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Miners' Compensation

18. Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to monitor progress on the payment of coal health claims. [66386]

Mr. Wilson: I chair the Coal Health Ministerial Monitoring Group which monitors progress, on a national and regional basis. All parties involved in the process attend these meetings.

In addition, there are regional monitoring groups in Scotland, Wales and England, which all report to the national group. In England I have recently established five regional sub-groups which are North East, Midlands/ Lancashire, South/South East, Notts/Derby and Yorkshire.

A report on progress is issued monthly and placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Updates are also available on the Coal Health website.

Community Development Financial Institutions

19. Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to make a feasibility of community development financial institutions. [66387]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Small Business Service is currently supporting 41 community development finance institutions through its Phoenix Fund. These CDFIs are receiving almost £20 million of support over the next 2 years.

A number of the CDFIs supported are researching new and innovative ways of providing last resort finance to disadvantaged communities.

The Phoenix Fund has also been instrumental in supporting the formation of a trade association for CDFIs, the Community Development Finance Association. This organisation will help to disseminate best practice throughout the sector.

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A community investment tax credit that will encourage the private sector to invest money into the community finance sector was announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this year's budget.

Manufacturing Industry

21. Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to assist manufacturing industry. [66390]

Alan Johnson: The Government's Strategy for Manufacturing, published on 16 May this year, sets a strategic framework for working in partnership with key stakeholders to help manufacturing companies fulfil their potential in the UK by moving up the value chain to high-skilled, knowledge intensive operations. The strategy identifies seven pillars with objectives and actions for Government and industry to develop:

It has been warmly received by manufacturers and trade unions.

24. Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what role her Department plays in cases where companies with manufacturing plant in several EU countries, when rationalising their capacity, choose to close their plant in the United Kingdom. [66395]

Alan Johnson: It is always a cause of great regret when there are closures by any company operating in the UK. Where appropriate, the Department and its partners establish contact with the companies and see if there are ways of retaining the investment. This may include ministerial involvement.

However, when a company does announce plans to close, the Department's appropriate sector directorate will work closely with local and other partners, notably the Employment Service and relevant RDA, to manage the effects of the disinvestments and to look at employment opportunities for existing staff, and at re-training packages.

The network will also look at alternative uses for the site/plant or for a buyer. Invest-UK will ensure that Overseas Posts are aware of the situation to enable them to market the site/plant to overseas companies.

Small Business

22. Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to increase investment in basic skills in small firms. [66392]

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Nigel Griffiths: The Government are committed to raising the level of adult literacy and numeracy in the workforce and has identified this as a priority area. This will help small businesses. The Government's 'Skills for Life' strategy will:

The Government are also helping small firms with:

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her Department's policy on encouraging employment in the small business sector. [66399]

Nigel Griffiths: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Plaskitt) today.


23. Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to encourage take-up of broadband. [66394]

Ms Hewitt: The Government believe that broadband services have an important role to play in increasing the competitiveness of the UK economy. Ministers have therefore taken several opportunities to promote the benefits of broadband, including by supporting the Demand: Broadband campaign run by the Communications Workers Union.

The UK Online Annual Report 2001 sets out the Government's broadband strategy. "To stimulate demand for current broadband content and applications the Government will:

"—work with the broadband supply industry to facilitate an industry-wide collaborative campaign to promote the benefits of broadband and give impartial advice on the different technological options available.

"—provide more encouragement to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt e-commerce solutions. The DTI are now expanding the £66 million UK online for business programme to:

"—provide more effective advice to businesses on the introduction and setting up of e-business solutions, with particular emphasis on the benefits of broadband; and

"—introduce a web-based guide to broadband availability for SMEs and a network of demonstrators of practical applications".

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We have also established a £30 million fund to help the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and devolved administrations develop innovative schemes to extend broadband networks. Using this fund, some of the RDAs and devolved administrations are carrying forward work which demonstrates the benefits of broadband.

Since the beginning of 2002, ADSL prices have fallen by 22 per cent. Take-up is now over 600,000 and rising by 20,000 new subscribers per week. Around 66 per cent. of the population are able to access affordable broadband technologies, and increased take-up strengthens the case for further roll-out.

Nuclear Industry

25. Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much public expenditure on matters relating to the nuclear industry there has been since 1 May 1997; and what estimate she has made of future identified public liabilities in respect of existing activities. [66396]

Mr. Wilson: Public expenditure on matters related to the nuclear industry in this period related primarily to the activities of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and BNFL. Regulation of the industry and the activities of UK Government Departments and the devolved Administrations with policy or other responsibilities relevant to the industry also necessarily involve public expenditure. However, precise information on the total expenditure involved in each of the years in question could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

For UKAEA, funding was provided in the form of grant and grant in aid to support fusion research and to discharge nuclear liabilities arising from past programmes. The sums provided in each year were as follows:

£ million

Grant, and grant in aid

BNFL is classified as a public corporation by the Office of National Statistics. Its expenditure and income is recorded in the public sector in the national accounts and so it contributes to the statistics that monitor the Chancellor's fiscal rules. BNFL's total gross expenditure in the financial years 1997–98 to 2000–01 as reported in "Public Bodies" was as follows:

£ million

Total gross expenditure

The equivalent information for 2001/02 is not yet available.

At 31 March 2002 the total undiscounted cost of dealing with the nuclear liabilities of BNFL and UKAEA was estimated to be £47.9 billion. The White Paper "Managing the Nuclear Legacy—A Strategy for Action" published on 4 July set out the Government's proposals for establishing—a new Liabilities Management Authority

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with a specific remit to ensure that these liabilities are dealt with safely, securely, cost-effectively and in ways which protect the environment.

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