Miss Melanie Johnson: Our current company law is creaking with age. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is today publishing plans to modernise and reform it for the 21st century. Company law is central to our economy and our prosperity. A thorough overhaul is needed to make the law clearer and accessible.
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The White Paper reflects the changes that have taken place in the business environment in recent years, particularly the growth of small businesses and advances in communications technology, and include plans to:
Improve transparency to increase confidence in business;
Improve governance to encourage and support responsible business.
Miss Melanie Johnson: We intend to circulate a consultation document setting out our proposals for legislative changes to implement this Directive to a wide range of interested parties already known to us, representing holders of rights, users of protected material and intermediaries. The consultation document will also be posted on the Patent Office website (www.patent.gov.uk) in order that any other interested organisations or individuals may comment if they wish.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals she has to replace the nuclear power plants that will retire between 2010 and 2025; what renewable energy plants will be considered; and what will be done with the nuclear power plants that will be taken out of service between 2010 and 2025. 
Mr. Wilson: In common with all generation options, the initiative for bringing forward proposals to construct new plant lies with the market and the generating companies. The future role of all electricity generation technologies is currently being considered as part of the work leading to the White Paper. Closed nuclear power plants will be decommissioned.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received from the (a) Government of the Republic of Ireland, (b) National Assembly for Wales, (c) Northern Irish Assembly and (d) Scottish Executive on the transportation of nuclear waste to Sellafield by sea. 
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received from organisations in Scotland on reform of procedures relating to time orders under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. 
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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive regarding possible reform procedures relating to time orders under the Consumer Credit Act 1974; and if she will make a statement. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Scottish Executive have recently consulted on the Enforcement of Civil Obligations in Scotland and this consultation mentions time orders under the 1974 Act while recognising that any changes to the 1974 Act would be a reserved matter. DTI officials plan to meet with their colleagues in the Scottish Executive to discuss the outcome of the consultation.
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Co-ordinating Group set up to bring together the responses of the key regulators to post-Enron audit and accounting issues invited comments from 80 representative bodies, firms and individuals. The invitation was also published on the DTI website. There have been 25 responses. A summary of these will be included in the Group's interim report, which is expected to be published this month.
Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to the answer by Chancellor of the Exchequer of 5 July 2002, Official Report, column 628W, when she will lay the relevant regulations before Parliament. 
Alan Johnson [holding answer 15 July 2002]: We will lay the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations before Parliament following a consultation exercise on certain aspects of the regulations, which will begin later this month.
Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the action which the Regulatory Reform Action Plan (a) has taken and (b) proposes to take for better regulation and reform across Whitehall, local government and health authorities. 
Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 15 July 2002]: In February the Government published the Regulatory Reform Action Plan, setting out over 250 proposals that will benefit businesses, charities and the voluntary sector, the wider public sector and individual citizens. The Plan includes measures that will deliver better regulation and reform across Whitehall, local government and health authorities. This is a programme for action, and where possible, Departments have given published targets for delivery.
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Mr. Timms [holding answer 9 July 2002]: The Postal Services Act 2000 established an independent regulator (Postcomm). It is Postcomm's primary statutory duty under that Act to ensure the provision of a universal postal service. The Act lays down that the obligation consists of a service provided at an affordable price determined by a public tariff uniform throughout the United Kingdom, and includes the delivery each working day to the home or premises of every individual in the United Kingdom and a collection each working day from access points.
In her statement to the House on 13 June 2002, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, set out the proposals agreed by the Board of Consignia to return the company's postal business to profitability, consistent with its statutory obligations.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what contribution she expects competitors in the UK mail industry to make to the universal service obligation; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: The Government laid down the universal postal service obligation in primary legislation in the Postal Services Act 2000. Under that legislation, it is Postcomm's primary duty to exercise its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to ensure the provision of a universal postal service, and subject to this, it is also under a duty to exercise its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to further the interests of users of postal services, wherever appropriate by promoting effective competition between postal operators. Any contribution to be made by postal competitors to the universal service is therefore a matter for Postcomm.
Alan Johnson: The Government are committed to helping working parents. From April 2003 parents of children aged under six or of disabled children aged under 18 will have the right to apply to work flexibly. These parents face particular challenges and their employers will have a duty to consider these requests seriously. The Government continue to encourage the wider adoption of flexible working practices through the Work Life Balance Campaign.
At the same time, the Government will be increasing and extending maternity leave and pay and introducing new rights to paid adoption and paternity leave. These new rights, together with existing rights to take parental leave and time off for dependents will provide parents with more opportunities than ever before to balance work and family life. Employers, parents and their children stand to benefit as a result.
Valerie Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress is being made on the scheme announced on 17 January to award one-off lump sum payments to members of the mineworkers pension scheme on the lowest pensions. 
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Mr. Wilson: Payments totalling £38.2 million have now been made to over 28,000 coal pensioners on the lowest incomes. This is the first tranche of the initiative I announced that will benefit around 66,000 former coal miners at a cost of £90 million.
These lump sum payments are in addition to the average bonus increase of 30 per cent. that have been awarded to members of the British Coal pension schemes since privatisation, over and above the annual inflation increase.