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Medicines (Packaging)

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the pharmaceutical industry on the effects of medicines supplied to patients in the UK being provided in tamper-proof and patient-safe packaging. [201722]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I have been asked to reply.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) undertook a full public consultation in advance of the introduction of the Medicines
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(Child Safety) Regulations 2003, which enabled implementation of a new national standard for packaging aimed at reducing child poisonings. The MHRA also had discussion with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and other interested parties about implementation of the standard, including a guideline to assist the industry in its implementation. Tamper-evident packaging is not required, nor prohibited, in law. The MHRA, however, monitors initiatives in medicines packaging to keep abreast of industry developments in this area. Tamper-evident packaging is one of many such areas that the MHRA has heard presentations on.

Minimum Wage

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will raise the minimum wage to the level recommended by the TUC. [205439]

Mr. Sutcliffe: As you may know, the minimum wage rates are set by the Government based on the recommendations of the independent Low Pay Commission, which consists of representatives from a range of employee, employer and academic backgrounds. The commission is presently carrying out an extensive consultation and fact finding exercise with employers, unions and others and will then consider the issues very carefully before putting forward recommendations to the Government in February 2005. As part of their remit the commission have been asked to review levels of each of the different minimum wage rates and make recommendations, if appropriate, for change.

Ministerial Visits

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what ministerial visits are planned for each Minister in her Department in the next six months; and if she will make a statement. [201277]

Ms Hewitt: My ministerial colleagues and I will undertake a broad range of visits over the next six months. It is not possible to provide the detailed information requested as it can only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Nuclear Industry

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate on safety concerns in relation to British Energy's advanced gas-cooled nuclear reactors. [204783]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I meet with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate from time to time to discuss various issues concerning regulation of safety in the nuclear industry, including advanced gas-cooled reactors. I last met him on 20 October 2004.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets will be set for the National Decommissioning Authority; and what its budget will be for the first year of operation. [204828]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: From 1 April 2005, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will focus on the clean-up of the UK's civil public sector nuclear legacy in
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a safe, secure, and cost-effective manner. The NDA's draft Annual Plan (available on its website) sets out what the NDA intends to achieve in its first year of operation at each of its sites. This work will contribute to the achievement of the Government's Public Service Agreement for the NDA which is to: reduce the civil nuclear liability by 10 per cent. by 2010; establish a safe, innovative and dynamic market for nuclear clean-up; deliver annual 2 per cent. efficiency gains from 2006–07; and, ensure successful competitions have been completed for the management of at least 50 per cent. of UK nuclear sites by end 2008. Work is now under way to set the more detailed key performance indicators and milestones that will allow my Department to be assured that the NDA is making progress against these targets. The NDA's budget for 2005–06 will be £2.2 billion.

Parliamentary Questions

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what target her Department sets for the maximum acceptable time to respond in full to a parliamentary question; and what percentage of answers given by her Department failed to meet this target in each parliamentary session from 1997–98 to 2003–04. [202556]

Ms Hewitt: I, and my team of Ministers aim to ensure that Members receive a substantive response to their named day question on the named day and also endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of being tabled. Unfortunately this is not always possible but this Department makes every effort to achieve these timescales.

The following shows the percentage of questions answered within these timescales since the last General Election.
Named day questionsOrdinary written questions

Post Office Card Accounts

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people with Post Office card accounts in receipt of the state pension have had a red flag placed on their accounts preventing access in each of the last 12 months. [204748]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The administration of the Post office card account is a commercial matter for Post Office Ltd. I understand from the company that term 'red flag' is not one that they use with regard to the Post Office card account. If the term refers to instances where the provision of the card account service has been withdrawn then no accounts have been flagged in this way in the last 12 months.

Post Offices

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post offices there are in the UK. [205297]

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Mr. Sutcliffe: As at 30 September 2004, the latest date for which quarterly statistics are available, there were 15,304 post offices in the UK.

Science Funding

Mr. Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what funding was provided by her Department for science in (a) the West Midlands, (b) Birmingham and (c) Hodge Hill since 2001; and what support will be made available in the next three years. [204183]

Jacqui Smith: The DTI provides support for a wide range of activities to help develop science and technology in the UK and facilitate its transfer to companies to help them improve their competitiveness. Since 1997 the national science budget has more than doubled and will reach £3.3 billion by 2007–08. In addition, a further £205 million has been earmarked nationally to drive forward the DTI's technology strategy. Funds from both streams will help bring major benefits to companies in the West Midlands. This is a key priority for the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands and its partners and some of the larger examples of work with the regions' universities and other organisations to take forward these aims are as follows:

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