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Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the merits of introducing authorisation cards for retired prison officers that indicate their former occupation, similar to those held by retired police officers. 
The introduction of authorisation cards for former prison officers has not been raised as an issue with the Northern Ireland Prison Service by former staff or other agencies who may have an interest. Consequently no assessment of the merits of such a scheme has been made to date.
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Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will reply to the letters of 11 May, 13 July and 13 September from the hon. Member for Canterbury, regarding the UK's involvement in the European Space Agency's Aurora Mars Exploration Programme. 
DTI operates a centralised system of reviewing records. Records have a first review when they are between eight to 10-years-old. The files are examined to establish if they should be retained for departmental administrative purposes or whether they have any potential historical value. Approximately 85 per cent. of DTI files are destroyed at first review. Files that are retained are then selected for a second review when they are 25-years-old. They are re-examined to establish
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whether they have any continuing administrative value or should be transferred to The National Archives (TNA) for permanent preservation. Approximately 2 per cent. of DTI files are sent to TNA. Public records cannot be retained for longer than 30 years without the permission of the Lord Chancellor.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what steps she is taking to minimise the effects of rising energy prices on the Scottish economy; and if she will make a statement; 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Ofgem has now announced its conclusions on its investigation into gas price increases in 2003 and 2004. It has concluded that the main causes of rising UK gas prices are high oil prices feeding into gas prices and declining UK gas supplies. Ofgem is taking two courses of action. It is asking the European Commission to put more resources into making gas competition work, and is continuing to examine why some UK gas supplies did not reach the market.
While the cost of gas to industry has been rising recently, this should be seen in the context of historical trends. In real terms gas prices for industrial users in 2003 were nearly 30 per cent. below their level in 1990 and well below their average over the last 30 years.
Electricity prices have increased mainly as a result of the rise in gas prices and the recovery in wholesale prices from unsustainably low levels in 2002. Industrial electricity prices in 2003 were nearly 50 per cent. below their 1990 levels. Even after the latest increases we expect prices to remain competitive with those of our major EU competitors.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Department is watching with care the impact of rising energy prices on British manufacturing. Ministers and officials have met with industry groups and companies to address their concerns in this area.
The increases are in the main a result of market forces and follow a period in which energy prices have generally been at historically low levels in real terms. The UK has the most competitive energy market in the EU and industrial electricity and gas prices have been among the lowest in the EU until recently.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the European Union
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directives and regulations relating to her Department that have been implemented in each of the last two years, specifying (a) the title and purpose of each, (b) the cost to public funds of each and (c) the cost to businesses of each. 
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total external spending by her Department was on public-private partnership (PPP) consultants in each of the last two years; how many full-time equivalent consultants were employed over this period; how many billed consultancy days there were per year; what the implied average cost of each PPP consultant was; how many consultancy firms were used by her Department over this period; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Hewitt: The Department employed advisers to consider options for private sector participation in BNFL as part of a wider joint strategy review and its subsequent implementation. The team was made up of a mixture of permanent staff and consultants and, as such, the work carried out was not billed separately and cannot be separated from the total figures. The work was carried out between April and December 2004. The total cost for the whole project was £2.8 million and a total of three consultancy firms were used in the full study.
Mr. Sutcliffe: In answer to (a) , during 2002 and 2003 there were no fatalities in the UK as a result of the use of fireworks. The injury statistics for the fireworks season are published annually and I expect the figures for 2004 to be published some time in March. However, I have not been made aware of any fatalities during the 2004 period.
With regard to (b) , during 2002 and in England there were a total of 833 injuries. In 2003 there were 974. Again, with regard to the figures for 2004, a comparative figure for this period is not yet available for the UK.
Mr. Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on Government support for manufacturing in (a) the West Midlands, (b) Birmingham and (c) Hodge Hill since 2001; and what support will be available over the next three years. 
Manufacturing in the region is a complex picture with DTI and its partners providing a wide range of support. In 2002, the regional development agency for the West Midlands, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), produced a strategy for manufacturing, aimed at modernising skills and the
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various supply chains within the region to help its long-term future. Some initiatives we are supporting to take forward this strategy are:
Giving £37 million towards the setting up of an International Automotive Research Centre in partnership with Ford's Premier Automotive Group and Warwick University. This will focus on improving engineering skills and technology transfer between OEMs and academia to the region's automotive suppliers.
As part of AWM's Modernisation Programme, the 'Accelerate' Programme, with support from Europe, offers further help to automotive suppliers in the region. Up until 2003, over 1,500 companies have been assisted with advice on production efficiencies and best practice resulting in over 16,000 jobs being created and safeguarded. 16 companies in the Hodge Hill constituency are currently participating in the programme.
AWM's diversification programme also helps companies with new product development, improving business processes, supporting start-ups and improving access to finance. Its initial target to assist 800 businesses in the region by March 2005 has already been exceeded.
As part of the DTI-supported SMMT "Industry Forum", the "Automotive Academy" has been established, as a national £15 million initiative, aimed at enhancing skills, productivity and competitiveness of the UK motor industry. It has a delivery hub in the West Midlands, complementing the work of the Accelerate Programme.
The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) is one often in the country, jointly funded by DTI and, in the West Midlands, AWM and launched in 2002. Based in Wolverhampton, it has assisted over 900 businesses so far (against a three year target of 1,050) including 31 in the Hodge Hill constituency. As a result, over 70 per cent. of businesses invested money on improving their businesses. Nationally, manufacturing has been boosted by over £53 million as a result of MAS activities with an average of £100,000 added value to each participating manufacturer.
Capital investment support to industry in the Assisted Areas of the region is also given through the DTI's Selective Financial Investment in England (SFIE)formerly RSAscheme. Since 2001, 114 offers of grant worth £46 million have been made. Of these, 28 offers worth £19.4 million have been made to companies in Birmingham, helping to create 1,268.5 new jobs and safeguard 1,816.5. Included is Frenco International Ltd. in Kitts Green, which received a £95,000 grant in 2004 towards investment supporting the creation of six new jobs and the safeguarding of a further three. In addition, LDV in Washwood Heath is receiving £15 million in grant to support the manufacture of a brand new van.
Although it is not possible to provide a figure for funding that will be available over the next three years, manufacturing remains an important part of the West Midlands industrial landscape, which is recognised in the Regional Economic Strategy (RES), which AWM and its partners will continue to actively deliver against over the next three years. This will include the continuation of some of the successful initiatives as detailed.
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