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Banana Trade Dispute

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) of 24 October 2000, Official Report, column 101W, on the banana trade dispute, what the obstacles to compensation are; and how they are affected by World Trade Organisation membership. [135793]

Mr. Caborn: Any compensation scheme for companies affected by the banana dispute would raise a number of questions concerning compatibility with both the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and EC state aid rules. There is a significant risk that a scheme would be incompatible with these. As I pointed out in my earlier answer, the only way to alleviate this burden from all the companies facing 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.

No other European State is running a scheme to assist its own industries affected by the dispute. Several posts have reported that their hosts have looked into such a possibility and have concluded that any scheme would fall foul of these rules.

Coal Authority

Mr. Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the quinquennial review of the Coal Authority will take place; and what the terms of reference of the review will be. [135862]

Mrs. Liddell: Work has now commenced on the second quinquennial review of the functions and organisation of the Coal Authority. The terms of reference for the review are as given.

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Overall Aim

To determine whether any changes are necessary to the functions and organisation of the Coal Authority.

First Stage: Prior Options

To examine whether the Coal Authority should be retained as an NDPB and, if so, should continue to carry out some or all of the functions it presently delivers.

In the course of this, to consider specifically:








If NDPB status for the Coal Authority is confirmed, in the light of the findings of the Prior Options Stage consider how the Authority's operations, services and functions could be provided and operated more efficiently and effectively in the future.

To consider particularly:












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The findings of this review will be summarised in a report in a format agreed with the Department, including a set of recommendations.

The first stage of the review will be carried out by an official in the Department of Trade and Industry. If, once this stage is completed, it is decided to proceed to a second stage, it is likely that this work will be undertaken by consultants. The first stage should be completed by the end of 2000 and stage two would commence early in 2001. The review is being overseen by a Steering Group chaired by the Director of Coal Unit in my Department. The team includes the Chairman of the Coal Authority and an independent member.

My Department is particularly keen to hear the views of interested parties including suggestions for improvement in the provision of services. Any comments, which should be sent by 30 November, should be addressed to Mr. Brian Morris, Department of Trade and Industry, Bay 179, 1 Victoria Street London, SW1H 0ET (e-mail: brian.morris@dti.gsi.gov.uk).

Universal Bank

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the Government's progress in creating the universal bank; and if he will make a statement. [135561]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The Post Office and the high street banks are continuing to work together to develop the concept of universal banking services and the Government are closely monitoring developments.

Sub Post Offices

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many sub post offices closed between May 1997 and the latest available date. [135557]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that the net number of sub post office closures since end March 1997 to end September 2000 is 1,183.

Parental Leave

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to reform the current provisions relating to parental leave. [135560]

Mr. Alan Johnson: On 22 June I announced the terms of reference for a review of maternity pay and parental leave. This is looking at the steps needed to make sure that parents have choices to help them balance the needs of their work and their children, so that they may contribute fully to the competitiveness and productivity of the modern economy. The provision and impact of parental leave is key to this work.

Ministers working on the review have participated in a series of roundtable discussions across the English regions, Wales and Scotland. This gave over 250 individuals and organisations the opportunity to put forward their views on what is needed to change. All the comments and suggestions expressed are now being considered with the aim of publishing a consultation document before Christmas.

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Private Recruitment Industry

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact on labour market flexibility of (a) IR35 and (b) current reform of regulation of the private recruitment industry. [135562]

Mr. Alan Johnson: We do not expect the IR35 legislation to have a material effect on labour market flexibility. Our proposals to reform the regulations governing the private recruitment industry will increase labour market flexibility. A revised regulatory impact assessment will be published at the time the regulations are laid before Parliament.

Offshore Wind Projects

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if capital expenditure funded to the extent of 40 per cent. by capital grants for offshore wind projects will be eligible for capital allowances (a) on the full expenditure and (b) on only the expenditure not funded by Government grant. [135054]

Mrs. Liddell: A firm would be able to claim capital allowances only on the expenditure not funded by Government grant.

UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many applications have been received under the UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme. [135051]

Mrs. Liddell: By Wednesday 25 October, applications had been received by the DTI in respect of the listed eight production units:









An up-to-date list of applications is given on the DTI web site at: http://www2.dti.gov.uk/support/appaid.htm

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will publish the Statutory Instrument on the UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme. [135052]

Mrs. Liddell: A Statutory Instrument on the UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme will not be required.

Copies of the scheme are available in the House Library, or on the DTI website at the following address: http://www2.dti.gov.uk/support/coal.htm.

Under the provisions of the Industrial Development Act the excess of any payment of aid over £10 million will require authorisation by a resolution of the Commons. We are waiting for the European Commission's approval of our Coal Operating Aid Scheme. If such approval is granted, we will then seek any necessary Commons authorisation.

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