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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 11 July 2002

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Wind Farms

9. Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many licences for wind farms have been granted since 1997. [66376]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department does not maintain a register of all approved wind farm projects, and approval is usually a matter for local determination. From the information available to us, which may not be complete, we are aware of 67 locally-granted approvals for wind farms since 1997. In addition, approvals for two wind farms over 50MW declared net capacity have been given centrally in accordance with section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989.

10. Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many licences for wind farms have been granted in (a) Workington and (b) the United Kingdom. [66377]

Nigel Griffiths: The Department does not maintain a register of all approved wind farm projects, and approval is usually a matter for local determination. From the information available to us, which may not be complete, we are aware of four approvals for wind farms in or near Workington, and 129 for wind farms in the United Kingdom. The UK figure includes two approvals given by central Government, in accordance with section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989, for wind farms over 50MW declared net capacity.

Aerospace

11. Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is taking to assist the aerospace industry. [66378]

Alan Johnson: This Government have a track record of providing significant support to this important sector. For example, we have committed nearly £1 billion in launch investment support over the past five years for major new airframe and aero-engine programmes.

In addition, support for civil aircraft research and technology currently runs at about £20 million a year. And, as large investors in R&D, aerospace companies will benefit from the recently announced tax credit scheme for larger firms.

We are working closely with other Government Departments on how best to address a wide range of problems faced by the UK aerospace industry. For the longer-term, this embraces a wide range of complex, cross-cutting policy issues—for example, support for research and technology, launch investment, export financing arrangements and defence procurement matters. For the nearer term, we are looking at how to make the

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most of our generic supports for productivity and competitiveness and the way they are deployed in the regions.

To help with this process, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, announced on 16 May the formation of the Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team, lead by Sir Richard Evans. This will enable key stakeholders to work together to produce a shared vision and strategy for the future success of the industry. I expect Sir Richard and his team to report by the end of March 2003. This will enable an informed debate to take place followed by an agreed action plan to take the industry forward.

Shopworkers

12. Mr. Savidge: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on employment protection for shopworkers. [66379]

Alan Johnson: In general, protection applies to shopworkers as it does to workers in other sectors of the labour market. For example, if any employer tries to change an employee's terms and conditions of contract without their consent, or dismisses the employee for no good reason, the employee may be able to make a claim. For historical reasons, there is specific additional protection for shopworkers in England and Wales who do not wish to work on Sundays.

Photovoltaics

13. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many applications there have been for her Department's PV grants. [66380]

Nigel Griffiths: Up to the end of June there have been 23 applications under the small-scale individual stream. 17 of these have been approved, including that of the hon Member for Blaby. The first system was installed on a house in Dover in June.

For medium and large-scale installations, the first of our quarterly calls for proposals closed at the end of June. This attracted 15 proposals for grants of around £2 million, representing some 450kW of new capacity. These proposals are currently being assessed and we expect to announce the outcome around the end of July.

Postal Services

14. Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many sub-post offices have closed since 1997; and what representations she has received regarding the future of the sub-post office network. [66381]

Ms Hewitt: Post Office Limited has advised me that the number of net closure of post offices since end March 1997 is 1,667. I receive representations on the future of the post office network from numerous sources. The Government are committed to the maintenance of a nationwide network of post offices.

20. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the future of rural postal services. [66388]

Ms Hewitt: Rural postal services are safeguarded by the universal postal service obligation which the government laid down in primary legislation in the Postal

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Services Act 2000. The legislation says that the obligation consists of a service provided at an affordable price determined by a public tariff uniform throughout the UK and includes the delivery each working day to the home or premises of every individual in the UK and a collection each working day from access points. Under the Act it is the Postal Services Commission's (known as Postcomm) primary duty to ensure the provision of a universal postal service and it currently requires Consignia, in the licence, to provide the universal postal service.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which post offices in the Portsmouth, South constituency Consignia is planning to close; and if she will make a statement. [67554]

Ms Hewitt: The programme to restructure the urban post office network has not yet started and I am advised by Post Office Limited that, until it does, there are no specific plans for post office closures in the Portsmouth South constituency. When the programme starts it will be taken forward in consultation with individual subpostmasters, the community, local stakeholders and Postwatch. Under the Code of Practice, Post Office Limited is required to consult Postwatch on individual changes and is briefing it on the process envisaged for reaching decisions.

The objective of the urban network restructuring programme is to provide modernised and improved facilities which meet customers' needs and expectations and are in the right location for the local community.

Unincorporated Businesses (Hertfordshire)

15. Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the impact of her Department's policies on unincorporated businesses in Hertfordshire. [66382]

Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service provides, through the business Link network, advice, support and regulatory guidance to all types of small businesses.

Business Link Hertfordshire offer a broad range of provision to meet a very broad range of business needs. Last year the Business Link dealt with over 7,000 different businesses.

The SBS is working to: minimise the burdens imposed on small businesses by red tape; and make sure that the interests of small firms are properly considered, by encouraging every part of Government to 'Think Small First' when introducing new regulations.

Technology Transfer

16. Mr. Luke: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to encourage technology transfer from academic institutions to industry. [66383]

Ms Hewitt: The Government's two White Papers, "Excellence and Opportunity", published in July 2000, and "Opportunity for All", published in February 2001, set out our science and innovation policy for the 21st century, and include a comprehensive range of measures to help promote technology and knowledge transfer between academia and industry. We are making excellent progress in this area.

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We are considering, as part of the Government's spending review, how to further develop these initiatives to build on universities' potential as drivers of growth in the knowledge economy.

Small Business Seminar

17. Mr. Plaskitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress of the Small Business Seminar. [66385]

Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service was set up in April 2000.

Latest figures show that Business Links assisted 244,685 businesses during 2001–02.

In addition, Business Links have helped 18,163, new businesses to start-up.

In 2001–02 SBS spent over £154 million in BL programme expenditure—money spent in direct support of SMEs—not running costs—and over £164 million in 2002–03.

The SBS Annual Report 2002 will be published later this month, before the summer recess.


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