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18 Dec 2003 : Column 1038W—continued

Water Bills

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average household water bill was in (a) England and (b) each English region in each financial year since 1996–97. [142272]

Mr. Morley: Water bills and sewerage bills are set separately by each water and sewerage company and water company in England and Wales. The boundaries of these companies do not conform to the boundaries between England and Wales nor to the boundaries between English regions. It is therefore not possible to provide the information on exactly the basis sought.

The average household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales in each financial year since 1996–97 are set out as follows.


Average household water billAverage household sewerage bill

The following tables set out average water bills and average sewerage bills for each company in England and Wales for the same period.

Average household water bill

Water and sewerage companies
Dwr Cymru128135136134126123124122
North West9399101103103107109118
Essex and Suffolk116120127129107112111113
Severn Trent8897105113106108108112
South West127129125119109110115121
Water only companies
Bournemouth and W. Hampshire94971031029998101102
Dee Valley120107106104106
Folkestone and Dover114118116117118125125135
Mid Kent131135141146117123127128
South East118114121126
South East156155158159
Mid Southern114115116120
South Staffs7578818584868689
Sutton and East Surrey136135139134112120121126
Tendring Hundred149150152151137142146153
Three Valleys107112117124106111112116
North Surrey108112123126109111103110

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Average household sewerage bill

Dwr Cymru136146158166140147152155
North West109122133143119122113116
Severn Trent1061121171159295211221
South West202213229237205203152159

The above companies also provide sewerage services to water only companies.


Give as You Earn Scheme

John Barrett: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission how many and what percentage of House of Commons staff contribute to a charity through the Give as You Earn scheme; how much money is donated to charity per month by staff through the scheme; and what steps the Commission is taking to encourage greater participation in the scheme by staff. [143909]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: 59 members of staff currently contribute to charity under the Give as You Earn scheme. This represents 3.6 per cent. of permanent staff on the payroll. The amount contributed in November was £1,467.13. The Board of Management encourages charitable giving, and details of how to contribute through GAYE are set out in the staff handbook. The last significant promotional activity was in 1999–2000 when the Charities Aid Foundation visited staff to encourage them to take up GAYE.


Equal Pay

John Barrett: To ask the Minister for Women what action she has taken to support women to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace; and if she will make a statement. [142610]

Ms Hewitt: The Government is taking action to make it easier for women who have been discriminated against to take up equal pay cases with their employers. This includes the introduction of a questionnaire procedure that will help resolve matters in the workplace and measures to simplify and speed up equal pay tribunal

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procedures. The equal pay questionnaire came into effect on 6 April 2003 and enables individuals to request key information from their employers right at the start when they are deciding whether to bring a case. The frequent lack of transparency on pay has helped perpetuate the gender pay gap. The questionnaire will help individuals, often women, to establish whether they actually are being paid less than their comparators and, if so, why. Establishing the key facts quickly could encourage the issues to be settled without resort to tribunal, benefiting both employers and employees. We are looking at further ways to speed up and simplify complex equal value cases and will be consulting on proposals shortly. The Government also believes that carrying out an equal pay review should be good business practice for every employer and has developed a number of initiatives to help them, including funding the Equal Opportunities Commission to develop equal pay tool kits.

John Barrett: To ask the Minister for Women what discussions she has had with trade unions regarding the formulation of a development plan to tackle gender pay discrimination in the workplace. [142611]

Ms Hewitt: As a Government, we are committed to working in partnership with the trade union movement and others to tackle the barriers facing women in the workplace and reduce the gender pay gap. We provided additional funding of £151,867 (on top of an initial £145,000) to trade unions, for training representatives in equal pay issues in the workplace. The trade unions were fully consulted on the pay reviews of Civil Service Departments and supported the comprehensive guidance issued by the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office continues to have an open dialogue with the trades unions on progress across the Civil Service. We have a target that the Government will work with businesses and trade unions, the Equal Opportunities Commission and Opportunity Now towards ensuring that 35 per cent of large organisations have done pay reviews by 2006. We have provided the EOC with funds to take a sectoral approach to promoting equal pay reviews. We are also promoting pay reviews through the

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Castle Awards, now incorporated in the 100 Best Companies To Work For, to recognise steps taken by employers of all sizes and in all sectors to promote equality of opportunity between men and women and to address the issues of pay inequality.


Business Investment

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to what she attributes the percentage change in business investment during 2002. [143426]

Ms Hewitt: Business investment fell by 3.5 per cent. in 2002, following a combined 32 per cent. rise between 1997 and 2001. A number of investments planned for 2002 were deferred. The unexpected severity of the global economic slowdown in 2001 and added uncertainty in 2002 impacted on investment and business confidence across industrialised countries.

Business investment is forecast to have grown by ¾ per cent. in 2003, with growth accelerating to be at least 3 per cent. in 2004 and 5½ per cent. in 2005.

Call Centres

Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many call centre jobs have been lost in the UK in the last six months. [143372]

Ms Hewitt: I refer to the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) on 20 November, Official Report, column 1438W. The Government does not have statistics on the numbers of jobs outsourced abroad. Importantly, estimates such jobs take no account of the inflows of jobs created through the UK's success in international markets.

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