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2 Nov 2000 : Column: 576W
The Prime Minister: Following an extensive consultation exercise over the summer, and the outcome of the spending review, the unit will be publishing shortly an action plan setting out how the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal will be delivered.
The unit is also continuing to monitor implementation of its reports on truancy and school exclusion, rough sleeping, teenage pregnancy and 16 to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training.
The SEU will look at how to boost the rate of employment and reduce the level of homelessness among ex-prisoners. It will also consider whether more effective supervision after release might help to reduce the current high levels of re-offending.
16. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent steps he has taken to ensure consumers of services provided by privatised utilities receive value for money; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Liddell: The Government have brought in the Utilities Act 2000 which places the consumer at the heart of gas and electricity regulation. In addition, the Government work closely with Oftel to ensure that the regulatory system for telecoms operates to promote competition to benefit the consumer. Later this year we will be publishing a Communications White Paper which will set out the Government's proposals for the reform of the framework of communications regulation.
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Mr. Alan Johnson: The prospects for the UK motor industry are good. 1999 car production was the highest since 1972; sales were the fourth highest on record and UK exports were the highest ever. Since 1997, some 9,600 new jobs have been announced with over £3 billion of new investment.
Mr. Alan Johnson: The Government are committed to maintaining a nationwide network of post offices. That commitment was clearly demonstrated when the Government accepted all 24 recommendations of the PIU report, "Counter Revolution Modernising the Post Office Network", published in June. To implement the proposals contained in the PIU report the Government have been working closely with the Post Office to develop robust business plans to take forward initiatives to safeguard the future of the network.
Mr. Alan Johnson: Estimates of the number of sub-post offices have not been produced on a calendar or part-year basis by the Post Office in the past and are therefore not available from 1 January to the present. The Post Office Annual Report and Accounts include the numbers of post offices on a financial year basis. In the financial year 1999-2000, there was a net loss of 382 post offices, of which 380 were sub-post offices.
In the light of the Performance and Innovation Unit report on modernising the post office network, the Post Office is revising its methods of collating and reporting information on the network to supply to the Postal Services Commission. The Post Office is currently agreeing with the Commission a process and format for reporting such information quarterly. In the first half of the current financial year, commencing 27 March, there has been a net loss of 333 post offices. The number of rural closures at the half year stage has declined but there has been an increase in the number of town closures (practically all of which have been force majeure). While concerns about the future are undoubtedly a factor, more detailed analysis is taking place to try to identify specific reasons for this change. Due to various factors, including offices closing and reopening within the same financial year, it is not possible to forecast full year figures from quarterly information.
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Mr. Alan Johnson: In the light of the Performance and Innovation Unit report on modernising the post office network, the Post Office is revising its methods of collating and reporting information on the network to supply to the Postal Services Commission. The Post Office is currently agreeing with the Commission a process and format for reporting such information quarterly. In the first two quarters of the current financial year, commencing 27 March, the net closures of sub-post office by the Post Office's internal territorial areas were as follows:
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Mr. Alan Johnson: We are assisting manufacturing industry to improve its long-term prospects by providing a stable macro-economic framework and by pursuing policies that help firms to innovate and grow.
Mrs. Liddell: The performance of manufacturing industry in the north-east is constantly assessed by a number of organisations. The Government Office for the north-east and the regional development agency, ONE NorthEast, are in regular contact with other partners over business matters in the region.
Mrs. Liddell: The Government Office for the West Midlands and Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, work closely with partners on matters relating to business and the regional economy. In addition to national assessments such as the Annual Census of Production, the regional studies have included an assessment of the automotive industry as part of the work of the Rover Task Force.
Mr. Alan Johnson: There are no plans to assess the performance of manufacturing industry specifically at the national, regional or sub-regional level. The Annual Census of Production, which is compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of the Annual Business Inquiry, does give some indication of relative
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performance of manufacturing industry in that it provides data on gross value added per employee on a national and regional basis. This information is freely available in publications such as "Regional Trends" and the "Regional Competitiveness" Indicators. This information can be analysed at a sub-regional level but the ONS does charge for this service. However, the DTI does pay for a sub-regional analysis on a Training and Enterprise Council (TEC) area.
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