Previous Section Index Home Page


Science Funding

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria she will use to decide

13 Jun 2002 : Column 1373W

the allocation of science spending between the research councils and the universities. [58226]

Alan Johnson: In allocating the Science Budget, my right hon. Friend takes into account the strategic needs of the UK's science and engineering base, and aim to maximise the contribution it makes towards innovation, economic growth, enhanced quality of life, and a more sustainable environment.

Automotive Industry

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent measures she has taken to support the automotive industry. [58229]

Alan Johnson: Last month I announced a package of #45 million for the automotive sector to include an automotive academy, two centres of automotive excellence, and support for cross-regional supply chains as a first step to implementing the recommendations of the Automotive Innovation and Growth Team. In 2001 the Department delivered Regional Selective Assistance and Training grant offers totalling #35 million. The Department also spent about #2 million last year on various other projects to promote competitiveness and productivity improvements in the sector. The Department is continuing to support process improvements through the SMMT Industry Forum and research and development through the Foresight Vehicle Programme with commitments to date exceeding #13 million.

Industrial Relations

Mr. Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the impact of union recognition on industrial relations in the last two years. [58230]

Alan Johnson: Indications suggest that the statutory procedure for trade union recognition has had a positive effect on industrial relations and has encouraged the voluntary settlement of requests for recognition. The Government will examine the operation of the statutory procedure as part of the forthcoming review of the Employment Relations Act 1999.

EU Enlargement

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment she has made of the impact of EU enlargement on UK business.[58231]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns) earlier today.

Post Office Network

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the rural post office network. [58233]

Mr. Timms: The Government are committed to the maintenance of a nationwide network of post offices and placed a formal requirement on the Post Office in November 2000 to maintain the network and to prevent any avoidable closures of rural post offices.

13 Jun 2002 : Column 1374W

The Government have already invested in modernisation comprising some #480 million to computerise the whole post office network. We have made available a #2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or re-open post office facilities in rural areas where traditional services would otherwise close. Figures for end May 2002, showed that 64 applications—to a value of #500,000—had been assessed and approved and to that date payments of #231,000 had also been made.

In addition, we have received advice form the Postal Services Commission on transitional financial assistance and proposals for the rural network are being developed in the context of that advice.

Office of Science and Technology

Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what priorities she has identified for the Office of Science and Technology for the next three years. [58235]

Ms Hewitt: The OST supports me in my role as the Cabinet-level minister with responsibility for science. It helps me deliver our policies on science, as set out in Excellence and Opportunity, the Science and Innovation White Paper, which identified our priorities as excellence in science, opportunities for innovation, and confident consumers. It also helps me to deliver against my Department's Public Service Agreement Objective II, namely to make the most of the UK's science, engineering and technology.

Social Enterprises

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to support social enterprises in the north-west. [58237]

Alan Johnson: The Strategy for Social Enterprise, to be published in the summer, will address the support that is available to social enterprise throughout the country. It will build on some of the excellent work that is already being done in the regions to facilitate the growth and development of social enterprise.

In the North West, the North West Development Agency aims to invest at least #2 million per annum by 2004–05 on strategic measures to support social enterprise. A package of projects to support social enterprise on Merseyside has been developed to which the Agency is contributing, together with regional partners and EU funding.

Consumer Protection (Software)

Barbara Follett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures her Department is taking to protect consumers' interests in the software market. [58238]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Sale of goods and supply of services legislation provides a wide range of protection to consumers in the software market.

13 Jun 2002 : Column 1375W

Manufacturing (West Midlands)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her policy is on encouraging manufacturing in the West Midlands. [58239]

Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published a document on 16 May setting out the Government's Manufacturing Strategy. I understand this has been broadly welcomed in the West Midlands.

Small Businesses

Joan Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what further measures she is taking to tackle the problems caused to small businesses by late payment of invoices. [58240]

Nigel Griffiths: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David).

Postal Services (Competition)

Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what consultations she has had with the CWU regarding potential job losses following Postcomm's plans to introduce competition into the postal market. [58244]

Mr. Timms: Consignia, or Royal Mail as it will be known in future, is losing #1.2 million a day. Cost saving measures, to put the company on a firmer footing, are a matter for the Board in consultation with the unions.

Ministers have met representatives of the CWU on a number of occasions when a range of issues was discussed. I met the General Secretary on 5 June following publication of the Postcomm proposals.

Postcomm's decision on competition in the postal market published last month takes account of responses to the consultation from stakeholders, including Consignia and the CWU, and the Government welcome this.


Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to strengthen United Kingdom competition policy. [58245]

Miss Melanie Johnson: UK competition policy will be strengthened by the provisions in the Enterprise Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 26 March 2002.

Women Incentive Network

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to prevent the activities of the Women Incentive Network. [58246]

Ms Hewitt: My Department and Trading Standards Officers are aware of the existence of the Women Incentive Network. It appears to be a gifting scheme, like XWomen Empowering Women". My hon. Friend the Minister for Competition, Consumer and Market's letter of 15 September to the hon. Member set out the Department's position on such schemes.

13 Jun 2002 : Column 1376W

Construction Industry

Mr. Page: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her objectives are in sponsoring the construction industry. [58247]

Mr. Wilson: The Department is seeking to establish a culture of continuous improvement in the construction industry, leading to improvements in productivity, competitiveness, and quality of delivery. The industry is key to the delivery of our investment plans aimed at improving quality of life.

We are taking forward three key policy initiatives as part of our improvement agenda with the industry:

First, Rethinking Construction proves the business case for change and delivers a culture of continuous improvement. In partnership with the industry we are using demonstration projects, case studies and best practice dissemination to show the practical steps construction companies can take to improve their productivity and competitiveness and whereby clients can demand products which offer best value and enhance their own performance. We have agreed to continue the initiative until April 2004.

Second, my Department supports a substantial programme of construction-related innovation and research to support industry improvement. Sir John Fairclough, a former government chief scientist, has recently conducted a review of how we should best provide that support in the future. The report establishes an excellent framework for improving the effectiveness of construction research. We are consulting the industry on how we can work with them to take forward the recommendations.

Finally, through the Quality Mark Scheme, we will enable builders to demonstrate their competence and to distinguish themselves from their less reputable rivals. The Scheme will be rolled out across the country over a three to four year period.

Next Section Index Home Page