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24 Oct 2002 : Column 426W—continued

National Minimum Wage

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to end the age differential in the operation of the national minimum wage. [76913]

Alan Johnson: National minimum wage rates are set by Government following recommendations from the independent Low Pay Commission. The Commission has been asked to produce a Fourth Report on the minimum wage by February 2003 and we will carefully consider any recommendations that they make on this issue.

Small Business

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many small business closures there were in each year since 1997 in (a) Scotland and (b) the rest of the UK. [76859]

Nigel Griffiths: VAT de-registrations are the only official measure of business closures. Business de-registrations are not available by size of business and there is no requirement for small businesses to supply the information separately.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much was allocated to small firms throughout the United Kingdom using the Research and Development tax credit in financial years (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02; and if she will make a statement. [75119]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

For companies claiming the R&D tax credit for small or medium sized companies in 2000/01, the cost to the Exchequer was #75 million. Figures are not yet available for 2001/02.

Parental Rights

Mr. Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her plans to introduce (a) enhanced maternity rights, (b) new paternity rights and (c) rights for adoptive parents. [77828]

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Alan Johnson: I have today laid before Parliament three draft affirmative Statutory Instruments which:

These regulations, subject to their approval by both Houses, will be followed by negative Statutory Instruments setting the other details of the new statutory adoption and paternity pay regimes.

These new regulations give detailed effect to provisions set out in broad terms in the Employment Act 2002, which received Royal Assent in July. The measures have been developed as a result of extensive public consultation over recent times, and are designed to provide significantly improved choices for working parents, to help them balance their work and family lives, without imposing undue burdens and administrative complexity on business.

A Regulatory Impact assessment has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the non-military uses of uranium for which the metal is used in the United Kingdom. [75835]

Mr. Wilson: I am advised that in the UK uranium ore is used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors. In its depleted form its main non-military applications are:


Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of the world's e-commerce is estimated to be conducted in (a) Britain and (b) the European Union. [75729]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 23 October 2002]: Reliable global e-commerce statistics that would allow a comparison between the UK and global levels of e-commerce value are not available.

E-commerce figures for the UK (excluding the financial sector) have just been released by ONS and show a good increase on previous figures:

We understand that Eurostat will be producing figures for the relative proportions of electronic commerce within the EU early next year.


Rural Policy

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when he last had bilateral meetings with the

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Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Transport, to discuss regional co-ordination of rural policy. [63078]

Mr. Alexander: Ministers in the Cabinet have regular meetings with ministerial colleagues to discuss a wide range of issues. As with previous Administrations it is not this Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings.



Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department is taking to ensure that training backlogs owing to unavailability of aircraft are cleared. [69994]

Mr. Ingram: Training priorities are matched to operational requirements. In the approach to, or during operations, aircrew training is refocused to reinforce critical skills. Subsequently, tactical air training reverts to normal patterns, and support to exercises resumes. Those Field Training Exercises cancelled as a result of non-availability of air transport will, in some cases, have been refocused and other means of meeting the training requirement explored. This being the case, there is no backlog as such.

Sponsored Reserves

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how the monitoring selection of sponsored resource will operate; what guidelines his Department have produced to monitor their performance; and if he will make a statement. [76494]

Dr. Moonie: Sponsored Reserves are selected for their specialist skills by their civilian employer. However, in order to enlist as a Sponsored Reserve, they must meet appropriate entry criteria for the Reserve Force they are volunteering to enter into, taking account of the operational environment in which they are likely to work. The entry criteria are laid down by the appropriate Single Service. Once enlisted as a Sponsored Reserve, the civilian employer remains responsible for maintaining the individual's specialist skills, but the relevant Single Service trains and monitors each Sponsored Reserve in the military skills he or she will need on operations as a serviceman or woman. Having been called out for operations, the performance of a Sponsored Reserve is monitored by the relevant Single Service in the same way as for any other Reservist.

Joint Strike Fighter

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the specification for marinised carrier-based F35 aircraft will differ from that for land-based aircraft; and what the cost of marinisation will be. [75954]

Dr. Moonie: We have selected the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to meet our Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) requirement. The STOVL variant of

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JSF was designed from the outset to be able to operate in the maritime environment. Under current plans the United Kingdom will be able to deploy any aircraft from within the FJCA fleet to the new carriers, as all STOVL JSF are intended to be equally capable of sea or land deployment.

The unit cost of the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variant of JSF, which is under development to meet primarily the requirements of the United States Air Force, may prove cheaper than STOVL. As this aircraft is not capable of operating from aircraft carriers, it was not considered as a solution to the FJCA requirement.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what payments he has made in previous financial years in respect of the design, development and manufacture of the F35 aircraft. [75950]

Dr. Moonie: The assessment phase of the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) programme (formerly known as Future Carrier Borne Aircraft) began in November 1996 and finished in October 2001. During the phase we spent some #127 million in resource terms, with the competing Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) prime contractors (Lockheed Martin and Boeing). In addition approximately #8 million was spent during Financial Year 2001–2002 as part of the current System Development and Demonstration phase, which began in November 2001.

The year-by-year break down of expenditure is as follows:

YearFigure #M

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors are taken into consideration in the assessment of the requirement of the numbers of Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. [76368]

Dr. Moonie: Our current planning assumption is that up to 150 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) will be required to meet our through life Future Joint Combat Aircraft requirement. However, no final decision on numbers has yet been taken and detailed work is currently ongoing.

The decision will take into account a wide variety of factors including: the number of pilots required to man the aircraft on operations; the number of peace time flying hours required to train and maintain those pilots at combat ready status; expected rates of attrition; and the expected airframe life of JSF.

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