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18 Dec 2003 : Column 1045Wcontinued
Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total cost to UK businesses was of industrial tribunal cases concerned with (a) disability, (b) sex and (c) race discrimination in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The Department does not hold statistics on the costs to employers of having an Employment Tribunal claim made against them under the main jurisdictions of disability, sex and race discrimination in each of the last five years.
However, the estimated average cost per Employment Tribunal application to employers for all jurisdictions, including legal fees, management time and other staff time, is about £2,000. Not all applications registered will lead to a Tribunal hearing. The table below shows the number of claims each year by the main jurisdictions of disability, sex and race discrimination, each multiplied by £2,000 to give the estimated costs to employers, rounded to two significant figures.
Ms Hewitt: Although most of the main reconstruction work in Iraq will be done by large contractors, there will be opportunities for small businesses in the supply chain, sub-contracting, and in the provision of equipment and specialist services. My Department is helping UK firms make the necessary contacts in Iraq through networking events in neighbouring countries and the provision of project information.
Jacqui Smith: MG Rover Group was sold in May 2000 to Techtronic (2000) Ltd. This company was later acquired by Phoenix Venture Holdings Ltd. Since May 2000, MG Rover has been offered public assistance of up to £9 million towards the cost of employee training and development. As of 1 December 2003, MG Rover
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had drawn down £3,512,211 which represents 39.7 per cent. of the total sum spent by the company under this programme.
Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many full and final settlements have been made to former miners suffering from (a) chronic bronchitis emphysema and (b) vibration white finger which total less than £2,143. 
|Number of claims settled by full and final payment of less than £2,143 as of 7 December 2003|
|Vibration White Finger||4,617|
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if her Department will examine the cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and vibration white finger claimants who entered into conditional fee agreements with solicitors prior to the April 2000 law change and have recently been charged success fees that reflect 25 per cent. of their awards; and what steps she is taking to ensure that solicitors do not double-charge by claiming success fees from both the defendant and the claimant. 
Nigel Griffiths: Officials from the DTI met with officials from the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Law Society on 11 December to discuss what action should be taken to address the concerns raised regarding agreements signed by claimants under the coal health compensation schemes. The Law Society have agreed to refer the matter to the next meeting of the their Compliance Board on 13 January. In the meantime I have written to all the solicitors and claims handlers who are processing claims under the health schemes asking them to re-pay any money taken from claimants' compensation on top of the costs paid by the DTI.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking in relation to (a) solicitors who additionally charge their clients for undertaking their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and vibration white finger claims and (b) the recovery of money paid by such claimants to their solicitors. 
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Mr. Timms: Under the terms of the Government's Guarantee arrangements for the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme and the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme, 50 per cent. of past investment surpluses were available for the Trustees to distribute to members as improved benefits. This has meant members now receive bonuses totalling around 30 per cent. on top of their guaranteed benefits.
Ms Hewitt: NERC allocates research funding after assessment of individual project proposals received from institutions eligible for funding. Their three-stage review process consists of: an Initial Review by the Peer Review College; an External Review by independent peer reviewers; and a final review and grading by a Moderating Panel.
At each stage, project proposals are assessed for Excellence; Fit to NERC Priorities; balance of Risk-Reward; and Cost Effectiveness. Details of the review process, assessment criteria and how they are applied to various categories of research proposals are set out on NERC's website at http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/preaward/criteria.shtml. Allocations are not made on a simple university basis.
NERC determines the allocation of postgraduate studentships given to a department on the basis of NERC grant income and fellowships received by that department, provided the RAE rating of the department is not lower than 3b.
MSc studentship allocations are reviewed every five years to assess the quality of the course, how it fits with NERC priorities and the overall balance within the NERC portfolio, and the relevance and/or benefits to end-users.
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Fellowships are awarded after assessment against criteria which consider primarily the excellence of the science and the track record and potential of the individual. The assessors also consider the availability of required facilities at the proposed department of tenure.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impact of the Network Reinvention Programme on the Post Office network in North Yorkshire. 
Post Office Ltd. (POL) is committed to ensuring that at the end of the programme nationally 95 per cent. of the urban population will still live within a mile of their nearest post office and the majority within half a mile.
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