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25 Feb 2003 : Column 415W—continued

Grant Allocations

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many solar installations have been completed as a result of the grants made available by her Department; what has been the average cost of these installations to (a) her Department and (b) the recipient of the grant; and what carbon dioxide savings are expected as a result of these installations. [98669]

Mr. Wilson: By grants for solar installations we assume it is meant the £20 million First Phase of the Major Photovoltaics Demonstration Programme, which was launched by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 26 March 2002.

Under Stream 1 of the programme (small individual systems up to 5kWp), 171 applications had been received by the middle of February 2003, of which 45 had been completed. The average cost of these installations to both Government and the recipient is £7,241, as the grants cover 50 per cent. of total costs. Most of the recipients are private homeowners, but there are also a few small businesses, schools and community groups. For the 45 completed installations (average 2kWp), total carbon dioxide savings are expected to be in the region of 29,000 kg a year.

Under Stream 2 (medium and large-scale installations from 5 to 100kWp), 90 applications have been made, half of which have been supported, but none have so far been completed.

IT Contracts

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list IT contracts in her Department above £50 million in each of the last 10 years; what the inception date for each system was; when it became fully functional; when it became fully debugged; and what the cost of over-runs has been. [98999]

Ms Hewitt: The core Department has let one IT contract with a lifetime value of more than 50 million in the last 10 years. This is the ELGAR PFI contract for the provision of IT desktop, application support and development, and business re-engineering services.

The contract was awarded on 27 November 1998 and the initial service became operational on 31 March 1999, as planned. System Acceptance testing of the new desk top service was completed on 30 November 1999, and the system became fully functional on 31 March 2000. Following user acceptance testing, the system was accepted by the Department and the system was fully debugged by 15 July 2000.

There were no additional costs to the Department for over-runs on this migration.

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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the remedies to UK employees of multinationals who have been made redundant without the required (a) process of consultation, (b) notice, (c) definition of the criteria for selection for redundancy and (d) evidence that the post has become surplus to requirements. [98251]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 24 February 2003]: There is legislation in place to protect employees if they are affected by redundancy. Employees can seek redress through the employment tribunals or, in some cases, the civil courts.

(a) Consultation—Employers in the UK are under a statutory obligation to inform and consult employee representatives about proposed collective redundancies—that is, where they propose to make 20 or more redundancies at one establishment within a 90 day period. The consultation must be conducted in good faith, and must cover ways of avoiding the redundancies, or of reducing their numbers or mitigating their effects. Employee representatives may complain to an employment tribunal where they consider these obligations have not been fulfilled. The tribunal can make a protective award of up to 90 days' pay to each affected employee.

(b) Notice—depending on length of service both the employer and the employee are entitled to a minimum period of notice. Under the legislation this varies depending on how long the employee has been employed, from one week where he/she has been continuously employed for one month or more but less than two years, up to twelve weeks where continuously employed for 12 years or more. An individual employment contract may specify a longer period of notice. Employees who consider that they have incurred loss because they have not been given the minimum notice to which they are entitled under the legislation or under their contracts of employment, can bring actions for damages in the civil courts, or (if the employment has ended) in the employment tribunals.

(c) Criteria for selection— In, a collective redundancy case, the employer must disclose to employee representatives certain information in writing including the proposed method of selecting the employees who may be dismissed. Failure to do so is again enforceable through an employment tribunal.

(d) Redundancy is in principle, a fair reason for dismissal. However, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions, employees can complain of unfair dismissal through an employment tribunal if they believe that they have been unfairly selected for redundancy, that the employer otherwise acted unreasonably in dismissing them or that redundancy was not in fact the genuine reason for dismissal. The remedies available in a case where a tribunal finds in the employee's favour are reinstatement or re-engagement or a monetary award of compensation.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her assessment of the relative susceptibility to being made

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redundant of employees of multinationals operating within the EU of (a) British, (b) Dutch, (c) French and (d) other EU companies. [98252]

Alan Johnson: [holding answer 24 February 2003]: Job losses due to restructuring or plant closure are reported all over Europe and recent examples of this include Dresdner Bank, Siemens and Mobilcom in Germany, HP-Compaq and Bull in France, Lucent Technologies in the Netherlands, Fiat in Italy, Alcatel in Belgium, and Santander in Spain. In some cases these job losses are part of European or global restructuring programmes, for example, Alcatel, Ericsson and Nokia. UK firms, like those on the Continent, are subject to legislation implementing the EC Directive on Collective Redundancies designed to protect employees affected by redundancies. This requires consultation of employee representatives before collective redundancies can be made. Consultation must be undertaken in good faith with a view to reaching agreement, and must include ways of avoiding the dismissals, reducing the number of employees to be dismissed, and mitigating the consequences of the dismissals. The detailed rules vary from country to country, for example, some EU countries have more lengthy consultation periods than others. The law in the UK provides greater protection in certain respects than that in other Member States. For example, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden do not, unlike the UK, have a statutory requirement for severance pay. And UK law treats workers more equally in the event of redundancy than workers in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg where blue-collar workers receive lower levels of protection than white-collar workers. The system in the UK is relatively transparent and the costs involved for employers and the length of the process are predictable, unlike in many other EU countries. The Government believes that firms should not face excessive barriers to making redundancies that add to the uncertainty and time involved in what is a painful process. To do so could deter investment, and result in fewer jobs overall, not more.

Official Visits

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what official visits (a) the Minister for Science and (b) the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government have made in each of the last three years in their scientific role. [98966]

Ms Hewitt: My noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation and the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister have both undertaken a large number of visits to companies, universities and organisations in this country and overseas.

The overwhelming majority of these have been in their respective scientific capacities.

Recruitment Consultants

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the other appointments the recruitment consultants used in the appointment of the Director General of Ofgen have advised her on; and if she will make a statement. [86203]

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Mr. Wilson: Price WaterhouseCoopers were one of the firms of recruitment consultants retained by the Department on call-off contracts in 1998, and assisted in this particular recruitment. No central records are held on other appointments on which the firm may have assisted.

Royal Mail Investigation Branch

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the future of the powers of entry, search and arrest employed by the investigation branch of the Royal Mail. [97787]

Mr. Timms: Responsibility for enforcement policy for criminal offences under the Postal Services Act 2000 (the Act) is a matter for the Postal Services Commission (PostComm) who on 10 January 2003 published a decision document and statement of policy on these matters. Under the terms of its policy PostComm would look to Royal Mail to take the necessary enforcement action where offences are committed in relation to its postal services under Sections 83–88 of the Act.

Royal Mail is recognised by the Home Office as a non-police law enforcement body. They have no special powers to enter or search premises. Royal Mail investigators will only enter and search with the consent of the appropriate parties. Royal Mail investigators have the powers of arrest of a citizen as outlined in S24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; they have no enhanced rights to effect an arrest.

Royal Mail Group plc has no plans to seek any changes to the existing powers that apply to its investigators.

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