2001 annual report will be published as soon as possible.

Small Businesses (Regulatory Burden)

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses resulting from the implementation of EU directives. [33016]

Nigel Griffiths: To tackle European policy initiatives that unfairly burden British small firms, the Small Business Service has set up smallbusinesseurope which lobbies for small business interest while European directives are being framed. To avoid unnecessary and over-complex implementation of European directives in the UK, this Government have produced essential guidance for policy officials—the Guide to Better European Regulations, and the Transposition Checklist. Transposition Notes help avoid 'gold-plating' by showing up any potential over-implementation, enabling it to be addressed. These notes have accompanied primary or secondary legislation that gives effect to European directives, easing scrutiny both by Parliament and business, since November 2001.

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