20 Mar 2003 : Column 863W

Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 20 March 2003


International Women's Day

23. Michael Fabricant : To ask the Minister for Women if she will make a statement on her Department's contribution to International Women's Day. [103903]

Ms Hewitt: As part of the celebrations for International Women's Day, the Women and Equality Unit launched an excellent pack for young people—"Does Sex Make a Difference", and I opened the International Women's Day adjournment debate in the House of Commons, and launched a special 50p coin to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the formation of the Women's Social and Political Union.

Student Debt

24. Mr. Rendel: To ask the Minister for Women what consultations the Minister has had with the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education regarding the different level of difficulty men and women have in repaying student debts. [103904]

Ms Hewitt : I have discussed with both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills and my hon. Friend the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education the issue of student debt, and its impact on women in particular.

Child Care

26. Linda Gilroy: To ask the Minister for Women what steps she is taking to support the development of child care as a business. [103906]

Ms Hewitt: Child care businesses, particularly micro-businesses and social enterprises, need support and skills training in order to be sustainable. We are working with DfES and DWP to improve links and support between Business Link Operators and child care business support officers to this end. A specific targeted programme of support, including provision of good practice, workshops, resource packs, a helpline and a website, is scheduled to start in May and run until March 2004.

Private Members' Clubs

27. Mr. Stunell: To ask the Minister for Women what plans she has to propose legislation against sex discrimination against women in private members' clubs. [103907]

Ms Hewitt : I welcome the Sex Discrimination (Clubs and Other Associations) Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) on 4 February 2003. There is no question that the

20 Mar 2003 : Column 864W

inequalities which persist in some mixed-sex clubs are out of date and contrary to this Government's principles of opportunity for all.

While I can make no commitment on parliamentary time, this is a matter which we will keep under review.


Small Businesses

11. Ms Julia Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to ensure that small businesses are encouraged to bid for public sector contracts. [103890]

Nigel Griffiths: Small firms make a vital contribution to the public sector. A survey of selected departments and agencies shows 50 per cent. of our contracts go to SMEs with a value of £730 million.

We have cut the requirement to provide three years accounts, to two years and I now want the requirement abolished to encourage start-ups and fledgling businesses.

And this new booklet "Smaller supplier—better value" supports our new web portal for small firms seeking Government contracts.

But there is much much more we can and must do.


12. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many representations she has received expressing a desire for stricter legislation on the use of fireworks. [103892]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Since the beginning of November 2002 I have received 2,078 representations indicating a desire to see tighter controls on fireworks. These comprise 1,588 letters from the general public, 476 letters from MPs, eight Petitions, and six meetings with representatives from various organisations interested in improving fireworks legislation.

Agency Workers Directive

13. Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received from businesses on the proposed temporary agency workers directive. [103893]

Alan Johnson: The Government held a public consultation on the proposed directive from 10 July 2002 to 18 November 2002. A summary of responses to the public consultation has been placed in the Library of the house, along with an Explanatory Memorandum and a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

World Trade

14. Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on current negotiations regarding TRIPS. [103894]

Ms Hewitt: The Government are disappointed that the WTO did not reach agreement on TRIPS and Public Health by the deadline of December last year.

20 Mar 2003 : Column 865W

The US was the only member of the WTO who could not accept the proposal on the table.

We will continue to work with all WTO members to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

18. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to achieve a world trade agreement in the interests of developing countries. [103898]

Ms Hewitt: We are committed to ensuring that the Doha Development Agenda delivers substantial benefits to all WTO members, especially developing countries.

In particular this means making substantial progress on agricultural liberalisation, TRIPS and Public Health and Special and Differential Treatment.

Halving protectionism, according to EU figures, would increase developing countries income by an estimated $150 billion per year—more than three times the world's current aid budgets.

Post Office

15. Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the implementation of the Post Office Urban Re-Invention Programme. [103895]

Mr. Timms: Following parliamentary approval in October, the programme is going ahead in accordance with the code of practice agreed with Postwatch. I met with Postwatch yesterday to assess their role in reviewing each urban sub-post office closure proposal.

Community Pharmacies

16. Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received relating to the Office of Fair Trading recommendations regarding community pharmacies. [103896]

Ms Hewitt: Stakeholders have been feeding in their views on the OFT's report, both through the appropriate health departments and to DTI directly.


17. Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to ensure that British industry plays a substantial role in reconstruction following a possible conflict in Iraq. [103897]

Ms Hewitt: We wish to see UK companies play a substantial role in the humanitarian and reconstruction process in Iraq. British firms have a wealth of experience in the Middle East. We have made this clear to USAID and will continue to discuss with British business how they can best contribute to the development of Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

Child Care

19. Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to increase child care provision by employers. [103899]

20 Mar 2003 : Column 866W

Alan Johnson: We recognise that employers play an important role in providing access to good quality, affordable child care. The Paymaster General launched a consultation in February on proposals to extend the tax and national insurance exemptions on employer supported child care. The tax and national insurance proposals aim to provide a better incentive for more employers to support a wider range of formal child care for all working parents, helping the growth and sustainability of child care provision.

In addition we will be looking at the results of the Work-Life Balance survey of employers to see what other support is needed to provide more child care provision by employers.

Ambition Construction Programme

Matthew Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to his answer of 3 March 2003, Official Report, column 808W, on house building, how many new deal clients have been (a) funded and (b) trained by the Ambition Construction programme in skilled jobs directly relevant to the house building profession in (i) 2001, (ii) 2002 and (iii) 2003 to the latest date for which figures are available. [102659]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I have been asked to reply.

In 2001, we launched the Ambition initiative to help unemployed and disadvantaged people gain the right skills to meet the needs of employers in key sectors such as construction.

Ambition: Construction has been operational since June 2002 with pilots currently running in six locations. Training is provided across the full range of building skills, including bricklaying, roofing, plastering, joinery, glazing and painting and decorating. The aim of this training is to provide participants with the skills they need for a wide variety of jobs in the construction industry, including house building.

By the end of February 2003, 420 people had started training on the programme. Most of the training courses on this programme last 26 weeks and so only 64 people have so far completed training. However, 54 of these have already started work.

Next Section Index Home Page