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14 Dec 2004 : Column 1051W—continued

Corporate Social Responsibility Reports

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make it her policy for companies
 
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to be required to produce annual corporate social responsibility reports in a consistent and comparable format. [203565]

Ms Hewitt: No. The Government encourage companies to report on their corporate social responsibility impacts and 145 of the FTSE 250 now report on aspects of their environmental and/or social performance. It is for companies themselves to decide the format and content of such reports which are relevant to their business.

Correspondence

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will reply to the letter to her from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to the Managing Director of Warm Front. [204726]

Ms Hewitt: I responded to my right hon. Friend on 7 December explaining that his letter had been transferred to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for response as the issues raised fell within their responsibility.

Departmental Estate

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her estimate is of the (a) annual cost and (b) total value of the empty properties owned by (i) her Department, (ii) agencies and (iii) other public bodies for which she has had responsibility in each of the last two years. [202373]

Ms Hewitt: The Department's HQ estate and agencies have had no empty properties for financial years 2003–04 and 2004–05.

The information for DTI's non-departmental public bodies is not held centrally.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the cost of refurbishing each ministerial private office was in the last two years. [202375]

Ms Hewitt: In 2003 the cost of undertaking internal changes and refurbishment to the ministerial offices, private offices and conference space was £65,958. There have been no works undertaken in 2004.

Departmental Files

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is the policy of the Department to retain for the benefit of future (a) historians and (b) applicants under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the same (i) complete categories of files, (ii) numbers of files and (iii) representative examples of files from categories of files destroyed, as had been preserved prior to the passage of that Act. [203313]

Ms Hewitt: The Department of Trade and Industry policy on records destruction and retention will not change as a result of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
 
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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes have been promulgated in each of the past five years to the guidelines or other criteria for the retention or destruction of departmental files. [203315]

Ms Hewitt: There have been no changes to the criteria for selecting Departmental files for retention or destruction in the last five years.

Departmental Five Year Programme

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the cost was of printing her Department's Five Year Programme published on 17 November. [200949]

Ms Hewitt: The printing cost for the DTI Five Year Programme was £6,715.

EU Constitution

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether Article III-6 of the proposed EU Constitution will create a legal basis for the application of EU regulation to services of general interest. [203148]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 7 December 2004]: Article III-122 (formerly Article III-6) of the proposed Constitutional Treaty would only apply to services of general economic interest; it does not apply to non-economic services.

Exeter University

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues in the Treasury about the proposed closure by Exeter university of its undergraduate chemistry provision; [202636]

(2) when the governing body of the university of Exeter informed her Department about the proposed closure of its undergraduate chemistry provision; [202898]

(3) when her Department was informed about the proposed closure by Exeter university of its undergraduate chemistry provision; [202896]

(4) what representations she has had from (a) the Royal Society of Chemistry, (b) the South West Regional Development Agency, (c) companies operating in the South West and (d) others concerning the proposed closure of undergraduate chemistry provision at Exeter university; and if she will make a statement; [202630]

(5) what discussions she has had with the Higher Education Funding Council about the proposed closure of undergraduate chemistry provision at Exeter university; [202635]

(6) if she will make a statement on the proposed closure by Exeter university of its undergraduate chemistry provision. [202638]

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment she has made of the impact of the proposed closure by Exeter university of its undergraduate chemistry provision on the Government's 10-year Investment Framework for Science and Innovation; [202640]
 
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(2) if she will make a statement on the proposed closure by Exeter university of its undergraduate chemistry provision; [202639]

(3) what discussions she has had with the Higher Education Funding Council about the proposed closure of undergraduate chemistry provision at Exeter university; [202642]

(4) what representations she has had from (a) the Royal Society of Chemistry, (b) the South West Regional Development Agency, (c) companies operating in the south west and (d) others concerning the proposed closure of undergraduate chemistry provision at Exeter university; and if she will make a statement; [202643]

(5) what action she proposes to take to prevent the closure of further undergraduate chemistry provision in universities; [202692]

(6) whether her Department has received reports of other university chemistry departments experiencing financial difficulty; [202693]

(7) if she will hold discussions with her ministerial colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills to seek to prevent the proposed closure by Exeter university of its undergraduate chemistry provision. [202696]

Ms Hewitt: Officials in the Department were informed of the proposed closure of Exeter's undergraduate chemistry provision in early November by officials at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). DfES was advised informally by the Vice-Chancellor of the proposed closure in early November, prior to the formal announcement on 22 November.

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, has discussed this issue with both the Higher Education Minister at the Department for Education and Skills and the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Both my noble Friend and I have received representations from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Lord Sainsbury met with the Royal Society of Chemistry on 8 December. A small number of letters from other HE institutions, students, staff, and individuals have also been received. There have been no representations from either business or the South West Regional Development Agency.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are autonomous organisations and as such are responsible for their own academic direction and strategic use of funds. The decision to close undergraduate chemistry provision is therefore a matter for Exeter university alone. I understand that Exeter university is working very closely with students to ensure that all their individual needs are met. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The Department has not received any reports of other university chemistry departments that may be experiencing financial difficulty.
 
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The quality of chemistry research in English universities has increased significantly. 50 per cent. of departments were rated 5 or 5* in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) compared with only 20 per cent. in 1996. However, recognising concerns about future capacity to teach certain key disciplines, on 1 December the Secretary of State for the Department for Education and Skills wrote to HEFCE requesting advice on higher education subjects or courses of national strategic importance, including chemistry, where intervention might be appropriate to strengthen or secure them. HEFCE will be entering into a strategic dialogue with universities, colleges, employers and other partners to consider this matter.

Science and innovation is one of my Department's key priorities: we will therefore continue to work closely with DfES, the Funding Councils and others to provide a robust, world-class research base, and delivering the Government's vision for science and innovation set out in the Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004–2014.

Our Departments and the Higher Education Funding Council for England will continue to work closely together on this issue.


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