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Courtaulds (Job Losses)

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures he is taking to assist workers who have been declared redundant by the Courtaulds textile factory in Peterlee; and if he will make a statement. [144296]

Mr. Caborn: I was very disappointed to hear of the job losses announced by Courtaulds Ladieswear at Peterlee. The protocol established by the north-east textiles task force was immediately brought into effect to ensure immediate access to rapid response funding. A strategic response group was set up, led by Easington district council, to co-ordinate the resources available. The Employment Service has the necessary arrangements in place to provide advice and guidance to the work force. I understand that opportunities exist in the area for alternative employment and that various local employers have visited the site to present group sessions to staff.

Post Office (Labour Relations)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with the Post Office on the impact of new liberalised arrangements for operations on labour relations. [143885]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Labour relations are a matter for the Post Office and the trade unions.


Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when Nissan first applied to his Department for regional selective assistance for their Sunderland plant. [144144]

Mr. Byers: December 1983.

Minimum Wage

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures his Department has put in place to publicise (a) the national minimum wage legislation and (b) the confidential national minimum wage helpline. [144131]

Mr. Alan Johnson: In 1999, the Government ran a nationwide publicity campaign, including television advertisements, to cover the introduction of the national minimum wage on 1 April 1999. In the following year, the Government ran a second substantial campaign, also featuring television advertising, to publicise the increase in the main rate to £3.70 on 1 October 2000.

The Government have also run two smaller targeted publicity campaigns aimed at particular groups: in November 1999, a campaign aimed at increasing

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awareness of the minimum wage among ethnic minorities; and between May and August 2000, a campaign to increase awareness on the increase in the youth rate to £3.20 on 1 June 2000. In all four campaigns the confidential minimum wage helpline number (0845 6000 678) was featured highly.

As well as paying for publicity campaigns, the Government have taken a number of other steps to ensure that awareness and understanding of the law remain high. In particular, the Government have:

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many employers have been prosecuted under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. [144449]

Mr. Alan Johnson: To date there have been no criminal prosecutions for underpayment of the national minimum wage. The National Minimum Wage Act provides for civil as well as criminal powers and the civil powers have ensured that the minimum wage is being enforced effectively--but the criminal powers are there for a good reason, and will certainly be used if necessary.

Automative Industry

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what Government support is provided for research into developing technology for lowering sulphur levels in the automative industry. [143170]

Mr. Alan Johnson [holding answer 18 December 2000]: The sulphur content of the average car is insignificant, and accordingly research is concentrated into other aspects of car design.

In terms of car use, ultra-low sulphur petrol and diesel that meet European limits prescribed for 2005 are already widely available in the UK today. Such fuels have a low sulphur content of approximately 50 ppm (parts per million). All UK diesel is ultra-low sulphur, and presently 42.5 per cent. of all unleaded petrol consumption is ultra-low sulphur petrol--this figure is increasing.

The use of such fuels is incentivised by fuel duty rebates already implemented, and further enhanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his recent pre-budget report.

Lower sulphur in fuel is an enabler for new technology such as gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines and reduced tailpipe CO 2 and NOx emissions.

Post Office

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the commercial risk of publishing the formula proposed by the Post Office for calculating a social network payment for sub-post offices. [143655]

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Mr. Byers [holding answer 21 December 2000]: I am considering proposals from the Post Office, submitted to me in confidence, for the establishment of a formula.

Mr. Page: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will publish the list of rural post offices that will formally be required by the Government to be maintained by the post office network as set out in conclusion two of the Performance and Innovation Unit report "Counter Revolution: Modernising the Post Office Network". [144267]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The formal requirement on the Post Office to maintain the rural network and to prevent any avoidable closures of rural post offices is in place. As over 9,000 post offices are classified as rural for the purposes of this requirement, it is not my intention to publish a list of them.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his most recent estimate is of the number and percentage of people living in rural areas who live within (a) one mile and (b) half a mile of a post office; and if he will provide corresponding estimates for years since 1979. [144365]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that a one-off data analysis was undertaken last year for the Performance and Innovation Unit report, which showed that 99 per cent. of the rural population live within three miles of a post office and that 94 per cent. of the UK population live within one mile of a post office. Estimates for previous years are not available.

Insolvency Petitions

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many insolvency petitions for (a) small and (b) medium enterprises were allocated to each official receivers office in England and Wales in the last 12 months. [144056]

Dr. Howells: In the year to 30 November 2000, the Official Receiver acted in respect of 4,932 new company liquidations and 21,600 new bankruptcies, a total of 26,532 cases.

These cases are not categorised in terms of size of enterprise. The company cases and approximately 65 per cent. of the bankruptcy cases are business-related failures. The majority of these cases would have been small or medium enterprises.

The breakdown of these cases of Official Receivers' offices is as follows:

Insolvency orders made between 1 December 1999 and 30 November 2000

Bankruptcy ordersCompany winding-up ordersTotal
Anglia Region
St Albans639187826
Midlands Region
North East Region
North West Region
South East Region
South West Region
National Total21,6004,93226,532

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