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7 Jan 2003 : Column 153Wcontinued
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the admissibility of state aid to the power generation industry under EU regulations; and what recent consultations she has had on this issue. 
Ms Hewitt [holding answer 19 December 2002]: State aid may be paid to the power generation industry, subject to commission approval and consistency with the terms of the EC treaty, under a number of horizontal frameworks and guidelines. These include the community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty. My ministerial colleagues and I have been in contact with the European Commission and others about the rescue aid recently granted to British Energy, which was approved by the commission on 27 November.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research has been conducted by her Department into the relationship between expenditure on research and development and productivity. 
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Ms Hewitt [holding answer 17 December 2002]: My Department undertakes some studies into the factors affecting business innovation, including industrial and public research and development and its effects on productivity. Some examples can be found on a DTI economists' Website www.dti.gov.uk/iese. We also keep in close touch with the large amount of academic research on the links between R&D and GDP growth and productivity. Some of this material was summarised in the joint DTI/Treasury./DfES publication Investing in Innovation, pages 1112. Available at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk .
Alan Johnson: A key part of the RDAs' role is to ensure there is appropriate business support in their regions to support the regional economic strategies which the RDAs have developed and are implementing, working with regional and local partners closely.
Information on what the RDAs are doing is available in the regional economic strategies, which can be accessed on the RDAs' website (via www.rdauk.org) and in the RDAs' corporate plans. The corporate plans for 200306 will be available in the Libraries of the House in the spring.
Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many retired mineworkers have received a lump sum payment as compensation for low level payments from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme; and how many were from the Forest of Dean coalfield. 
Mr. Timms: To date over #56.9 million has been paid to 42,500 MPS members on the lowest pensions who left British Coal before or shortly after 1975. 57 members with postcodes in the area of the Forest of Dean have been paid.
Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many retired mineworkers from the Forest of Dean coalfield have been turned down for the compensatory lump sum payment to the Mineworkers Pension Scheme. 
Mr. Timms: The Scheme to help those MPS members on the lowest pensions who left British Coal before or shortly after 1975 does not operate on the basis of applications. MPS members who are identified by DTI's agents, Paymaster, as meeting the Scheme's criteria
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are automatically sent the appropriate sum. While Paymaster, and my Department, both receive enquiries from MPS members about eligibility, no records are kept of the addresses of those advised they are ineligible.
Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to assist those retired mineworkers from the Forest of Dean coalfield who are not eligible for the lump sum payment as compensation for the Mineworkers Pension Scheme owing to them not fulfilling the criteria of being in the scheme for five years from April 1961 
Mr. Timms: The intention of the scheme to help those MPS members on the lowest pensions who left British Coal before or shortly after 1975 is to address the problem of retired mineworkers who receive very low pensions in spite of lengthy service in the industry. For this reason, mineworkers with less than five years contributory service were excluded. For most MPS members, service prior to April 1961 is not included because they opted to take a refund of contributions with respect to that service, although service prior to April 1961 is counted in the cases of those who chose not to exercise that option. We have no plans to revisit these criteria.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the Post Office's (a) proposal to move to a single mail delivery and (b) decision to cancel late collections from city centre post boxes. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 19 December 2002]: These are matters that fall within the day-to-day responsibility of Royal Mail Group plc and I have therefore asked the chairman to reply direct to the hon. Member.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimates she has made of the number of people employed in small retail businesses in (a) the UK, (b) Lancashire, (c) the north west and (d) Wales. [88646R]
Data are available for the north west and Wales at the start of 1999 but only at a greater aggregation that includes wholesale, repairs, retail, hotels and restaurants. There were 361,000 people employed in small businesses classified to these sectors in the north west and 141,000 in Wales.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people have applied for a grant to aid the installation of solar panelling for their domestic electricity; and how much money has been set aside for this purpose. 
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Mr. Wilson: Under the #20 million major demonstration programme, 126 small-scale applications had been received by the end of November 2002. Of these, 25 had been completed, a further 79 had a grant offered, nine were on hold, eight had been withdrawn and five rejected. Total grants (which represent 50 per cent of the total cost of the PV systems) to date is around #860,000.
Mr. Wilson: The #20 million first phase of the Major Photovoltaic Demonstration Programme has already received publicity through newspaper and magazine articles and in items on TV and radio. The Programme Management Contractor is promoting the programme through thousands of flyers and fact sheets, and at seminars, conferences and exhibitions, and a number of PV suppliers and installers are doing their own promotion on the back of the programme. We will continually review the marketing of the programme, particularly to geographical areas and sectors which show a poor level of take-up.
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria are being used to decide which large scale project bids under Stream 2 of her Department's solar PV major demonstration programme receive capital grant funding. 
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will begin the process of determining whether phase one of the solar PV major demonstration programme has been a success. 
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Telecommunications Council held in Brussels on 5 December: what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. 
There was a policy debate on the situation in the telecommunications sector in Europe, and the Council adopted conclusions which emphasised the importance of developing content, services and applications for the information society, and the widespread availability and use of broadband networks, using a multi-platform approach as set out in the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. The conclusions also underlined the importance of implementation of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications, and agreed that intervention in the form of state aid was not the way
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forward. In particular, the Council emphasised the importance of placing the information society and the telecommunications sector high on the agenda of the Spring European Council, and invited the Commission to report on these subjects in due time beforehand and if necessary put forward appropriate proposals.
There was also adoption of two resolutions: one on the implementation (including the benchmarking) of the eEurope Action Plan 2005; and another on promoting a culture of network and information security. Council conclusions were also adopted on eSkills. There was also an agreement on a general approach, without the need for a vote, towards the MODINIS programme which helps fund the implementation of the eEurope Action Plan 2005, and work on network security. Regarding the dti Department of Trade and Industry Commission's proposal for a Directive on the re-use and commercial exploitation of public sector information, the presidency concluded that a common position is likely to be adopted at the March Council following adoption of an opinion by the European Parliament.
The Commission also gave a short presentation on its eighth report on the implementation of the current regulatory framework for telecommunications which reiterated the importance of timely, effective and coherent implementation of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications. The Commission also reported progress on its work on open platforms for digital television and 3G mobile, and on electronic identification and authentication systems in e-commerce, on which public hearings are expected in the New Year.
On the reform of ICANN, the private sector company based in the United States that manages the Internet domain name system, the Commission gave an update on the positive progress towards successful reform achieved at the latest ICANN reform negotiations which took place in Shanghai in October.
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