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6 Jul 2004 : Column 669W—continued

Empty Houses

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for how many empty houses her Department is responsible; and if she will make a statement. [182149]

Ms Hewitt: My Department's administrative estate does not include any housing.

End of Life Vehicles Directive

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effect of the introduction of regulations requiring the last owner of an end of life vehicle to deliver it to an authorised processor prior to the implementation of a scheme which will require manufacturers to make arrangements for processors to accept vehicles
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manufactured by them free of charge on the number of end of life vehicles being (a) abandoned and (b) deliberately set fire to. [181545]

Mr. Timms: Since the Department's Regulatory Impact Assessment of 21 June 2002, the Government have taken a number of initiatives to bear down on the problem of abandoned vehicles. The 2002 Assessment was based on ELV processing and treatment costs of £60, whereas latest estimates put these at £16–39. No updated Assessment has yet been compiled.

Equal Opportunities

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of (a) females and (b) males are studying science, engineering and technology based degrees; and if she will make a statement on government initiatives to increase the number of female graduates. [180064]

Ms Hewitt: In the following table are some statistics, which show that in some degrees which require Science and Maths A levels such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, more women than men are studying, and becoming qualified in these subjects. However these statistics also highlight that there is still significant female under-representation in vital SET courses such as the Physical Sciences, Engineering and IT.

Overall the number of female science, engineering and technology (SET) graduates is increasing. However, only one in every three SET graduates in 2002 were women.

More men apply for, accept and obtain higher education qualifications in SET and SET-related subjects than women but as the statistics show, the picture is very different depending on the precise nature of the subject.

The work being done in schools and further education colleges to enthuse young girls to take up these subjects is the beginning of the process to encourage girls and women to take SET degrees, especially in those areas where there is a definite gender imbalance. As part of the Government's new strategy 1 , a new UK Resource Centre for Women in SET aimed at working with employers, professional bodies and individuals in SET will be launched on 16 September 2004. The Government have allocated £800,000 per annum for three years to set up and operate the new Centre and an additional £500,000 per annum of the development of a dedicated returners package. The Resource Centre will hold pump-priming funds that will be used to fund innovative or proven projects, including £200,000 separately provided by DfES to the Centre for schemes in higher education institutions to put support measures in place that aid the retention and progression of women science undergraduates into the science labour force.

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Percentage of students by subject group, gender, level of study and first-year marker, 2002–03

First-year undergraduates
Subject areaFemaleMaleFemaleMaleFemaleMale
Medicine and Dentistry534757436139
Subjects allied to medicine722885158614
Biological Sciences623863376238
Veterinary Science544674267426
Agriculture and related subjects505059416040
Physical Sciences386241604159
Mathematical Sciences356540603962
Computer Science267425752872
Engineering and Technology188214861486


Foreign Languages

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to encourage the development of improved foreign language skills in British companies. [182060]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 5 July 2004]: My Department and the DfES are working with a range of partners including the Skills for Business Network and the Learning and Skills Councils to encourage the development of improved foreign language skills. The National Languages Strategy launched in December 2002 recognises the increasing importance in our society and the global economy of the ability to understand and communicate in other languages.

Employers have a crucial role to play in helping to implement the main aims and objectives of the National Languages Strategy by influencing young people's career choices, extending opportunities and promoting the value and importance of language learning. Employers can begin to address these issues by building on the talent within their own work force.

Support is available through bodies such as UK Trade and Investment, the British Council and the CILT/Languages NTO's internet-based Business Languages Information Services (BLIS) providing a database of language trainers, cultural consultants and translation and interpretation services.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of (a) the impact on export sales by companies which place low value on foreign language skills of their attitude towards such skills and (b) the impact of low foreign language skills among British companies on British competitiveness; and if she will make a statement. [182062]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 5 July 2004]: Although the DTI has not commissioned any specific research on this issue, we continue to monitor the situation for example making a point of asking established inward investors about the issues that concern them (currently they do not raise foreign language skills as such an area of concern).

Skills audits commissioned by the Regional Development Agencies show that 20 per cent. of UK companies believe that they have lost business because of lack of language and cultural skills and 25 per cent. experience problems in handling international business.
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In some regions the development of Regional Languages Networks has been led by the National Centre for Languages with the support and funding of the Regional Development Agencies, UK Trade and Investment and the Learning and Skills Councils. These are business-led and designed to help ensure that the future provision of language and cultural skills meets the needs of businesses involved in international trade.

Heat Efficiency Targets

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets were established for the more efficient use of heat in the Government's Energy White Paper. [182038]

Mr. Timms: The Energy White Paper does not set specific targets for the more efficient use of heat. However, we can expect to see an increase in small-scale, distributed heat and electricity generation.

Space heating and hot water account for 80 per cent. of energy use in households, and over half of energy use in the service sector. The Government's Energy Efficiency Action Plan, published in April 2003, sets out measures that the Government expects to deliver savings of over 12 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) by 2010, with a formal aim to achieve savings of 4.2 MtC in households by 2010. This represents savings of around 10 per cent. of total non-transport carbon emissions.

Combined heat and power (CHP) is the simultaneous generation of usable heat and power (usually electricity) in a single process. The Government's CHP Strategy, also published in April 2003, sets out a framework to support the growth of CHP capacity in the UK. The Government's target is to achieve 10GWe of Good Quality CHP electrical capacity by 2010.

Inward Investment

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by what mechanism her Department monitors the concerns of inward investors. [182061]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 5 July 2004]: A key objective of UK Trade and Investment is to gather and monitor the views and concerns of inward investors in order to identify obstacles to overseas-owned companies growing their investments in the UK.

These views are gathered through a dialogue with investors, both with their overseas headquarters and their UK subsidiaries. I chair a quarterly meeting with
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key inward investors where we explore concerns and ways that Government can help improve or resolve the issues that concern them.

UK Trade and Investment is also undertaking a survey and consultation project with existing investors to help fine tune its service to meet their likely future needs.

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