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Retail Newsagents

Ms Walley: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what factors underlay her decision not to refer the concerns of the retail newsagents to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. [13192]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths: The decision on whether or not to make a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is a matter for the Director General of Fair Trading.

The Director General is considering a number of detailed submissions from interested parties in the industry arguing for and against another reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and will announce his decision in due course.

Consumer Protection

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when she expects the EC draft directive on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers to be adopted; and if she will make a statement. [14102]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths: This will depend on the rate of progress in the conciliation procedure between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The first meeting of the Conciliation Committee is scheduled for 6 November.

Fibreboard

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will estimate the total volume in each of the last five years of the sales of wood products whose construction involved medium-density fibreboard. [13893]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 3 november 1997]: No. This information is not available from official statistics.

Photocopier Industry

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans she has to request a further inquiry into the photocopier industry by the Director General of Fair Trading. [13041]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 29 October 1997]: As I informed the right hon. Member in my letter of 6 October


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Ministerial Interests

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs has advised Copywatch UK not to use his name in promotional literature. [13049]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 29 October 1997]: Copywatch have never claimed to be an advisor to me in my ministerial role. They previously advised me of malpractices in the photocopying industry as opposition spokesman for consumer affairs.

Computers (Century Date Change)

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on what funding provision has been made to accommodate the expenditure needed to resolve the computer millennium problem; and if she expects to have sufficient funding to pay for the work necessary to achieve complete millennium compliance by 1 January 2000. [13584]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 4 November 1997]: The DTI plans to allocate £2.7 million to the resolution of this problem within the core Department. Agencies are pursuing their own programmes of work and have planned their own allocations.

The Department expects to have sufficient funding available to achieve compliance within existing PES provision.

Mr. Malcom Bruce: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will publish the action plan, due by 1 October 1997, for resolving the computer millennium problem in her Department, its agencies and other public bodies for which she is responsible; if such was fully completed on time; and if she will make a statement.[13582]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 4 November 1997]: The DTI did provide a costed plan for dealing with this problem within the Department to the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency by 1 October as requested. Agencies are pursuing their own programmes of work which include the preparation of such plans. Related public bodies have been advised to prepare plans for their own computer systems and officials are seeking confirmation that this work is in hand. Once the costed plans have been analysed by the Central IT Unit and the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will then inform Parliament. The plans will then be available to the public.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when her Department, its agencies and other public bodies for which she is responsible completed the millennium computer compliance audits of systems; and if she will make a statement. [13585]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 4 November 1997]: The millennium compliance audit within core DTI was completed in October 1996. Chief Executives of next steps agencies and other public bodies are responsible for programmes within their own organisations which include such audits.

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European Information Technologies Research Project

Sir Richard Body: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps she will take to ensure that the ESPRIT programme of the European Union maintains political impartiality in schools; and if she will make a statement on the experimental schools environment project. [13851]

Mrs. Roche [holding reply from 30 October 1997]: The ESPRIT Programme, the European Information Technologies research programme, is impartial in its content and management. All European Union Member States contribute to the development of the Programme's technical scope through a range of technical, industrial and academic experts. The funds are allocated to proposals from collaborative European consortia through a competitive selection process, using published criteria. This process has been designed to avoid any bias whether political, national or commercial. My Department will continue to represent UK interests in the management of the ESPRIT programme, assuring impartiality for all participants. The Experimental Schools Environment is an initiative within ESPRIT, calling for proposals to research new kinds of Information Technology based tools or environments designed to enable new approaches to learning for young children in the age range of 4 to 8 years. Further information is in the ESPRIT Information Pack in the Library of the House.

Coal Mining Industry

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many coal pits have closed since 1 May. [13554]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 30 October 1997]: The closure of two deep mines have been announced since 1 May; Asfordby Colliery in Leicestershire, owned by RJB Mining and Baddesley Drift in Warwickshire, owned by New Baddesley Coal Ltd.

Defence Sales

Sir George Young: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of export credits has been used to support defence sales since 1994. [13790]

Mrs. Beckett: From data readily available, the information requested is as follows:

Financial yearValue of ECGD cover provided for defence business as a percentage of total cover
1994-9521.4
1995-9622.9
1996-9716.3

These figures include all ECGD covered business with defence buyers, including sales of non-lethal equipment.


Sir George Young: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the monetary value of export credit sales used to support defence sales since 1994. [13791]

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Mrs. Beckett: From data readily available, the information requested is as follows:

Financial yearValue of ECGD cover provided for defence business
£ million
1994-95725
1995-961,013
1996-97384

These figures include all ECGD covered business with defence buyers, including sales of non-lethal equipment.


SOCIAL SECURITY

Supported Housing

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans she has for consultation on the long-term funding arrangements for supported housing; and if she will make a statement. [14901]

Ms Harman: Securing stable, sustainable long-term funding arrangements for supported housing will take time. The Government are keen to take the views of those working in the field before making any decision. I am therefore setting out our objectives for the long term. These are:









Departmental officials will be contacting over two hundred individuals and organisations who responded to last year's Social Security Advisory Committee consultation. The Committee's report was published last week. We shall now ask respondents for their views on how best to translate these objectives into a modern, practical and sustainable funding system for this valuable social provision. Others who may wish to contribute to the debate are welcome to do so. Representations will be taken up to 5 December 1997.

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