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10 May 2004 : Column 74W—continued

Prisons

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessments of (a) Private Finance Initiative and (b) market testing have been carried out by the Prison Service since January 2000; who carried out the work; and what the main findings were. [167363]

Paul Goggins: In late 2000 the Prison Service commissioned Patrick Carter, then a non-executive director of the Strategy Board for Correctional Services, to consider how best to develop the contribution of the private sector, particularly the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), to achieving the objectives of the Prison Service. Mr. Carter reported in January 2001. The main findings relevant to the question were that past market tests demonstrated beyond doubt the value of the competitive process in driving down costs and improving performance in public sector prisons, that PFI had proved successful in attracting capital investment and delivering high quality prisons and that competition should continue. Ministers welcomed the report.

Security Services

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to provide more information to the public on the protection work done by the security services. [166036]

Mr. Blunkett: The Security Service (MI5) has a long standing role and depth of experience in providing protective security advice to Government and those sectors of the business community critical to the national infrastructure. The service has recently expanded its work in this area into a new structure, the National Security Advice Centre (NSAC). As part of the expansion, the service launched its upgrade website (www.mi5.gov.uk) on 30 April. This provides a substantial body of material offering practical advice on sensible security precautions for business organisations and anyone with responsibility for the safety of others. Its purpose is to put the terrorist threat into context and set out sensible security precautions. The website is publicly accessible and will be updated regularly.

The website complements information for the public on the Home Office, UK Resilience, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Metropolitan Police sites. It represents a further step forward in the drive to put more information about the terrorist threat in the public domain. Advice on protection against electronic attack will remain the responsibility of the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) (www.niscc.gov.uk).
 
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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Security Threat (Mox Plutonium)

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether she has initiated a review of the security of the sea transport of Mox plutonium fuels in response to the heightened international threat from terrorism. [171652]

Mr. Timms: Any such future shipment will be carried out in accordance with the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003, which are administered and enforced by The Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS). OCNS will not allow a shipment to proceed until all necessary security measures, commensurate with the threat pertaining at the time, are in place. It is Government policy not to disclose details of these security arrangements.

Berkeley Nuclear Research Laboratories

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what physical protection measures exist at   the Berkeley nuclear research laboratories in Gloucestershire against the accidental or deliberate crash of an aircraft onto the site; and whether these have been enhanced since 2002. [171649]

Mr. Timms: The UK's civil nuclear sites apply stringent security measures regulated by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS), the security regulator. The security regulator works closely with the Health and Safety Executive, the safety regulator, which provides advice on the safety implications of events, including external hazards such as plane crashes, at nuclear installations. Security at nuclear sites is kept under regular review in the light of the prevailing threat and has been significantly enhanced since the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001. It is Government policy not to disclose details of these measures which could potentially be of use to terrorists.

Businesses

Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many businesses have started up in Wigan since 1997; [169315]

(2) how many new businesses have been established in Wigan since 1997. [169317]

Nigel Griffiths: Barclays Bank's latest survey of business creation includes non-VAT registered firms and shows that there were 115,000 business start-ups in England and Wales, including 500 in Wigan Local Authority (which contains the constituency of Wigan), in the fourth quarter of 2003. The latest yearly figures show 465,000 business start-ups in England and Wales in 2003. This represents a 19 per cent. increase on the year before. There were 1,900 business start-ups in Wigan Local Authority in 2003. Data for Local Authorities are not available for before 2003.
 
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DTI figures based solely on VAT registrations for Wigan Local Authority (which includes the constituency of Wigan) are shown below for the period 1997 to 2002. Data for 2003 will be available in Autumn 2004.
VAT Registrations: 1997–2002

199719981999200020012002
Wigan640635620670580630




Source:
Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and de-registrations 1994–2002, Small Business Service



Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government has taken to help small businesses in Sittingbourne and Sheppey since 1997. [170292]

Nigel Griffiths: Enterprise Grants of more than £391,000 and Research and Development Grants of more than £587,000 have been awarded to SME's in Sittingbourne and Sheppey since 1997. In addition, an application for a Freight Facilities grant (to enable businesses to transport their goods by means other than by road) resulted in a company receiving more that £403,000.

The total number of businesses in Swale is currently 3,828. Penetration of the business population by Business Link Kent has increased fourfold since 1997. The number of unique businesses that have been assisted by the Business Link has risen from 9 per cent. in 1997–98 to 36 per cent. in 2003–04.

Around 60 businesses have been recognised and 52 committed to Investors in People (KP) during the period as a result of an intervention with Business Link Kent.

In the past two years, a number of specific European funded programmes have significantly assisted 28 companies in Sittingbourne and Sheppey by providing Mentors who have undertaken various projects in the companies to enable them to develop their business.

Women Entrepreneurs in Swale were targeted in a programme during 2001–02, 128 women attended and 26 new businesses started as a result.

Coalminers' Compensation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many respiratory test centres have been paid by her Department for medical assessment for the coalminers' compensation scheme; by whom they are run; and what Government payments they have received. [170786]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 5 May 2004]: At present, the Department's respiratory disease medical providers are Atos Origin who are currently responsible for 29 test centres and two mobile test centres. The total cost to the Department for the provision of the medical assessment process since 1999 is £146 million.
 
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John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of claimants have received (a) interim payments and (b) full and final settlements of the claims registered by the top 10 solicitors, determined by number of claims lodged, for respiratory disease and vibration white finger under the coalminers' compensation scheme. [170787]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 5 May 2004]: As of 4 May 2004 the figures are as follows:
Top 10 Solicitors(30)(31)Percentage of Claimants who have received an Interim payment(32)Percentage of Claimants who have received a full and final settlement
Beresfords Solicitors0.467.97
Thompsons19.1329.73
Hugh James Ford Simey14.1732.08
Raleys Solicitors12.0828.40
Browell Smith & Co.13.1022.88
Mark Gilbert Morse8.8224.69
Avalon0.271.57
Union of Democratic Mineworkers7.6630.27
Watson Burton8.1930.41
Barber & Co.0.064.23


(30) Top 10 Solicitors are in descending order and based on the number of claims received
(31) Total number of claimants who have received an interim
(32) Total number of settlements include claims settled by denial/withdrawal


A very large number of claims for respiratory disease have been registered in the last six months and will not yet have been through to the stage of a possible payment.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many privately funded medical assessments have been received under the coalminers' compensation scheme where the claimant has rejected the assessments paid for by the Government under the scheme. [170788]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 5 May 2004]: The Department's Contractors do not record whether claimants have privately funded their own medical assessment.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many different claims handling agreements were signed by Government under the coalminers' compensation scheme; with whom; by whom and when. [170789]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 5 May 2004]: The Claims Handling Agreements (CHA) for respiratory disease and Vibration White Finger were negotiated with the claimants' solicitors. Separate CHAs were negotiated with the Union of Democratic Miners (UDM), the only difference being costs which are lower.

The agreements are:


 
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John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what amount is budgeted by Government for paying solicitors under the miners' compensation scheme for (a) 2004, (b) 2005 and (c) 2006. [170790]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 5 May 2004]: The figures according to the forecast at the end of 2003 are:
£ million

Financial yearCOPDVWF
2003–04126.2021.56
2004–05154.2838.11
2005–06181.5023.30

The forecasts will be revisited in the light of the number of claims now received in the respiratory disease scheme.

Payments made to solicitors will of course depend on the volume of cases processed and offers accepted.


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