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SMEs (Internet)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to assist the establishment of free local telephone calls to encourage wider use of the Internet among small and medium enterprises. [68464]

Mr. Wills: Providing a local call service is not cost-free. Where free local calls are offered, this is usually tied to higher monthly standing charges. BT are free to package their tariffs as they wish as long as their overall prices fall within the price cap set by OFTEL. Other operators are not subject to this price cap. However, BT are not able to price their services below cost as this would be anti-competitive. Average UK business and consumer telecommunications prices as a whole (combining standing charges and call charges on various tariffs) are below US, EU or OECD averages.

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Electronic Commerce Support Centres (North-West)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the local electronic commerce support centres in the North-West; and how many small and medium enterprises use their services. [68462]

Mr. Wills: Information Society Initiative centres are based in the following TEC areas:

The North West Technology Web also has a network of Technology Management Centres in:

Other centres which provide similar support to businesses include Connect in Liverpool, which covers Merseyside, and ISaware and Gemisis, which cover Greater Manchester.

Information on the number of companies using these centres will take time to compile and I will write to my hon. Friend and place a copy of that letter in the Libraries of the House.

Job Creation (Chorley)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will bring forward proposals for grants towards the creation for new jobs in the Chorley constituency. [68461]

Mr. Wills: The Government are currently reviewing the Assisted Areas Map. Following a public consultation last summer, it will make proposals to the European Commission for new Assisted Areas Map which will operate from 1 January 2000. No decisions have yet been made on the areas to be proposed. The Competitiveness White Paper announced a range of measures to improve competitiveness and create new jobs throughout the UK.

Indigenous Industries (Assistance)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has for assistance to indigenous industries located outside areas qualifying for regional selective assistance. [68460]

Mr. Wills: As announced in the Competitiveness White Paper, the Government are considering new measures to support the growth of smaller businesses in selected areas with particular needs. By working in partnership with the private sector to support the

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Enterprise Fund, the Government are also committed to ensuring that small businesses have access to appropriate funding.


Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to reply to the letter of 8 January from the hon. Member for Aylesbury about an export licence application of Aylesbury Automation Ltd. [68769]

Dr. Howells: The hon. Gentleman was sent a reply to his letter on 1 February.

Ex-miners (Compensation Scheme)

Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects the compensation scheme for ex-miners suffering from chronic bronchitis and emphysema to become operative. [68542]

Mr. Battle: We are close to agreeing with the plaintiffs' solicitors the arrangements for dealing with the 65,000 claims received to date and the further 35,000 claims expected. We are currently tendering for a national spirometry testing programme which we aim to start by the end of March. This should ensure that interim payments and, in some cases, full and final settlements, can begin to be offered to miners who are most severely disabled in the Spring. We hope that full examinations under the agreed Medical Assessment Process will commence in early Summer.

EU Code of Conduct (Arms Sales)

Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what arrangements will be made to make available in the United Kingdom the annual report on the EU code of conduct on arms sales. [68110]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: I have been asked to reply.

Member States have yet to decide whether the consolidated report to the Council on the operation of the Code should be made public. This is likely to depend on the content of the report, for example whether it contains information which Member States have agreed should remain confidential, such as details of individual licence refusals and consultations between Member States. Any changes to the Code as a result of the report will by definition be made public.

Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to extend the principles of the EU code of conduct on arms exports to non-EU nations. [68106]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: I have been asked to reply.

Following the adoption of the Code of Conduct in June 1998, the UK drew the Code to the attention of other arms exporting states and, in line with paragraph 11 of the operative provisions, encouraged them to subscribe to its principles. We understand that other EU Member States have taken similar action. The Associated Countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus have aligned themselves with the criteria in the Code of Conduct. The UK welcomes the decision of Canada to

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subscribe to the principles and criteria developed in the Code of Conduct.

East Timor

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment the Minister has made of the allegations by the Defence Attache to the Indonesian Embassy in London that British-made military

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equipment, including Saracen and Saladin armoured vehicles, are currently in use in occupied East Timor; and if he will make a statement. [67935]

Mr. Fatchett: I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 28 January 1999, Official Report, column 394. Saracen and Saladin armoured vehicles were exported to Indonesia in the 1960s.

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Ministerial Group on Older People

Mrs. Gilroy: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office who is the Chair of the Ministerial Group on Older People; and if he will list the Group's full membership. [67246]

Mr. Kilfoyle: The Prime Minister has asked the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms), to take on the Chair of the Ministerial Group on Older People from Easter. The Minister of State, Department of Health is continuing to chair the Group until then.

Membership of the Group comprises those Ministers who have particular responsibilities for policy areas which affect older people. It includes the Minister for Women, and Ministers from the Department of Health, the Department of Social Security, the Cabinet Office, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Home Office, HM Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Education and Employment, the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Ministry of Defence, the Northern Ireland Office, the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office.

Marsham Street

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what further progress has been made on formulating plans for vacating the Marsham Street offices and demolishing them. [68316]

Mr. Kilfoyle: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated under the terms of the Framework Document to Property Advisers to the Civil Estate. I have asked its Chief Executive, Mr. John Locke, to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from John C. Locke to Mr. Edward Leigh, dated 29 January 1999:

    As you are already aware, 2 Marsham Street is a Government freehold and until April last year was occupied by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). Since your earlier question on 10 June the building has remained vacant, save for the use of a limited part as a winter shelter for some of London's homeless. This Government initiative will end on 31 March, by which time a decision may well have been taken about the possible reuse of Marsham Street as temporary decant accommodation for another Government Department while its premises are refurbished. Such temporary re-use might last for 3 to 4 years. If re-use of the building cannot be justified in Exchequer terms, arrangements will be made to commence demolition.

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