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5 Dec 2002 : Column 984W—continued

SCOTLAND

Agriculture Holdings Bill

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive about the human rights implications of an absolute right to buy land under the Agriculture Holdings Bill, and if she will make a statement. [82449]

Mrs. Liddell: I have had no discussions with the Scottish Executive on this subject. The Bill in question is a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Airport Firemen

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations she has received on the strike by airport firemen in Scotland; and if she will make a statement. [82217]

Mrs. Liddell: I have not received any representations on this issue. Industrial relations are a matter for the respective management and trade unions to resolve. I urge both sides to continue to work together constructively to reach a mutually acceptable solution which will avoid strike action. I understand that both unions are to ballot members on a revised pay offer from BAA.

Digital Television

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport relating to the impact of analogue switch-off; and if she will make a statement. [83724]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend on a wide range of issues, including the impact of analogue switch-off in Scotland. The Government are committed to ensuring that terrestrial analogue broadcasting signals are maintained until everyone who can currently get the main public service broadcasting channels in analogue form can receive them on digital systems, and switching to digital is an

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affordable option for the vast majority of people. We have consulted widely on this issue and details are available on the website: www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk.

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with OFCOM on the impact of analogue switch-off in Scotland; and if she will make a statement. [83722]

Mrs. Liddell: I have had introductory discussions with Lord Currie, Chairman of OFCOM on issues around the Communications Bill and its major interest for Scotland. In its UK wide role, OFCOM will have an overarching duty to take account of the interests of the nations and regions in all its activities. The regulatory functions of the new body will not take effect until the Communications Bill becomes law.

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what meetings she has had with (a) the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and (b) the Scottish Executive relating to the impact of analogue switch-off in Scotland; and if she will make a statement. [83723]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular discussions with colleagues and Scottish Executive Ministers on a wide range of issues, including the impact of analogue switch-off in Scotland. The Government are committed to ensuring that terrestrial analogue broadcasting signals are maintained until everyone who can currently get the main public service broadcasting channels in analogue form can receive them on digital systems, and switching to digital is an affordable option for the vast majority of people. We have consulted widely on this issue and details are available on the website: www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk.

Friends of Scotland

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will list the country of residence of the members of the Friends of Scotland initiative. [83944]

Mrs. Liddell: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 6 November 2002, Official Report, column 360W. The countries of residence of the current members of the Friends of Scotland network are as follows:

CountryNumber of Friends
UK48
Australia36
USA18
Malaysia11
New Zealand10
Germany10
France8
Japan8
Canada8
Belgium3
Hong Kong2
Ireland2
Trinidad and Tobago1
Spain1
The Netherlands1
Italy1
Luxembourg1
Total169

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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Employment Rights

14. Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what employment rights she estimates UK workers will have by 2007 that have changed since 1997. [83615]

Alan Johnson: In our first term, we introduced a foundation of decent minimum standards in the workplace. We are now building on this, so that by 2007, employees will, for example, have been given rights to a minimum wage, four weeks paid holidays and to proper information and consultation. They will also benefit from a range of family friendly policies, such as the right for parents of children under six to request flexible working, parental and paternity leave and improved maternity rights. They will also have access to fair discipline and grievance procedures and may not be discriminated against on grounds of age, disability, religion or sexual orientation, or because they are part-time or fixed term workers.

19. Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on changes to employment rights between 1997 and 2007. [83621]

Alan Johnson: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given today to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies).

Small Businesses

15. Angela Watkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many small business start-ups there were in the last quarter of 2001. [83616]

Nigel Griffiths: Official data for the whole of the calendar year 2001 show that there were 175,455 VAT registrations in the UK. There is no comparable data on a quarterly basis. VAT start-up data are not collected by size of businesses.

DRAX Power Station

16. Mr. Illsley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, if she will make a statement on the future viability of DRAX Power Station. [83617]

Mr. Wilson: The viability of Drax Power Station is a commercial matter for the operators of that station, its customers and, if the security of electricity supply is concerned, the National Grid Company.

Business Taxes

17. Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made on the impact of business taxes on companies' decisions to locate in the UK. [83619]

Alan Johnson: .According to the OECD, the UK has one of the lowest total tax burdens in the EU—far lower than the EU average. This has no doubt been an important factor in enabling the UK to take first place for share of EU total inward investment in 2001.

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Small Business Sector

18. Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the prospects for the small business sector. [83620]

Nigel Griffiths: Small businesses play a vital role in the UK economy, contributing around £1 trillion each year. They provide new ideas, products and services and, most significantly, jobs. There are 3.7 million UK businesses and on average 998 of every 1,000 of them are small or medium sized.

Prospects for the sector are encouraging, for example:


Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her policy on the small business sector. [83626]

Nigel Griffiths: The aim is to accelerate the drive towards ensuring the UK is, by 2005, the best place to start and grow a business and where:


Following DTI's recent cross-cutting review of business support, SBS' role has been re-focussed and enhanced, in particular it will:


SBS has developed a new framework for policy towards small business, which is based upon the key drivers for economic growth—improved productivity and a wider involvement in enterprise for all.

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The framework is built around seven themes, SBS is working with all its partners to build these into seven national strategies, which are:



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