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8 Jan 2004 : Column 441W—continued

Police Merger

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether she expects that the merger between the Metropolitan Police Service and the Royal Parks Constabulary will be completed in April 2004; and if she will make a statement. [144900]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 6 January 2004]: Merger of the two police forces will require primary legislation which will be introduced at the earliest opportunity but will not be in place by 1 April 2004. The Department is

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working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service to ensure that effective policing of the Royal Parks is maintained until Parliament has approved the merger proposals.

Television Subtitling

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps the Government are taking to encourage an increase in the provision of subtitling on television. [145580]

Estelle Morris: The Communications Act 2003 has strengthened the requirements for subtitling on television. The Act sets subtitling targets of 90 per cent. of programmes on Channels 3 and 4, and 80 per cent. of programmes on all other channels, by the tenth anniversary of the start of the service. The Act also introduces a fixed, five-year interim target of 60 per cent. for subtitling, to accelerate progress during the early years. Under the Act, these requirements have been extended to digital cable and satellite broadcasters for the first time.

Tourism

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much funding (a) VisitBritain, (b) the Scottish Tourist Office and (c) the Welsh Tourist Office will receive in 2003–04. [145588]

Mr. Caborn: For 2003–04, VisitBritain has been allocated £45.9 million in baseline grant-in-aid by my Department, VisitScotland has been allocated £29.1 million in baseline grant in aid by the Scottish Executive and the Wales Tourist Board has been allocated £22.2 million in baseline grant in aid by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much of VisitBritain's funding is spent solely on English tourism. [145589]

Mr. Caborn: £10.4 million is available to VisitBritain in 2003–04 for the domestic marketing of England. £35.5 million is available in 2003–04 for the overseas promotion of Britain (including England) as a tourist destination.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Regional Development Agencies

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures are in place to ensure that regional development agencies share best practice. [146079]

Jacqui Smith: The Government believe that much added value can be gained from Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) sharing best practice. One of the measures of RDA performance is an assessment of how effective each RDA has been in working with other RDAs across regional boundaries and sharing innovation and best practice with each other.

Examples of the sharing of best practice include regular meetings between RDA Chairs. In addition, the RDAs nominated as "in the lead" for particular issues

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are also important catalysts for sharing best practice. These lead RDAs establish new networks of contacts on particular subjects that enable the efficient sharing of information.

British Energy

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much additional funding she intends to make available to British Energy as part of the credit facility to the company outlined in her written statement of 14 October; and if she will make a statement. [141540]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 2 December 2003]: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement made my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 1 December 2003, Official Report, columns 50–51WS.

Consumer Credit

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether she intends to bring forward primary legislation to tackle loan sharks, as outlined in the White Paper, "Fair, Clear and Competitive: A Consumer Credit Market for the 21st Century". [146144]

Mr. Sutcliffe: My Department is bringing forward a package of legislative proposals—requiring both primary and secondary legislation—to reform the consumer credit market in the UK. Tackling loan sharks is a key part of this package. We have announced a project concerned with hunting loan sharks, though this relies on existing legislative provision. Primary legislation will be used to address the licensing regime for consumer credit providers; time orders; unfair credit transactions and the provision of alternative dispute resolution for consumer credit disputes. Legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time permits.

Cross-border Mergers

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impact that the 10th Company Law Directive on cross-border mergers will have on management of United Kingdom companies. [146148]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Commission proposal for a 10th Company Law Directive on cross-border mergers was published on 18 November 2003. My officials met City and business representatives and had other informal contacts with interested parties during December in order to assess the likely impact of the Directive on UK companies, including as regards their management.

On the basis of these discussions, and internal departmental consideration, an initial Regulatory Impact Assessment on the anticipated costs and benefits of the Commission proposal was prepared alongside the Explanatory Memorandum (153305/03) submitted to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees on 15 December 2003 and is available in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Employment Relations

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effect of the 8-week rule on (a) employers and (b) employees; and if she will make it her policy to abolish it. [146177]

Mr. Sutcliffe: During the recent review of the Employment Relations Act 1999, the Government looked closely at the operation of protections from dismissal for employees taking lawfully organised official industrial action. The conclusion of that review, as set out in the response to consultation published last month, is that the 8-week rule should be retained and that the Employment Relations Bill will introduce improvements to the existing protections. These changes are designed to ensure, firstly, that days where employees are 'locked-out' during official industrial action are disregarded in calculating the 8-week period; and secondly that the procedural steps employers and employees must take under the statute to attempt to resolve a dispute are clear.

Information and Communications Technology

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the proportion of employees in the UK information and communication technology sector who are (a) nationals of countries outside the UK and (b) nationals of countries outside the EU. [146136]

Mr. Timms: The information is not available.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people have been employed in the information and communication technology sector in each year since 1997. [146137]

Mr. Timms: The figures for the UK, in thousands, are as follows; the latest year for which information is available is 2001.

Number (Thousand)
1997n/a
19981,216
19991,291
20001,376
20011,420

n/a = Not available.

Source:

National Statistics (Annual Business Inquiry).


Internet Usage

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impact that a lack of trust in security has on use of the internet in the UK. [146139]

Mr. Timms: We have long known that users' trust and confidence in the internet would impact on its uptake. This was recognised in the September 1999 report from the Performance and Innovation Unit, "e-commerce@its.best.uk" which identified trust as one of the three pillars which would support the adoption of the internet in the UK. Studies into consumer behaviour in 2001 and 2002 ("Informing Consumers About e-commerce" and "Internet and Cross Border Shopping") showed that the perception of credit card

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fraud was a significant concern to on-line consumers. That said, on-line shopping represented 6 per cent. of all UK retail in 2002, and was set to grow to £14 billion in 2003 as part of a continuing growth in use of the internet throughout the economy. Our latest study—the "International Benchmarking Study" published by DTI in November 2003—showed that the impact of a lack of confidence on internet usage appears to be receding. It was also noted that security and trust were seen as less of a barrier to internet usage by UK business than was the case in previous benchmarking studies.


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