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31 Oct 2002 : Column 964W—continued

Post Offices

14. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the future of the rural post office network. [76432]

17. Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the future of the rural post office network. [76436]

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will announce her proposals for financial support of the rural post offices network; and if she will make a statement. [77866]

Mr. Timms: The Government are committed to the maintenance of a nationwide network, and placed a formal requirement on the Post Office in November 2000 to prevent all avoidable closures of rural post offices. We have received advice from Postcomm on the proposals for supporting the rural network from 2003, and details of substantial financial support will be announced shortly.

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the future of the rural post office network.

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Mr. Timms [holding answer 29 October 2002]: We have received advice from the Postal Services Commission on proposals for supporting the rural network from 2003 and details of substantial financial support will be announced shortly.

The Government has already invested in modernisation comprising some #480 million to computerise the whole post office network. We have made available a #2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or reopen post office facilities in rural areas where traditional services would otherwise close. Figures for end September 2002 showed that 168 applications–to a value of #825,000–had been assessed and approved and to that date payments of #529,000 had also been made.

The Government is committed to the maintenance of a nationwide network of post offices and placed a formal requirement on the Post Office in November 2000 to prevent any avoidable closures of rural post offices.

21. Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has on the post office network. [76441]

Mr. Timms: The Department receives representations about the post office network from numerous sources reflecting the valuable role post offices play in their communities. The Government are committed to ensuring that the post office network has a thriving future.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Post Office is to be bound by the Urban Counter Cover Obligation; how this obligation will be assessed, and by whom; and if she will make a statement. [77486]

Mr. Timms: A condition of the offer of funding for Post Office Limited's (POL) urban reinvention programme is that upon completion of the programme, there is a post office branch within a mile of not less than 95 per cent. in aggregate of the urban population of the UK.

If POL fails to comply with this obligation, the Government may vary or withhold funding of the programme. POL's implementation of the programme will be monitored by the DTI.

Manufacturing Industry

15. Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the results of her policies for the promotion of the manufacturing industry. 76433

Alan Johnson: We published our manufacturing strategy on 16 May, building on the TUC/CBI work on productivity and the consensus achieved at the manufacturing summit we hosted last December. In partnership with industry and key stakeholders, we have established and identified seven key areas crucial for manufacturing success and driving up productivity. We are taking action in all of these areas to help UK manufacturers fulfil their potential and move up the value chain to high skill, high value operations by promoting investment, skills, innovation and best practice

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16. Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to encourage a rise in productivity of the manufacturing industry.[76434]

Alan Johnson: The Government's manufacturing strategy was published in May. We have established in partnership with industry and key stakeholders and identified seven key areas crucial for manufacturing success and driving up productivity. We are taking action in all of these areas to help UK manufacturers fulfil their potential and move up the value chain to high skill, high value operations by promoting investment, skills, innovation and best practice.

Andrew Bennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made with implementation of the Government's strategy for manufacturing industry. [76435]

Alan Johnson: The Manufacturing Strategy we published on 16 May identified seven key areas of activity for manufacturing success. We have made significant progress in all of these areas to help manufacturers fulfil their potential in the UK. For example, we have:provided additional resources for regional development agencies to help them to engage local industry with innovation, develop key business clusters and sectors, and stimulate workforce development among local employers; opened seven regional centres for manufacturing excellence;increased investment in science and innovation; and boosted promotion of best practice with the expansion of the Partnership Fund and Industry Forum.

Stop Now Orders

18. Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the operation of Stop Now Orders. [76437]

Miss Melanie Johnson: No formal assessment has been made of the operation of the Stop Now Orders Regulations. The Office of Fair Trading in their co-ordination role, monitor the operation of the regulations.

There have been 148 cases thus far with five Stop Now Orders obtained from the courts. The majority of cases have been resolved through negotiation with the trader without having to take court action.

Following discussions with Trading Standards Departments we have made available #2.5 million/year through local authority general allocations to fund Trading Standards' new responsibilities in this area. We have also provided funding as part of the Modernisation Fund for projects that support the implementation and use of the regulations locally and supported training events for Trading Standards.

Energy Supply Market

19. Mr. Kevin Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the situation in the energy supply market. [76439]

Ms Hewitt: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan).

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Fireworks

22. Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what additional restrictions are proposed this year on the sale of fireworks. [76442]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 17 October 2002, Official Report, columns 889–90W, announcing a package of measures to address problems caused by fireworks.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress of her review of the legislation governing the sale of fireworks. [74853]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 21October 2002]: I would refer my hon Friend to an answer I gave on the 17 October, Official Report, column 889W announcing a package of measures to address problems caused by fireworks.

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to restrict the sale and use of fireworks to (a) certain days of the year and (b) certain times of the day; and if she will make a statement. [76392]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows the Government to regulate the safety of fireworks supplied to the public, but not the periods when they are sold. This would require primary legislation. We have recently written to major retailers of fireworks and representative bodies to urge them to adhere to the voluntary sales agreement. This restricts the sales of fireworks to three weeks before November 5 and a few days after and for a similar period around new year. We have received a positive response.

As to usage, I would refer the hon Member to the answer I gave on 17 October 2002, Official Report, columns 889–90W announcing a package of measures to address problems caused by fireworks. DEFRA are seeking to make it easier for local

authorities to use the Night Noise Offence within the Noise Act 1996 which targets excessive noise from domestic premises after 11pm and before 7pm.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received on restricting the use of fireworks; and if he will make a statement. [75875]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We have received widespread representations from members of the public and hon. Members calling for restrictions on the use of fireworks.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she has taken to improve quality and safety controls on fireworks; and if he will make a statement. [75876]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I would refer my hon. Friend to an answer I gave on the 17 October 2002, Official Report, column 889W announcing a package of measures to address problems caused by fireworks.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to restrict the sale of fireworks outside the traditional sales period prior to Bonfire Night; and if he will make a statement. [75877]

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Miss Melanie Johnson: The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows the Government to regulate the safety of fireworks supplied to the public, but not the period when they are sold. This would require primary legislation. But we have entered into a voluntary agreement with the industry and retail trade whereby fireworks are sold to the public for three weeks before 5 November and for a few days after and for a similar period around New Year.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on Government policy on fireworks. [76430]

David Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what steps she is taking to improve firework safety. [76431]

Miss Melanie Johnson I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby).

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on (a) the consultation on measures to tackle the misuse of fireworks announced by the Consumer Minister on 1 March and (b) the proposal to enable local authorities to refuse or revoke a licence of a retailer where the licensee is not considered to be a fit person for the sale of fireworks. [77968]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I would refer my hon Friend to the answer I gave on 17 October 2002, Official Report, columns 889–90W, announcing a package of measures to address problems caused by fireworks.

As part of the package of measures, breaches of the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997, could be taken into account in deciding whether a person was fit to hold a licence. Under the proposed manufacture and storage of explosives regulations the power to withhold or revoke a licence applies only to breaches of health and safety legislation.


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