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Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the size of the rural network of post offices; and what steps her Department is taking to support the rural post office network. 
The Government have placed on Post Office Ltd. a formal obligation to maintain the rural post office network and to prevent avoidable closures of rural post offices. The direction remains in force at least until April 2006. The Government have made a major investment to support the rural network. It initially made available £450 million (£150 million a year) for the 3 years 200304 to 200506 to help the Post Office to maintain the parts of the rural post office network that could not be sustained on a commercial basis. Subject to state aid clearance it will make available a further £300 million to extend this financial support for the rural network until April 2008.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will take steps to amend the requirement to prevent avoidable closures placed on Post Office Ltd. to one that allows greater flexibility and innovation. 
As part of our ongoing commitment to maintaining the rural post office network, £25 million has already been allocated to POL to run a wide range of innovative pilots. Because this activity is geared towards replacing traditional outlets with some alternative means of access rather than simply closing them, it is permitted within the scope we have set for the company to run the pilots. I have asked POL for a full report on pilot activity by the end of this year. The lessons that will emerge from these trials over the next 12 months will be crucial in informing longer-term decisions about the future shape of the rural post office network.
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Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of Triangle and HI Europe's research findings in 2002 on 'The Impact of Post Office Closures in the Rural Community'. 
As made clear in the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to this House on 16 September 2004, Official Report, columns 16668WS, the Government are making available to Post Office Ltd. (POL), subject to State Aid provisions, a further £300 million between 2006 and 2008 in order to enable well informed decisions to be taken to ensure that post office services to rural communities can be maintained on a more sustainable basis. This additional transitional funding is intended to sustain the rural post office network while work is undertaken on alternative, innovative ways of providing access to postal services.
POL currently has under way a wide ranging programme of pilot projects to examine novel, effective and efficient ways of delivering postal services. I intend to ask the company for a report on this activity by the end of the year. This report and other relevant information will inform decisions concerning long-term sustainable service delivery to rural communities.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 30 November 2004, Official Report, column 81W, on post office closures, when she expects Post Office Ltd. toreply to the hon. Member for Gordon; and if she will make a statement on the average time taken by Post Office Ltd. to respond to such parliamentary questions. 
It would appear that due to an administrative error the hon. Member's inquiries of 30 November 2004 were not passed on to David Mills' office at Post Office Ltd. for a direct reply. This has now been done and a response will be sent direct to the hon. Member within the next few days.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much her Department spent on providing (a) printed public information and (b) other public information in the last year for which figures are available; and what public information her Department provides, broken down by type of medium in which it is provided. 
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment she has made of Royal Mail's performance against its licence targets for the first quarter of 200405; and if she will make a statement; 
Mr. Sutcliffe: Royal Mail's quality of service both nationally and in the CH postcode area was below the targets in the first quarter of 200405, when performance was affected by the massive restructuring taking place at Royal Mail. Improving the quality of postal services throughout the country is an operational matter for the Royal Mail Board. I have been assured by Allan Leighton that this is the Board's top priority and Adam Crozier, Chief Executive of Royal Mail, has taken personal responsibility for this improvement.
I am very pleased that Royal Mail has improved its performance both nationally and in the CH postcode area since the first quarter of 200405. In quarter 2, 92.1 per cent. of 1st class mail was delivered nationally the next day, just below the target of 92.5 per cent. and up from 88.6 per cent. in April. In the CH postcode area, 92.1 per cent. of 1st class mail was also delivered the next day in quarter 2, up from 87.3 per cent. in April.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support is being provided to small and medium-sized enterprises for trade and investment abroad in 200405; and how much was provided in 200304. 
Nigel Griffiths: UK Trade and Investment programme budget for trade development and outward investment activities is £78.6 million. In 200304 expenditure under the same heading was £75.9 million. Much of this is directed at the SME sector but precise figures are not available.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions (a) she and (b) her Department has had with (i) the regulator and (ii) British Telecom concerning the time taken to restore faulty telephone lines to vulnerable people. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien:
The Department discussed the provision of priority fault repair services to end-users with a disability with the then regulator the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) when the framework for Universal Service was drawn up. The provision of priority fault repair services to end-users with a disability is mandatory for all telecoms providers in the UK. The Department consulted BT on the framing of the order and considered the company's comments.
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Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether her Department's Welsh Language Scheme was approved by the Welsh Language Board; and on what date the scheme was implemented. 
Ms Hewitt: My Department's Welsh Language Scheme was approved by the Welsh Language Board on 30 August 2000. Some elements came into operation immediately and the remainder were implemented progressively over the next 12 months.
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