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2 Nov 2005 : Column 1093W—continued


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the Post Office's proposals to charge local authorities and other users to use postcodes. [23821]

Barry Gardiner: Statutory obligations relating to the management of the Postcode Address File" are defined under Section 116 of the Postal Services Act 2000, which states that the File can be made available to any person who wishes to use it on such terms as are reasonable". This obligation is specifically governed under Condition 20 of Royal Mail's licence issued by Postcomm which states that the company shall furnish a copy of the File to any person who may request it upon payment of a reasonable charge".

Specific proposals relating to the management of the File are the direct responsibility of the company. I have therefore asked Adam Crozier, the Chief Executive of Royal Mail, to provide a direct reply to the hon. Member.

Small Business Service

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many small businesses have consulted the Small Business Service in each year since 1997. [20960]

Alun Michael: The first port of call for anyone wanting help to start a business or to obtain other help as a business is the local Business Link. Business Link is the national brand" and is delivered locally. As from April 2005 oversight of the local Business Link operators lies with each Regional Development Agency on behalf of the DTI's Small Business Service.

The following table shows the numbers of customers helped by Business Link operators, per year, since 2001–02. It shows both the number of existing businesses that have been helped by the Business Link Operators and also the total number of customers helped. The total number of customers includes those
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customers thinking of, or in the process of, starting a business (pre-starts). However, pre-starts are not available as an annual figure prior to 2003–04.
Number of businesses helpedTotal number of customers helped(16)
12 months ending
June 2005

(16) Including those individuals thinking of, or in the process of starting a business.
Business Link Operator Management Information Returns.

The role of the Small Business Service itself is to lead on small business issues across government, working to inform and influence policymakers and those who provide business support. It is leading work to spell out what is involved in the Business Link Brand" and the services or routes to service that can be expected by anyone who contacts a Business Link anywhere in the country which I hope to publish soon.

The Small Business Service has few direct enquiries from small businesses themselves, although it has very close relationships with the small business representative bodies as well as RDAs and many others.

Telephone Services (Charging)

Mr. Binley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will ask Ofcom to investigate the practices of the companies Telecom Billing Services and Persolvo Debt Collection with regard to charging for telephone services. [22546]

Alun Michael: My officials have drawn this issue to Ofcom's attention. Ofcom is aware of the services being offered by Telecom Billing Services Ltd. but has previously been of the view that it has no direct regulatory powers over these services. However Ofcom is, in the process of reviewing this position in order to identify whether it may have the power to take action, in certain circumstances.

The OFT, and other enforcers including Trading Standards and Ofcom, have powers under part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 to seek assurances from traders (including debt collectors like Persolvo) who consistently infringe a wide range of consumer protection legislation, that they will stop doing so. If traders continue to break the law they will face a fine and/or imprisonment.


Acceptable Behaviour Contracts

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many acceptable behaviour contracts have been issued in each police force; and if he will make a statement. [21931]

Hazel Blears: Data on numbers of ABCs are not collected centrally. ABCs are voluntary agreements and therefore unsuitable for central data collection.
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A recent survey carried out by the Home Office and sent to all CDRPs indicated that 5383 ABCs were made between October 2003 and September 2004.

Airsoft Weapons

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effect of the Violent Crimes Reduction Bill on the sport of airsoft in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [20470]

Hazel Blears: We are considering whether it would be appropriate and possible for the sport of airsoft to be exempted from the provisions of the Bill without undermining its main purpose. Under the provisions of the Bill as currently drafted, participants will still be able to use their existing guns and will be able to buy any airsoft which is not so realistic as to make it indistinguishable from a real firearm.

Alcohol-related Violence

Mr. Denis Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action his Department is taking to tackle alcohol-related violence; and how many incidents of alcohol-related violence took place in each of the last three years in (a) England and Wales, (b) Northumbria police force area and (c) Wansbeck constituency. [14537]

Hazel Blears: The Government take alcohol-related crime and disorder extremely seriously. That is why we introduced the Violent Crime Reduction Bill on 8 June 2005 which proposes a new package of measures to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence. The proposals, which are based on those outlined in the consultation document 'Drinking Responsibly' which was published on 21 January 2005, include: a new power for the police and local authorities to designate alcohol disorder zones in areas with a significant problem; a new drinking banning order which would exclude individuals responsible for alcohol-related disorder from certain areas and licensed premises; a new power for the police to ban the sale of alcohol at licensed premises for up to 48 hours if they persistently sell to under 18s; and a new power for the police to exclude individuals at risk of carrying out alcohol-related disorder from a specific area for up to 48 hours.

These new powers build on the range of measures already available to the police and licensing authorities to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder. They seek to balance a recognition of the collective responsibility that the alcohol trade should take for addressing some of these problems with a continued emphasis on the responsibility of the individual drinker or premise.

The Home Office collates National Statistics on recorded crime including offences of violence. These statistics are available for police force area and crime and disorder partnership (CDRP). Wansbeck CDRP covers the parliamentary constituency of Wansbeck but respective boundaries may not be coterminous. Statistics are also available at basic command unit level but are not comparable for the years specified due to boundary changes in Northumbria police force. In the last three years, the number of violent offences recorded by the police are set out in the table.
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It is not possible to determine from these National Statistics whether these offences are alcohol related. However a national estimate is provided by the British Crime Survey of the proportion of violent offences where the victim perceived the offender to be under the influence of alcohol. This is also detailed in the table.
England and Wales834,927955,7521,035,046
Wansbeck (CDRP)1,0051,0601,032
Percentage under influence of drink for violent offences in England and Wales445048

Animal Rights Extremists

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations the Government has received on controls on animal rights extremists who target scientists, medical testing suppliers and their families. [23395]

Paul Goggins: Tackling harassment and intimidation by animal rights extremists is a key priority for the Government. We are committed to ensuring that vital and potentially life saving research is able to continue and will protect those who are involved in the use of animals in research either directly, indirectly through the supply chain or by association.

We have regular discussions with those who are targeted by animal rights extremists including representatives from industry and academia. This is a key part of the process of ensuring that we take the most effective action to address animal rights extremism.

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