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Broadband

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received on cross-border co-operation on broadband capacity purchasing from (a) Cumbria, (b) the Scottish Borders and (c) Dumfries and Galloway; and if she will make a statement. [12315]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 5 November 2001]: In each of these pathfinder areas the authorities are working with local partners to develop the provision of broadband. Cross-border discussions have taken place, but there have been no specific proposals brought to my attention regarding capacity purchasing.

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress is being made towards connection of the UK's rural communities to broadband telecommunications networks. [12731]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 6 November 2001]: The Government are working to make the broadband market more extensive and competitive. The market has developed so far to the point where over 60 per cent. of UK households are able to access one or more of ADSL, cable or wireless broadband technologies. We have already established the £30 million fund for RDAs and the devolved Administrations to develop schemes to extend broadband networks, and will announce a further range of measures in response to the recommendations of the broadband stakeholder group.

3G Technology

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the (a) Treasury and (b) Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions concerning 3G mobile phone licences. [12411]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 5 November 2001]: The Treasury was a member of the auction steering group that established the auction process leading to the award of the 3G licences. The Treasury and the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions were involved in the production of the information memorandum sent to prospective participants in the 3G auction.

My officials also liaise with the DTLR as necessary on planning issues affecting telecommunications, including those related to the installation of masts and other equipment for 3G networks.

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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimates her Department has made of the increase in demand for mobile phone masts that will result from the implementation of 3G technology; and if she will make a statement. [12410]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 5 November 2001]: The number of mobile masts needed for third generation mobile communications systems depends upon a wide range of assumptions about demand and technical issues. These are commercial decisions for the licensees. The Department is encouraging operators to minimise the number of installations needed by sharing facilities as long as this does not disproportionately reduce competition.

Retailer Code of Practice

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to introduce a retailer code of practice; and if she will make a statement. [12359]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 5 November 2001]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced on 31 October that she had asked the Director General of Fair Trading to seek to obtain undertakings from the four leading supermarket chains to comply with the code of practice on relations between supermarkets and their suppliers. A copy of her announcement and the Code have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Corporate Insolvency Liabilities

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is taking to improve directors' awareness of their corporate insolvency liabilities. [12980]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Insolvency Service has produced a guide which informs directors of companies what duties and responsibilities they have if their company is subject to insolvency procedures. The Insolvency Service has also ensured that the information provided by Companies House to the officers of newly formed companies contains details of the responsibilities they have while managing limited companies.

In addition, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry successfully applies to have an unfit director disqualified from acting as a director, or accepts an undertaking not to act in that capacity, a press release is issued in local newspapers and trade journals relevant to the insolvent company. This provides details of the director's misconduct complained of in the application to disqualify and this reporting assists greatly in the drive to increase the business community's awareness of the dangers of running a company while insolvent.

The company law review has made proposals for a more general codification of the duties of directors under company law and the Department is studying them.

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Energy Consumption

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has in the next edition of the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics, to publish disaggregated data for energy consumption by (a) the agricultural sector, (b) the public administration sector and (c) the commercial sector; and if she will make a statement. [12099]

Mr. Wilson: Energy consumption data by (a) the agriculture sector, (b) the public administration sector and (c) the commercial sector are published each July for the latest three years in the "Digest of UK Energy Statistics", copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House. Data for 1998, 1999 and 2000 appeared in Tables 1.1 to 1.3 in this year's edition, while data for earlier years are available in previous editions of the Digest.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Afghanistan

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with the Governments of other countries bordering Afghanistan on the need to reopen their borders to Afghan refugees. [12683]

Clare Short: We are working closely with the UN and other donors to persuade all of Afghanistan's neighbours to open their borders. We continue to urge all neighbouring countries to adopt an open border policy and to allow those seeking refuge safe passage.

We should not underestimate the burden that refugees have placed on these countries. Pakistan and Iran in particular have provided generously for millions of refugees for many years. However, these neighbouring countries have the assurance that donors will provide generously for the care of these refugees. The UK has so far contributed £3 million to UNHCR for its work in the region—a combination of financial and practical support, including specialist personnel and shelter material. We are also supporting the work of a number of NGOs in neighbouring countries.

In addition, we have set aside £11 million for immediate short-term support to the poorer communities of Pakistan, especially those most directly affected by the influx of refugees from Afghanistan. On 18 October, I announced a further £15 million package to support the Government of Pakistan in its continuing reforms and in its efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis for Afghans.

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance she gives to the UN to enable it to co-ordinate properly the humanitarian operation; and how she will help the UN to fulfil its humanitarian goals in Afghanistan. [12680]

Clare Short: My Department has set aside £40 million to respond to the current crisis affecting Afghans in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries. About £22 million has already been allocated to agencies for their work in the region to fulfil their humanitarian goals.

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This includes £14 million to UN agencies. Our financial assistance is complemented by the provision of technical personnel, logistical, material and other practical support.

Co-ordination for humanitarian assistance is the responsibility of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which has appointed a regional humanitarian co-ordinator based in Islamabad. We have provided £1 million to OCHA in response to the current crisis to support these co-ordination efforts. This includes the provision of technical personnel to set up a humanitarian information centre (HIC) that will collate and communicate humanitarian information on the needs and programmes to all concerned agencies. This contribution will also be used to increase the capacity of the offices of the UN resident co-ordinators in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

We have also provided £1 million to support the work of Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, who is charged with the responsibility of supervising the UN humanitarian effort in Afghanistan and negotiating the political settlement necessary to bring the conflict to an end.


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