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7 Sept 2004 : Column 1024W—continued

European Space Agency

Mr. Page: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much in pounds sterling she calculates has been under-returned to the UK over the last four years under the funding agreement with the European Space Agency. [186752]

Ms Hewitt: The European Space Agency (ESA) began a new set of return statistics on 1 January 2000. The cumulative UK under-return for the four years 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2003 was €41.2 million (£29 million). At 31 December 1999 when the earlier set of ESA return statistics were terminated, UK over-return stood at €94.0 million (£66 million). The British National Space Centre is working closely with ESA officials to ensure that the return requirements for the UK as set out in the ESA Convention are fully met.

Flexible Working

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the percentage of employees who work some form of flexible working arrangement in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. [186666]

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Mr. Sutcliffe: The Labour Force Survey, conducted by the Office for National Statistics, asks respondents about their agreed work arrangement. The number of employees who reported that they work some form of flexible working (defined as part-time, flexitime, annualised hours, term time working, job sharing, compressed working week, zero hours contract) was 41.0 per cent. in 2001, 41.5 per cent. in 2002 and 42.0 per cent. in 2003. If the definition of flexible working is narrowed to exclude part-time working, the respective figures are 21.6 per cent. in 2001, 22.0 per cent. in 2002 and 22.4 per cent. in 2003. Figures for 2004 will be available in early 2005.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the demand for flexible working patterns; and if she will make a statement. [186667]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The DTI has collected evidence on the demand for flexible working patterns from a number of sources. The first DTI Flexible Working Employee Survey was carried out between September 2003 and February 2004. The survey indicated that 13 per cent. of all employees had requested a flexible working pattern since April 2003. The percentage of employees with children aged under six years who requested a flexible working pattern (and for whom their employer is legally obliged to consider the request) was higher, at 24 per cent. Of all employees who requested flexible working arrangements, 38 per cent. requested to change to a part-time working arrangement; 25 per cent. requested flexi-time; 13 per cent. requested reduced hours for a limited time; 10 per cent. requested to work from home on a regular basis and 8 per cent. requested a compressed working week.

The second Work-Life Balance Study—employees' survey, carried out during January and February 2003, asked employees whether they worked particular flexible working patterns. If they did not (or had not in the past year), they were then asked whether they would like to. Table 1 shows the percentages of these employees who said they would like to take up particular flexible working practices.
Table 1: Demand for specific flexible working practices

Flexible working practicePercentage who would like to take up the flexible working practice
Work part time22
Work only during school term time(46)33
Work flexitime49
Work a compressed working week34
Work annualised hours25
Work reduced hours for a limited period36
Work from home on a regular basis29

(46) In addition, representative of employees with dependent children aged under 19 (base: 747 employees).
All percentages are representative of employees who have not used the particular flexible working practice in past year with current employer (base: >1,463 employees).
Palmer, T. (2004) Results of the first Flexible Working Employee Survey. Employment Relations Occasional Papers, DTI.

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Both the results of the first Flexible Working Employee Survey and the Work Life Balance study reports, which provide greater analysis, are available at under 'EMAR Publications'. Both surveys are to be repeated, with the second Flexible Working Employee Survey expected to be available in 2005; the third Work-Life Balance study is due to be conducted in early 2006.


Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research her Department has commissioned on fraud in large businesses; and what measures she has taken to prevent such fraud in the UK. [186663]

Jacqui Smith: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not commissioned any research into fraud in large businesses. But the Department has engaged in a considerable range of activity post Enron as the Secretary of State announced to the House on 29 January 2003 in a speech on strengthening corporate governance.

A number of those measures are now taken forward in the Companies (Audit, Investigations and Enterprise) Bill which is currently before Parliament. The Bill amends the current regime for investigating companies. It contains provisions giving investigators a new power to get relevant information from anyone and strengthening their document-gathering powers, while retaining the existing protection for legally privileged material and banking confidentiality. There is also a provision giving investigators the power to require entry to, and remain on, a company's business premises without obtaining a warrant. This will make it easier to require documents and other information and to see the business in operation.

The Bill will also increase the independence of the regulation of the audit profession and give the independent regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, the powers and resources it needs to do its job more effectively. Further the Bill will enable company auditors to carry out their duties more effectively by entitling the auditor to require information and explanations from a wider group of people than at present, in particular from employees.

The Financial Reporting Review Panel will be given a power to require companies to provide it with the information it needs to carry out its investigations. This body currently reviews the annual accounts and reports of public and large private UK companies. The Bill will allow the Government to extend this to reviewing the interim reports of listed companies. The FRRP will also take a more proactive approach to enforcement.

I would also like to draw the hon. Member's attention to the proposal by the Home Office to establish the Serious Organised Crime Agency. This body will be part of a comprehensive strategy to target organised criminals. It will exploit hi-tech 21st century technology to uncover the new wave of crime bosses whose lucrative illegal enterprises range from drug trafficking and people smuggling through to fraud and money laundering.
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The Government has recently completed a consultation on legislation to reform the law of fraud. The Government proposals for change are based mainly on the Law Commission Report on Fraud published in 2002. The main proposal is for the general offence of fraud which can be committed in three different ways: by false representation, by wrongfully failing to disclose information, or by abuse of office. In each case the behaviour must be dishonest, and must aim at securing a gain for the defendant or a loss for another.

Additionally the Government sought the views of business and other interested parties on the best means of creating and maintaining effective partnerships to reduce opportunities for crime against business and to enhance the contribution that business could make to crime reduction in England and Wales.

Gershon Review

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the estimated savings are from the efficient devolution of business support products from the Central Department to the regional development agencies as part of Sir Peter Gershon's efficiency review into public services. [185110]

Jacqui Smith: As stated in Peter Gershon's report on his independent review of public sector efficiency "Releasing Resources to the Front Line", the Regional Development Agencies have agreed to deliver 2.5 per cent. efficiencies per year in the Spending Review period, at least half of which will be cash-releasing back into the Single Programme budget, which brings together allocations from all the Departments that fund them. DTI as the lead sponsor Department, will work
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with the Regional Development Agencies to identify further efficiencies where possible. The Regional Development Agencies will be expected to identify efficiencies in delivering on the additional responsibilities that have been devolved to them. These additional responsibilities include the delivery of regional and local Business Link services and the grant for Research and Development. The Regional Development Agencies will report to my Department on how these savings are to be achieved.

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