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Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will set out the terms of reference, objectives and timing for the engineering review being conducted jointly by his Department and the Engineering Council. [103768]

Mr. Byers: The broad aim of the working group led by Dr. Robert Hawley, Chairman of the Engineering Council, the "Hawley Group", is to review the contribution the Engineering Council should make to add value to the engineering community by improving the effectiveness of existing activities in such areas as the promotion and standards of engineering, building on existing synergies with other organisations.

The first stage of this work is intended to agree strategic objectives to be achieved over the next three years. It is hoped that the Hawley Group can complete this by the end of January 2000. The second stage will be the development of a strategy for achieving these objectives. The intention is to complete this second stage by the end of July 2000.

A copy of the full Terms of Reference for the Review has been placed in the Library.

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Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what initiatives he has taken since his appointment to support (a) the engineering profession and (b) engineering industries. [103769]

Mr. Byers: My Department continues to provide financial support for project work arising from the Action for Engineering initiative, which promoted co-ordinated action to increase substantially the influence, involvement and achievement of professional engineers for the benefit of British industry. The most notable of these is SETNET (Science Engineering Technology Mathematics Network) which aims to bring coherence to the delivery of the somewhat fragmented range of activities aimed at promoting science, engineering, technology and mathematics to school teachers and pupils. It offers a one-stop shop for independent advice to teachers and industry on a range of issues through its regional network of 28 SETPOINTs. DTI and DfEE have provided SETNET with funding of over half a million pounds over the last three years.

We have also offered financial support of up to £175,000 p.a. for three years (possibly five depending on progress) for the Campaign to Promote Engineering (CPE).

Initiatives specifically to support the engineering industries and major engineering sectors have included:

    DTI has now embarked upon a £15 million programme to fund up to 10 proposals from sectors to improve their supply chains, adapting from the SMMT Industry Forum model. Two programmes have already been announced under this; the Leading Oil and Gas Competitiveness (LOGIC) project to promote best practice through the oil and gas industry supply chain, and the Lean Aerospace Initiative (LAI).

    Engineering Technicians Initiative

    This initiative announced on 10 September supports the growth of clusters for the training of engineering technicians in manufacturing SMEs.

In addition, the Engineering Industries have benefited from a wide range of initiatives addressing the needs of manufacturing industry more generally. These are detailed in the publication "Manufacturing in the Knowledge Driven Economy" issued on 22 November.

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list (a) the engineering institutions and (b) engineering industries he has visited, and on what dates, since his appointment. [103770]

Mr. Byers: I have undertaken the following engagements with engineering groups and visited the following engineering companies since my appointment:

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DateEngineering companies visitedVenue
29 JanuaryVisit to AES EngineeringRotherham
5 FebruaryVisit to Atlas CompositesIlkeston, Derby
8 FebruaryVisit to AirbusBroughton, North Wales
8 FebruaryVisit to RoverLongbridge, West Midlands
19 FebruaryAmereda Hess 'Triton Project'Kvaerner, Port Clarence, Middlesbrough
25 FebruaryAddressed the Institution of Electrical EngineersGrosvenor House Hotel, London
19 MarchVisit to LDV Ltd.Birmingham
22 AprilOpened the High Pressure Turbine Facility at Rolls RoyceDerby
27 AprilVisit to MotorolaBathgate, West Lothian
29 AprilAddressed the Engineering Council ConferenceThe Royal Society of Arts London
5 MayAddress to the Parliamentary Group for Engineering Development Annual DinnerHouse of Lords
9 JuneVisit Tensator Ltd.Milton Keynes
25 JuneVisit to 600 LathesHeckmondwicke, Yorkshire
6 JulyGround Breaking Ceremony for HondaSwindon
6 SeptemberVisit to PerlosWashington, Sunderland
6 SeptemberVisit to NSK BearingsPeterlee, Durham
21 SeptemberVisit to BT Advanced Communications Technology CentreMartlesham, Nr. Ipswich Suffolk
21 SeptemberOpening of Granta Park, TWICambridge
8 OctoberVisit to British SteelLlanwern, South Wales
15 NovemberVisit to JCBRocester, Staffs
21 DecemberVisit to Cammell LairdNewcastle

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Hollis Industries

Mr. Pearson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress there has been in his Department's inquiries into Hollis Industries. [104001]

Mr. Byers: There have been thorough inquiries in line with the Department's normal procedures in these matters.

These inquiries have now been completed and the solicitors acting for my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) have been informed that the Department does not propose to take any further action.

National Minimum Wage

Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if supplementary evidence on the national minimum wage has been sent to the Low Pay Commission. [104065]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I can confirm that the Low Pay Commission received copies of the Supplementary Evidence on 16 December. The evidence consists of further data provided by the Inland Revenue. Copies are available in the Library of the House alongside the original Government Evidence.

Assisted Areas Map

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in discussions with the Commission on the UK's proposals for a new assisted areas map; and what advice he can give to companies wishing to apply for regional selective assistance after 31 December. [104066]

Mr. Byers: In common with most Member States, the UK's new Assisted Areas have not yet been approved by the European Commission.

Payments of financial assistance will continue where the aid has been agreed under current arrangements before the end of December. In England, the Government Offices will, as a temporary measure, continue considering applications from companies with projects located within the new Assisted Areas map proposed in July. The Government Offices and, where appropriate, the Industrial Development Unit will undertake a full appraisal of such cases, but any offers will be conditional on confirmation from the Commission that the location is within the approved map and that the project complies with the

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appropriate European aid ceilings for that area. Potential applicants are strongly advised to contact the relevant Government Office before proceeding.

I understand that similar arrangements are being put in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Post Office

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his policy is on (a) a sale and (b) an exchange of equity, relating to the Post Office. [103223]

Mr. Byers: I refer to the statement I made on the publication of the Post Office White Paper on 8 July 1999, Official Report, columns 1175-190.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what current valuation the Government places on the assets of (a) the Post Office, (b) the Royal Mail, (c) Post Office Counters and (d) Parcelforce. [103655]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The most recent information is as set out in the Post Office Report and Accounts 1998-99, a copy of which is held in the Library of the House.

Pensions (Part-time Workers)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received regarding his policy on pension entitlements for part-time workers. [101064]

Mr. Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has received no recent representations regarding his policy on pension entitlements for part-time workers.

Sky Television

Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the estimated cost of the Office of Fair Trading inquiry into the Sky television deal with the Premiership and Football League. [102634]

Dr. Howells: I understand from the OFT that, in the inquiry into the Sky television deal with the Premier League and the BBC, legal costs amounted to approximately £3 million and expert witness costs to about £900,000. No estimate for staff costs of the OFT has been made.

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