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Government Offices for the Regions

Mr. Alan Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people are employed at each of the Government Offices for the Regions; and what are their annual administration costs. [100465]

Mr. Caborn: The number of staff in post in each Government Office at 1 November 1999 and their administrative costs for the 1998-99 financial year are as follows:

StaffAdministrative costs (£000)
South East2458,561
South West2136,985
North East2548,619
North West40713,702
East Midlands2296,754
West Midlands2689,474
East of England1906,269
Yorkshire and the Humber2668,684

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Post Offices

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post offices were closed or relocated in (a) the Vale of Glamorgan and (b) Wales in (i) 1997, (ii) 1998 and (iii) 1999. [100475]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that the numbers of post offices closed or relocated in Wales since 1997 are as follows:

1999 to date241

The Post Office tell me that they do not hold such information on a Parliamentary constituency basis.

Arms Exports

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimates have been made of the financial costs to Her Majesty's Government of promoting or providing financial cover for arms exports for the current financial year. [100581]

Mr. Caborn: No specific estimate is made for defence claims however £400.8 million is included in our published estimates this financial year to cover all claims payments.

All claims are recoverable. Authorised claims during the financial year to end September 1999 amount to £128.7 million of which £59.9 million are defence related.

Small Business Service

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by how much the resources of the Small Business Service will be reduced as a result of his decision not to establish a payroll service as an integral part of the Small Business Service. [100739]

Ms Hewitt: The level of resources for the Small Business Service will be considered over the next few months.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will publish the advice given to the Small Businesses Service on how to enhance co-operative forms and businesses and small enterprise. [101070]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 2 December 1999]: There is no separate advice specifically for co-operatives. The

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Small Business Service, through the network of Business Link franchises, will provide advice and business support services to help all types of small and medium-sized enterprises.

WTO (China)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on his policy towards the accession of China to the WTO, indicating the role accorded to human rights issues. [101107]

Mr. Caborn: The Government will continue to support the European Commission's efforts to negotiate an agreement with China regarding the terms of its accession to the World Trade Organisation. We will be seeking to ensure that the Commission's approach to that negotiation continues to take into account the interests in the Chinese market of UK exporters and investors, both actual and potential, and maintains the integrity of the WTO as a multilateral system of rules agreed by and equally applicable to all members.

The Government believe that a more liberal approach to international trade and membership of the World Trade Organisation will bring benefits to, and improve living standards in, the Chinese economy and that social, environmental and political improvements in China will follow as a result. The Government fully support China's accession on the terms outlined above and looks forward to her becoming a WTO member in the near future.

EU-US Trade Relations

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the form of the early warning system for the resolution of disputes under the Transatlantic Dialogue, referred to in section 84 of the Cologne Conclusions; and which institutions are involved in that dialogue. [101108]

Mr. Caborn: A joint statement on an early warning mechanism was agreed at the EU/US Summit in Bonn on 21 June 1999. Both sides underlined the need to identify, provide early warning of, and facilitate the resolution of, potential bilateral EU/US disputes. Any side may raise with the other any issue that might have an impact on EU/US relations. The two principal groups in which this dialogue and exchange of information takes place are the Transatlantic Economic Partnership Steering Group and the New Transatlantic Agenda Task Force. Co-ordinating this work, the Senior Level Group of officials reviews early-warning items in preparation for the six-monthly EU/US Summits. The Transatlantic Legislators' Business, Consumer, Environment and Labour Dialogues have also been invited to contribute to the process by identifying problems and offering proposals for resolution.


Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of ECGD cover was made available to (a) the aerospace industry, (b) sales of military aircraft, (c) sales of defence-related equipment and (d) civil aircraft sales, in each of the last five years. [100509]

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Mr. Caborn [holding answer 1 December 1999]: The table lists by financial year the percentage of ECGD cover made available for each of the sectors requested.

Business by Financial Year--Percentage split by type of business

Military business Non-military business


Underlying business figures have been converted to Sterling equivalents at 31 October 1999 exchange rates.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was (a) the value of receipts to and (b) the value of payments from the ECGD in connection with aerospace projects for businesses receiving ECGD cover, in each of the last five financial years. [100508]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 1 December 1999]: The information requested is available only since 1996. The details are as follows:

£ million
1999-2000 to 30 September12.355.5

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the value to the UK economy of the work of the ECGD over the last 10 years. [100510]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 1 December 1999]: No formal estimate of the value to the UK economy of ECGD's activities has been made in the last 10 years. However, since the privatisation of ECGD's short term business operations in 1991, the Department has facilitated approximately £30 billion of capital goods and project exports for UK exporters.

Mr. Bermingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he intends to publish the ECGD's Annual Report and Trading Accounts for 1998-99. [101474]

Mr. Byers: The Report and Accounts were laid before the House this morning. I am pleased to say that they demonstrate once more that British exporters, with Government support, have been successful in winning valuable overseas orders, despite 1998-99 being a difficult period for the global economy. Furthermore, they show that ECGD's finances are in a very healthy position, which must be good news for their ability to support further business while protecting the interests of the taxpayer.

Postage Rates (SMEs)

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the

6 Dec 1999 : Column: 363W

costs to small and medium-sized business enterprises trading in Europe of the increase in letter postage rates from the United Kingdom to Europe over the last six months. [101189]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Changes to postage tariffs are primarily a matter for the Post Office in consultation with the Post Office Users' National Council (POUNC) to whom the Post Office is statutorily required to refer major proposals for comment. The proposals are formally notified to my Department at the same time as they are referred to POUNC. The increase was prompted by increasing handling costs and is in line with the agreement, set out in the European Postal Services Directive, that prices should be geared to costs. It is still one of the cheapest rates in Europe.

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