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21 Jan 2004 : Column 1286W—continued

Steel Tariffs

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with the United States on steel tariffs on United Kingdom steel exports. [148217]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: UK ministers held regular discussions with the United States on steel in the run-up to President Bush's decision on 4 December 2003 to remove the US steel safeguard tariffs. No ministerial level discussions have taken place since then.

Strike Action

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many days have been lost to strike action in each month since January 1997. [148194]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Information is available in the following table.

Working days lost due to labour disputes January 1997 to November 2003

MonthWorking days lost (thousand)
1997
January25
February14
March36
April48
May36
June13
July11
August6
September1
October19
November14
December12
1998
January16
February19
March33
April14
May7
June69
July59
August24
September6
October7
November18
December11
1999
January9
February27
March35
April4
May50
June16
July8
August10
September22
October19
November22
December20
2000
January11
February6
March18
April11
May14
June7
July36
August115
September93
October14
November115
December59
2001
January52
February36
March48
April16
May93
June12
July24
August16
September22
October39
November62
December102
2002
January94
February24
March80
April19
May81
June57
July521
August13
September10
October42
November371
December11
2003
January91
February13
March14
April9
May26
June33
July47
August12
September24
October131
November61

Source:

Office for National Statistics


21 Jan 2004 : Column 1287W

Supermarkets and Suppliers

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she expects to receive the report from the Office of Fair Trading into the code of practice between suppliers and supermarkets. [R] [147768]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is expected to conclude its review of the Code of Practice governing supermarkets' relations with their suppliers shortly. The OFT will then send its results to DTI for formal consideration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will wait for the results of that review before deciding if any action is necessary.

Trade Policy

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is her policy in trade

21 Jan 2004 : Column 1288W

negotiations to pursue a comprehensive approach across the board for all products and all sectors without a priori exceptions. [149148]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Yes, where appropriate.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is her policy to seek bound reduction of high tariffs, particularly tariff plans, with a view to securing greater tariff harmonisation between countries. [149149]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Yes.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is her policy to seek the binding of unbound tariffs at commercially acceptable levels. [149150]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Yes.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is her policy to seek improved geographical coverage of (a) zero-duty sectoral agreements and (b) sectoral tariff harmonisation agreements. [149151]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Government welcomes and encourages increased participation in such agreements.

United Kingdom Trade

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the volume of United Kingdom trade with each of the full members of the G20 was in each of the last 10 years. [146597]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Information on the value of UK trade in goods, by partner country, is published by HM Customs and Excise in Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom. Each annual publication contains data for the latest two years. Business Monitors MA20 for 1994 and 1996 and OTSA for 1998, 2000 and 2002 contain the complete set of information required. These publications are available in the Library.

Unsolicited Telephone Calls

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what actions she has taken to limit unsolicited telephone calls for the purpose of selling goods and services. [148822]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Individual subscribers are offered protection from unsolicited direct marketing calls under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

The regulations state that direct marketing calls may not be made to individuals who have:


The Telephone Preference Service is an opt-out scheme run on Ofcom's behalf by the Direct Marketing Association.

The Government have also committed to allowing corporate subscribers to register on the Telephone Preference Service from spring 2004.

21 Jan 2004 : Column 1289W

Working Hours

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of (a) total employees, (b) female employees and (c) male employees in the UK worked an average of more than 48 hours per week in the last year for which figures are available. [148174]

Mr. Sutcliffe: According to the Spring 2003 Labour Force Survey 15 per cent. of employees usually worked over 48 hours per week. 6 per cent. of female employees and 23 per cent. of male employees usually worked over 48 hours per week.

World Trade Organisation

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the Director General of the World Trade Organisation since 15 December 2003. [149070]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: My right hon. Friend last spoke to Dr. Supachai himself at the CBI Conference on 17 November 2003, but we are in regular contact with his officials in Geneva.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what general tariff reduction formula is supported by her Department. [149077]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To stimulate the expansion of trade and economic growth, the Government wants formulae that, consistent with the Doha Declaration, would substantially increase market access for all goods in all WTO member countries.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will identify technical barriers to trade which harm (a) the United Kingdom and (b) developing countries. [149078]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. A major element of Government policy is the creation of fair and open markets at home and aboard. Using the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the European Community's Technical Barriers Regulation, we therefore work closely with UK industry, the European Commission and others in seeking to ensure that individual technical regulations are not unnecessarily trade restrictive and, in particular, to secure the removal or amelioration of those that harm UK exports.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the EU's stance at the Geneva trade talks on (a) industrial market access and (b) special and differential treatment. [149135]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The UK fully supports the EU's objective of securing an ambitious and comprehensive agreement on non-agricultural market access delivering benefits to all Members and an overall result of the

21 Jan 2004 : Column 1290W

Doha Development Agenda which reflects the needs of different WTO Members through appropriate Special and Differential Treatment.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is her policy to seek greater use of (a) mediation and (b) resolution of trade disputes prior to formal recourse to the World Trade Organisation dispute settlement understanding procedures. [149145]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Government sees the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), with a binding mechanism for resolving disputes, as one of the key pillars of the WTO and one of the great achievements of the Uruguay Round. We obviously welcome it when parties resolve a dispute without formal recourse to the DSU. We support the Communication issued by the Director-General of the WTO to the WTO membership in 2001 outlining his views on how to make better use of his power to use Good Offices, Conciliation and Mediation. We welcome in particular the use of mediation to resolve a potential dispute between the EU on the one hand and Thailand and the Philippines on the other regarding imports of canned tuna.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she had with Commissioners Lamy and Fischer before the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Cancun about the advisability of introducing new issues for which the developing countries would be unprepared to the conference agenda. [149130]

Hilary Benn: I have been asked to reply. Ministers at the fourth WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha agreed that negotiations on the four Singapore (i.e. New) Issues would take place after the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference at Cancun. However this was subject to the condition of a decision being taken, by explicit consensus, on the framework of these negotiations. Such a consensus was not reached by Ministers at the Cancun conference and so negotiations have not started on the Singapore Issues.

Although I did not have any discussions directly with Commissioners Lamy or Fischler about this, since the Cancun ministerial predated my appointment as Secretary of State for International Development, UK Ministers repeatedly made clear that the New Issues were not development priorities. Therefore I welcome the fact that EU Trade Ministers agreed on 2 December that the European Community should "unbundle" the four issues and explore alternative, more flexible approaches, including the possibility of removing some, or all, of the New Issues from the Doha Round.


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