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17 Dec 2002 : Column 738W—continued

Post Office Card Accounts

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the PIN numbers to be used by post office cards will be on a number pad on the counter; and how partially sighted and blind people will be able to use the new system. [86562]

Mr. Timms: The matters raised by this question fall within the day to day responsibility of Post Office Ltd. I have therefore asked the Chief Executive to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to promote the use of post office card accounts; and when she expects information on the accounts to be available in post offices. [87404]

Mr. Timms: The post office card account is one of a range of accounts which people will be able, from next year, to receive benefit payments into. Our aim is that people should be able to choose the option which suits them best. Information about all the options is being supplied to customers by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue. When it is their turn to change the method of benefit and pension payments, the Government will be writing to customers with information which clearly sets out their account options and enables them to freely choose the account that is right for them. The migration programme will last two years beginning in 2003.

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what banks and building societies have registered as Post Office banking partners; and what other banks are expected to become partners by April 2003. [87610]

Mr. Timms: All the major banks and the Nationwide Building Society have signed contracts with Post Office Ltd. to make their own basic bank accounts accessible at post offices. The Post Office already provides banking services on behalf of Girobank/Alliance and Leicester, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, the Co-operative Bank and the Internet banks smile and cahoot. This (paper based) service enables customers of these banks to make deposits and cash cheques at post offices free of charge.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what new postcode areas have been introduced in each decade since 1972. [87341]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 16 December 2002]: The first postcodes were introduced on a trial basis in Norwich in 1959. The Postcode Address File (PAF) owned by Royal Mail contains over 27 million addresses with over 1.7 million postcodes.

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There are currently 124 postcode areas, 3,000 postcode districts and 9,700 postcode sectors.

In 1972 there were 120 postcode areas. Since that time Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have been postcoded (JE, GY and IM) respectively. The IM and GY postcodes date from 1993 and the JE ones from 1994. The only other new postcode area to be added since 1972 was HS for the Hebrides which was introduced in 1995 to overcome specific quality of service problems.


Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has made to Postcomm on their recent proposals. [87522]

Mr. Timms: The Government has a clear interest as the shareholder in Royal Mail Group. The Department therefore made a response to Postcomm's recent consultation document on the proposal for a second price control. The response concerned the financial package that the Government is putting in place to enable the mails business to implement its renewal plan.

Recruitment Consultants

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria she uses to assess the performance of the recruitment consultants employed by her Department. [86200]

Ms Hewitt: Recruitment consultants are appointed, through a competitive tendering process, for all my Department's major external recruitment campaigns. This enables the Department to choose the most appropriate contractor for each specific situation. A call-off arrangement, negotiated by Cabinet Office, exists for recruitment consultants who specialise in appointments into the Senior Civil Service.

The specification for the recruitment services to be provided is announced at an early stage, which provides a basis for assessing the performance of the contractor, and regular project meetings enable problems to be identified and solutions found. Performance is also assessed at the end of each campaign, and any lessons learned are carried forward to the next.

Regional Development Agencies

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets have been set for regional development agencies in respect of encouraging innovation. [87839]

Alan Johnson: Targets for each Regional Development Agency (RDA) in respect of encouraging innovation are set through the corporate planning process. Targets set for 2002–03 and 2003–04 are available in the Libraries of the House.

Renewable Energy

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support since 1997 her Department has provided to facilitate the development of (a) geothermal, (b) wave, (c) tidal and (d) solar energy technologies. [84730]

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Mr. Wilson [holding answer 3 December 2002]: The table provides data on the financial support given by the Department to the technologies specified since 1997. No support is given, at present, to the development of geothermal technologies; however, funding is available for grid-connected early pre-commercial wave and tidal stream projects and innovative solar photovoltaic schemes. This is, in addition, to the funding that is also available under my Department's New and Renewable Energy Programme, which calls for proposals for research and development projects that align with the long-term technology strategies developed in partnership with industry, academia and other key stakeholders.

# million


The figures for support for wave and tidal in 2000–01 and 2001–02 have been revised recently.

Royal Mail

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much the accumulated surpluses of Royal Mail Holdings were and how much were paid (a) in and (b) out of the surplus in each year since its formation. [86451]

Ms Hewitt: The company that is now known as Royal Mail Holdings plc was incorporated on 20 September 2000. It acquired all the shares in what was then Consignia plc on 26 March 2001. Movements in the accumulated surpluses during financial periods since that date are shown in the table.

Reduction in surplus (reserves)Accumulated surpluses (reserves)
26 March 20019533,299
31 March 20029532,346
29 September 20024781,868


The reductions in the accumulated surpluses were due to exceptional items.


Class Sizes

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidelines her Department has laid down for class sizes in practical subjects. [87150]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: My Department's safe practice guidance for practical subjects does not set down maximum pupil numbers. Sizes of practical groups and pupil teacher ratios are matters for local education authorities and schools. They are required to assess risks to health and safety and should take account of potential hazards; the ages and abilities and special

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educational needs of the pupils; and relevant safety regulations in relation to the accommodation, equipment and activities.

Construction Industry Training Board

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the judgment by Mr.Justice Keith on 23rd November 2001 in respect of the future of the construction industry training board levy. [86532]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The judgment by Mr Justice Keith has shown clearly that the definition of XContractors' Plant" as defined in the Industrial Training (Construction Board) Order of 1964 is clear and unambiguous and that the Construction Industry Training Board had acted in accordance with the provisions of the legislation.


Mr. Portillo: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how far the education of children from Sangatte admitted to the UK under special arrangements will be the responsibility of local education authorities; what estimate he has made of the cost; and how local education authorities will be compensated by central government. [87511]

Mr. Stephen Twigg [holding answer 16 December 2002]: Local education authorities will be responsible for the education of children from Sangatte as they would for any other child. They have a legal duty to ensure that education is available for all children of compulsory school age in their area, irrespective of a child's immigration status or rights of residence.

No estimate has been made of the cost, but the number of children is likely to be small, so local education authorities will be able to meet the cost of educating these children from their current budgets. Furthermore, as was announced on 5 December, there is to be an increase in education funding for the next financial year.

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