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22 Jan 2004 : Column 1380W—continued

North Sea Oil

14. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research her Department has conducted into the use of carbon capture technology to enhance recovery of North sea oil. [149744]

Mr. Timms: The Department has conducted its own research and sponsored research jointly with the oil industry since the mid 1980's into the use of carbon dioxide injection into mature oil fields to recover more oil. We are currently investigating the feasibility of demonstrating the use of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery in the North Sea. We expect to publish the findings of this investigation in March.


15. Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support she is providing to the shipbuilding industry. [149745]

Jacqui Smith: The Department gave a £2.8 million grant to the Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association for a four-year programme of productivity improvements and research and development benefiting shipyards, which concluded on 31 December 2003. Separately, my Department is funding the Science, Engineering and Marine Training Agency (SEMTA) to undertake a range of studies into training needs and provision in the shipbuilding industry, with the aim of ensuring that the UK shipbuilding and marine engineering sector has sufficient numbers of properly skilled people to meet the Ministry of Defence's substantial naval procurement programme.

Electricity Prices

16. John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to facilitate the connection to the national electricity grid at affordable prices of potential consumers living in remote areas. [149746]

Mr. Timms: I have no such plans.

Connections for those in remote areas are generally more difficult and this is, unfortunately, reflected in the cost. There are no provisions in existing legislation which could be used to require the cost of connection to be subsidised by, for example, the existing customer base.

Natural Gas

17. Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research her Department has carried out into the availability of natural gas worldwide. [149748]

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Mr. Timms: DTI uses information on natural gas availability from a variety of sources including the International Energy Agency, the Energy Information Agency of the US Department of Energy and the BP-Amoco Statistical Digest.

World Trade

18. Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the Government's policy towards trade negotiations following the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference in Cancun. [149749]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Her Majesty's Government remains committed to delivering a development Round that will benefit industrialised and developing countries alike.

Financial Services

19. Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the number of financial services jobs being exported to (a) Eastern Europe and (b) Asia. [149750]

Ms Hewitt: We do not have official figures for the number of financial services jobs being offshored. We are addressing this issue through seeking views from parties interested in offshoring as part of our consultation exercise. In recognising the economic and social importance of this issue, we are also looking at how we can improve data collection.

Altran Foundation for Innovation

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she has taken to inform (a) schools, (b) colleges and (c) universities of the Altran Foundation for Innovation's award for 2004 on the theme of Discovery, Understanding and Enjoying Science through innovation. [144502]

Ms Hewitt: I understand that Ecsite-UK, the organisation that represents Science Centres, has details of this award on its websites.

Business Starts

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which inter-ministerial group is responsible for the English equivalent of the Scottish Business Birthrate Strategy; and which ministers are members of that group. [149634]

Nigel Griffiths: Responsibility for small business policy, including start-up strategy, is a matter for the Ministerial Committee on Economic Affairs, Productivity and Competitiveness. The members are:

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Business Links

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many businesses have been helped by each of the UK business link organisations; what the average sum of money received by these businesses is; how many of the businesses helped are still operating; and how many of those businesses have increased their profitability. [148190]

Nigel Griffiths: In the last full operating year (2002–03) over 300,000 businesses were helped by Business Link Operators (BLOs) in England. A breakdown of this total–by individual BLO—follows. Information about business survival rates are not collected individually.

BLOs do not report on levels of support funding received by the businesses they assist.

A Gross Value Added measure to enable BLOs to quantify—in terms of wealth creation and productivity improvements—the impact of their support to businesses will be available from 2004.

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Business Support

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impact that (a) regional venture capital funds have had on (i) the overall productivity of United Kingdom businesses and (ii) reducing disparities in regional productivity, (b) Faraday centres have had on enterprise areas, (c) University Challenge Seed Funds and (d) the SMART scheme. [146147]

Jacqui Smith: The nine regional venture capital funds have only recently become operational. The first funds became operational in January 2002 and the final fund in July 2003. These funds have a 10 to 12 year lifespan and it is, therefore, too early to assess their impact on the areas you have identified. Plans are already in hand, to assess their impact at the appropriate time.

An early evaluation, to measure progress, was concluded in July 2003 and a summary report can be found on the following website address: http://www. RVCF Esummary july2003.pdf

Information and Communications Technology

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the (a) actual and (b) percentage change in the take-up of connectivity technologies among the UK's micro and small businesses was in each year since 1997; and what steps are being taken to increase take-up. [146133]

Mr. Timms: Measurement of take up of connectivity is covered by the DTIs International Benchmarking Study (IBS). The IBS has been produced annually since 1997 and copies are available from the Libraries of the House.

IBS 2003 shows UK businesses in general have reached saturation point on internet access although

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there has been a slight falling off in connection by micro and small businesses. A similar situation applies to the use of websites.

The Government will continue to promote the benefits of being connected to the internet for micro and small businesses but emphasis will be placed on encouraging a more effective use of information and communication technology (ICT). Businesses of all sizes need to use ICT in a more sophisticated way, paying due attention to people and processes, as well as the technology, if they are to gain the expected benefits.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of employees in the information and communication technology sector are women; and what steps are being taken to increase the representation of women in the sector. [146138]

Ms Hewitt: The proportion of women in ITEC occupations across all sectors is currently 23 per cent. (e-skills UK and ONS, Labour Force Survey 2002).

As part of the Government's strategy the DTI announced in December the award of a contract to the JIVE Consortium (Bradford College, Sheffield Hallam University, the Open University and Cambridge University) to operate a new resource centre for women in science, engineering and technology (SET) occupations, which include IT. JIVE will offer advice and support to SET employers about best practice in recruiting and retaining women and also support and advice for women wishing to work in or already working in SET occupations. This strategy is aimed at increasing the representation of women in all SET occupations at all levels, and will include the provision of a dynamic and content-rich website; good practice guides for SET employers; a 'Good SET Employer' recognition for women wishing to return to SET occupations. Working with their Open University partners JIVE are developing specific ideas about increasing the number of women in IT. Bradford College already trains women to be Microsoft professionals and their experience in this field will be invaluable in ensuring that the new resource centre is effective.

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