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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many letters were received by each Minister in her Department in each month since June 1997. [59308]

Ms Hewitt: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the volume of Members' correspondence received by departments. The Report for 2001 was on Friday 24 May 2002, Official Report, columns 674–76W. Copies of previous reports are available in the Libraries of the House.

Age Discrimination

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to comply with Government policy on age discrimination. [59213]

Ms Hewitt: As an equal opportunities employer, my Department regularly monitors its personnel procedures, including by age, to identify any potential discrimination. The Department aims to be fair to everyone and ensure that no eligible job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of age. For example internal job applicants are not required to give details of their age nor does age appear on staff appraisal reports.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if (a) her Department and (b) its agencies have a policy of not considering applications for employment by persons over a particular age. [59450]

Ms Hewitt: The normal age of retirement for staff in my Department is either 60 or 65, depending on the grade held by the individual.

All applications for employment in my Department are considered on their merits, against the criteria and competences required for particular opportunities. New entrants are expected to complete a minimum of between one and three years' service, before they reach their normal age of retirement, to complete a probationary period and to justify the expense of recruitment and initial training.

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Launch Aid

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to review the future of Launch Aid. [59406]

Alan Johnson: The aerospace industry obtains a broad range of support from the Department of Trade and Industry, including Launch Investment and support for research and technology. The support mechanisms are constantly kept under review to ensure they deliver value for tax payers' money while underpinning the industry's efforts to raise productivity and competitiveness.

The Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team (IGT), which was launched on 16 May 2002, will wish to consider the support available to the aerospace sector as part of their remit of looking at medium and long-term strategic issues affecting the aerospace sector. The Government and the industry partnership through the IGT is aimed at improving innovation and competitiveness in the aerospace industry.

General Agreement on Trade in Services

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement specifying Government commitments made under current negotiations for the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services. [58203]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 23 May 2002]: There have been none. Any proposed commitments would first be tabled as conditional offers, in response to requests received. The Doha WTO Ministerial Declaration set June 2002 as the date for the submission of requests and March 2003 for the tabling of initial offers. We intend to consult widely between these dates.

Pipeline Capacity

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how much free capacity there is in each pipeline in St. Fergus; [58893]

Mr. Wilson: Determining the available capacity in gas pipelines is technically very complex and dependent on a number of factors including gas specification, entry location, existing gas flows and relative demand. Pipeline owners therefore undertake calculations on a case by case basis for each new prospective entrant and the results are commercially sensitive. On a broad level, certain pipelines currently have a reasonably constant level of spare capacity while others may have some spare capacity on a seasonal basis only. Additional annual spare capacity in the pipelines to St. Fergus is expected to begin to develop from about 2003–04.

Through PILOT, the Government and industry are pursuing a programme of activities aimed at maximising production of offshore oil and gas and encouraging commercial discussions between UK pipeline owners and

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Norwegian licensees. These activities, measures in hand to revise the industry's Code of Practice on access to offshore infrastructure, and the development of new guidance on the regulation of third party access to upstream pipelines will help to bring forward new developments which may be expected to utilise existing offshore infrastructure, including the pipelines to St. Fergus.

North Sea Fiscal Regime

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions regarding the change in the North sea fiscal regime were conducted with PILOT prior to the announcement of the 2002 Budget. [59385]

Mr. Wilson: Tax policy is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The reforms of the North sea fiscal regime announced in Budget 2002 were not discussed in advance in PILOT.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the Government have assessed the likely effects of reduced industry cash flow due to North sea taxation changes on exploration and appraisal drilling in the North sea. [59375]

Mr. Wilson: Last year, after investing nearly £4 billion, the North sea oil and gas industry generated cash flow of close to £10 billion after all taxes. The impact on industry cash flow of the changes to North sea taxation announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of Exchequer in Budget 2002 will depend, among other things such as the level of oil and gas prices, on the level of industry investment. The carefully designed package of measures combines two key elements—a 10 per cent. supplementary charge and a 100 per cent. investment allowance. The third element, abolition of North sea royalty, will of course increase rather than reduce industry cash flow.

Reserved Powers

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to transfer the administration of reserved powers and functions of its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies within its remit from her Department to the Scotland Office. [59516]

Alan Johnson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to her by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 24 May 2002, Official Report, column 600W.

Scottish Executive

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many representations the Scottish Executive has made to her Department since May 1999, broken down by (a) Scottish Executive department, (b) subject and (c) date; [59517]

Alan Johnson: Information is not available in the form requested. Both formal and informal contacts take place regularly between Government Departments, including DTI, and departments of the Scottish Executive.

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Light Source CASIM Project

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what location is being considered for the Fourth Generation Light Source CASIM project; and if she will make a statement. [58612]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 23 May 2002]: The proposal for a Fourth Generation Light Source forms one element of the CASIM project. Having passed a scientific peer review organised by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council on behalf of the Research Councils it will now proceed to the next stage of the Gateway Process, with the development of a business case. This will be followed by further discussions on how the project might be taken forward.

Credit Support

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to what extent export credit support is conditional upon a percentage of sourcing of UK content; how that content is measured, assessed and monitored; and whether the percentage of UK content varies between categories and sectors of exports. [59194]

Ms Hewitt: ECGD's main purpose is to facilitate the export of UK goods and services and therefore, the existence of UK content is a pre-requisite of ECGD cover. Each case is considered on its merits but ECGD will consider supporting whatever amount of UK content is contained in a contract.

The UK exporter informs ECGD of the amount of UK content contained in the export contract and ECGD's guarantee documentation will reflect the level of support. Compliance may be monitored by the bank financing the transaction or by ECGD's own auditors.

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