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Post Offices (London)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) post offices and (b) sub-post offices have closed in the Greater London area during the last five years. [119845]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The Post Office tell me that it does not hold historical data by region, including Greater London, for the numbers of post offices which have closed or opened.

Land Rover

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answer of 14 April 2000, Official Report, column 288W, if discussions on the purchase of Land Rover from BMW by Ford were commercially confidential. [119843]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I made clear in my earlier reply that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has many contacts with companies including the Ford Motor Company. The issues discussed are often commercially sensitive and the company's requests for confidentiality respected.

Council for Science and Technology

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answer of 18 April 2000, Official Report, column 433W, about new appointments to the Council for Science and Technology, what the gender balance is on the new council and whether the gender balance of the expanded council is in line with Government targets for the representation of women on public bodies; how many women candidates (a) were considered for appointment to the Council and (b) met the criteria for appointment to the council; what steps his Department took to increase the pool of women candidates for appointment to the council; when he will next have an opportunity to improve the gender balance on the council; what steps he is taking in other parts of the scientific advisory system to compensate for the low representation of women on the Council for Science and Technology; and what consultation he has had with the Minister for Women on ways to increase women's participation in his Department's scientific advisory system. [120305]

Mr. Byers: Of the 16 independent members of the Council for Science and Technology, three are women (19 per cent.).

Of the 23 candidates considered for appointment to the Council during the most recent round, five were women, two of whom subsequently decided not to pursue their candidacy.

In identifying these candidates and making the appointments, my Department complied with the guidance of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. We canvassed widely, both internally among other Government Departments and externally among such organisations as the CBI, IoD, TUC, the CVCP, the Research Councils and the Higher Education Funding Councils. Nominations from existing members of the Council were also sought.

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The next round of appointments to the Council is due to commence in September 2000, when we will continue to seek to increase the proportion of women on the Council, in accordance with my Department's published goal of reaching 33 per cent. representations of women by 2002 in making appointments to our non-departmental public bodies.

Companies House

Ms Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance he has given to (a) Government agencies and (b) Companies House about the hospitality managers may accept from companies with which they are outsourcing contracts. [120190]

Dr. Howells: The guidance contained within the Department's Procurement Manual which is available to DTI Agencies including Companies House, sets out advice regarding gifts and hospitality in respect of dealings with contractors. A copy of the Manual is in the Library of the House.

Ms Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what evaluation he has made of Capita's performance in Companies House, Cardiff. [120212]

Dr. Howells: Evaluation of Capita's performance is carried out systematically against a range of service levels and targets defined in the contract under which they provide telephone inquiry and search services on behalf of Companies House.

Export Licences

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes have been made in the last three years to the guidelines on end-use assurance required for companies and individuals applying for single individual export licences for strategic goods. [120205]

Dr. Howells: There have been some amendments made to the guidelines on end-use assurance in the last three years with regard to information requirements for certain chemicals listed in Schedules to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Other changes have been ones of format rather than substance.

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if Export Control Organisation guidelines detailing end-use assurance required for export licence applications apply to open individual export licences for strategic goods. [120203]

Dr. Howells: The end-use assurance requirements for an open individual export licence are included in the conditions of such a licence. Guidance is provided for compliance with these conditions.

Disabled People (New Technologies)

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to draw upon the experience of internet companies in providing disabled people with (a) access to and (b) training in, new technologies. [120197]

Ms Hewitt: As a response to the Social Exclusion Unit's 1998 report, the Prime Minister set up a series of high level action teams to devise a new national strategy for neighbourhood renewal. Policy Action

2 May 2000 : Column: 26W

Team 15 (PAT15), which was led by DTI, looked at how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help.

PAT15's main task was to improve the access to and uptake of ICTs by the most disadvantaged in society. It carried out an in-depth study of projects already operating in poor neighbourhoods to identify best practice which may be replicable elsewhere. It also commissioned papers to examine how issues associated with disability can be addressed. The consultation process included input from the private sector, particularly through representatives from ICT companies working as PAT members.

Their report indicates that public access facilities, the training provided and the content used should take into account the needs of different audiences, including people with disabilities. The recommendations from the report are being taken forward by the DfEE. The final report is available on the PAT15 website (www.PAT15.org.uk).

Much work, however, is already under way. £252 million of Capital Modernisation Funding (CMF) has been promised to set up around 700 ICT learning centres within the 2000 most deprived council wards and other areas with special needs, such as isolated rural areas. These centres will be set up from September 2000, to provide hands on learning for people for example with disabilities or from ethnic backgrounds with little or no ICT skills or access to ICT. They will provide a local place for local people and will give people the opportunity to gain ICT skills.

The development of this initiative has included input from the private sector through externally commissioned work or through representatives of ICT companies sitting on the project's management board.

More details about the initiative can be found on the ICT Learning Centres website on www.dfee.gov.uk/ ict-learning-centres.

Social Exclusion (Internet)

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what initiatives he will implement to encourage internet businesses to assist in tackling the problems of deprived areas. [120198]

Ms Hewitt: Following the Social Exclusion Unit's (SEU) 1998 report on deprived neighbourhoods, 18 high level action teams were set up to help devise a new national strategy for neighbourhood renewal. Their main conclusions have now been drawn together in a framework document for consultation (available on the SEU's website: www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/seu).

The report identifies that business has a crucial role and much to contribute in helping to turn around deprived neighbourhoods. It also points out that businesses need recognition and encouragement to become actively involved in projects which aim, for example, to raise education standards, improve health, tackle crime, and help to build communities in deprived areas. The Government are keen to see an increase in the number and range of businesses, including internet businesses, which are actively engaged in addressing the problems of deprived neighbourhoods. The consultation paper seeks views on what the Government could do to encourage business engagement in the community.

2 May 2000 : Column: 27W

There are, however, a number of initiatives already under way. In particular, the DTI has:









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