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Mr. Alan Johnson: My Department's strategy is to support and promote the UK shipbuilding industry, and in particular, to assist the industry to improve its competitiveness. In July 1998 my Department established the Shipbuilding Forum whose membership comprises representatives of the shipbuilding and ship repair industry, trade unions, equipment suppliers and customers, both private and public sector. Also involved are the National Training Organisation for the marine sector and relevant Government Departments. The Forum's terms of reference are to consider the current situation of the shipbuilding and ship repair industry and how to improve its competitiveness so as to increase its share of the European market, leading to increased output, profitability and employment.
Mr. Alan Johnson: The Government's policies are to establish the macroeconomic conditions within which the management of individual industries and companies can maximise their output, growth and employment prospects. The Government do not make forecasts for individual industries in the private sector.
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25. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with oil and gas companies regarding future investment in field development in the North Sea. 
Mrs. Liddell: Ministerial colleagues and I regularly meet oil and gas companies. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe chairs the industry/Government forum PILOT which is actively considering ways of encouraging investment in North Sea oil and gas development. In addition, in February, my Department announced an initiative to target areas where there has been no exploration or development for some time.
Mr. Alan Johnson: Alchemy's cessation of negotiations with BMW provides a new opportunity for proposals to come forward which offer a viable future for Longbridge and which may provide more jobs than under the Alchemy proposals.
This Government's efforts over the next few weeks will be directed towards achieving a successful outcome which will serve the interests of the workers at Longbridge and the wider community in the West Midlands.
Mr. Alan Johnson: When I announced the creation of the Rover Task Force on the day following BMW's decision to break up the Rover Group, I asked it to look into the effect that would have on the Longbridge area of Birmingham and on the supplier chain and to make recommendations about what should be done to lessen the impact.
The Task Force has 21 members drawn from and representing a wide range of organisations in the West Midlands and produced an interim report published on 26 April. I have asked it to produce a final report at the end of June 2000.
In its interim report, the Task Force drew on over 1,000 questionnaires completed and returned to it by supplier chain companies and from the work done by its five sub-groups which have been created to assess the impact both on individuals and businesses. The Task Force has already provided telephone helplines for individuals and suppliers and a website. The report makes a number of additional recommendations about short and medium term actions that should be taken to regenerate the region and action is already being taken to support identified needs.
At the outset of the Task Force's work I committed £129 million to assist the people, communities and businesses of the West Midlands affected by BMW's decision. I have already given approval for £12 million worth of support for the West Midlands supplier chain companies from the £129 million. This will help them to draw up fresh Business Plans, find fresh markets, obtain export advice and receive support for retooling and
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retraining. An additional commitment of £15.5 million, over and above the £129 million, has been made to support individuals. This money is providing help through a Rapid Response Unit at Longbridge offering fast-track access to benefits and training and is tackling re-skilling and re-training for workers from Rover and its supplier chain who will be made redundant or whose jobs will be affected.
Mr. Alan Johnson: It is good news that BMW have come to an arrangement with the Phoenix Consortium to purchase Rover-Longbridge. Until more details are available it is too early to comment on the impact on jobs in the Shrewsbury and Shropshire areas.
Mr. Caborn: The Review of ECGD's Mission and Status, which I announced last July, is proceeding satisfactorily. The public consultation exercise and a number of independent studies into certain aspects of ECGD's operations have provided valuable evidence. These inputs will enable Ministers to determine the right way forward for ECGD, and I expect to announce the outcome of the Mission Review to the House in the next month or so. I expect the Status element of the Review to be completed later in the year.
29. Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received about the cost to business of regulations controlling business activity since 1997. 
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31. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with Ministers in the EU and USA concerning the restructuring of the aerospace industry; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Alan Johnson: My officials and I maintain regular contact with EU and American Governments involved in the restructuring of the aerospace industry. I attended a meeting of industry ministers from six European countries in Rome last October to discuss the prospects for continued progress on aerospace restructuring.
It was a useful opportunity for me to meet colleagues from key European aerospace nations and to have the opportunity for direct dialogue with senior industrialists. Our discussions covered a wide range of issues relevant to the future success of the industry. My objective is that the UK should continue to play a leading role in international restructuring and maintain the global competitiveness of its aerospace sector.
The DTI is also working with DfEE, the three statutory equality commissions, and ACAS on the development of a pilot information and advice service for business to be launched in the Autumn, called Equality Direct, based on business needs. The service will provide authoritative, confidential and coherent information and advice on all aspects of equal opportunities.
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