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26 Feb 2004 : Column 511Wcontinued
Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the protection of intellectual property rights afforded by the draft EU Enforcement Directive to UK businesses. 
Ms Hewitt: We have been assessing the EU Enforcement Directive as it has developed in discussions in the Council Working Party on Intellectual Property and the Permanent Representatives Committee taking account of the various views expressed by interests in response to the Patent Office consultation and informal discussions.
Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what reasons underlie the Government's decision to seek amendments to Articles 10 and 15 of the draft EU Enforcement Directive. 
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Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations the Government are making to other EU member states to ensure that the draft EU Enforcement Directive offers the best possible degree of protection to UK businesses. 
Ms Hewitt: The compromise text sent by the Council to the European Parliament on 16 February was the result of intensive discussions with the Council Working Party on Intellectual Property and the Permanent Representatives Committee together with informal discussions with other member states and the interests in general.
As stated in the Council's letter, the compromise proposal received broad support in the Permanent Representatives Committee, and I believe that if this text is adopted, it will significantly assist UK businesses with the enforcement of their intellectual property rights across the European Community.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Government proposals for EU regional policy after 2006 (a) falls within existing EU treaty obligations and (b) has been accepted by the Commission. 
Jacqui Smith: The Government considers that its proposals for EU regional policy after 2006 do fall within existing Treaty obligations. Our proposals aim at reducing disparities between regions, with a focus on the needs of the poorest Member States.
The Commission's proposals for the future development of EU regional policy is set out in its Third Cohesion Report, which was published on 18 February. This report will provide an important contribution to the ongoing debate. We shall want to assess the policy and budgetary implications of the proposals in the report carefully against the Government's objectives for reform.
Mr. Sutcliffe: It is not possible to provide estimates specifically for Workington. However, based on the Office for National Statistics' Low Pay data released in 2003, the DTI estimates that around 140,000 people in the North West stood to benefit from the introduction of the national minimum wage in April 1999.
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The White Paper, "Competing in the Global Economy: The Innovation Challenge Innovation Report", published by the Department in December 2003 (copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House), gave the Patent Office a mandate to agree a new national strategy for intellectual property crime. Development of that strategy is now in hand.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the Government's contribution to the European Space Agency's planned near earth object mission study. 
Ms Hewitt: The UK was involved in, and contributed under European Space Agency (ESA) General Studies funding towards, the ESA's Near Earth Object (NEO) mission studies including the "Remote Sensing of NEOs from Space" study and the "Simone" study which looked at options for an inter-planetary intercept mission.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on steps the Government have taken to promote multi-disciplinary studies of the consequences of impacts from near earth objects on the earth. 
Ms Hewitt: The Government supports the findings of the OECD Global Science Forum (GSF) Workshop held in Frascati in January 2003. These include a recommendation for multidisciplinary activity by the International Council for Science (ICSU). That activity has since been approved and is underway. The UK will be involved in the execution of the ICSU activity.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on steps the Government have taken to establish studies to look into the practical possibilities of mitigating the results of impact and deflecting incoming objects. 
Ms Hewitt: Through the current OECD Global Science Forum activity on Near Earth Objects (NEO), the Government are involved in studies to look into the practical aspects of assessing the risk of impacts as well as the related mitigation planning. The UK has actively encouraged the European Space Agency to carry out studies on NEOs and is involved in missions such as the Rosetta mission to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This will provide significant experience adding to the already substantial knowledge base that will help in the preparation of any deflection mission that may be required.
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Ms Hewitt: Near Earth Objects (NEO) remain a continuing risk and one which the Government takes seriously. The NEO Information Centre based in Leicester will continue to provide up to date information on the risks to Government and the public.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on arrangements that have been made for observational data obtained for other purposes by wide-field facilities to be searched for near earth objects on a nightly basis. 
Ms Hewitt: The two main new wide-field survey facilities (ESO VISTA in Chile and the WFCAM instrument facility in Hawaii) are currently under construction and plans for their observing programmes are under discussion between PPARC (Particle Physic and Astronomy Research Council) and its partners. In order to undertake routine examination in near real time of the data stream from these facilities, a dedicated software suite would be required.
There are no resources available to provide such a capability. Nevertheless, observing programme managers will exchange information on targets of opportunity, such as Near Earth Objects, on a best efforts basis.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on negotiations to establish an arrangement for small amounts of time to be provided under appropriate financial terms for spectroscopic follow-up of near earth objects; and what financial support she has provided. 
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