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Venture Capital

20. Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to increase access to venture capital funds in the regions of England. [25568]

31. Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to increase access to venture capital funds in the regions of England. [25579]

Alan Johnson: To increase access to venture capital in the English regions the Government are seeking to stimulate the creation of Regional Venture Capital Funds (RVCFs). Being developed on the basis of one in each of the English regions they are being established to demonstrate institutional investment in the "equity gap" and demonstrate to institutional investors that commercial returns can be made in this sector; to increase the supply of venture capital in amounts of under £500,000; and ensure that every English region has access to "equity gap" funds. All RVCFs will be commercially focused with fund management and all investment decisions undertaken by experienced fund managers. All funds should launch during 2002.

Miners (Medical Test Centres)

21. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the accessibility of medical test centres to former miners in the east midlands seeking compensation for COPD. [25569]

Mr. Wilson: There are six centres that are accessible to the 37,505 claimants in the midlands. These are located at Cannock, Chesterfield, Coventry, Mansfield, Nottingham and Stoke. One of the mobile testing units has been deployed at Mansfield since mid-October 2001. To date, these centres have assessed, through the full medical assessment process (MAP) over 5,130 live claimants, with a further 2,072 appointments being made.

Claimants are usually invited to attend a test centre within a 25-mile radius from their residence. However, claimants are given the option to attend a different centre

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if a more suitable time is available. For those claimants who are not able to travel to a centre, and have a letter from their doctor, Healthcall, the company contracted to undertake the MAP can carry out home visits.

There has been much focus on resources in this region and the Department, in consultation with the claimants' solicitors, is continuously reviewing ways of improving services and increase throughput. Plans to convert Mansfield into a double testing centre are currently under negotiations.

As at the end of November, the Department had made 8,862 interim payments and settled some 3,322 claims. In total, the Department has paid out some £45.3 million in the midlands area.

Clean Coal Technology

23. Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she intends to publish the report of the working group on clean coal technology. [25571]

Mr. Wilson: I hope to be able to announce the publication of the report in the very near future.

28. Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to encourage the take-up of clean coal technology. [25576]

Mr. Wilson: The Government are currently spending around £12 million over the three year period 2000–01 to 2002–03 on research and development into cleaner coal technologies. In addition to this I also expect to announce the conclusions of the review into the case for Government support for cleaner coal technology demonstration plant in the very near future.

ALCOA Aluminium

24. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussion she has had with the management team at ALCOA aluminium to discuss the company's proposed redundancies; and if she will make a statement. [25572]

Mr. Wilson: None, although DTI officials have met ALCOA management at UK and EU level to discuss a wide range of issues. The company's proposal for 228 job losses out of a total UK work force of 4,100 would involve the closure of the Dolgarrog facility and employee reductions at the Swansea rolling mill. The proposed reductions in ALCOA's UK work force form part of a global restructuring plan involving 6,500 redundancies brought about by recent falls in world demand for aluminium products. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is working with the Welsh Assembly Government to minimise the impact on those affected.

A task group comprising Conwy CBC, the Welsh Development Agency (WDA), the Employment Service, trade unions and other public agencies is seeking alternative employment for those made redundant. In addition, Conwy CBC and the WDA are jointly funding a study (supported by ALCOA) to look at the potential for continued production at Dolgarrog on a more limited scale. Dolgarrog is also part of an Objective 1 Assisted Area and so the Assembly Government and its partners will be looking to secure the maximum financial support available.

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Indo UK

25. Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement about the work of Indo UK Partnerships and the Indo UK Round Table. [25573]

Nigel Griffiths: The UK's political and business relations with India, a key partner, are a very high priority for this Government. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit confirms this. We are making good progress, helped by the Indo-British Partnership for trade and investment and the UK/India Round Table for new thinking about our wider bilateral relations.

The Indo-British Partnership (IBP) was created in 1993 by the then Prime Minister to promote trade and investment. During his recent visit to India my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the British and Indian co-chairs of the IBP. Since its inception, the IBP has seen a substantial increase in bilateral trade. The UK is now India's second largest trading partner after the US. By the end of 2000 bilateral trade was worth £5 billion. That year UK exports to India grew by 32 per cent. The UK accounts for over 6 per cent. of India's total foreign trade.

The UK/India Round Table, which meets again in April, was established in April 2000 by the two Foreign Ministers. It has produced a series of constructive recommendations for enhancing bilateral relations.

Renewable Energy

26. Mr. Joyce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to ensure the development of renewable sources of energy. [25574]

Mr. Wilson: The Government are taking active steps to ensure the development of renewable sources of energy.

Introducing the new renewables obligation, exempting renewables from the climate change levy and protecting existing non fossil fuel obligation (NFFO) contracts will together create a long-term market incentive for renewables worth over £1 billion per year by 2010.

We are underpinning the obligation with direct Government funding for renewables worth over £260 million between 2001 and 2004. We are setting up an extensive capital grants programme for offshore wind and energy crops projects, initiating a major photovoltaics demonstration programme, and boosting research and development.

We recently introduced an order to allow locational flexibility for NFFO 3, 4 and 5 projects that have not yet been commissioned. This will allow more appropriate locations to be found in order to overcome problems in securing planning permission.

We have initiated studies of each UK region's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources. Once all these assessments are completed, it is expected that specific regional targets for renewable energy will be adopted across the UK.

The Government are also exploring the scope for upgrading the electricity distribution system to enable the UK's huge renewable energy resources to be exploited to the full. For example, we have commissioned an initial

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study of the feasibility of an underwater cable to connect parts of the Western seaboard of the UK directly to the National Grid.

World Trade Organisation

27. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impact on UK manufacturing of the opening of a new WTO trade round. [25575]

Ms Hewitt: On its own the opening of a new WTO trade round will have little impact on UK manufacturing. This is because the opening of the round merely launches multilateral negotiations. A fuller assessment of the impact on UK manufacturing and the UK economy overall should come after the hoped for successful conclusions of those negotiations. World wide reductions in industrial tariffs should, for example, lead to both improved market access for UK manufacturing overseas and lower cost sources of components. Negotiations start with an expectation of significant benefits. A halving of WTO members' tariffs, for example, could increase world incomes by around $200 billion a year. UK manufacturers could be expected to benefit significantly from such increases in world incomes.


29. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to encourage UK exports to China. [25577]

Nigel Griffiths: As my hon. Friend knows from personal experience, China is a key market for British trade and investment. The Government, through Trade Partners UK, recently announced an extensive programme of supported activity for British companies in the China market for 2002–03, including 18 Government supported trade missions, 26 trade fair groups and 10 sector specific seminar initiatives. This is in addition to the regular ministerial visits to and from China including the visit by Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao in November 2001. Visits from the UK during 2001 included the then Minister for e.Commerce, the then Minister for Trade, the then Minister for Construction, the Minister for Science, the Minister for Energy and Industry and the Financial Secretary.

Trade Partners UK is also supporting a programme of major events in China aimed at promoting the UK's strengths as a competitive, technologically innovative economy and a strong business partner for China. This began with a large scale, award winning UK pavilion at the China High-Tech Fair in Shenzhen last October, visited by Lord Sainsbury. In October 2002 there will be a major programme of activity in Shanghai, followed by a wide-ranging series of events around China in 2003 centred on Beijing.

This high level of activity in China is complemented by awareness-raising activity among British companies in the UK. Trade Partners UK, in close co-operation with the China-Britain Business Council, is engaged in a rolling programme of events to alert UK companies to business opportunities in China. This activity includes the formation recently of a Beijing Olympics Taskforce, which aims to maximise the contribution of UK business to the preparations for the 2008 Games.

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UK exports to China rose by 21 per cent. in 2000 and by a further 18 per cent. in the first 10 months of 2001. The work of Trade Partners UK, with the CBBC, is designed further to enhance UK companies' competitiveness in China.

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