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Post Office Closures

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post office closures there were in the north-west in the years from 1997 to date. [160094]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that the information is not held in the form requested.

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Special Advisers

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total cost was of employing special advisers in his Department from 1997 to date. [160043]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 1 May 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 1 May 2001, Official Report, columns 607-08W.

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many special advisers worked in his Department from 1997 to date. [160023]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 1 May 2001]: Since 3 May 1997, no more than two paid special advisers have been in post at any one time, except for a three month period between May and July 1998 when a third special adviser was appointed to assist the then President of the Board of Trade. In addition, Lord Hollick acted as unpaid special adviser from May 1997 to October 1998.


Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people were employed in manufacturing industry in the north-west in each of the years from 1997 to date. [160082]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Estimates of employee jobs in manufacturing are based on the results of employer surveys. Figures for the years the hon. Gentleman has requested are:



Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many radioactive particles have been (a) detected and (b) retrieved within (i) a 10 kilometre radius and (ii) a two kilometre radius of Dounreay, broken down in each case by those on (1) the seabed and (2) the foreshore. [160209]

Mr. Hain: Surveys have located 360 particles on the seabed up to a radius of 2 km from the Dounreay site, and 268 have been removed. A further three particles have been detected beyond that distance, up to a maximum of 2.3 km radius, and were all removed.

On the foreshore, 221 particles have been detected to date, of which 15 were found on the neighbouring Sandside beach. Only those recovered from Sandside beach were more than 2 km radius from Dounreay. All the particles found on the foreshore and Sandside beach have been retrieved. Full details of the discovery of radioactive particles found on Sandside beach are available from UKAEA's website

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what information he has received about the route of radioactive particles from Dounreay to the Caithness shore; and if he will make a statement. [160211]

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Mr. Hain: I understand that UKAEA has undertaken a comprehensive programme of research, at a cost of £1 million per year since 1997, into the routes by which particles may have reached the wider environment. The results have been reported to my officials and to the independent Dounreay Particle Advisory Group. Progress reports are available publicly from UKAEA and I will arrange for them to be made available to the Library of the House. This research has concluded that there is very strong circumstantial evidence that particles were discharged through the now redundant old low level liquid effluent system and other site drains in the 1960s and perhaps into the 1970s. There is no evidence of particles leaving the site after this time.

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has received of the number of radioactive particles thought still to be on the seabed within (a) a 10-kilometre radius and (b) a two-kilometre radius of Dounreay. [160210]

Mr. Hain: I have received no estimate of the number of particles thought to be on the seabed within the vicinity of Dounreay. The programme of offshore surveys and research UKAEA has under way is designed to help address this question. This programme has been under way since 1997, and is expected to conclude in 2002. It is not possible to estimate the number of particles on the seabed until the survey programme is complete. I have asked UKAEA to ensure that the results are made publicly available as soon as possible thereafter as part of the public consultation exercise.

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce programmes to effect the speedier detection and complete removal of radioactive particles on the foreshore and seabed within a 10-kilometre radius of Dounreay; and if he will make a statement. [160212]

Mr. Hain: The independent regulator, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), specifies a schedule of local beaches to be monitored, the frequency of surveying and the criteria for the detection of particles. In the case of Sandside Bay the schedule reflects a request in 1998 from the then Secretary of State for Scotland that there is sufficient monitoring to ensure that any particles finding their way to the beach are promptly detected and removed. In March 2001 SEPA published the interim report of the independent Dounreay Particles Advisory Group (DPAG). It concluded that for all practical purposes the criteria set by SEPA in terms of detection limits are being met by the current monitoring programme. Surveys of the seabed continue and the results will be brought to DPAG in due course. Further details of DPAG's work are available on the SEPA website

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has received of the time-scale for rendering the Caithness shore free from irradiated particles from Dounreay; and if he will make a statement. [160213]

Mr. Hain: UKAEA's published programme of future work includes a public consultation on the options for dealing with particles. This is expected to take place during 2003 and will set timescales for a future action plan. In the meantime a monitoring programme agreed

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with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is being carried out, and any particles detected are promptly removed. The public are made aware of particle finds. Full information on particles found on Sandside Beach is available on UKAEA's website

Packaging and Production Waste

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from the labelling industry as to what constitutes packaging waste and production waste. [159081]

Ms Hewitt: The Department regularly receives representations from industry on the issue of the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 (as amended) for which my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment has the responsibility. However, I am not aware of any representations from this particular sector on the definition of packaging waste contained within the Regulations.

Regulatory and Welfare Costs

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact of increased regulatory and welfare costs on the profitability of United Kingdom businesses since May 1997. [159238]

Ms Hewitt: Assessment of the impact of all regulations affecting business introduced since May 1997 is available from the Libraries of the House. For the period from May 1997 to August 1998, compliance cost assessments contain this information. From August 1998, Regulatory Impact Assessments have been completed in respect of each regulation or legislation likely to have an impact on business.

House Insurance

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take action to prevent the linkage of house insurance with mortgage grants. [160143]

Dr. Howells: Compulsory tying-in of mortgages with insurance was one of the practices criticised at DTI's mortgage summit in 1999. Since then, the number of lenders who require their customers to buy tied insurance has decreased and we estimate that less than 5 per cent. of current mortgage products feature such tie-ins. Consumers should now find it much easier to find a mortgage deal that does not prevent them from shopping around for insurance.


Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will make an announcement on the measures the Government will take to support those individuals and communities affected by the restructuring and redundancies planned by Corus. [160592]

Mr. Byers: Corus has today confirmed its intention to proceed with the job cuts it announced earlier this year. The Government's priority must now be to help the individuals and communities affected. I am therefore announcing a package of measures to assist those who face losing their jobs and plans to promote economic regeneration and job creation in the areas affected. A

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similar announcement is being made in the National Assembly of Wales. In total the two packages amount to around £135 million.

To help individuals to deal with the immediate financial difficulties created by redundancy, the Government intend to introduce a scheme to provide aid for workers affected by restructuring in the steel industry. The Government intend to apply to the Commission for funding available under Article 56 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty. Article 56 provides for social aid to assist workers who have lost their jobs as a result of restructuring in companies which produce products covered by the ECSC Treaty. We intend to provide a lump sum payment of around £2,500 to eligible individuals, of which the UK Government will contribute half. Those eligible will be workers involved in the production of products covered by the ECSC Treaty. We will also make similar provisions for steelworkers covered by the special framework of the Treaty of Rome for whom Article 56 makes no provision. The scheme will apply from 1 January 2000 and it is anticipated that 12,000 workers in England, Scotland and Wales will benefit from this at a total cost of about £32 million. The ECSC Treaty expires in July 2002 and the scheme will apply to eligible workers up to that date.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is announcing the extension of the new Job Transition Service to all sites affected by the Corus redundancies. The Government will spend over £5 million in England and Wales to ensure that everyone who is affected by these redundancies has access to an equal level of support in getting a new job.

The Employment Service has already opened jobshops at Redcar, Scunthorpe and in South Yorkshire. In Wales there are jobshops in Llanwern, Ebbw Vale, Bryngwyn and Shotton. ES are liaising with Corus to assess whether additional jobshops or other facilities are needed as a result of this announcement.

The new Job Transition Service (JTS), which is already being piloted in South Yorkshire as a result of last summer's announcements by Corus, will now be extended to all the affected sites across the UK. The service offers a new approach to assisting those affected by redundancy to find new jobs.

Through the JTS, audits of the local economies will be carried out where major redundancies are taking place, and the Employment Service will work with local employers who are looking for new staff to identify their recruitment needs and analyse their skill requirements. Companies such as Nissan in the north-east have already been identified as potentially offering opportunities for Corus workers.

At the same time, the JTS will provide anybody affected either directly or indirectly by these redundancies with personal advice on careers, financial matters and general skills development. More specifically, it will direct people to suitable vacancies, identify the skills they need to develop, and discuss their training needs. Training will be funded, and--where appropriate--customised programmes will be developed.

In order to help develop this new service and ensure it is tailored fully to the needs of individuals, the DfEE and the Employment Service are working in partnership with

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the unions and with Corus itself on a similar package of support and training developed by the unions to be provided before workers leave the company. A joint bid to the European Social Fund for £2.5 million for England will be made in the next few weeks, with a similar bid being made in Wales.

An Employment Credit for the over-50s going back to work will also be available to individuals affected.

The Government are committed to helping the communities affected, and so we are backing projects crucial for economic regeneration, to ensure the long-term prosperity of all these areas.

In the north-east, Dr. John Bridge, the chairman of ONE North East, the Regional Development Agency in the area, has been asked to establish a small group drawn from the key regional partners, including the existing Tees Valley Partnership, to build on the work undertaken by the task group established in response to the previous round of Corus job cuts. The group will pave the way for the establishment of an Urban Regeneration Company involving the five local authorities in the Tees Valley, to take this work forward over the longer term.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is also announcing a package of measures to help regenerate the Tees Valley. This includes: a £20 million public sector project in Stockton to develop a Durham University campus and business park and to make environmental improvements; and support for the next stage of Middlehaven, a regeneration project in the Middlesbrough Docks. The Government will also fund feasibility studies into a new Tees crossing and a light rapid transport (LRT) scheme in the Tees Valley and is encouraging local authorities on Teesside to work up plans to improve transport infrastructure in the East Middlesbrough transport corridor. This is in addition to the £5 million scheme to improve access to Teesside airport which was announced on 28 March. Finally, as announced on Monday 30 April, we will be given the West Central Hartlepool New Deal for Communities scheme £53.79 million over the next 10 years.

The Government are working with the Tees Valley Partnership, local industries and further education bodies to consider new research and development facilities. In addition, British Trade International has been asked to work with John Bridge to identify potential sites for inward investors. The Department of Trade and Industry will also be providing £500,000 for the establishment of broadband and digital communications networks in the area.

The redundancies will also affect Scunthorpe and its surrounding area. Following discussions with the local council and the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber, Scunthorpe will become a Tier 3 area for the purposes of the Enterprise Grant Scheme. To do this, we are redrawing the Assisted Areas map to make this support available. It will enable grants to be provided to small- and medium-sized companies moving into the area or increasing their investment there. We are also increasing the budget available for Enterprise Grants in the area by £0.5 million. This will act as a major incentive to the establishment and growth of small- and medium-sized companies in and around Scunthorpe.

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I am also asking the North Lincolnshire Steel Task Force, which was set up following the previous round of Corus closures, to advise on additional measures which could be taken in the area. These will take forward the actions set out in the Metal Related Industries Impact study, funded by DTI, and is looking both at Scunthorpe and South Yorkshire. The first report of the study is already with the Task Force, and we are asking them to identify immediate action points from the report and to assess what more needs to be done as a result of this round of cuts.

As in Tees Valley, we are announcing up to £500,000 funding to be allocated to the RDA to help with the establishment of broadband infrastructure and related education and training in the area. This will encourage the establishment and growth of nw companies and the evolution of existing ones.

The South Yorkshire Jobs Steel Task Force will also extend the programme of regeneration in Sheffield and Rotherham to ensure that the projects recently announced for new inward investment provide employment opportunities for those affected by the steel redundancies. The Task Force is also developing a longer term action plan based on a recent impact study on metals related industries in South Yorkshire. This identified the scope for developing growth in these industries over the next five years.

This morning in the National Assembly of Wales, a package of measures was also announced. The First Minister made the following statement to the Welsh Assembly:

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In all the areas affected, the Government will work with the Regional Development Agencies, British Trade International, the Small Business Service and local partners to support business start-ups and small firm growth and to attract inward investment.

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