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Internet Shopping

Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact on small businesses of fraudulent Internet transactions. [101323]

Ms Hewitt: Encouraging small businesses to use the Internet is a key part of the Government's commitment to making the UK the best place for e-commerce by 2002. We will monitor closely issues such as Internet fraud which may affect them.

The Government are working with the industry and consumers groups, in consultation with the OFT to develop a new body called TrustUK to accredit e-commerce codes and a "hallmark" that accredited codes may use on their websites. TrustUK will be operational by early next year.

The Electronic Communications Bill promotes high quality cryptography services which will allow people to have more confidence about whom they are dealing with on the Internet and to protect the confidentiality of data (e.g. payment details). The Government welcome the proposals by the Alliance for Electronic Business to meet the objectives of Part I of the Bill and ensure the appropriate standards for such services through accreditation under its T-scheme.

Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice his Department has issued to consumers regarding security of financial details when shopping on the Internet. [101324]

Ms Hewitt: The Department has published general advice on its website (http://www2.dti.gov.uk/ cacp/ca/supply2.htm) about the precautions consumers should take when they shop on-line. This includes checking that businesses offer secure payment facilities.

DTI's Consumer Gateway (http://www.consumer. gov.uk) provides links to a range of consumer websites, including ones such as that run by the Office of Fair Trading, which offer detailed advice about shopping electronically.

Minimum Wage

Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many companies have been reported to his Department for attempting to evade the national minimum wage. [101300]

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Mr. Alan Johnson: Over 3,400 complaints of non-compliance have been received to date by the National Minimum Wage Helpline.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to uprate the national minimum wage annually; and if he will make a statement. [101480]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I have no plans to uprate the national minimum wage annually. As with its introduction, any changes to the minimum wage rates will be made sensibly and taking account of the economic circumstances prevailing at the time.

SCOTLAND

Maintained Schools

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much was spent per pupil in maintained schools in Scotland in each year for each of the last 20 years. [98578]

Dr. Reid: The available information is given in the table. Education in Scotland is now a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Net current expenditure per pupil in local authority schools
£

YearExpenditure per pupil
1979-80649
1980-81838
1981-82974
1982-831,069
1983-841,155
1984-851,223
1985-861,293
1986-871,426
1987-881,587
1988-891,753
1989-901,938
1990-912,098
1991-922,252
1992-932,385
1993-942,377
1994-952,421
1995-962,496
1996-972,510
1997-98(5)2,537

(5) Due to changes in funding arrangements for pre-school provision, the nursery component for 1997-98 includes an estimated expenditure element.

Notes:

1. The per pupil figure relates to nursery, primary, secondary and special schools.

2. The figures are net current expenditure excluding costs of home to school transport, school meals, education authority central administration costs, and loan and leasing changes.

3. Figures derived from local authority financial returns (LFR 1).


Post Office

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the principal activities of his Department and its agencies which provide business for (a) Crown post offices and (b) other post offices; if he will assess

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whether the level of business generated in each case is likely to increase or decrease over the next five years; and which new areas of business for post offices are likely to be developed by his Department and its agencies over the same period. [99553]

Mr. Wilson: The Scotland Office currently has no activities which provide business for Crown or other post offices and I do not expect the position to change significantly over the next five years.

No specific areas of new business for post offices are foreseen but the targets for electronic delivery of services (50 per cent. by 2005, 100 per cent. by 2008) represent a real opportunity for additional business for the Post Office network across all public services delivered by central or local Government.

External Consultants

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been spent by his Department on external consultants and advisers since May 1997 funded from (i) his Department's programme provision and (ii) his Department's running costs. [99493]

Dr. Reid [holding answer 24 November 1999]: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 10 November 1999, Official Report, columns 626-27W. All expenditure by my Department on external consultants since May 1997 has been funded from running costs provision.

Highlands and Islands

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his liaison role in respect of the future of oil fabrication in the Highlands and Islands. [101439]

Mr. Wilson: I am, of course, extremely concerned about the impact of the job losses announced by Barmac, and the situation faced by all UK oil fabrication yards. These are issues being addressed by the oil and Gas Industry Task Force, of which I am a member. As agreed at its meeting last week, plans are already under way for a group to meet as soon as possible to clarify how they can together best help the industry adapt to the changes in the market.

This is being copied for information to the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy).

Barmac Oil

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to meet the management and unions at the Barmac oil fabrication yards. [101438]

Mr. Wilson: I will be meeting representatives of the management and work force of Barmac later this week. The Government and the Scottish Executive will continue to work together closely to tackle the problems resulting from the lack of new construction orders for oil fabrication yards.

This is being copied for information to the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy).

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CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Clay Pigeon Shooting

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what Government funding is made available for research into (a) materials used and (b) safety procedures for clay pigeon shooting. [100667]

Kate Hoey: None. The Government have not been asked to fund any such research.

Millennium Dome

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the breakdown is by region of the number of tickets to the Millennium Dome sold within the first eight weeks for which tickets were on sale. [99334]

Janet Anderson [holding answer 30 November 1999]: Ticket sales and reservations are running ahead of NMEC's expectations. They passed the one million mark on 10 November. In February 2000 NMEC will release information about attendance at the Dome during January, and on a monthly basis thereafter.

Visitor Attractions

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many people visited Britain's visitor attractions in 1998; and what is his estimate of the number of visitors in (a) 1999 and (b) 2000. [101159]

Janet Anderson: In 1998 there were 408 million visits to 6,164 tourist attractions across the UK.

My Department has no figures or forecasts for the number of visits to tourist attractions in 1999 or 2000. The British Tourist Authority has forecast that the number of holidays taken in the UK (by domestic or overseas visitors) will be over 10 per cent. higher in 2000 than in 1998. This suggests that there will be a strong demand for tourist attractions in 2000.

EU Recycling Directive

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what account he has taken of the EU Directive on Recycling in setting the terms of reference for his working party for the digital switch-over. [100863]

Janet Anderson: We have not set up a working party for digital switch-over, but we will be formally reviewing progress on availability and affordability of digital services every two years with industry, regulators and consumer groups. We expect many analogue television sets to be replaced by digital sets as part of the normal cycle of set replacement. Analogue sets need not be scrapped as they can be converted to digital by using a set top box.


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