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National Insurance

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what has been the policy since 1989 on writing annually to those of his Department's staff who are paying reduced rates of National Insurance contributions, reminding them of the rules governing the payment of reduced rates, as recommended in the Inland Revenue guidance note on reduced rate National Insurance contributions for married women. [129477]

Mr. Paul Murphy: From 1989 to 1 July 1999 it was not the policy of the Welsh Office to write annually to members of staff who pay reduced rate National Insurance contributions.

The Wales Office does not currently have any staff who pay such a reduced rate, but it is intended that an office notice will be issued annually, to remind any member of staff who may be paying reduced rates of the necessity of informing Personnel of any change in circumstances.

Departmental Payments

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of correctly presented bills were paid by his Department in (a) 1998-99 and (b) 1999-2000 within 30 days of receipt of (i) goods and services, (ii) a valid invoice and (iii) other agreed payment terms. [130044]

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Mr. Paul Murphy: The percentage of currently presented bills paid by my Department within 30 days of receipt of the valid invoice or the satisfactory receipt of goods/services, whichever was the later, or the agreed contractual terms if otherwise specified, was (a) 97 per cent. for 1989-99 and (b) 97 per cent. for 1999-2000.


Saudi Oil

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the oil trade component in the Al Yamamah agreements with Saudi Arabia; and what assessment he has made of the impact of oil price changes on those arrangements with Saudi Arabia since 1985. [129362]

Mr. Hoon: I have been asked to reply.

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Details of the funding arrangements under the Al Yamamah agreements are confidential between Her Majesty's Government and the United Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and I am therefore withholding that information under the provisions of Exemption 1 of Part II of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information. However, the funding arrangements of the Al Yamamah programme are kept under review by both the Ministry of Defence and the Saudi Arabian Government and adjustments have been made periodically in response to prevailing economic conditions.

Research Councils

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much money each research council allocated to the public understanding of science in each year since 1994. [128278]

Ms Hewitt: Research Council expenditure on public understanding of science activities in the years 1994-95 to 1999-2000 was as follows:

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Research Council Public Understanding Spend


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In the case of MRC and ESRC these figures also include some public relations activity not accounted for separately.

These figures do not include public understanding work undertaken by Research Council grant holders as a condition of their grant, as figures on this activity are generally not available. However, as an example, BBSRC estimates that the value of such activity undertaken by its own grant holders totals at least £3 million per annum. The figures also exclude the significant amount of activity undertaken by Research Council funded institutes/centres, figures for which are not available centrally.


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what (a) steps he has taken and (b) funding has been allocated to promote (i) science engineering and (ii) other science activities to (A) children and (B) the public in each year since 1994. [128277]

Ms Hewitt: There is a great deal of activity led by industrial interests and charities to which the Government's efforts are complementary. The Government support a range of activities to promote science and engineering to children and the general public. We also consider that it is important to do more than promote science and engineering, and takes steps to involve the public over major scientific issues and to increase the opportunities for dialogue. Except for some very specific activities, it is

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not practicable to provide accurate total costings of promotional activities or to provide a breakdown for the cost of activities aimed at children.

My Department's largest investment is through the Science Budget grant-aided activities of the Research Councils, who all have science promotion as one of their responsibilities. Estimates of expenditure by the Research Councils are given in answer to the preceding question. The Royal Society also undertakes activities in this area some of which are grant-aided from the Science Budget at about £1 million per annum, and supports among other things the activities of COPUS.

The Department also administers two main programmes. A general programme administered by the Office of Science and Technology (OST), provides core funding to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and funds the BA's co-ordination of National Science Week. It also provides additional support for the COPUS grants scheme, including its projects aimed specifically at promoting SET for women and ethnic minorities, and funds innovative projects aimed at bringing science to a wider audience through, for example, drama, art, and the Internet. In order to gain a better understanding of the public's attitudes to science, the OST also funded last year's 'Public Consultation on Developments in the Biosciences', and this year, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, has undertaken a survey looking at public attitudes to science in the UK. The OST's budget for these activities in 1994-95 was £1.0 million, and has since risen to an average of £1.25 million per annum.

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The second main programme, supported from the Department's Innovation Budget specifically supports engineering and has had several manifestations since 1994. They include:

The various scientific advisory bodies, including those that fall within my Department's responsibilities all see engagement of the general public as an important part of their activities, and the Chief Scientific Adviser's Guidelines on the use of scientific advice in policy- making stress the importance of transparency.

"Made in Britain"

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what "Made in Britain" emblems are available from his Department to British companies to mark the country of origin of their products. [125677]

Mrs. Liddell [holding answer 12 June 2000]: None.

Royal Mail

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the disruption to post for businesses as a result of recent industrial action at Royal Mail offices in North London; and if he will make a statement. [130187]

Mr. Byers: This is an operational matter for the Post Office.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received regarding Royal Mail's decision to cease the use of private motor vehicles for delivery; and what assessment he has made of its impact upon service in rural areas. [129983]

Mr. Alan Johnson [holding answer 10 July 2000]: I have received no representations on this matter. Such decisions are an operational matter for the Post Office. I understand that Royal Mail does not plan any deliveries on the basis of the use of private cars and that all deliveries have a designated mode of official transport.

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However, some employees have preferred to use their own private vehicles to travel to and from their deliveries. I understand that a pilot scheme to discontinue the use of private motor vehicles on delivery has had no impact on service.

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