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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if his Department paid all correctly presented bills within 30 days of receipt of goods or services or an invoice in (a) 1999 and (b) 2000. 
Mr. Laxton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will make the Order under the Postal Services Act 2000 nominating the company to which the business of the Post Office will be transferred; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Alan Johnson: A key element of our Post Office reform package is the transformation of the Post Office from a public corporation to a public limited company. An Order was made on 4 January, which came into effect on 5 January, nominating Consignia plc as the company to which the property, rights and liabilities of the Post Office will be transferred in accordance with section 62 of the Postal Services Act 2000. Prior to making the Order, the Post Office were consulted, in accordance with section 62(3) of the Act.
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As required by the Act, this is a company which is wholly owned by the Crown. The Secretary of State is appointing the current members of the Post Office board as the first directors of the company. The memorandum and articles of association of the company are available for inspection in the usual way at Companies House, and copies are being laid in the Libraries of both Houses. As was foreshadowed during the debates on the Postal Services Bill, the articles of association include the special provisions protecting certain rights of the Government, particularly the appointment of the chairman of the company, and the remainder of the board (after consulting the chairman); changes in the remuneration packages of the directors; approval of the strategic plan; and controls on the disposal of significant assets.
The name of the new company was chosen by the directors after careful research by the Post Office into the requirements of a modern postal operator working in the rapidly changing commercial communications environment of the 21st century. The directors are however intent that the traditional and well-loved titles of Royal Mail and Post Office should continue to be used wherever they are currently seen in this country; the name change will therefore have little if any impact on domestic and most business customers. The main marketing use of the new name will be with integrated and international business users. As previously indicated, Her Majesty has graciously consented that the existing Royal connections with the organisation should continue.
The Order also appoints 26 March 2001 as the day on which the transfer of the property, rights and liabilities will be made--this is the day after the end of the Post Office's current financial year and the day on which most of the new provisions of the Postal Services Act 2000 are scheduled to commence. The transformation to a plc will then be complete.
Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken to co-ordinate policies on export licences with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: Licences to export arms and other goods whose export is controlled for strategic reasons are issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry acting through DTI's Export Control Organisation (ECO). All relevant individual licence applications are circulated by the DTI to other Government Departments with an interest as determined by those Departments in line with their policy responsibilities. These include FCO, MOD and DfID. These Departments give advice to the DTI on whether the applications should be approved or refused in accordance with the consolidated EU and national export licensing criteria announced by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), on 26 October 2000, Official Report, columns 199-203W.
Strategic export licensing is a joined-up process. Officials in the Export Control Organisation (ECO) are in contact with officials in other Government Departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on a daily basis, and there is an inter-departmental Steering Group that meets regularly to discuss export controls. There
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are also regular meetings between officials in the main Departments to identify specific ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the export licensing system, as well as to discuss particular licensing applications.
In addition, Government Departments have worked together since 2 May 1997 to publish Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls. Three such reports have been published so far; copies are in the Library of the House.
Finally, details of the roles and responsibilities of the Government Departments involved in the export licensing process have been set out in a Memorandum from the FCO and DTI to the 'Quadripartite Committee' (Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development, Trade and Industry), published on 15 June 1999 (HC540).
Since 2 May 1997, details of export licensing decisions have been set out in the Government's Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; copies are in the Library of the House. Three such reports have been published so far and each report lists by country of destination the export licences issued and refused in each equipment category and gives details of the military equipment for which licences have been granted. The report for the year 2000 will be published this year.
Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the recommended time is for the issuing of export licences; what percentage of applications have taken longer to process than this time in each of the last 24 months; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government's commitments to exporters are set out in a Service and Performance Code published by the Export Control Organisation (ECO). Where, as in almost all cases, the advice of other Government Departments is sought on applications for Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs), the aim is to provide a substantive response within 20 working days.
While the Government have performance targets for processing SIELs, this target does not apply to applications concerning Iran, Iraq or applications for licences to export goods which are subject to control solely because of UN sanctions. This is because there are special licensing procedures for those destinations, which reflect the Government's concerns. But none the less, we still make every effort to process such applications as quickly as possible. Nor do they apply for Open Individual Export Licences because of the very wide variation in the goods and destination coverage of such licences.
The Government's performance figures were not collected on a monthly basis before 1 January 2000. However, the performance for the whole of 1999 can be found in the Government's Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls. The figures from 1 January 2000 are set out in the table.
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|Percentage of Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs)|
|Month (2000)||Completed within the 20 day target||Not completed within 20 days|
Dr. Howells: Licences to export arms and other goods whose export is controlled for strategic reasons are issued by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry acting through the Export Control Organisation (ECO) of the Department of Trade and Industry. The ECO issues a range of licences depending on the circumstances.
Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) generally allow shipments of specified goods to a specified consignee up to the quantity specified by the licence. Such licences are generally valid for two years where the export will be permanent; where the export is temporary the licence is generally valid for one year only.
Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) are specific to an individual exporter and cover multiple shipments of specified goods to specified destinations and, in some cases, specified consignees. OIELs covering the export of goods on the Military List are generally valid for two years, while OIELs covering the export of other goods are generally valid for three years.
Open General Export Licences (OGELs) allow the export of specified controlled goods to specified destinations by any company, removing the need for exporters to apply for an individual licence, provided the shipment and destinations are eligible and the conditions on the licence are met. All OGELs remain in force until they are revoked.
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All individual export licence applications, including those for repeat orders, are considered on a case by case basis. This is because there may have been a change in circumstances, since the original application was scrutinised, that affects the Government's decision on whether to issue a licence. However, when submitting applications, exporters are asked for details of previous applications to export the same or similar goods/ technology to the same destination(s) so that these may be taken into consideration during the licensing process.
If an exporter makes many SIEL applications for the same or similar goods/technology to the same destination(s), they may in some cases be advised by the ECO to apply for an OIEL which, if granted, would give the exporter the flexibility to meet repeat orders.
Dr. Howells: Details of all export licensing decisions taken in 1999 were set out in the Government's Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls, published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; copies are in the Library of the House. This report lists by country of destination the numbers of Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) and Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) issued and refused in each entry in the relevant legislation under which the export of goods is controlled, which is known as their rating. It should be noted that an OIEL covers multiple shipments of specified goods to specified destinations or specified consignees.
In addition, Open General Export Licences allow the export of specified controlled goods to certain destinations by any company, removing the need for a company to apply for an individual licence. Copies of all Open General Export Licences valid at any time during 1999 were listed in the Annual Report and have been placed in the Library of the House.
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