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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 24 October 2000


Banana Trade Dispute

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his policy on the provision of temporary aid to UK businesses affected by the EU-USA banana trade dispute; and if he will make a statement. [134210]

Mr. Byers: The way to alleviate this burden from all the companies facing possible US sanctions is to find a solution to the banana dispute that is satisfactory to all parties. It is precisely this that the Government have been working hard to achieve since the US first imposed retaliation last year.

While I fully sympathise with the plight of these companies, any suggestion of offering some form of direct compensation for lost business as a result of US actions poses considerable legal difficulties, under the terms of membership of the WTO.

Patent Office

Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what decisions he has reached on the future of the Patent Office in the light of the review announced by the Minister for Competitiveness on 27 April. [134447]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The first stage of the Review of the Patent Office has now been completed. I am pleased to say that the Review found that the Office is now extremely customer focused and responsive. The quality of the Office's patent granting and other registration functions is well regarded and compares favourably with that of other intellectual property offices. The Patent Office has met or exceeded most of its performance objectives and targets. It has contributed to the achievement of wider Government objectives. Its standards of customer service are very high. It has achieved a Charter Mark three times, and IiP accreditation.

The Patent Office will continue as an Executive Agency of the DTI. There are significant concerns about privatising or contracting out in full what are largely judicial functions, where commercial drivers could lead to unhelpful pressures. The review found that Agency status was widely thought to have worked well.

We want the UK to play a key role in driving forward international policy on intellectual property--not just patents and trade marks but copyright too, where the Internet and digital uses are posing new challenges. We need to ensure that copyright can be protected and enforced on an international basis, while balancing both user and owner interests. We intend to strengthen the policy units, bringing in a range of expertise and widening the consultation mechanisms, so as to work in partnership with the different interests.

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Getting a patent or trade mark is only part of the story for business. They also have to find a market for their invention and need to know how to defend their intellectual property rights. The Patent Office will in future be doing more to help them--linking up with the Small Business Service and the support for innovation the DTI provides. For example, we will be exploring what more needs to be done--using the web--to match inventors with business partners. The Patent Office will also be investigating how it might develop alternative dispute resolution with the interests of small business and private applicants in mind.

Trade is becoming increasingly international and patents need to reflect this. The UK can play a key role in developing the international systems to make them cheap, speedy and accessible. We want to see the expertise of national offices used to achieve this. We have a very well respected team of specialist examiners--we want to see them (and other national offices) being used to speed up and improve the international routes for granting patents. The UK route for patents could then become complementary to the international routes. The review recommended that UK fees should be adjusted to discourage duplication of work and to cover costs. We intend to consider, and consult as necessary, on the scope for changing the fee structure to achieve these objectives.

Our trade mark registration function is highly regarded and it is still needed alongside the EC trade mark and the international trade mark system. The review concluded that there was a good case for bringing greater consistency between the UK and EC systems by ceasing to refuse applications on the grounds of conflicting marks, but possibly notifying the applicant and trade mark owner of conflicts. We intend to consult on the options.

On designs, an EC regime is in prospect and we will consult on whether a UK system is still needed once that is in place.

We intend to ensure that the governance of the Patent Office reflects the need to provide a balance between producer interests, the innovation agenda and the interests of end-consumers, by including a range of external members on the Steering Board, which would discuss policy at a strategic level. We will also be considering whether a new name would better reflect the Office's role and aims. The Office will be working closely with Companies House and Nominet to ensure that, in so far as it would be helpful for companies, a unified application should be possible.

IT is a key strategic enabler for the Office. Advice from consultants showed that the current management, systems and equipment were appropriate and effective for business needs and offered value for money. They generally endorsed the Office's approach to new initiatives, while making some proposals which the Office will be taking forward. The Patent Office has already developed a highly rated website and is on track to have all services available electronically by the Government target of 2005.

The report of Stage 1 of the Review of the Patent Office has been placed in the Library of the House.

Stage 2 of the review has now started and is considering whether any changes should be made to the way in which the Patent Office operates, including its aims and objectives, targets and financial controls.

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ACAS Report

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to receive the Annual report for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. [134445]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The ACAS report for 1999-2000 is being laid before both Houses of Parliament today. Copies are available from the Vote Office.

Supermarkets Inquiry

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will ask the Director General of Fair Trading to inquire into the proposed new distribution arrangement between W H Smith Retail and Tesco; and if he will assess what percentage of the wholesale market in the UK is held by each and the consequences of this for competition. [133818]

Dr. Howells: The Director General of Fair Trading is already aware of proposals to introduce new arrangements for the distribution of magazines and is monitoring the situation. It would be for the Director General to assess what impact these arrangements would have on competition.

Industrial Compensation

Mr. Denis Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many MAP testing centres there are in the UK; where they are; on what dates they opened; how many examinations were carried out at each centre; and how many persons are waiting to be examined at each centre. [133985]

Mrs. Liddell: As at 8 October 2000 Healthcall Services Ltd., the company contracted to carry out the full Medical Assessment Process, has 26 centres operational (Mountain Ash being counted as a double centre because it has two sets of equipment). Healthcall will shortly be opening two further centres in South Wales, a centre in Wrexham, a centre in Stirling and a second set of equipment is to be installed in Barnsley, bringing the total to 30.

Location Date openedNumber of assessmentsFuture booked appointments
1. AyrEnd of April16325
2. BarnsleyEnd of March78141
3. BristolEnd of May(1)--
4. CannockEnd of April2559
5. ChesterfieldEnd of February7993
6. CoventryEnd of January4736
7. DealEnd of May435
8. DurhamEnd of March87241
9. EdinburghEnd of March16655
10. GlasgowEnd of March23558
11. HuddersfieldEnd of February(2)--11
12. LeedsEnd of May4725
13. LochoreEnd of January207102
14. ManchesterEnd of February3019
15. MansfieldEnd of February236168
16. MexboroughEnd of February103111
17. Mountain Ash(3)End of January414452
18. NewcastleEnd of January83183
19. NewportEnd of January473199
20. NottinghamEnd of January132109
21. PontefractEnd of February169220
22. SheffieldEnd of January14762
23. StokeEnd of April3754
24. SwanseaEnd of January364313
25. WiganEnd of June1028
Total 4,7913,021

(1) Due to lack of claims the equipment was moved to Mountain Ash, when numbers increase new equipment is available to re-equip the centre at short notice

(2) Centre is equipped and doctors are available. Awaiting claims documentation before appointments could start

(3) Two sets of equipment

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Mr. Denis Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many claims in respect of chronic bronchitis and emphysema have been settled under the MAP process; what the names are of the firms dealing with these claims and the numbers of claims settled in each case; and what the average value is of these claims. [133987]

Mrs. Liddell: The Department is not yet able to make full and final offers in most cases as some elements of compensation (for example pension loss) have still to be agreed with the miners' solicitors. However, interim payments are made on all other heads of damages. So far we have processed over 1,300 claims post Medical Assessment Process (MAP). Half of these resulted in interim offers of compensation. The average value of accepted offer is just under £3,500.

Under the handling agreement signed by the DTI and the claimants' solicitors the breakdown of post MAP interim offers is:

Solicitors NameOffers MadeOffers Accepted
Ashton Morton Slack Solicitors21
Attey Dibb and Clegg22
Browell Smith and Co.20
Davis Blank Furniss11
Donald Race and Newton11
Foy and Co.10
Furley Page Fielding and Barton20
Graysons Solicitors86
Hugh James Ford Simey192180
Keeble Hawson Moorhouse1412
Latham and Co.10
Malcolm C. Foy and Co.10
Meloy, Whittle Robinson11
Moss Solicitors52
Raleys Solicitors33
T. S. Edwards and Son Solicitors1511
Thomas and Co. Solicitors42
Thompson and Co.11
Thompsons Solicitors8061
Towells Solicitors10
Union of Democratic Mineworkers320280

Mr. Denis Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many offers of compensation for chronic bronchitis and emphysema have been made under the expedited process; how many offers have been accepted; what the names are of the solicitors or organisations dealing with these claims; and what the average value is of these claims. [133986]

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Mrs. Liddell: The Department announced in September that it would upgrade the levels of expedited offers (going up from previous maxim of £4,750 to £14,500 depending on loss of lung function). 5,500 revised offers totalling £21.4 million went out last week. This will considerably raise the average offer to date.

Under the Handling Agreement signed by the DTI and the claimants' solicitors the breakdown of expedited offers is:

Solicitors nameOffers madeOffers accepted
Abenson and Co.10
Accident and Injury Claims Centre51
Adam F. Greenhalgh and Co. Solicitors11
Ashcroft and Co. Solicitors11
Ashton Morton Slack Solicitors44
Attey Dibb and Clegg4310
Beecham Peacock22
Bell Wright and Dallman10
Ben Hoare Bell and Co. Solicitors70
Beresfords (incorporating R. A. Swift)3411
Berryman Shacklocks Solicitors22
Bleasdale and Co.10
Bridge Sanderson Munro10
Browell Smith and Co.83543
Burton Green Williamson11
Bury Walkers Solicitors20
Carr and Co. Solicitors20
Chapman and Chubb10
Coley and Tilley10
Corries Solicitors60
Davis Blank Furniss10
Dean Thomas and Co. Solicitors10
Donald Race and Newton10
Douglas Jones Mercer Solicitors40
Elliot Mather64
Emsleys Solicitors121
Endlar Quigley10
Endlars Solicitors73
Foy and Co. Solicitors72
Frank Allen Pennington Solicitors113
Furley Page Fielding and Barton11018
Gabb and Co.208
George Mills Solicitors63
Gorman Hamilton Solicitors6016
Gorvin Smith Fort8 6
Gwilym Jones and Davies with Bryant and Co.10
Hamers Solicitors80
Hartley and Worstenholme Solicitors10
Hickmotts Solicitors156
Higgins and Co. Solicitors11
Holyoak and Co. Solicitors10
Hugh James Ford Simey1,139285
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors324127
Ison Harrison21
J. Keith Park and Co. Solicitors2214
Jackson Heath Solicitors20
John E. Millar and Company Solicitors32
John Y. Robertson61
Keeble Hawson Moorhouse13741
Kidd and Spoor Harper Solicitors5130
Kirk Jackson11
Latham and Co. Solicitors5013
Lees and Partners10
Leo Abse and Cohen20
Mace and Jones10
Malcolm C. Foy and Co. Solicitors41
Mark Gilbert Morse161
Marrons Solicitors753
Mathie Lennox10
Maurice Smith and Co. Solicitors10
McArdles Solicitors10
Meloy, Whittle Robinson Solicitors150
Mills Kemp and Brown Solicitors10
Morgan Cole324
Morison Bishop1810
Mortons Solicitors287
Moss Solicitors8518
Moxon and Barker Solicitors20
Needham Solicitors11
Nelson and Co. Solicitors105
O. H. Parsons and Partners Solicitors24380
Osborne Jones and Co. Solicitors10
Oxley and Coward Solicitors4810
Park Hutchison Solicitors and Notaries6124
Peace and Co. Solicitors10
Philip Morris Solicitors10
Pickerings Solicitors11
Plancey and Co.1411
R. L. Edwards and Partners Solicitors10
Raleys Solicitors1,166347
Randell Saunders Phillips and Lloyd6829
Richard J. Knaggs83
Richmond Anderson Goudi11
Robinson King Solicitors91
Ross and Co.1110
Ross Harper Solicitors11
Russell Jones and Walker41
Saffmans Solicitors2714
Sedgwick Phelan and Partners54
Shaw and Co.987
Silverbeck Rymer Solicitors197
Simpson Millar Solicitors126
Southern Stewart and Walker52
Stanton Croft Solicitors4738
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council10
Stuart Bell and Associates40
T. H. M. Tinsdills10
T. H. Murray10
T. S. Edwards and Son Solicitors352
Taylor Bracewell Solicitors31
The Beaumont Partnership31
The Paul Rooney Partnership10
The Smith Partnership44
Thomas and Co. Solicitors8229
Thompson and Co. Solicitors7911
Thompson and Robinson Solicitors2 1
Thompsons Solicitors2,439999
Tilly Bailey and Irvine Solicitors31
Towells Solicitors337135
Treanors Solicitors30
Twigg Farnell21
Union of Democratic Mineworkers36290
W. Brook and Co. Solicitors31
Wake Smith152
Walker Cooke11
Watson Burton Solicitors405193
Widdows Mason10
Woollcombe Beer Watts10

The average expedited payment made is just over £2,400.

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