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Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage by volume of Parcelforce's (a) domestic and (b) international mail is (i) under 10kg and (ii) between 10 and 20kg in weight; and if he will breakdown the above categories into (1) business to business post, (2) business to customer post and (3) non-business post. [132796]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 26 July 2000]: This is a commercial matter for the Post Office. It has informed me that:


Mr. Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assistance is being planned for the Rover supply chain during the interruption to production of the Rover 75 while the production line is being moved from Oxford to Longbridge. [133760]

Mr. Byers: In April I announced a fund of £12 million to support the Rover supply chain in the West Midlands. This fund will now be available to assist companies in all regions of England who are heavily dependent on the revenue from supplying parts for the Rover 75. Some £5 million remains uncommitted in the fund for this purpose.

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North West Development Agency

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what arrangements exist for his Department to consult the North West Development Agency on matters relating to economic and industrial development in the region. [132048]

Mr. Caborn: Monthly meetings take place between Ministers and all Regional Development Agency (RDA) Chairmen, which provide a regular opportunity for discussion and consultation. In addition, RDA Chairmen and Chief Executives meet DTI ministers on many occasions, and RDAs have contributed to written consultations on numerous policy proposals.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions in the last 12 months his Department's officials consulted the North West Development Agency on decisions it is taking in relation to economic development in the region. [132047]

Mr. Caborn: My officials in both HQ and the Government Office for the North West are in regular contact with the North West Development Agency, ensuring our policies on regional economic development are tailored to regional needs. Contact has taken the form of individual meetings, seminars and written communication.

MOX Fuel (Japan)

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will exercise his power as sole shareholder in BNFL to ensure that the full costs attributable to the return of the MOX fuel from Japan are clearly indicated on the Company's financial accounts. [132296]

Mrs. Liddell: I understand that BNFL is making full financial provision in its accounts for the MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF) data falsification events.

Former Miners (Health)

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many former miners have attended the full medical assessment process at each of the spirometry centres in Durham and Newcastle; and what the figures are for each of the other centres in Great Britain. [132871]

Mrs. Liddell: As at 17 July, the number of full medical assessments per centre was:

CentreNumber of assessments completed
Mountain Ash130
Domiciliary visits139

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Healthcall have the capacity to carry out 2,500 assessments per month now, rising steadily by September, but the actual throughput at each centre depends greatly on the speed with which solicitors send in the completed Claims Questionnaires and record holders release medical records. The rate at which solicitors are returning completed Claims Questionnaires and Mandates has picked up, but we still urge solicitors to do all they can to increase the numbers being sent to us. We have the capacity to deal with them.

Coal State Aid Scheme

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on the coal state aid scheme; and if he will make a statement. [133735]

Mrs. Liddell: I am pleased to announce that on 26 July the UK Government formally applied to the European Commission for their approval to pay operating aid to United Kingdom coal producers over the period to July 2002. This notification follows extensive consultation by my Department with coal producers and purchasers to ensure that the scheme we are proposing meets the Government's objectives spelled out in the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's announcement of 17 April, and complies with European regulations.

Our application to the Commission comprises an outline of our proposed scheme and a "Modernisation, Rationalisation and Restructuring Plan" as required by the European Coal and Steel Communities Treaty and subsequent decisions. These documents have been placed in the House of Commons Library.

The European Commission must now consider our proposed scheme over the next three months.

Merchant Navy Day

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will ensure that the Red Ensign is flown from departmental buildings on Merchant Navy Day, 3 September. [132967]

Dr. Howells: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Ministerial Duty Roster (Summer)

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will publish the daily ministerial duty roster for his Department during the summer adjournment. [133065]

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Mr. Byers: It is not the normal practice of the Government to publish a daily Ministerial Duty Roster. The Department will ensure that it has sufficient cover through the summer recess in line with the requirements of the Ministerial Code.

Companies House

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has reached a decision on the future of Companies House following the review announced by the Minister for Competitiveness on 16 February 2000, Official Report, column 557-58W. [133762]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The first stage of the review of Companies House has now been completed. I am pleased to say that the review has confirmed that Companies House is performing well, both in meeting its own objectives and targets and in contributing to the achievement of wider Government objectives such as our e-Government strategy. Its standards of customer service are high, as shown by the award in 1998 of its third Charter Mark, and customers are generally satisfied with the service they get from Companies House. Companies House is already providing a wide range of services electronically. The CH Direct service offers electronic access to images of all documents dating back to 1995. All the major returns (except accounts) can be filed electronically. Plans are well advanced to introduce facilities to incorporate new companies electronically and to simplify the process for e-filing generally following the passing of the Electronic Communications Act 2000. Companies House is on track to have all services available electronically well in advance of the Government target of 2005.

The functions carried out by Companies House--the incorporation of companies, registration of information about their continuing operations and provision of information to the public--are and will continue to be essential to ensuring effective, competitive markets. The Review has confirmed that those functions are best delivered by retaining Companies House as an Executive Agency and that there is a continuing role for the private sector in the delivery of Companies House services.

The issue now is how Companies House can perform even better in future. I want to see Companies House continue to improve the quality of its services, setting and maintaining high standards of customer service and responsiveness to customer needs. Customers rightly look to Companies House as a reliable source of accurate and up-to-date information and we must ensure that it meets those expectations. Companies House will need to continue to modernise to improve the quality, range and flexibility of its services. Its operation is increasingly based on electronic interaction with customers, rather than the processing of paper, and this trend will continue, in line with the increasing use of e-commerce throughout the economy. Companies House's main operating system is now some 15 years old. It lacks flexibility and is not best-suited to supporting such an operation. It will therefore need to be replaced. The transition to a new system will need to be managed carefully and taken step by step to ensure that there is no interruption in the business. Substantial investment in IT will be required over the next three years or so to achieve this. Funding will be available from the cash reserves Companies House

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has built up during its period as a Trading Fund. This investment will lay the basis for an even more successful next five years.

The report of stage 1 of the review of Companies House has been placed in the Library of the House.

Stage 2 of the review is now starting and will be completed in the autumn. As I announced in February, this second stage will consider whether any changes should be made to the way in which Companies House operates, including its aims and objectives, targets and financial controls. It will also consider in more detail the costs and funding of the investment in new systems.

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