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20 Jan 2004 : Column 1165Wcontinued
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Nigerian Government concerning the burning down by Muslim extremists of churches and church-owned properties during November 2003 in the town of Kazaure, Jigawa state. 
Mr. Mullin: We are in close touch with the Nigerian authorities. We are concerned about the violence, which affected Muslims as well as Christians. The Jigawa State Government has said that it will take strong measures against the wrong-doers. Officials from the British High
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Commission in Abuja take every opportunity to emphasise to the States Governors that all criminal acts, including violence, should be dealt with by proper authorities through the courts.
The UK believes that establishing dialogue between Christians and Muslims at all levels is the best way to create understanding and mutual tolerance. We support the work of Coventry Cathedral's Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Kaduna and are looking to expand this work to other States in Nigeria.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people entered the UK from (a) Russia and (b) China in the latest year for which figures are available. 
Beverley Hughes: The latest available information is given in the table.
|Number of journeys all categories|
|People's Republic of China||228,000|
The figures in this table have been rounded to three significant digits.
Data on passengers given leave to enter the United Kingdom are published in the Command Paper 'Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom 2002' (Cm6053), obtainable from the Library, The Stationery Office and via the Home Office website http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/hobpubs1.html.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on (a) St. Helena and (b) Tristan da Cunha. 
Mr. Rammell: The Government are working hard to help the people of St. Helena. A range of issues is under consideration at the present time with air access, a new constitution, improved sea access, exports of wild honey and student fees among them. Many of these issues require co-ordination across Government departments, which is currently under way. It is our intention and has been our practice to ensure that the Government of St. Helena gets the best possible advice from the relevant experts, funded in the main by the Department for International Development. The next major visit to the island by DfID/FCO officials will be in April/May when budgetary talks are due to take place.
The smaller territory of Tristan da Cunha reports its activities on a periodic basis to its Governor, based in St. Helena. Largely self-sufficient through its fishing and related export activities, it receives a small amount of funding each year from the Department of International Development. It is constantly on the lookout for new ways of raising revenue so that it can become more financially independent and start to build its reserves. Tristan Islanders are working with EU officials to gain a licence that would enable them to export crayfish caught in their waters for sale in the EU.
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Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to introduce visa charges for US citizens who wish to visit the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Mullin: US citizens do not require a visa to visit the United Kingdom and therefore no visa charges will be introduced.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with her European Union counterparts on the proposed location of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor; and if she will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: Ministers and officials have taken part in various discussions with other members of the European Union on the proposed location for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. I attended the 11 November 2003 Competitiveness Council discussion on the European candidate site and expressed the UK's support for the European bid.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the roll out of broadband in Lancashire. 
Mr. Timms: Under the Department's £30 million broadband fund, the North West Development Agency (NWDA) is launching three pilot demonstrator projects in Lancashire, which will focus on encouraging access and take up of ICT over broadband. The NWDA is in the final stages of procurement for Project ACCESS, which will enable provision of affordable broadband access in Cumbria and that part of Lancashire north of the Lancaster district boundary. The NWDA has also supported the formation of the Lancashire Digital Development Agency (LDDA), a grouping of public, private and voluntary sector partners who take the responsibility for promoting the delivery of an advanced broadband infrastructure and to maximise its take up. (Source: www.nwda.co.uk).
Under the Department's Broadband Aggregation Project (BAP), the North West Regional Aggregation Body (NW-RAB), has been incorporated to aggregate and procure public sector demand for broadband connectivity. The NW-RAB is working with stakeholders in the region to develop a strategy that will offer best value for money and the widest availability of broadband to surrounding communities.
Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of the county of Durham has broadband coverage; and what action she intends to take to encourage greater coverage. 
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Mr. Timms: The data for the percentage of broadband coverage in the county of Durham are not available within Government.
The regional development agency, One NorthEast, in partnership with Durham county council and the local district councils, is driving forward a major £5.1 million project (DurhamNet) to provide a broadband network across the county, via high speed radio technology. Stage one of the project aims to provide broadband access to business, education and community facilities. This work is well under way, with broadband provision to the county's public libraries already in place. The county council is now leading a regional initiative to ensure that all telephone exchanges in the north-east are upgraded to deliver broadband to the region. (source: www.durham. gov.uk/).
The North East Regional Aggregation Body has been incorporated to aggregate and procure public sector demand for broadband connectivity. It is working with stakeholders in the region to develop a strategy that will offer best value for money and the widest availability of broadband to surrounding communities.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of business link organisations; and what plans she has to change these schemes. 
Nigel Griffiths: Overall, Business Link Operators have been successfully delivering business support within their local areas to increasing numbers of small businesses, while at the same time seeing their levels of customer satisfaction continue to rise.
Last year Business Link Operators helped over 300,000 firms and individuals, an increase from 150,000 in 2002, and exceeded their key performance indicators. Market penetration increased from 14 per cent. to 17 per cent. in 200102, customer satisfaction with BLO services increased to 84 per cent. from 81 per cent. the previous year and brand awareness increased 9 per cent. to 74 per cent. Results for the current year are also showing a further increase in performance levels. By the end of quarter 2 200304, 88,000 more businesses had been assisted than the same time last year; the business penetration rate of 18.5 per cent. was already exceeding last year's performance; and the provisional average customer satisfaction rate of 85.4 per cent. shows a 1 per cent. increase on the last six months and a 3.2 per cent. increase on the same period last year.
The Small Business Service is now engaged in a review of the Business Link business and brand with the aim of building on the brand as the recognised gateway through which small businesses can access appropriate sources of help or support and so will have an impact on the way BLOs operate. The review should conclude during 200405 and the principal outcomes be implemented by April 2005.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what effect Business Link has had on (a) the overall productivity of UK businesses, (b) reducing disparities in regional productivity, (c) the
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overall profitability of UK businesses, (d) UK business investment and (e) levels of private sector employment in the UK. 
Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service has introduced from this year a Gross Value Added measure as part of its Performance Management Framework for Business Link. This enables operators to quantify the impact they have had on businesses with which they have formed a more intensive relationship, in terms of wealth creation and productivity improvement.
The most recent evaluation of Business Link did not explore the impact on productivity. However, it did conclude that Business Link provided good value for money in terms of the additional jobs, turnover, profits, assets and exports created at the national, regional and local level. The report on the evaluation, which was carried out by independent consultants Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC), is available on the DTI website (www.dti.gov.uk/about/evaluation).
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what procedures are in place to ensure the accountability of business link organisations. 
Nigel Griffiths: The procedures in place are as follows:
Each year the Small Business Service (SBS) agrees an annual Delivery Plan (DP) with each Business Link Operator (BLO). The Plans are in a common format and include a set of Key Performance Indicators against which targets are agreed between the respective BLO and the SBS.
Each BLO's performance against these targets is monitored by SBS Regional Teams, or by the Regional Development Agency in the East Midlands and North West. BLOs are subject to a Quarterly Performance Review that assesses their performance against the set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Three of the KPIs, Customer Satisfaction, Market Penetration and Number of Intensive Assisted Users, are subject to contractually binding Minimum Performance Levels. BLOs provide performance data on a quarterly basis as part of the SBS Management Information Requirement.
BLOs provide detailed Financial Information at the end of each quarter, which is monitored by the SBS. On an annual basis BLOs are subject to an independent audit of their finances and management information systems by an auditor appointed by the SBS to ensure its funding has been spent on the purposes for which it was given.
All BLOs are subject to UK company law.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff have been employed by each business link organisation in each year since their formation; and if she will break the figures down by salary band. 
Nigel Griffiths: Business Link Operators are autonomous independent companies and the Small Business Service does not collect information about their staffing numbers or rates of pay.
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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria are used to measure the (a) success and (b) effectiveness of business link organisations. 
Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service (SBS) has developed a core set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success and effectiveness of Business Link Operators (BLOs). These indicators are contained in a Performance Management Framework and reflect the performance, value and contribution to the economy made by BLOs.
understanding of Business Link services;
use of Business Link branded services (by both businesses and individuals);
financial efficiency (of BLOs);
intensive assisted users of BL branded services;
perceived business benefit; and
changes in Gross Value Added (GVA) of BL customers.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many firms in (a) Lancashire and (b) Chorley have used Business Link in each of the last three years. 
Nigel Griffiths: The answer to the question is shown in the following table:
|Business Link Operator usage-business customers, in-year cumulative|
|North and west Lancashire||3,156||6,435||5,996|
|Business Link Operator usage-pre-starts, quarterly trend|
|North and west Lancashire||750||2,865||1,390|
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