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Future growth prospects are positive. Business surveys are pointing to a continued strengthening of business activity in Scotland. Independent forecasters predict that GDP growth in Scotland will remain above trend into 2005 and 2006, and that the differential between Scotland and the UK will narrow. Since 2001 there have been some signs of convergence, although it is difficult to make firm conclusions in such a short time span.
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11. Mr. Peter Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, what discussions he has held with (a) the Chancellor of the Exchequer and (b) the Scottish Executive on prospects for growth in the Scottish economy by comparison with the rest of the UK. 
9. Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the Scottish representatives of the Disability Rights Commission to discuss disability rights in Scotland. 
Mrs. McGuire: My hon. Friend, the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration at the Home Office, set out forecast costs of introducing an identity cards scheme in his answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) on 20 December 2004, Official Report, column 1901.
13. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the level of central Government regulation of small businesses in Scotland. 
Mr. Darling: I regularly meet Cabinet colleagues to discuss a wide range of issues. The Government are committed to eliminating unnecessary regulations affecting all businesses and works with all stakeholders, including the European Commission, the Scottish Executive, enforcement authorities, as well as small businesses themselves, to achieve this.
Information from the Committee of Scottish Clearing Banks shows 21,468 new business accounts were opened at Scotland's four main clearing
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banks in 2003. There were 126,560 VAT registered business in Scotland at the start of 2004, the highest level since the present series began in 1994. Data for 2004 is not yet available.
15. Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on using national lottery funding for projects to mark the legacy of Robert Burns, with particular reference to the 250th anniversary of his birth. 
Mrs. McGuire: My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of topics. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, decisions on national lottery funding of this kind in Scotland are a matter for Scottish Ministers.
36. David Taylor: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what recent developments there have been in the designation of no-smoking areas in the precincts of the House; and if he will make a statement. 
Sir Archy Kirkwood: On 27 January the Commission announced through a notice in the All Party Whip that the House would as from Monday 4 April become smoke-free, save as otherwise provided. A staff notice was issued on the same day. Smoking will continue to be allowed in Refreshment Department bars, except the Strangers' Bar and Terrace Pavilion Bar: it will no longer be allowed in any outlets serving food, including the Members Tea Room.
Sir Archy Kirkwood:
As my hon. Friend will know from my previous answers to him, an environmental survey of the parliamentary estate was carried out in 2004 by the consultants Urban Mines Ltd., and a copy of the report has been placed in the Library. Its detailed recommendations are being taken forward by the Working Group on Recycling and the Energy Savers Group.
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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what the cost is of the contract for the provision of the services of an election artist. 
Sir Archy Kirkwood: A number of highly regarded contemporary artists were invited to submit proposals for a work based on the next general election campaign for a fee of £10,000 plus VAT. There are likely to be some additional costs for framing and the artist's travel and subsistence expenses. The Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art selected David Godbold as the successful artist. The costs of the commission will be met from that Committee's acquisition budget.
Mr. Connarty: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what plans he has to re-examine the recent changes made to postal services in the House. 
Sir Archy Kirkwood: There have in fact been no recent changes to the postal services in the House. The Mail Screening service was the subject of a tender exercise and the contract was awarded to Pitney Bowes with effect from 1 July 2005. A procurement exercise for the Mail Delivery Service, covering behind the scenes sorting and preparation, will be completed later this year.
Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is open to suggestion on this, as on other matters. In particular, he would be very willing to consider any suggested topics of regional interest suitable for debate in the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs.
39. Ms Coffey: To ask the Leader of the House what representations he has made to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on giving more emphasis to Parliament in the school citizenship syllabus. 
Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills the recommendation of the Modernisation Committee, in its report on Connecting Parliament with the Public", that Ministers re-examine the balance of the citizenship curriculum to ensure that it provides young people with an understanding of Parliament and the political process.
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