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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many visits abroad have been made by Health Department officials on departmental business (a) since 1 May 1997 and (b) in the last 12 months. 
|2000-01 (up to 31 January 2001)||658,870.19|
5 Feb 2001 : Column: 399W
|Planned net NHS expenditure(13)||Outturn net NHS expenditure|
(13) This shows planned expenditure at the start of each financial year
(14) Estimated outturn
Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that they do not hold historical data on post office closures by country for the last 10 years. Their records are held on a financial year basis. Net post office closures in Scotland for the years for which figures are available are as follows:
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answers of 17 January 2001, Official Report, columns 238-39W concerning the postal monopoly limit, what Her Majesty's Government's policy is on Directive Com (2000) 319; when the Directive will be published; what the income of the Royal Mail was in the last year from items weighing (i) less than 50 grammes and (ii) between 50 and 350 grammes; and if primary legislation is needed to amend the public monopoly powers of the Royal Mail. 
Mr. Alan Johnson: The proposal from the European Commission for a draft directive was published on 19 July 2000. The directive will be published in final form if and when the Council and European Parliament agree a final text. The Government support co-ordinated European liberalisation--this will ensure a level playing field for postal operators--including the Post Office and the future Post Office company. The Government believe it is important for such liberalisation to be gradual and controlled and to be consistent with our domestic processes to ensure that the full benefits of liberalisation can be achieved. That is why before taking a detailed decisions in Europe it would be preferable to take account
5 Feb 2001 : Column: 400W
of the work of our postal regulator--to ensure that liberalisation proceeds in a way that is consistent with maintaining the universal service at a uniform tariff.
At the Telecommunications Council in December, I said that although I believed that the limits could be reduced from 350 grams to 150 grams in 2003 without adversely impacting on the universal service, I would need the advice of our regulator before going further. In the event, member states were unable to agree on a package and further discussions are expected during the Swedish Presidency.
The income of the Royal Mail in these weight categories is a matter for the Post Office and would be commercially confidential within the meaning of Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (third party's commercial confidences). A broad indication of the income of Royal Mail by weight category is as follows:
|Revenue from items below 50 grams||65|
|Revenue from items between 50 grams and 350 grams||30|
|Revenue from items over 350 grams||5|
The Postal Services Act 2000 replaces the exclusive privilege of the Post Office to deliver letters under certain weights and postage prices with a licensing regime covering such letters. The Postal Services Commission is responsible for issuing licences to do this and is proposing to grant Consignia plc (the future operating company of the Post Office company (Consignia Holdings plc)) with a licence to do so.
Under the Act, the extent of the letters market subject to licensed access may be modified by an order made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but only on the recommendation of the Postal Services Commission and after it has been laid in draft before, and approved by, both Houses of Parliament. The relevant provisions of the Postal Services Act 2000 are due to come into force on 26 March 2001.
If changes to the Postal Services Act 2000 are needed to implement obligations under the draft directive when it is adopted, these could be made using the powers contained in section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.
Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Slough constituency, the effects on Slough of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. 
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Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the proposed timetable is for (a) discussions between the TUC, the CBI and the Government on the incorporation into UK law of the EU directive on Consultation and Information and (b) for bringing necessary legislation before the House; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Alan Johnson: The proposed EU directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community has not been adopted by the Council of Ministers. Therefore there is no timetable for its implementation in the UK.
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