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4 Feb 2003 : Column 178W—continued

Business Links

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the charging policies are of each sub-regional Business Links organisation in the West Midlands in respect of processing applications from SMEs under the Accelerated Programme; and what guidance is given by her Department to sub-regional Business Links organisations with respect to charges to SMEs wishing to use the Small Business Service. [94770]

Nigel Griffiths: West Midland Business Link Operators deliver two elements of the Accelerate Programme. An initial diagnostic review, bench marker analysis, and if appropriate a strategic action plan. In five of the six West Midlands sub regions SME's are not charged for this element, the Business Link Operator for Herefordshire and Worcestershire charge £350 if an action plan is required. The second element comprises a business development project typically requiring 20–30 days of specialist consultancy. SME's are charged 50 per cent. of the consultancy cost. Three Business Link Operators also charge a project management fee of between 5–8 per cent. of total project costs. Staffordshire, Shropshire and Coventry and Warwickshire BLO's do not charge a project management fee.

4 Feb 2003 : Column 179W

The contractual agreement between the Small Business Service and Business Link Operators specifies that the Business Link Operators agree fees with the customer prior to delivery of services.

Employment Agencies

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will lay before Parliament the final draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations; and if she will make a statement. [94713]

Alan Johnson: I am currently considering the representations received during the last consultation exercise on our proposals for the draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations and also the implications of the proposed EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers. I shall lay draft Conduct Regulations before Parliament as soon as possible.

Industrial Action (Post Office)

Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many days were lost through industrial action in the Post Office in the last 10 years. [95145]

Mr. Timms: I am advised by Royal Mail that the number of working days lost through industrial action in each of the last 10 years and in the current financial year is as follows:

Year at financial year ends (end March)Number of days lost
2002–03 (to December)5,253

Special Advisers/Press Officers

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) special advisers and (b) press officers have been employed by her Department in each year from 1994–95 to 2002–03; and at what cost in each year. [92472]

Ms Hewitt : In relation to Special Advisers I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in the Cabinet Office on 31 January, Official Report, column 1057W.

In relation to the Press Officers the answer is as follows:

Number ofPress officersPress office operating costs
1 January 1995(3)(3)
1 January 1996(3)(3)
1 January 199720(3)
1 January 199817(3)
1 January 199924(3)
1 January 200025(3)
1 January 200123£1.9 million (2000–01)
1 January 200223£1.7 million (2001–02)
1 January 200323(3)

(3) Not available

4 Feb 2003 : Column 180W

Figures for earlier years are not readily available.


Food Additives

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the balance of trade in (a) food colourings and (b) approved food additives was in the most recent year for which figures are available. [92337]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 21 January 2003]: I have been asked to reply The Department does not collect statistics on the value of the market and trade for these items.

Inheritance Tax

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the percentage of estates that are liable for inheritance tax in (a) the UK, (b) the South East of England region, (c) Hampshire and (d) the Aldershot constituency. [95014]

Dawn Primarolo: It is estimated that about 4 per cent. of estates will pay inheritance tax in the UK in 2002–03. Figures for regions and sub regions are not available for the South East (excluding London) the figure is likely to be about double this. Estimates are not available for Hampshire or Aldershot.

Inland Revenue (Liabilities)

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what total additional liabilities accrued in 2001–02 as a result of the units that previously formed the Financial Intermediaries and Claims Office of the Inland Revenue; and if he will make a statement. [94878]

John Healey: The information is not available. From April 2001, as part of the Inland Revenue's modernising programme, the former Financial Intermediaries and Claims Office and other specialist singleton offices were reorganised into six business streams: Capital Taxes; Centre for Non Residents; Charities; Savings, Pensions, Share Schemes; Stamp Taxes; and Trusts. These business streams have been created to deliver better customer focus through end to end policy and operational delivery.

Further details, including results for 2001–02, are set out in the Inland Revenue Annual Report, a copy of which is available in the House of Commons Library.


Richard Burden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action is being taken by HM Customs and Excise and other enforcement agencies to monitor

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and prevent the import, under preference, of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements but labelled as made in Israel. [94767]

John Healey: The European Commission published in November 2001 a notice in the Official Journal of the European Communities, alerting EC importers of the ineligibility of products originating from settlements in the occupied territories for preferences provided for by the EU/lsrael Association Agreement. Along with customs authorities in other Community member states, Customs and Excise are selecting for verification those imports where preference has been claimed under the terms of the Agreement but where there is evidence that the goods are likely to have been produced in the Occupied Territories. Security for duty is being taken on such imports while verification enquiries are undertaken. Customs require payment of duty if they do not receive adequate confirmation that goods originated in Israel itself.

National Insurance

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the level of uncollected national insurance was in the latest year for which data are available; and if he will make a statement. [94874]

John Healey : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Paymaster General's answer of 20 November 2002, which contains the latest published information, Official Report, column 192W.

The comparable figure for 2001–02 will be published in the National Insurance Fund Accounts in spring 2003.

Office for National Statistics

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he plans to privatise the Office for National Statistics; and if he will make a statement. [91703]

Ruth Kelly: There are no plans to privatise the Office for National Statistics.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the annual cost to the Office for National Statistics of the lease of the Drummond Gate offices; and if he will make a statement. [95380]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to David Laws, dated 4 February 2003:

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