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Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what position the United Kingdom will take on liberalisation of (a) agricultural markets, (b) non-agricultural markets and (c) service industries in developing countries at the World Trade Organisation General Council meeting on 27 July 2005. [8291]

Ian Pearson: The agenda has yet to be set for the World Trade Organisation General Council meeting on 27 July 2005. The European Commission speaks on behalf of the EU at these meetings. The United Kingdom will continue to work for a pro-development outcome across all the dossiers of the Doha development agenda, as set out in our White Paper Making Globalisation a Time for Good".

MG Rover

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of its actions in trying to prevent MG Rover entering administration; and if he will make a statement. [5871]

Ian Pearson: The DTI, in common with other commentators, had long taken the view that an alliance with one or more strategic partners would be key to MG Rover's long-term future. Officials tracked the progress of negotiations with China Brilliance Automotive, TATA, Proton and the owners of the former Daewoo plant in Warsaw and Ministers made representations at the company's request to assist in certain of these negotiations.

During 2004 it became clear that the proposed alliance with SAIC was critical to MG Rover's future. Ministers and officials did everything possible to secure the deal when it became clear that matters were coming to a head earlier this year. Senior officials flew to Shanghai for discussions with SAIC and the Government stood ready to provide a bridging loan of over £100 million. It was a devastating blow to all those involved, but particularly the workers and their families, that those efforts proved unsuccessful—with the company's entry into administration being the inevitable consequence.
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Miners (Compensation Claims)

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many health-related claims for compensation from surface workers in the coal industry have been refused. [7623]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department's expert medical advice is that respirable dust levels on the surface of coal mines were insufficient to cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the great majority of cases. The Department believes that around 7,500 surface only claims may have been registered under the Claims Handling Agreement for respiratory disease. However, they are not eligible for compensation.

The miners' solicitors had been intending to contest this in new group litigation but advised the court in December 2004 that they were not now going ahead with this. Individual claims may be brought against the Department under common law.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many claims relating to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in coal miners have been refused where the claimant worked more than five years underground. [7627]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 27 June 2005]: The figure requested is not available. However, no claim would be denied solely on the basis of the length of underground employment.

Non-agricultural Market Access

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the Government's stance at the World Trade Organisation is on non-agricultural market access negotiations, with particular reference to protecting the environment. [8099]

Ian Pearson: Negotiations in Geneva on NAMA are undertaken by the European Commission on behalf of the European Union. The UK objective in the NAMA negotiations within the Doha Development Agenda trade round is for significantly improved real access to markets (except those of least developed developing countries and other weak and vulnerable countries) for all WTO members, especially developing country access to developed markets, and to give a stimulus to trade between developing countries. This to be achieved through the reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. Our commitment to sustainable development underpins our rating stance. Consistent with the Doha trade negotiations mandate the UK also fully supports the reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in environmental goods. The UK does not support any steps in the NAMA negotiations that would deny us, or others, the ability to enforce or implement necessary and proportionate environmental protection measures.

North West (Economy)

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to
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strengthen the regional economy of the north west following the redundancies announced by Lappett Manufacturing Company Ltd.; and what assistance the Government will provide to those who have lost their jobs. [7723]

Alun Michael: The job losses announced by LappettManufacturing Company are regrettable but Iunderstand this is a commercial decision in the light of strong international competition. Support for those losing their jobs is available from Jobcentre Plus who can assist them in seeking other opportunities (including on retraining) as well as providing benefit advice.

Much is happening to help strengthen the north west economy. In particular the North West Development Agency has supported a range of initiatives and is working with partners across the region to deliver the regional economic strategy. It is also now working with the other northern regions to take forward the northern way growth strategy. These initiatives are contributing to improving business competitiveness and productivity, strengthening the regions skills base and providing the right environment to retain and attract investment.

Initiatives include a cluster development programme to develop strong clusters around growth sectors, a major manufacturing sector project, 'Agenda for Change', providing intensive business support, a realignment of business support services and workforce development to achieve greater business productivity, provision of technology support facilities, including the Lancashire Technology Management, and supply chain programmes.

Despite the recent losses, unemployment in the north west is now 2.4 per cent. compared to 6.6 per cent. in 1995, and I am encouraged by the progress that is being made. I applaud the energy and commitment in the region to ensure the significant resources available are used to the maximum effect.

Oil and Gas Imports

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State forTrade and Industry what assessment he has made of the potential consequences for the UK's energy security of continued reliance on imported oil and natural gas. [6621]

Malcolm Wicks: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make a report on security of supply to Parliament in July. This will include an assessment of the consequences of the UK becoming increasingly dependent on imported sources of fuel.

Import dependency is not necessarily a threat to energy security. Oil and—currently to a lesser extent—gas are internationally traded commodities. All countries, whether import-dependent or not, have a common interest in promoting open markets and predictable prices. Most other advanced industrial economies already import significant proportions of their energy needs without noticeable disruption.
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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of people over state pension age who were (a) working in low paid jobs, (b) receiving the minimum wage and (c) receiving below the minimum wage in (i) the UK and (ii) each region in each of the last eight years. [7682]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Data for the UK from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings indicates that in 2003 around 170,000 (29 per cent.) of employees who were over the state pension age earned below 60 per cent. of median earnings (£5.24). In 2004, the figure was largely unchanged with around 180,000 (29 per cent.) of employees earning below 60 per cent. of median earnings (£5.42).

Due to the sample size it is not possible to provide an accurate estimate of the number of employees who are over state retirement age who actually earn the minimum wage exactly.

The DTI estimates that in the UK around 60,000 employees over state pension age stood to benefit from the October 2003 uprating of the national minimum wage to £4.50. This is equivalent to 9.5 per cent. of all employees over state pension age.

Around 80,000 employees over the state pension age stood to benefit from the October 2004 uprating of the national minimum wage to £4.85. This is equivalent to 12.7 per cent. of all employees over state pension age

It is not possible to give estimates for the regions due to small sample sizes.

These estimates assume full compliance.

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