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Shoreditch Magistrates Court

Mr. Sedgemore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to renovate and use the former Shoreditch Magistrates Court in Old Street; and if he will make a statement. [129247]

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Jane Kennedy: The Lord Chancellor's Department has no plans to make use of the former magistrates court building in Old Street. This building is owned by the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police Service. It is part of the Inner London Courthouse estate, which will be transferred to the Greater London Magistrates Courts Authority on 1 April 2001.

Mr. Sedgemore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what discussions he has had with English Heritage about the future use of the former Shoreditch Magistrates Court in Old Street. [129246]

Jane Kennedy: I have had no discussions with English Heritage on the future use of Old Street Magistrates Courthouse.


Ministerial Code

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many times ministers in his Department have sought the advice of the Permanent Secretary under the circumstances envisaged in Paragraphs 118, 121 and 123 of the Ministerial Code; and on which occasions such advice was sought; [129179]

Mr. Byers: Information relating to internal advice and consultation is not disclosed under Exemption II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to require the renewables obligation on electricity suppliers to be met by renewable energy generated solely within the United Kingdom by 2010. [129221]

Mrs. Liddell: The renewables obligation will require licensed electricity suppliers to supply electricity generated from renewable sources of energy to their customers in Great Britain. Suppliers will be free to purchase this electricity in a competitive market. The Government expect that suppliers will purchase the bulk of their renewable electricity from within the United Kingdom, but it will of course comply with the requirements of European law on access for imported electricity.

Letters and Packets

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answer of 13 June 2000, Official Report, columns 595-96W, on letters and packets, if he will list, in respect of each change in weights of letter post made under Directive 97/67 of 1997 and its predecessors, the (a) reasons for such change and the amount concerned, (b) date of its coming into force, (c) consideration by Parliament and (d) Minister of the

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Crown who gave consent to the directive and changes arising from it, giving the reasons for any such changes. [129596]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Directive 97/67 was the first Postal Services Directive passed by the European Commission. It has no predecessors. A memorandum setting out how the Government intended to implement each of the requirements of the EU Directive, including draft postal services regulations, was published for consultation on 8 July 1999. Subsequently, the Postal Services Regulations (S.I. 1999/2107) transposed the Directive into United Kingdom law and amended the Postal Privilege (Suspension Order) 1981/1483 to include the words

Post Office Network

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he intends to pay subsidies to post offices before 2003. [129417]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 6 July 2000]: I refer the hon. Member to my statement and subsequent exchanges on 28 June 2000, Official Report, columns 907-20 and the PIU report also published on 28 June, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House and the Vote Office.

Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to ensure that each sub-post office will be entitled to offer the full range of Post Office and contracted Government services subject to the commercial decisions of the sub-postmaster involved. [128753]

Mr. Alan Johnson: In his statement on 28 June 2000, Official Report, columns 907-20, on the Post Office network, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a range of proposals and measures designed to modernise and sustain the post office network. Among them were proposals to develop new areas of business facilitated by the installation of a modern on-line computer system in every office throughout the country. Certain services are likely to remain restricted to a proportion of the network because of the client's requirement for cost-effectiveness in selecting channels for the delivery of their services.

Universal Bank

Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the Universal bank will be required to provide banking services to any applicant irrespective of financial status. [128752]

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Mr. Alan Johnson: The Post Office is developing plans, in conjunction with the high street banks, for the Universal Bank. It is intended that the Universal bank should cater for as wide a range of customers as possible, bringing many more people into the financial mainstream.

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the services of the proposed Universal bank in sub-post offices will differ from those provided by the Alliance and Leicester Girobank. [129988]

Mr. Byers: Alliance and Leicester Girobank offer a full range of banking services. The Universal bank is intended to cater for a wide range of people currently outside the financial mainstream and will therefore offer basic bank accounts without overdraft or borrowing facilities.

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he proposes to publish a business plan for the Universal bank in sub-post offices. [129987]

Mr. Byers: The business plan for developing and operating a Universal bank service at post offices will be a commercially confidential document.

Benefit Payments (ACT)

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if claimants who wish to receive their benefits in cash, and who have no other bank account, will be required to open a new Universal bank account under the Government's proposals for switching benefit payments to ACT. [129605]

Mr. Alan Johnson: From 2003, the normal method of paying benefits and pensions will be directly into bank or building society accounts. Those who wish to collect their benefits in cash from the post office after 2003 will still be able to do so.

The establishment of the Universal bank will provide the means for any recipient to have an account for benefits to be paid into, and accessed across a post office counter using a card rather than a benefit book. However, we also recognise that there may still be a small number of people and payments which the Benefits Agency will be unable to pay by ACT. For these, we are considering what alterative simple money transmission system, which could be accessed by post offices, may be commercially available.

Small Businesses

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals he has to help small businesses minimise the impact of regulations dealing with (a) parental leave and (b) working time regulations. [129950]

Ms Hewitt: Officials consulted widely with business and business organisations, and implemented parental leave regulation with a light touch to ensure that they were fair to both employers and employees. To help people understand and adapt to the new regulations, the Department of Trade and Industry has produced clear and detailed guidance material. My right hon. Friend is leading a review of maternity pay and parental leave, and it will consider as part of its remit whether it is possible further to simplify legislation in this area.

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The Working Time Regulations implemented the Working Time Directive in the UK so as to balance the proper protection of workers with minimising burdens on business. The 1999 amendments to the Regulations both simplified the record-keeping requirements and provided for the provision of statutory guidance.

Guidance on both parental leave and working time is available in hard copy or on the DTI internet site

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