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Director General of Fair Trading

Mr. Rammell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when she intends to publish the report by the Director General of Fair Trading for 1997. [45365]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths: The 24th Annual Report by the Director General of Fair Trading has been published today. It covers the period from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 1997. Copies of the Report have been laid before Parliament.

Post Office

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what action (a) the Government and (b) the Post Office will have to take to comply with the proposed EU Postal Directive. [47548]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 25 June 1998]: The Government must transpose the Directive into UK law by February 1999. We shall need to modify the monopoly and introduce some other amendments. We expect to do this through secondary legislation, using the European Communities Act 1972. The final proposals will be announced later this year.

The Post Office is fully committed to complying with the Directive and is discussing with officials at the Department the precise arrangements which will be necessary.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many proposals for foreign acquisition and joint ventures by the Post Office since May 1997 (a) have been turned down and (b) are awaiting an answer from her Department. [47518]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 25 June 1998]: None.

Minimum Wage

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans she has to include accommodation and meals in calculation of employees' earnings for the purpose of the minimum wage. [47526]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 25 June 1998]: We have accepted the Low Pay Commission's recommendation that, with the exception of accommodation, benefits should be excluded from the calculation of employees' earnings for the purpose of the national minimum wage.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate she has made of the impact on employment of the proposed minimum wage, assuming (a) half restoration of differentials, (b) three-quarters restoration of differentials and (c) full restoration of differentials. [47562]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 25 June 1998]: The Government share the Low Pay Commission's view that a national minimum wage set at the level proposed should not lead to a significant impact on employment, and any pressure to restore pay differentials will be limited and localised.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the definition of a trainee for the purposes of exemption from the minimum wage. [47521]

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 52

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 25 June 1998]: All those on formal apprenticeships will be exempt from the national minimum wage. The criteria for defining who is affected will be set out in the Regulations implementing the National Minimum Wage Bill.

Coal Mining

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate she has made of the change in employment in coal mining which would result from licensing an additional 1,000 MW of gas-fired electricity generating capacity. [47525]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 25 June 1998]: An additional 1,000 MW of gas-fired electricity generating capacity could displace approximately 2.5 million tonnes of coal a year. The precise impact would depend on the extent to which both the new gas station and existing coal stations operated which, in turn, would be affected by the relative prices of coal and gas. The impact on employment in coal mining in the UK would depend on where generators whose electricity was displaced would have bought their coal.

Research Councils

Mr. Sawford: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what systems are in use to evaluate the quality of research material produced using funding from the research councils. [46838]

Mr. Battle: The Research Councils operate a range of systems to evaluate the quality of research that they fund, commensurate with the aims of the research and level of funding.

At the individual project grant level, the Research Councils operate a system of peer review and grading of final scientific reports. In addition, project grants which result in publication in a scientific journal are automatically peer reviewed by the wider scientific community.

At the programme level (groups of projects in a related area), projects are additionally reviewed together and the added value of the combined research assessed by peer review.

Export Licences

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many export licences were granted to British exporters in the twelve month periods (a) before 2 May 1997 and (b) after 2 May 1997. [47567]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 25 June 1998]: Statistics on decisions on export licences issued and refused for the second half of 1996 were placed in the Library of the House on 25 March 1998. Such statistics for the period 1 January to 1 May 1997 will be placed in the Library of the House soon. The Government are committed to report annually on the state of strategic export controls and their application since 2 May 1997, and I refer to the answer given by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) to the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) on 12 May 1998, Official Report, column 110.

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 53

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment she has made of the effect of the EU Code on Arms Exports on her Department's issue of export licences to British companies. [47568]

Mrs. Roche [holding answer 25 June 1998]: Licences to export arms and other goods where export is controlled for strategic reasons are issued by the President of the Board of Trade, and the Export Control Organisation of the Department of Trade & Industry is the licensing authority. All relevant individual licence applications are circulated by the DTI to other Government Departments with an interest, as determined by them in line with their policy responsibilities. These include the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, and the Department for International Development. The EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was formally adopted by the General Affairs Council on 8 June. Its provisions will be taken into account in export licensing decisions, as well as the export licence assessment criteria announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, on 28 July 1997, Official Report, columns 26-29. Under the Code, each Member State will circulate in confidence an annual report on its defence exports and on its implementation of the Code. Member States will discuss these reports and review the Code's operation.

BNFL

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment she has made of the potential impact on United Kingdom public funds of British Nuclear Fuels' proposed joint purchase with the Morris Knudsen Engineering Company of the nuclear operations of Westinghouse Inc. [47881]

Mr. Battle: The Government and British Nuclear Fuels Plc. are agreed that the costs of the acquisition of Westinghouse will be met within BNFL's External Financing Limit and without affecting the Government's public expenditure targets.

De la Rue, Gateshead

Mr. Cousins: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the value of grants of selective assistance and other regional incentives awarded to De la Rue Gateshead in the last four years; and if the terms of the grants for machinery allow for the transfer of equipment outside the United Kingdom. [47734]

Mrs. Roche: The company received an offer of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) of £900,000 in May 1996 towards capital investment at its Gateshead premises. The Department has made no other offers of assistance for this site in the past four years.

The RSA offer provides for the recovery of grant should the company cease to use any of the assisted machinery at Gateshead.

Midland Bluebird Bus Company

Mr. Gorrie: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when a decision will be announced on the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's ruling on First Choice having to sell Midland Bluebird bus company. [47549]

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Mr. Nigel Griffiths: The Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report on the acquisition by FirstBus Plc. of SB Holdings Ltd. was published on 21 January 1997. In line with the MMC's recommendations and the Director General of Fair Trading's advice, the then Minister for Corporate and Consumer Affairs, the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), announced that FirstBus should be required to divest its subsidiary Midland Bluebird plus part of the Glasgow operations of SB Holdings.

FirstBus subsequently requested a review of the decision on the grounds that there had been important new developments in the Glasgow bus market since the MMC's report was published. I asked the DGFT for his advice, which he has given.

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will announce her decision on FirstBus's request as quickly as is practicable.


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