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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the change in home heating costs in each year since 200001; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: Changes in home heating costs since 200001 are shown in the following table:
|All households||Electric central heating||No electric central heating||All households||Gas central heating||No gas central heating||Heating|
oils and other fuels
|Solid fuel||All fuels|
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps his Department is taking to ensure that funding allocations under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme begin in April 2006. 
Malcolm Wicks: Several steps are being taken to ensure that the Programme will begin in April 2006. The detailed shape of the Programme is being developed in light of the recent consultation.
An OJEU notice was published on 4 October in order to contract a manager for the Programme and an application is being prepared for EU for State Aids clearance. An accreditation scheme is also being developed to run in parallel with the Programme for approval of products and installers.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when grant funding allocations under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme will begin; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 27 October 2005]: The new programme should start in April 2006, subject to EU state aids clearance.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which five management consultancies received the highest value of contracts awarded by his Department in each of the last three years; and what the total value was of the contracts awarded to each. 
Alun Michael: The Department awards all contracts in open competition according to the EU Procurement Regulations, based on best value for money. Central records show the following management consultancies as receiving the highest payments for management consultancy services in each of the last three financial years.
|Fujitsu Services Ltd.||241,380|
|Whitehead Mann Group Plc||65,453|
|Capita Business Services Ltd.||52,553|
|MCI UK Ltd.||300,000|
|Status Communications Ltd.||218,419|
|Nicola J. Taylor||65,512|
|200506 (to date)|
|MCI UK Ltd.||150,000|
|Ernst & Young LLP||104,023|
|Status Communications Ltd.||93,454|
Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the efficiency of Capita as the agents for delivery of the compensation for widows and families of deceased miners. 
Malcolm Wicks: Capita and the Department have an agreed efficiency improvement programme which is closely and regularly monitored. Improving the efficiency of the claims handling process is a key area for the Department.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much has been paid to Vendside employees for attending meetings with his Department since January 1999, in allowances and travel expenses. 
[holding answer 21 October 2005]: The Department has made payments totalling £6,310 to Vendside. This covers the costs of its employees
31 Oct 2005 : Column 709W
attending operational meetings with the Department to discuss generic claim handling issues on behalf of the UDM. This mirrors the costs paid to the Claimants' Group under the Claims Handling Agreements. Typically, Vendside employees would attend three meetings each year.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many coal health claims have been mediated by the Law Society since 2003; 
(2) which cases in relation to which complaints have been made about charging under the coal health claims scheme have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal by the Law Society; and when each such referral was made. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 28 October 2005]: These are matters for the Law Society. The Department does not hold this information.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the consequences of Vendside Ltd. dropping beat knee claims for compensation from the Government. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 28 October 2005]: Claimants who had lodged their claims with Vendside Ltd. may still be able to bring their claims if they contact solicitors urgently. It is unclear whether a further Group Litigation Order will be sought in due course but if not, individual claims will need to be brought at common law. The position may become clearer after a hearing on 11 November 2005,
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many companies have been found to be paying their employees below the minimum wage in each year since its introduction; and what penalties were imposed. 
Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.
NMW records do not distinguish between employers that are companies, partnerships or sole traders. Details of the number of cases closed where non-compliance is identified are shown in the following table. The actual number of employers is slightly less than the number of cases because in a few instances there can be more than one case for the same employer.
|Cases closed where non-compliance was found||Enforcement notices issued during the year||Penalty notices issued during the year|
In the vast majority of cases the employer pays any minimum wage arrears without the need for any formal enforcement action. Where arrears are not paid, an enforcement notice will be issued setting out the arrears that are considered to be due. An employer will then have 28 days to lodge an appeal and subsequently have
31 Oct 2005 : Column 710W
his case heard before an employment tribunal. If the appeal is not upheld or the enforcement notice has not been appealed against, the arrears become due. Where appropriate, a penalty notice can be issued for failure to comply with the enforcement notice.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what mechanisms are in place to monitor whether companies are paying their employees below the minimum wage. 
Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that the number of jobs paid below the minimum wage was 272,344 in April 2004. However, this estimate is based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings which is not designed to monitor compliance with the minimum wage. The survey cannot separately identify workers such as apprentices, those undergoing training and those workers eligible for the accommodation offset, all of whom may legally be paid less than the minimum wage.
Arrangements are in place to ensure that those employers most at risk of paying their employees below the minimum wage are considered for NMW enforcement measures. Workers and others may register a complaint that the minimum wage has not been paid with the HMRC NMW Helpline. This will trigger an inquiry into the employer by one of the 16 locally based HMRC NMW enforcement teams. Other employers that are at risk of not complying with the minimum wage legislation are also visited by one of the enforcement teams to check they are compliant. These employers are selected using risk assessment when information from various sources, including from within HMRC and from other Departments, is considered.
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