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16 Dec 2002 : Column 541W—continued

Royal Mail Group

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much net profit was made by the Royal Mail Group in each year since 1990. [86446]

Ms Hewitt: The profit after tax for Royal Mail Group for each year since financial year 1989–90 is set out in the following table.

YearProfit (Loss) after Tax (# million)

Rural Post Offices

Mr. Yeo : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) of 2 December 2002, Official Report, column 518W, on the rural post office network, how much of the #450 million that will be made available for rural post offices from 2003–06 is paid out of funds derived from past profits made by the Royal Mail group and its predecessors. [86501]

Ms Hewitt: In line with my statement on 2 December, #450 million of Government money will be made available from #1.8 billion of gilts which Royal Mail group hold on behalf of Government. The gilts represent accumulated past dividends and cash generated by the business.

Unlike previous Governments we have decided to release these funds for investment, including in the post office network.

Science and Engineering Base

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made towards the target set in 1998 for the period 1999–2002, to improve the overall international ranking of the science and engineering base in terms of (a) quality, (b) relevance and (c) cost-effectiveness. [83594]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 26 November 2002]: The quality of the science and engineering base is currently measured by the UK's world ranking in terms of citations of published papers. Over the period

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1981–2000 the UK received a 9.1 per cent. share of the citations in the international Science Citation Index which placed the UK second overall to the USA.

Relevance is measured by the UK's world ranking in terms of the proportion of Higher Education Institute funding from non-governmental sources. For the latest year (1999), the UK's ranking was first among the G7 countries.

Cost effectiveness is measured by the UK's world ranking in terms of the number of papers published per #1 million of public expenditure on science. In 1990, 1993, 1996 and 2000, the most recent year in which the measurement was made, the UK was the leading country in the G7.


Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what consideration has been given to the request for the Irish Radiological Protection Institute to be given access to the BNFL plant at Sellafield parallel to that already given to the UN International Atomic Agency. [86015]

Mr. Wilson: The regulation of activities at the Sellafield site is a matter solely for the relevant competent UK authorities acting under regulatory powers granted to them under relevant UK law. The UK would not afford a right of access to plants at Sellafield to an interested foreign organisation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has the right to make inspections by approved IAEA safeguards inspectors in accordance with the provisions of the UK's safeguards agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community and the IAEA.

Telephone Conversations

Mr. Yeo : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the (a) dates and (b) purpose of (i) meetings and (ii) telephone conversations between Ministers in her Department and (A) the chairman and (B) the chief executive of the Royal Mail group or its predecessors since 8 June 2001. [86449]

Ms Hewitt: As shareholder of Royal Mail Holdings plc, I have had numerous conversations on the telephone and in person, mainly with the chairman, Allan Leighton, during this period. We discussed a wide range of issues affecting the company, including the company's performance, the renewal plans and the finance package for the company.

Urban Reinvention

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the list of proposed post office closures, as part of the Urban Reinvention programme, will be announced. [87175]

Mr. Timms: Post Office Ltd. do not have a predetermined list of offices which will close under their urban reinvention programme, nor is there any arithmetical formula which will determine the number of closures in any given area.

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Proposals for closures under the programme will be determined by how many offices are close to each other in the area, the current and projected business volumes and whether individual sub-postmasters have indicated that they want to leave the network. Factors of high importance to customers will also be carefully considered. These include the proximity and convenience of access of other branches, public transport links, facilities for the disabled and the ability of other branches to absorb the work without detriment to service. Before any changes are made, a formal consultation process will be carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice on Post Office Closures, with local communities, interest groups, councillors and MPs. In every instance there will also be extensive consultation with the consumer body, Postwatch.

Wind Farms

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what discussions her Department has had with the British Wind Energy Association about radar interference and wind farms; [86631]

Mr. Wilson: The Wind Energy, Defence and Civil Aviation Interest Working Group, which was set up and is chaired by the Department, provides a forum for addressing the effect of wind turbines on defence and civil aviation activities including their impact on radar functioning. The membership of the of the working group covers a wide range of stakeholders including the British Wind Energy Association, the Ministry of Defence, the Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services. The latter two organisations have an interest in ensuring that wind farms do not compromise the safety of civil aviation operations including radar functioning.

In October the working group produced interim guidelines on wind energy and aviation interest which provide guidance to wind farm developers on a range of issuesincluding the location of turbines in the vicinity of radar installations. Copies of the document are being deposited in the Libraries of the House. The guidelines are part of the programme of work outlined in the reply to the answer given to my hon. Friend on 11 December 2002, Official Report, column 329W.


Business Start-Up Strategy

Lady Hermon : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken to implement the new business start up strategy. [86475]

Mr. Pearson: A draft Business Birth Rate strategy is being finalised by Invest Northern Ireland and will be issued for public consultation in January 2003. On completion of this consultation process a detailed implementation plan will be put into effect.

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Clean Air

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consultation with the business sector was undertaken by the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland with regard to the regulatory framework concerning clean air under the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002. [87303]

Angela Smith: The Department carried out a full consultation exercise with various interested parties, which included Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, Translink, Freight Transport Association, Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Road Haulage Association. The consultation document was also advertised in local newspapers and published on the Departments website. No concerns were raised by the business sector.


David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what controls there will be on the powers of authorised officers regarding their authority to enter residential premises under the provisions of the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002. [87302]

Angela Smith: The purpose of Part II of the Order is to minimise or reduce the pollution caused by emissions from industrial installations. The powers of entry provided for by this Part will be exercisable only in respect of such installations. In practice, they are not expected to have any application to residential premises except in the unlikely event that relevant industrial activities are carried out on such premises.

Part III of the Order deals with local air quality management and makes provision for only authorised persons to enter any premises used for residential purposes. Such persons must be authorised by an enforcing authority, ie, the Department of the Environment or a district council. In addition, entry onto residential premises must be either with the consent of a person who occupies the premises or under the authority of a warrant issued by a Justice of the Peace. These provisions are similar to those in other existing Northern Ireland environmental legislation, and are necessary to fulfil the required functions in Part III of the Order.

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what protection will be afforded to owners of property in lands adjacent to areas of special scientific interest under the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002. [87304]

Angela Smith: The provisions relating to Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) within the Environment (NI) Order do not impose any restrictions on land which lies adjacent to an existing ASSI. There is therefore no requirement to afford protection to the owners or occupiers of such land.

Article 43 of the Order will enable the Department to enter into an agreement with the owner or occupier of land which is adjacent to an ASSI in order to conserve or enhance its wildlife interests. Such agreements are entirely voluntary. A similar power already exists in relation to ASSIs in Article 9 of the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order (NI) 1985.

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Article 30 of the Environment Order enables the Department to increase the area of an ASSI. This power will be subject to similar requirements to those applying for new ASSI declarations, including arrangements for representations or objections to be made.

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