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Enterprise Bill

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice her Department acted upon when deciding on paragraph 75 of the draft Enterprise Bill in relation to the three month limit for the appointment of an administrator. [66688]

Miss Melanie Johnson: During consultation on the White Paper: "Productivity and Enterprise: Insolvency: A second chance", concerns were expressed that lack of a fixed timetable in administration resulted in uncertainty for creditors and costly delays. These concerns were mainly expressed by practitioners who specialise in smaller cases because the costs of running a lengthy administration can be a significant barrier to entry into administration.

Annual Leave

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average annual leave entitlement is for staff in her Department in 2002. [64658]

Ms Hewitt: I will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible with the information for the year ended 31 July 2002. This will enable comparison with the information given in my reply of 8 February 2002 to his earlier question on this subject.

Castle Award

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if her Department has applied for a Castle Award for equal pay. [65224]

Ms Hewitt: The Department of Trade and Industry has not applied for a Castle Award this year.

Ministerial Visits

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) overseas visits by Ministers in her Department and (b) visits to Ministers in the UK by overseas Government Ministers and officials have taken place in each of the last three years in which UK arms sales have been discussed. [65263]

Ms Hewitt: Department of Trade and Industry Ministers regularly meet with their overseas counterparts and with other senior officials to discuss a range of issues surrounding UK commerce and exports. Inevitably these have occasionally touched upon defence export opportunities. Details of such discussions are not however held centrally.

Broadband

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much her Department has (a) committed to and (b) spent on broadband access in rural areas in each of the last four years. [61173]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 13 June 2002]: Promoting broadband access in rural areas is a legitimate use of Government funds in pursuit of economic development objectives as long as it is in line with the guidelines for each fund. It is possible that some expenditure has been made from a variety of funding

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streams including European Structural Funds, Regional Selective Assistance and the Regional Development Agencies' Strategic Programme.

The Department has made available a £30 million fund to help the Regional Development Agencies and devolved Administrations develop innovative schemes to extend broadband networks. In the first year of this fund (Financial Year 2001–02) the Department transferred £3 million of this fund to the recipients. Many projects funded from this will contribute in whole or in part to rural broadband access.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether broadband will be available in rural areas. [64276]

Mr. Timms: Through ADSL, cable and wireless technologies, broadband is available to around 66 per cent. of the population, including in some rural areas, and we expect this proportion to increase. Satellite technology can make broadband available almost anywhere. Our strategy, set out in the December 2001 UK Online Annual Report, includes a number of actions to help make the broadband market more extensive and competitive, including measures to stimulate broadband supply.

In addition, I announced last week that from the autumn there will be:


Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what initiatives her Department has to extend the availability of broadband internet provision to rural Wales; and if she will make a statement. [65061]

Mr. Timms: On 26 June I announced a new broadband team and network of dedicated broadband advisers to help boost roll-out and take-up of broadband across the UK, including in Wales.

The Government have also made available the £30 million UK Broadband fund to help the English Regional Development Agencies and the devolved Administrations develop innovative schemes to extend broadband access. The Welsh Assembly Government will receive £2.67 million and will be using the money to:


In addition, the Welsh Assembly Government is developing its own broadband strategy, based upon the findings of their Ubiquitous Broadband Infrastructure Study, and continues to support a number of initiatives across Wales that are designed to bring affordable broadband access within the reach of many more people.

4 Jul 2002 : Column 478W

Postal Services

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to ensure that a full range of postal services is maintained. [66636]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 3 July 2002]: The Government laid down the universal postal service obligation in primary legislation in the Postal Services Act 2000. The legislation says that the obligation consists of a service provided at an affordable price determined by a public tariff uniform throughout the UK and includes the delivery each working day to the home or premises of every individual in the UK and a collection each working day from access points. Under the Act it is the primary duty of the Postal Services Commission (known as Postcomm) to exercise its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to ensure the provision of a universal postal service and it currently requires Consignia, in the licence, to provide the universal postal service.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what financial assistance the Government have given to Consignia since 1997. [66637]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 3 July 2002]: The Government have shown a strong commitment to maintaining postal services through a variety of schemes which have been predominantly designed to support the Post Office network and to explore possible new income streams.

The Government contributed £480 million to the capital cost of the Horizon project which computerised the whole network. We have also made available a £2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or reopen post office facilities in the rural areas where traditional service would otherwise close. Figures for the end of May showed that applications to the value of £500,000 had been assessed and approved and to that date, payments of £231,000 had been made. Government provided £25 million for the "Your Guide" pilot in Leicestershire and Rutland which trialled the concept of post offices as one stop shops for government information and services.

Following the announcement in January agreeing in principle to a compensation package for the urban network restructuring programme, the Government will make available up to £210 million for the compensation and investment package for urban offices, subject to state aid and parliamentary approval.

In line with the Government's commitment to the maintenance of a nationwide network of post offices, proposals for the rural network are being developed in the context of advice on transitional financial assistance from the Postal Services Commission.

In terms of supporting the mail business, the Government have not provided financial assistance for specific projects but, as announced to the House on 13 June, the need for the company to restructure has led to the Government agreeing the basis of a financing package which will allow the restructuring to go ahead. The £1.8 billion of investments on the Balance Sheet will be held by the group holding company as reserves. It will be available to back the investment required in the mails

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business, to implement the renewal programme and to support the nationwide network of post offices, subject, where necessary, to the relevant state aid clearances.

Law Society

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support she is providing to the Law Society to facilitate the prompt reform of those solicitors practice rules identified as anti-competitive by the Director General of Fair Trading; and if she will make a statement. [66478]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I have been asked to reply.

Reform of the solicitors practice rules and removal of anti-competitive restrictions therein are matters for the Law Society to take forward. Where there are restrictions in legislation relating to the regulation of solicitors they fall to Government to consider. As has already been announced, the Government are planning to consult before the summer break on those issues which fall to them arising from the DGFT's report.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions her Department has had with the Law Society in the past 12 months on employed solicitors advising the public, fee-sharing and referral fees; and if she will make a statement. [66477]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I have been asked to reply.

Officials from both the Lord Chancellor's Department and from the Department of Trade and Industry have separately held meetings with the Law Society. The DTI has discussed competition issues generally. The LCD has discussed progress relating to those matters highlighted in the Director General of Fair Trading's report "Competition in Professions". The issue of employed solicitors advising the public is one of the matters to be considered in the Government's consultation paper planned for release before the summer break.


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