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Foresight Programme

Mrs. Butler: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has for the development of the Government's Foresight Programme. [64270]

Mr. Battle: I am delighted to publish today the blueprint for the next round of Foresight which will start in April 1999. Copies have been filed in the Library of the House.

The next round of Foresight will have a broader focus than before. The work will be taken forward through ten sectoral panels and three thematic panels looking at the aging population, crime prevention and the future of manufacturing. Associate Programmes will be run by professional institutions and other organisations, working closely with the Office of Science and Technology.

There will be many avenues for participation, with a particular emphasis on involving young people. An Internet-based Knowledge Pool will provide a unique resource to support Foresight participants and promote widespread debate on emerging results and conclusions.

The Government's vision is to put the future on Britain's side. We have the talent to exploit the opportunities of the future. The forthcoming Competitiveness White Paper will set out a framework for the Government's role in helping British business to achieve this. Foresight is a central part of that framework.

GEC

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the total value of grants paid by his Department to GEC since 1 May 1997. [61988]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 1 December 1998]: Between 1 May 1997 and 30 November 1998 my Department paid a total of some £1.8 million in grants to GEC companies. This includes grants paid under the Civil Aircraft Research and Technology Demonstration Programme (CARAD).

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British Aerospace

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what has been the total value of grant paid by his Department to British Aerospace since 1 May 1997. [61990]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 1 December 1998]: My Department has paid a total of around £4.5 million in grant on various schemes to British Aerospace since 1 May 1997. This was mainly under the Civil Aircraft Research and Technology Demonstration Programme (CARAD).

In addition, the Government agreed on 2 February 1998 to invest up to £123 million in a public-private partnership with British Aerospace on the development of the Airbus A340-500/600.

Sellafield

Ms Jenny Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many shipments of mixed oxide fuel were made between 1 January and 30 November from Sellafield (a) by air and (b) by sea. [63438]

Mr. Battle: I understand that there was one shipment of Mixed Oxide fuel by air and one by sea from Sellafield between 1 January and 30 November.

Millennium Coin

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make it his policy to issue to each school child in the United Kingdom a commemorative coin to mark the millennium. [62968]

Mr. Mandelson: The Royal Mint is planning to issue a commemorative coin to mark the millennium, which will be widely available.

Microchips (Radiation)

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what evaluation his Department is carrying out into the potential damage to transistors in microchips from background alpha and neutron radiation, following the recent report to the International Test Conference in Washington; and if he will make a statement. [62967]

Mr. Battle: The issue of potential damage to transistors from background radiation is primarily a matter for those companies and organisations that design and manufacture microchips. My Department continues to monitor developments.

Academy of Invention

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals he has evaluated for setting up an Academy of Invention; and if he will make a statement. [63850]

Mr. Battle: The Government fully recognise the need to harness better the depth of creativity which we have in the UK. Earlier this year the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with the full support of my own Department, set up the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), with an endowment of £200 million from the National Lottery, to support

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talented individuals. NESTA's trustees will soon be consulting on their policies and programmes, which should start next year.

I have had useful discussion with proponents of an Academy of Invention, and other organisations which support invention. They are fully aware that any further public support for inventors must be consistent with and add value to NESTA's operation.

Minimum Wage (Ministers of Religion)

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if ministers of religion are persons qualifying for the national minimum wage. [63709]

Mr. Ian McCartney: As office holders ministers of religion will not be covered by the national minimum wage. However, those who do work under a worker's contract will be covered.

Internal Market Council

Mr. Rammell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the outcome of the Internal Market Council held in Brussels on 7 December 1998; and if he will make a statement. [63166]

Mr. Mandelson: My noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe represented the UK at the Internal Market Council in Brussels on 7 December.

The Council discussed the draft directive on late payments, which would give companies across the EU a statutory right to interest on late payments, and a proposal for a multiannual programme to assist European tourism. The Presidency concluded that it had not been possible to reach political agreement on either proposal and that discussion would continue under the German Presidency.

The Presidency presented a report on taking forward the process of European economic reform agreed at the Cardiff Summit in June 1998. This will enable the Internal Market Council on 25 February to make a contribution to ECOFIN preparation of the Broad Economic Guidelines and help inform its own future single market work programme.

The Commission presented reports on the interim Single Market Scoreboard, which showed good progress in transposition of internal market directives, particularly in the UK, Luxembourg, Ireland and Spain; chemicals legislation; and a proposal for a directive to facilitate the development of an internal market in electronic commerce.

The Council reached unanimous political agreement on the extension of the 1985 Product Liability Directive to primary agricultural products and game; and on the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive, which will make it easier for victims of road accidents that take place in another member state to make an insurance claim. The Free Movement of Goods Regulation and Resolution were adopted, with the UK Presidency mentioned as the driving force behind the agreement.

Domestic Metering

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will make a statement on (a) the use of 2 in 1 metering by Swalec and Welsh Water and

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(b) the Director General of Electricity Supply's view that Swalec should take all reasonable steps to discontinue use of these meters; [62272]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 3 December 1998]: The 2 in 1 metering scheme is a trial one being run by the Hyder Group (Swalec and Welsh Water). I understand that it is currently confined to 3,000 customers who join the scheme on a voluntary basis. Swalec have issued proceedings seeking a judicial direction that their scheme is lawful, not contrary to the Electricity Act 1989 and that the Director General of Electricity Supply has no powers to issue enforcement proceedings under the Act. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further while this process is under way.

British Nuclear Fuels Limited

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to publish the KPMG report on BNFL. [63494]

Mr. Battle: The KPMG report has not yet been received. An announcement will be made once Ministers have considered the report.

Scotland Act 1998 (Schedule 5)

Mr. Swinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the offices or agencies under his control which will be subject to L.2 of Head L in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998; how many people are currently employed in these offices; and what equal opportunities practices are adopted in these offices. [63797]

Mr. Mandelson: The Department has a total of 132 staff in the following offices in Scotland which will be subject to L.2 of Head L in Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998:




Its Executive Agencies and ACAS have the following numbers of staff:

Number
Companies House43
Employment Tribunal Service50
Insolvency Service6
Radiocommunications Agency12
ACAS57

All staff in these offices are covered by the DTI Equal Opportunities Policy or the relevant equal opportunities for their Executive Agency or ACAS. The Order designating cross-border public authorities is still under discussion. Therefore, information on the authorities, and their employees, which will be affected by the Order cannot yet be provided.


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