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31 Oct 2002 : Column 960Wcontinued
David Winnick: To ask the Prime Minister (1) if he will list the duties and responsibilities of Mr. Andrew Adonis; what dealings he has directly with Ministers; to whom he reports; and whether he has applied for leave of absence; 
The Prime Minister: I appointed Andrew Adonis on 20 April 1998 as a special adviser under the terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract for Special Advisers and in line with the requirements of paragraph 50 of the Ministerial Code.
Mr Adonis is Head of Policy in my office. The duties and responsibilities of special advisers are set out in the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers at Schedule 1 to the Model Contract.
Mr. Watson: To ask the Prime Minister when the annual report of the Commissioner appointed under section 59(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 will be laid before the House; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister: A copy of the annual report for 2001 by the right hon. Lord Justice Simon Brown has been laid before the House today in accordance with section 60 (4) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The confidential annex to the report has been excluded from that copy in accordance with section 60 (5) of the Act and in line with the Commissioner's recommendation.
Lord Justice Simon Brown has served as Commissioner for the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and Government Communications Head Quarters since his appointment on 1 April 2000 under the Security Service Act 1989 and the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Since 2 October 2000 his role has continued as Intelligence Services Commissioner by virtue of Section 59 (1) of the regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. This is his second report. I am very grateful to him for all his work as Commissioner.
Mr. Watson: To ask the Prime Minister when the annual report of the Commissioner appointed under section 57 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 will be laid before the House; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister: A copy of the report for 2001, by the right hon. Sir. Swinton Thomas, has been laid before the House today in accordance with section 58(6) of the Investigation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The
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confidential annex to the report has been excluded from that copy in accordance with section 58(7) of the Act and in accordance with the Commissioner's recommendations. Sir. Swinton was originally appointed Commissioner in April 2000 under the Interception of Communications Act 1985, continuing in the role from 2 October 2000 under Section 57 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. This is his second report. I am very grateful to him for all his work as Commissioner.
Dr. Cable: To ask the President of the Council if he will list the website links associated with his Department, including sites now dormant or closed, and indicating whether they are live, dormant or closed; what the start up costs were for each site listed; what the operating costs were in each year since start up for each site; which company hosted each site; what assessment takes place for each site; which company does the assessment; if he will place the assessment reports in the Library; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Robin Cook: The following links, all of which are live, point to my Department's main website (www.privycouncil.gov.uk).
The cost of registering all these names was #575.75. The information on start-up costs is currently not available as the site has been in operation only since July 2002.
The site is hosted by XM London who regularly review feedback from users. The Department intends to review the content and style of the website after it has been in operation for a year.
Mr. Allen: To ask the President of the Council what use he and his Department has made of focus group research since June 2001; if he will identify for each research project the topics covered, the person or organisation carrying out the research, and the total cost; and if he will publish the research on his Department's website. 
Mr. Robin Cook: My Department has not made use of focus group research since June 2001.
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10. Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what discussions she has had with her ministerial colleagues on the promotion in the workplace of science and engineering education among 16 year olds. 
Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has lead responsibility for education matters, but I and other Ministerial colleagues, notably my noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation, are also interested and discuss these matters with our colleagues as and when appropriate.
20. Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the initiatives her Department has been developing to encourage entrepreneurial education for science and engineering students. 
Ms Hewitt: The Department introduced the Science Enterprise Challenge to establish a network of centres in UK universities, specialising in the teaching and practice of entrepreneurialism and commercialisation in science and technology.
Thirteen Science Enterprise Centres have been established involving 54 UK universities with #43.9 million of government funding.
9. Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what plans she has to promote the use of the Post Office card accounts in rural and urban post offices. 
Mr. Timms: The post office card account is one of a range of accounts which people will be able from next year to receive benefit payments into. Our aim is that people should be able to choose the option which suits them best. Information about all the options is being supplied to customers by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue.
29. Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to ensure that persons with disabilities can make full use of the post office card account. 
Mr. Timms: Benefit and tax credit recipients, including those customers with disabilities, will be offered a range of account options to enable them to receive their money once payment directly into a bank or building society account (including the card account) becomes the normal method of payment from April 2003. The post office card account has no overdraft facilities and is limited to direct payment of benefits, pensions and tax credits by Government agencies only but this limited functionality will attract some individuals because of its simplicity. A second card will also be available for use by a nominee for those customers unable themselves to collect their money at the post office. This facility may be of assistance to some customers who are disabled.
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Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made as to whether the Post Office card account will pass the Government's proposed CAT standard. 
Mr. Timms: The Government have no plans to produce a CAT standard for the Post Office card account. The card account is the only account of its type, quite distinct from current accounts and basic bank accounts. It is a very simple account for benefit, pension and tax credit recipients. Its functionality is limited to the crediting by Government agencies of benefits, pensions and tax credits, and the withdrawal by the customer of those monies at post offices.
11. Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received about business regulation affecting businesses in the North West economic region 
Alan Johnson: I meet regularly with business representative bodies such as the CBI, FSB and BCC to discuss issues, including regulations, that affect them.
The latest OECD report notes that,
Nigel Griffiths: An interdepartmental group has been focusing on credit card fraud and my hon. Friend the Minister for Competition, Consumers and Markets looks forward to receiving their findings.
27. Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to alleviate the burden of regulation on small businesses; and if she will make a statement. 
Nigel Griffiths: Since January 2000, we have put in place a number of measures to reduce the burden of regulations on small businesses, including:
employers with four or fewer employees, exempted from requirement to provide access to stakeholder pensions and deduct pension contributions; increased the statutory audit threshold for companies from #350,000 to #1 million. This will relieve up to 150,000 small firms from the burden of a statutory audit, saving them up to #180 million a year; exempted small shops from the new EU unit pricing requirements; exempted employers with 20 or fewer employees from trade union recognition procedures in the Employment Relations Act. The Small Business Service has also: secured a 12-week period between regulations being agreed and implemented, allowing SMEs time to adapt to new regulations; secured the right to be consulted on all new regulations, so impact on SMEs is not disproportionate. Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) have to be
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produced for regulations setting out costs and benefits;produced clear guidance on a number of complex regulations; published the Regulatory Reform Action Plansetting out over 250 proposals for better regulation and reform; regularly brought together groups of SMEs to express their views to officials, e.g. for Patrick Carter's review of payroll administration; set up an independent office to represent the views of small firms to the European institutions.
The Business Link Website is now attracting 80,000 users per monthbusinesses can register to receive alerts about regulations automatically.Further to these measures: around 900,000 SMEs benefit from measures announced in Budget 2002, including 485,000 businesses whose corporation tax bill is cut or abolished, and 700,000 are benefiting from flat rate VAT scheme; regulatory challenge function within the DTI strengthened. A new team created to consider how we challenge existing and future legislation and to ensure all policy makers fully consider alternatives to regulation at the outset of the policy-making process. The UK is not over-regulated compared to other countries: A survey jointly published by Anderson and GrowthPlus benchmarks the business environment in nine EU countries, plus the USA. In this report the UK comes out in first place, for providing the most entrepreneur-friendly environment scoring consistently high in all measured categories.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (E.I.U.) studied the business environment, including regulation, in 60 countries. Results published in the Economist in August 2001, showed the Netherlands, the USA and Britain in the top three places. Recent OECD report into UK regulation concluded the environment is particularly supportive of market openness and competition. The report noted British entrepreneurs face better business and regulatory conditions than in most other OECD economies, it also highlighted support that SBS gives to SMEs and its role in fostering an enterprise culture in the UK.
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