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Employment Agencies Act

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what recent discussions she has had with Bectu and Equity regarding the operation of the Employment Agencies Act 1973; and if she will make a statement; [61100]

Alan Johnson: I have had no recent meetings with Bectu or Equity to discuss the operation of the Employment Agencies Act.

We will shortly be issuing the revised draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2002, which will cover the private recruitment industry, including the entertainment sector. There will be a consultation exercise on certain aspects of those Regulations and they will be laid before Parliament later in the year.

Company Insolvencies (Employees)

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will give a higher priority in her review of employment legislation to the position of employees as creditors in relation to their contractual entitlements in situations where the employing company becomes insolvent. [60091]

Alan Johnson: Under the Insolvency Act 1986 an employee of an insolvent employer has the right to make a preferential claim in the proceedings for certain statutory amounts of unpaid remuneration and unpaid holiday pay. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry does not propose to alter this priority.

Under the insolvency payments provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the employee is entitled to claim a certain statutory proportion of these debts from the Secretary of State, who will pay them out of the National Insurance Fund. The Secretary of State then Xsteps into the former employees shoes" and has the same preference as employees would have in respect of those debts—and indeed the same preference as they still do have in respect of the proportion of those debts that exceed the statutory maximum payable under the Employment Rights Act, but which still fall within the statutory maximum under the Insolvency Act. However, current section 189(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 allows the Secretary of State to be paid in priority to any preferential claims lodged in the insolvency proceedings by former employees.

The Government will be tabling an amendment for Commons Report stage of the Enterprise Bill, following consideration of arguments put forward at Commons Committee stage, to remove this Xsuper preference".


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions have taken place between her Department and (a) the Cabinet Office (b) the Home Office and (c) DEFRA regarding what action can be taken within existing legislation to address neighbourhood safety, noise and nuisance arising from fireworks; and if she will make a statement. [61481]

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Miss Melanie Johnson: We have held several discussions between relevant government departments, enforcement agencies and the industry to explore what more can be done to address neighbourhood noise and nuisance. These are continuing and I shall make a statement in due course.

Farnborough Air Show

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support her Department is giving to the organisers of the Farnborough Air Show taking place in July; and if the Department is providing assistance to enable overseas visitors to attend it. [60615]

Ms Hewitt: The Government is committed to a strong UK aerospace and defence industry and my Department is very supportive of this important prestigious event which plays an important role in maintaining the UK's pre-eminent role in the world's aerospace industry. This year, my Department is not providing any financial support to the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC), organisers of the Farnborough International Air Show to fund inward missions. One application was made to Trade Partners UK under the national inward mission scheme, but this did not meet the required criteria. The Defence Export Services Organisation, part of the Ministry of Defence, makes arrangements for the attendance of official overseas defence delegations to Farnborough International and is supporting the event this year.

Trading Standards

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many pirated (a) video cassettes, (b) compact discs and (c) DVDs have been confiscated by trading standards officers in each of the last five years in (i) street markets and (ii) other distribution centres. [59668]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Most local authorities are likely to keep records of seizures of pirate video cassettes, compact discs and DVDs by trading standards, but it would cost a disproportionate amount to collect and collate this information.

Post Office

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what performance standards she sets for delivery of first class letters by the Post Office. [60678]

Stephen Timms: Targets for the Royal Mail's scheduled services and standards are set in the licence issued by the Postal Services Commission (Postcomm) and agreed between Consignia and the Consumer Council for Postal Services (Postwatch). Royal Mail's current target for first class stamped and metered post is for 92.5 per cent. of letters to be delivered the next working day.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what consultation took place between her Department and the Post Office concerning the change of name to Consignia; [57693]

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Ms Hewitt [holding answer 20 May 2002]: The adoption of Consignia as the initial name of the Post Office company was a commercial matter for the company, and although Ministers were informed of the organisation's intentions, it was not an area in which the Government sought to intervene.


Affordable Housing

Mr. Breed: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions of 20 May 2002, Official Report, column 118W, on affordable housing, how many empty homes in each region have been empty for (a) less than 12 months and (b) over 12 months in each of the last 10 years. [61192]

Mr. Tony McNulty: The information requested is not collected centrally at regional level.

The number of Local Authority (LA) and Registered Social Landlord (RSL) empty homes in England that have been empty for (a) less than 12 months and (b) over 12 months for each of the last 10 years are set out in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Number of LA and RSL homes in England empty for (a) less than 12 months, (b) more than 12 months for each of the last 10 years

Vacant for:
(a) <12 months(b) >12 monthsTotal vacant
1 April

1 Figures for 1993 are unusually high due to many dwellings bought by RSLs towards the end of the financial year (1992-93) under the Housing Market Package.


Figures rouned to the nearest 100.


The Department's annual Housing Investment Programme (HIP) returns and the Housing Corporation's annual HAR 10 and Regulatory and Statistical Return (RSR).

Brian Cotter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress and activities of the affordable housing unit with regard to its remit to provide more affordable homes. [60495]

Mr. Tony McNulty: The Affordable Housing Unit was established at the end of last year and is part of the Housing Directorate of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Its remit is to work with partners and stakeholders to significantly increase the supply of

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affordable housing in high demand areas across the country over the next three years and to contribute to the development of policy on increasing housing supply. We expect to make a statement on policies and measures to improve the supply of affordable housing before the summer recess.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions of 26 February 2002, Official Report, column 1162W, on affordable housing, how many affordable housing units have been built in rural areas, broken down by region, in each year since 1997. [61198]

Mr Tony McNulty: A regional breakdown of information provided in the Official Report, 26 February 2002, column 1162W, relating to affordable housing units completed with social housing grant and with local authority social housing grant respectively, is presented below:

Affordable Housing units built since 1997–98: Rural Authorities in England, by Region

Units funded through Social Housing Grant:
(a) Housing Corporation(b) Local Authority
North East36811
East Midlands439275
South East925871
South West1,517896
West Midlands401360
North West25865
All Rural Authorities5,3003,321
North East1840
East Midlands336272
South East1,044586
South West1,339697
West Midlands269213
North West576143
All Rural Authorities5,0042,482
North East27615
East Midlands434290
South East581431
South West1,096562
West Midlands363378
North West46287
All Rural Authorities3,9312,380
North East2066
East Midlands342320
South East662369
South West1,124566
West Midlands16085
North West406140
All Rural Authorities3,9922,010


Completions in respect of any schemes originally approved prior to 1996–97 with both Housing Corporation and Local Authority Social Housing Grant support will be counted under both headings, but cannot be distinguished.

Affordable housing schemes comprise those for rent (including Tariff, and Mixed Funded schemes); temporary social housing schemes (including MiniHag, and short-life housing); and shared or outright ownership schemes (including leasehold for the elderly).


Housing Corporation returns

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