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Mr. Timms: None. What matters for the Post Office is attracting more customers, not whether they have a Post Office card account. Customers can now access a wide range of bank accounts at the post office and I hope that they choose to do so. The Department for Work and Pensions provides its customers with all the information that they need to choose the account into which they would like to have their benefits paid in future, including those accounts which provide post office access. The final choice of account is a matter of personal choice for each individual concerned. I understand that that as of 7 November 2003 more than 1 million Post Office card accounts had been opened.
Nigel Griffiths: The Phoenix Fund does not operate on the basis of allocations to regions or local authority areas. Rather, funds have been awarded to the best applications submitted in response to a number of bidding rounds.
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what role her Department has in the administrative arrangements for setting up a Post Office Card Account; and if she will meet the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters to discuss their concerns about other Government departments' approach to claimants using a post office to access their benefits. 
Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will publish the cross-departmental action plan for delivering improvements in government performance regarding the regulatory environment for small businesses. 
Nigel Griffiths: The plan for delivering improvements in the regulatory environment for small businesses will form a part of a broader cross-government action plan for small business to be published early in 2004. In addition, the government's Regulatory Reform Action Plan, to be published shortly by my hon. Friend, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, will contain a number of measures that will help small business.
Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many meetings the Chief Executive of the Small Business Service has had with Ministers in each Government Department in the last year. 
Nigel Griffiths: The Chief Executive of the Small Business Service meets Ministers in this and other Departments. As with other contacts between officials and Ministers, however, the frequency and nature of such advice however remains private, under Exemption 2Internal advice and discussion of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions the Chief Executive of the Small Business Service has made (a) direct representations to the Prime Minister and (b) held meetings with the Prime Minister in each year since the organisation came into operation. 
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Nigel Griffiths: The Chief Executive of the Small Business Service meets Ministers in this and other Departments. As with other contacts between officials, the Prime Minister and Ministers, however, the frequency and nature of such advice however remains private, under Exemption 2Internal advice and discussion of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
Nigel Griffiths: We are working with banks and Community Development Finance Institutions on the recommendations made in the Bank of England's report on access to finance for social enterprises, which was published in May 2003.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what penalties will be available against persistent disseminators of spam junk e-mail when new regulations come into force; 
(3) what steps she is taking to tackle spam e-mails. 
Mr. Timms: New regulatory controls on unsolicited direct marketing e-mails will come into force on 11 December this year. The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 introduce prior consent requirements for unsolicited direct marketing e-mails sent to individuals and a requirement for all direct marketing e-mails not to disguise or conceal the identity of the person on whose behalf they are sent, and not to be sent without a valid address for opt-out purposes. The new rules will be enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office, who will have powers to issue enforcement notices in cases of breaches of the rules. Breach of an enforcement notice is a criminal offence subject to a fine of up to £5,000 in a magistrate's court or an unlimited fine if the trial is before a jury. In addition, individuals or organisations who have suffered a loss or damage as a result of a failure to comply with the regulations will be entitled to seek compensation from the person responsible for the breach.
Junk e-mail is a global phenomenon, however, and the great majority of spam received by UK internet users comes from outside the European Union. The UK is active in international discussions on how to tackle the problem of cross-border spam both multilaterally (for example, in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), and bilaterally with the USA and other national governments.
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Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Government's guidelines on consultation have been followed in the case of the regulation of licensed taxi and private hire vehicle services in the UK; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The Office of Fair Trading published a report on the regulation of licensed taxis and private Hire vehicles on 11 November, making recommendations to the Government, which the Government is now considering. In coming to conclusions Government is listening to the views of stakeholders on the proposals put forward by OFT. However Government are not undertaking a consultation or endeavouring to repeat the work undertaken by the OFT in preparing its report. I am aware that Ministers responsible for transport policy have ensured that key stakeholders have been made aware that the OFT have published their report and indicated that they would prefer early feedback to inform their consideration of the report.
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