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Postal Services (Blind People)

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the Government will ensure that postal service for the registered blind will remain free of charge; and if she will make a statement. [36111]

Mr. Alexander: Consignia plc currently provides certain postal services free to blind and partially sighted people under the Articles for the Blind service. This service permits blind and partially sighted people to send a letter or parcel of any weight up to 7 kilograms free of charge to any place in the world within the terms and conditions of the service.

In order to ensure that this service is not eroded at any time in the future, on 14 March 2001, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, issued to the postal regulator the Postal Services Commission (Postcomm) a Directive under Section 41 of the Postal Services Act 2000 under which Postcomm was instructed to include in the licence of all universal postal service providers a condition requiring them to provide certain services free of charge to the blind and partially sighted. In accordance with section 41 (2) of the Act, the requirement would not come into force before a further direction was made by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. To date this Department has not needed to issue such a further direction.

In addition, Postcomm requires Consignia plc, in the licence, to publish and submit a statement of the arrangements it has established or intends to establish to ensure that users of postal services who have significant difficulty in reaching the post office letter boxes and access points provided because they are, amongst other things, blind or partially sighted are able to post letters and postal packets regularly and as far as possible without significant cost to those users attributable to their difficulties. Such a statement was submitted to Postcomm and Postwatch on 3 August 2001 and is available on the Royal Mail's website.

Copies of the Direction, the Consignia licence and Consignia's statement on Access and Social Obligations have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will require (a) Consignia and (b) other future postal operators to provide a free mail service for the blind. [36376]

Mr. Alexander: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given above to PQ No. 36111.

Post Offices

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post offices there were in (a) the constituency of the Ribble Valley and Fulwood, (b) Lancashire, (c) the North West of England, (d) Wales and (e) the United Kingdom, in each year since 1997. [36420]

Mr. Alexander: Post Office Limited started to analyse post offices numbers by Government Office region in England in March 2001 when total outlets in the North West numbered 1,853. I understand from Post Office Limited that data on post office network are not held on a parliamentary constituency or county basis.

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I am informed by Post Office Limited that data by country are not available before 1998. The numbers of post offices operating in Wales in the last three financial years are as follows:

Wales

Number
End March 19981,513
End March 19991,501
End March 20001,470
End March 20011,402

I am also informed by Post Office Limited that an on-going revision of data has affected individual country totals.

In the UK, the numbers of post offices operating since 1997 are as follows:


Number
End March 199719,251
End March 199819,008
End March 199918,775
End March 200018,393
End March 200117,846

Postal Services Commission

Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the annual budget was of the Postal Services Commission and its predecessor body for the financial years (a) 1999-2000 and (b) 2000-01; what the agreed budget is for 2001-02; and what the estimated budget is for 2002-03. [36260]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 14 February 2002]: The Postal Services Commission was initially created within DTI by administrative action in January 2000 and became an independent non-Ministerial Government Department on the coming into force of the Postal Services Act on 6 November 2000.

No specific budget was fixed for financial year 1999-2000 with the initial staff and administrative costs incurred from January 2000 being covered by DTI. The agreed budgets for the following years are as follows:




National Manufacturing Summit

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the manufacturers who attended the December National Manufacturing Summit; how many SME manufacturers were invited; and which manufacturers from the North East were invited to attend. [36783]

Ms Hewitt: The list of manufacturers who attended the Manufacturing Summit is as follows:








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A number of manufacturers were invited with the help of the Government Offices and the devolved Administrations with the intention of achieving a good spread of manufacturing interests. Nissan UK attended from the North East region.

Arthur Andersen

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 11 February 2002, Official Report, column 60W, if she will list (a) those attending and (b) the subjects discussed at the business dinner with Arthur Andersen on 22 January.[37576]

Mr. Hewitt: The dinner was attended by a number of senior business people and representatives from Arthur Anderson. A wide range of issues were discussed. It is not normal practice to release details of meetings or discussions with private individuals or companies.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many contracts Arthur Andersen received from HM Government in each year since 1987; and what the aggregate value of those contracts was (a) before and (b) since 1997. [38388]

Ms Hewitt: This information is not held centrally.

For my own Department, since May 1997 seven contracts with an aggregate value of 4.9 million have been awarded. Information for the period 1987-97 cannot be accessed except at disproportionate cost.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 11 February 2002, to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), Official Report, column 60W, on Arthur Andersen, if she will place interim reports from the contracts in the Library; and if she will make a statement. [37687]

Ms Hewitt: The position on publication of reports on the ongoing contracts with Arthur Andersen referred to in my answer of 11 February is as follows:

Framework arrangement for the Work-life Balance Challenge Fund projects: as the projects involve information provided on a confidential basis by companies there will be no published report.

Study of UK competitive position: the project involves researching and updating manuals for investment officers in the UK and abroad and regional partners. As these documents are for internal training use only there will be no published report.

Research and updating of information sheets: this information is available on the Invest UK website www.invest.uk.com.

Unlicensed Radio Stations

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many prosecutions there were of unlicensed radio stations in each of the last available five years; [37250]

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Mr. Alexander: The number of convictions secured by the Radiocommunications Agency against pesons for unlicensed broadcasting in the last five years is as follows:

YearNumber
199741
199853
199947
200041
200120

Unlicensed radio stations go to great lengths to avoid detection of studio sites but the Agency also puts consideration effort into the removal of transmitters (1,438 raids in 2001).


Postal Services

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 6 February 2002, Official Report, column 968W, on Consignia, what proportion of the 2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or reopen post office facilities in rural areas has been spent to date; of that sum, what proportion has been spent in Scotland; and what proportion of the 480 million invested by the UK Government in the Horizon programme to automate the post office network has been spent in Scotland. [37091]

Mr. Alexander: I refer to the reply to the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) on 11 February 2002, Official Report, column 67W. Six applications for support under the 2 million rural fund have been received from initiatives in Scotland; Post Office Limited are currently evaluating them.

To date POL have despatched 139 application forms of which 29 have been completed and returned. Of those 29, seven applications have been agreed and three have not met the criteria for the scheme, the remainder are at various states of examination.

The Horizon programme was a national project and information is available only on the UK wide basis.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the latest posting time was to achieve next-day delivery of post to the Isle of Wight from (a) Belfast, (b) Cardiff, (c) Edinburgh, (d) Liverpool, (e) Manchester, (f) Newcastle, (g) Leeds, (h) London South-Western District and (i) Birmingham in (i) 2001, (ii) 1991 and (iii) 1981. [37602]

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Mr. Alexander [holding answer 26 February 2002]: I understand from Consignia that to achieve next day delivery from major city centre boxes across the UK to the Isle of Wight, the last posting times were generally as follows:




Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the latest posting time was to achieve next-day delivery of post from the Isle of Wight to (a) Belfast, (b) Cardiff, (c) Edinburgh, (d) Liverpool, (e) Manchester, (f) Newcastle, (g) Leeds, (h) London South-Western District and (i) Birmingham in (i) 2001, (ii) 1991 and (iii) 1981. [37603]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 26 February 2002]: I understand from Consignia that the latest posting times to achieve next day delivery from the Isle of Wight to major city centres across the UK were as follows:






The latest posting times from other boxes vary according to location. In 1981 and 1991, the last collection from the Isle of Wight was 17.30.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of addresses in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales, (d) Northern Ireland and (e) the United Kingdom receive a second daily delivery of mail. [38041]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 27 February 2002]: I understand from Consignia that it currently categorises delivery points as either XTown" which receive a second delivery where mail is available or XRural" which receive a single delivery.

The proportion of addresses covered by a second daily delivery of mail is as follows:

Per cent
England88.9
Scotland85.2
Wales81.9
Northern Ireland72.2
United Kingdom87.7

On a UK wide basis, on average 95 per cent. of mail by volume is delivered on first delivery.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of the population of (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales, (d) Northern Ireland and (e) the United Kingdom live more than (i) one mile, (ii) two miles and (iii) five miles from a postbox. [38038]

Mr. Alexander: I understand from Consignia that of the 27 million UK delivery addresses, 0.9 per cent. are more than one mile from a post box and 0.001 per cent. are more than five miles from a post box or posting facility.

28 Feb 2002 : Column 1482W

Information is availably only on a UK basis at distances of one and five miles.


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