Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes in personnel and resources allocated to export control (a) have been made since 2003 and (b) are planned; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: For the 200304 financial year, the Export Control Organisation (ECO) was allocated a running costs budget of £6,094,000, and for 200405, £6,389,000. The 200506 budget has not yet been formally delegated.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff there are in the Export Control Organisation; how many there were in (a) 200203, (b) 200304 and (c) 200405; what sections of the organisation have experienced changes in staff numbers since 200203; and what targets have been set for the number of staff in each section of the organisation. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Export Control Organisation (ECO) currently has 125 staff in post. In 200203 ECO had an average of 146 staff in post; in 200304 an average of 156; and in 200405, an average of 142. There have been changes in staff numbers in all sections of the organisation. Targets are not section specific; there is an overall target for headcount of 109 by 1 April 2006.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether his Department has decided whether to seek private sector partner involvement in delivering Export Control Organisation services; and if he will make a statement on the future of the organisation. 
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the progress of the Manufacturing Advisory Service in assisting manufacturing businesses in (a) the West Midlands and (b) England to become more competitive. 
The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) has made excellent progress since it was established in 2002 as part of the Manufacturing
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Strategy. It has played a key role in helping many manufacturers across the UK to improve productivity. On average, every company assisted has seen an increase in added value of £107,000 as a result of productivity improvements generated through MAS.
Ian Pearson: British firms looking at trading overseas receive advice and a broad range of support services through UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). Through UKTI, we are helping unprecedented numbers of smaller companies break into export markets like Morocco. UKTI monitors commercial developments in Morocco and alerts British firms on a case-by-case basis to specific opportunities. UKTI also supports the activities of the private sector led Moroccan British Business Council, which aims to improve the climate for bilateral trade and investment and increase the number of Moroccan and British exporters.
Ian Pearson: Sir Bryan Nicholson, chairman of the Financial Reporting Council, has been asked to carry out a Financial Reporting Review Panel (FRRP) review into the audited accounts of MG Rover and its associated companies over the past five years. He is due to report shortly. In addition, the administrators have a duty to report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the conduct of the directors.
Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what (a) meetings and (b) contact took place between Ministers of the Department and the directors of Phoenix Venture Holdings following their taking over of MG Rover. 
Ian Pearson: Recently, Ministers from the Department have frequently spoken to the directors of Phoenix Venture Holdings (PVH) in relation to the proposed joint venture with SAIC. There have also been a number of letters to and from PVH regarding the prospective deal with SAIC.
Prior to this year there were three meetings between my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State and one or more directors of PVH. These were in November 2004, at the Motor Show in May 2004 and at a CBI dinner in November 2002.
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Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the negotiations which took place between his Department's officials and the Shanghai Automotive Company over the takeover of MG Rover. 
Ian Pearson: The negotiations on the proposed joint ventures between MG Rover and SAIC were a matter for the companies themselves. The Government did, however, do all it could to help bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion, and officials from the DTI did engage with both MG Rover and SAIC to that end. We regret that the efforts of all concerned were ultimately unsuccessful.
A grant of up to £9 million under the Learning and Skills Act 2000 towards the cost of employee training and development, of which £4 million is from Rover Task Force funding and the balance from European funds. The company had drawn down some £5 million to date.
An offer of grant of £1.057 million (awarded to a partnership of MG Rover, MIRA, Powertrain Ltd. and Pi Technology) under the Department for Transport's Ultra Low Carbon Car Challenge, of which £424,830 has been drawn down.
Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had with MG Rover before he announced that MG Rover was to go into administration. 
Ian Pearson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had a number of discussions with the management of MG Rover and trades union representatives regarding the company's proposed joint venture with SAIC and the prospects for its successful conclusion in the weeks preceding the Directors' decision to put the company into administration. On the day the decision was taken, the then Secretary of State spoke with John Towers on the telephone on a number of occasions.
It is still the case that we are determined to maintain the opt out. To this end we are working closely with the European Commission and other EU member states to ensure a satisfactory outcome.
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