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UK Embassies

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether it is his Department's policy to downsize the commercial departments of UK embassies in European countries; what plans he has to close individual commercial departments; and if he will make a statement; [199938]

(2) what assessment he has made of the effect of downsizing the commercial departments of UK embassies on the export potential of British business and industry; [199940]

(3) what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about the future of commercial departments in UK embassies in Europe; and if he will make a statement. [199941]

Mr. Alexander: UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) supports businesses in the UK seeking to compete internationally. UKTI brings together the overseas resources of the FCO together with the Department for Trade and Industry. UKTI has strong partnerships with Regional Development Agencies in England, and with the Devolved Administrations.

Commercial teams in British Embassies and Consulates are an integral part of UKTI's support for businesses. UKTI's settlement in the recent Spending Review requires it to move resources to support inward investment to the UK. UKTI is, at the same time, focussing resources overseas on markets where customer demand is highest and where Foreign and Commonwealth Office commercial teams make the greatest difference to UK businesses.

On changes to UK embassies, I refer the hon. Member to the written statement made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 15 December 2004, Official Report, columns 137–40WS.

The UKTI corporate strategy underpins the development of its support for British business. The strategy can be found on UKTI's website at www.uktradeinvest and has been placed in the Library of the House.


Child Trust Funds (Milton Keynes)

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many children are eligible for the Child Trust Fund in (a) Milton Keynes South West and (b) North East Milton Keynes. [208413]

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Mr. Timms: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 30 November 2004, Official Report, columns 87–88W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton). There were 5,500 new births across Buckinghamshire in 2003.

Departmental Expenditure

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been spent by his Department on (a) new furniture and (b) hired furniture in each year since 1997. [205617]

Mr. Timms: The totals spent on furniture by the core Treasury in 2002–03 and 2003–04 were £413,000 and £170,000 respectively. Furniture for long-term use within the Treasury offices is generally bought, rather than hired or leased. Information in respect of the earlier years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Staff

John Mann: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of his Department's staff is based in London. [208040]

Mr. Timms: All Treasury staff are based in London.

European Union

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 15 December 2004, Official Report, column 1084W, on the European Union, if he will supply page and column numbers for references to the costs of activities promoting the benefits of the Government's policy towards the European Union, distinguishing EU policy communication themes from other such themes; and what the total amount spent on such activities was in the last year for which figures are available. [207107]

Mr. Timms: HM Treasury does not undertake promotion of the Government's policy towards the European Union as a discrete function, but only as part of its work in developing policy on individual issues.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will rank EU member states showing which in his Department's assessment are closest to achieving a highly competitive social market economy as required by Article 1–3(3) and 1–3(4) of the proposed EU Constitution. [208251]

Mr. Timms: Article 1–3 of the draft constitution sets out the Union's objective of achieving sustainable development based on a highly competitive social market economy. Member states are currently working towards this goal through the Lisbon process.

Measuring the extent to which member states have established highly competitive social market economies requires an assessment of performance against a range of structural economic indicators. The relative performance of member states against core structural indicators was set out in the report from the Commission to the spring European Council, "Delivering Lisbon Reforms For The Enlarged Union", and in the EPC's annual report on structural reforms 2004, "Reinforcing Implementation". 2005 updates of these reports will be published in the coming weeks. The November 2004
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report of the High-level Group chaired by Wim Kok, "Facing the Challenge", also included an assessment of member states' relative performance against a series of key structural indicators, showing both achievements in absolute terms and the relative improvements in performance over time.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what structures and mechanisms he (a) has put in place and (b) proposes to ensure the co-ordination of UK economic and employment policies with those of other EU member states as proposed in Article 1–15 (1) and (2) of the proposed EU Constitution. [208257]

Mr. Timms: Articles 1–12 and 15 of the EU Constitution maintain member states' ability to coordinate their economic and employment policies within the existing framework of the broad economic policy guidelines and employment guidelines, as set out in the relevant sections of Part III of the Constitution.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of whether Article 1–8 of the proposed EU constitution gives rise to a legal obligation for all EU citizens and commercial entities to treat the euro as legal tender. [208259]

Mr. Timms: The separate status of the United Kingdom is dealt with in Protocol 13 of the Constitution. This carries forward the existing terms of the UK's opt-out from the euro and economic and monetary union, set out in the Protocol annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community by the Maastricht Treaty on European Union.

Foreign Students

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his most recent estimate is of the yearly contribution to the economy in (a) Greater Portsmouth and (b) the UK of foreign students in the higher, further and private education sectors; what amount of that contribution is represented by (i) spending and (ii) numbers directly employed as a result; and if he will make a statement. [208337]

Mr. Timms: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Mike Hancock, dated 17 January 2005:

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