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Business Breakfast Tours

Mr. Milburn: To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 4 November, Official Report, column 329, in respect of business breakfast tours, if he will list the costs of each of the events known to date. [2949]

Mr. Lang [holding answer 7 November 1996]: The final costs are not yet known.

Electricity Generation

Mr. Redmond: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the advantages of subsidising (a) research into and (b) trials of tidal and wave generation of electricity; and if he will make a statement. [3191]

Mr. Page: A review of wave energy was published by the DTI in December 1992. The review found that wave energy had limited potential to contribute commercially to energy supplies in the next few decades.

Tidal energy, using both conventional barrages and free standing tidal stream devices, has also been the subject of a DTI programme. The main conclusion of the programme was that tidal energy had poor prospects for commercial deployment in the future, especially as the technology associated with tidal barrages was well developed and the Government believed that there was little potential for significantly reducing costs.

In consequence, the Minister for Energy has previously announced the completion of both the wave and tidal programmes.


Mr. Harvey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will review the process of formulating postcodes, in order to (a) encourage the retention of local identity, (b) facilitate the effective operation of delivery and (c) ensure that the highway authorities and the Royal Mail wherever possible retain the use of local area names as locality names in postal addresses. [3160]

Mr. Page: No. The designation of postcodes and postal addresses is an operational matter for the Post Office.

11 Nov 1996 : Column: 13

Hairdressing Industry

Mr. Harvey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he intends to take to ensure that the hairdressing industry is regulated so as to protect consumers. [3163]

Mr. Page: The Government's aim is to reduce the burden on industry and we believe that existing consumer legislation is adequate to protect consumers in this area. In addition, the Hairdressing Council administers a voluntary register of practitioners in hairdressing, membership of which carries with it specific qualification requirements.

World Trade Organisation

Mr. Touhig: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list the items which he will be pressing to be included on the agenda of the forthcoming Singapore meeting of the World Trade Organisation; and if he will make a statement. [1327]

Mr. Lang: I shall be pressing for Ministers at the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in December in Singapore to agree a substantial work programme for the World Trade Organisation to continue the process of multilateral trade liberalisation. This should include: standards, Government procurement, tariffs, trade facilitation, rules of origin, intellectual property rights, subsidies and regulation reform.

I shall also be pressing for timely implementation of existing commitments, the completion of outstanding negotiations on services, in particular telecommunications services, and for the conclusion of an agreement to eliminate tariffs in the information technology sector.

I shall support the start of work in the World Trade Organisation on competition and investment issues.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and I will shortly lay before Parliament a White Paper setting out the Government's approach to trade policy and its interaction with UK foreign policy.

Electricity Black-out (Wales)

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultation he has had with the Director-General of Electricity Supply as regards the black-out risk throughout south and mid-Wales on Sunday 20 October. [3108]

Mr. Page: The National Grid Company kept my Department and the Director General of Electricity Supply fully informed of the problems at Aberthaw power station referred to--which took place on 12 to 14 October and not on 20 October--and discussed with us the action which was taken to ensure that the electricity supply to south and mid-Wales was maintained. My Department and the director general will continue to keep the situation under review.

11 Nov 1996 : Column: 14

Overseas Projects Fund

Mr. Pope: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many projects have been funded by the overseas projects fund in each of the last five years. [3429]

Mr. Lang: The following is the information:

Mr. Pope: To ask the President of the Board of Trade in respect of how many projects funded by the overseas project fund his Department has not had direct contact in (a) the last six months, (b) the last year and (c) the last two years; and what is the total amount of public moneys involved. [3454]

Mr. Lang: No information is maintained in the precise form sought by the hon. Member.

Officials maintain regular contact with companies when the latter are drawing down assistance from the overseas projects fund. Officials continue in contact when the company remains in pursuit of the target contract after all the funds offered have been claimed.

Mr. Pope: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much has been spent in each of the last five years on the overseas projects fund. [3430]

Mr. Lang: The following is the information:

Small Businesses

Mrs. Bridget Prentice: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the presentation of Government policy relating to small businesses. [1320]

Mr. Page: My Department makes every effort to present its small firms policy as widely as possible. For example, its annual report, "Small Firms in Britain", sets out current Government policy for small businesses and includes key statistical indicators. This publication is widely disseminated and a copy is sent to every member.

We have also established a small business Ministers' group with representation across 17 Whitehall Departments. The group is playing a key role in promoting small firms policy within all areas of Government.

The Government's response to the "Your Business Matters" consultation, completed earlier this year, provided an excellent opportunity to set out the framework for small firms policy. In addition to responding directly to the 84 key issues raised by "Your Business Matters" delegates, the Government also outlined 30 measures aimed at helping small businesses to prosper and grow. A copy of "Your Business Matters--Government Response", has been placed in the Library of the House.

11 Nov 1996 : Column: 15

Wool Products

Mr. Madden: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received from United Kingdom wool textile manufacturers about the recent proposal by the EU to bring forward the abolition of quotas on wool products from 2003 to 1998; what estimates he has made of the likely impact of this proposal on employment within the wool textile sector; and if he will make a statement. [3304]

Mr. Lang: The British Apparel and Textiles Confederation and the Wool Textiles Action Committee have expressed concern about liberalisation of imports of woven wool fabrics under stage 2 of the European Union's phase-out of the multi-fibre arrangement. The Government accept their case and are accordingly arguing within the EU for those products to be excluded from the stage 2 package.


Ms Hodge: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was his Department's expenditure on consultants to assist with information, publicity, and media in (a) 1995-96, (b) 1994-95 and (c) 1993-94. [3581]

Mr. John M. Taylor: My Department's information directorate does not employ consultants. It does, however, use contractors to provide a wide range of publicity and news services in support of the Department's objectives. Such expenditure from centrally managed budgets has been as follows:

Ms Hodge: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the cost of staff employed full-time or part-time (i) to provide information and publicity and (ii) to work in press or media in (a) 1995-96, (b) 1994-95 and (c) 1993-94. [3570]

Mr. Taylor: The costs of relevant staff in my information directorate was as follows:

YearPublicityPress and media

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