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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.
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) 200001 and (b) 200102; and if she will make a statement. 
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. 
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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.
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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. 
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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. 
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.
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 20012002 as part of the current System Development and Demonstration phase, which began in November 2001.
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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