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Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the likely effects of the removal of the duty for Post Office Ltd. to prevent avoidable rural post office closures in April 2006. 
Barry Gardiner: The then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's statement of 16 September 2004 to the House advised that Post Office Ltd. had been directed to provide a report to Government of the findings of pilot activity into new, innovative and cost-effective means of delivering postal services at the end of 2005. It further stated that an assessment of the policy of preventing avoidable closures of rural post offices would be conducted in light of the findings of the pilot report. This will be considered alongside analysis of the network currently being conducted.
The Government are in the process of reviewing the future of the social network of post offices in rural and deprived urban areas and is fully committed to undertaking a public consultation at the appropriate time.
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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many applications were received for the post of Chair of Postcomm; whether the job is full-time; and what the annual salary of the Chair of Postcomm is. 
Barry Gardiner: 56 applications were received in June 2003 for the post of Chair of Postcomm. It is a part-time position, based on a three-day week, attracting an annual salary of £76,500 (pay award pending).
Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what information he has received from the European Commission in respect of proposals for a joint undertaking to organise research on radioactive waste management. 
The Government are aware that the European Commission is developing a proposal for a joint undertaking to organise research on radioactive waste management. The Commission believes that such a project would be of common European interest and would allow the pooling of private, national and Community resources to achieve specific long-term research objectives. The proposal has not yet been submitted to the Council of Ministers.
Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with local authorities about the retirement age for public sector workers; and if he will make a statement. 
The number of tax forms a business will respond to will depend upon a number of factors including its size, the nature of its business activities and how it chooses to provide information eg in writing, on-line or through agents. The wide range and diversity of these factors means any exercise to calculate averages has limited value and would necessitate a great deal of research at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with insurance industry representatives on travel insurance which excludes cover for tour company insolvency. 
None. The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3288) require that all businesses organising package
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tours must at all times be able to provide sufficient evidence of security for the refund of money paid over by consumers and for the repatriation of consumers in the event of insolvency.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the implications for access to veterinary services of the loss to vets of prescription-related income. 
Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 11 November 2005]: The regulatory impact assessment accompanying the Supply of Relevant Veterinary Medicinal Products Order 2005 fully sets out the implications. It is for individual veterinary surgeons to choose their pricing structure should they wish to recoup this income, as long as they do it in a way that does not discriminate between those customers who take a prescription and those who do not.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what reason vets will be prevented from charging for prescribing; and whether he plans to apply the same principles to other professional groups. 
Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 14 November 2005]: The Competition Commission found in their report in April 2003 that the market in prescription-only veterinary medicines was not working well for animal owners. They recommended a package of measures aimed at opening up the market to competition.
A key element of the package of measures is to enable customers to take up prescriptions, so they can shop around for medicines rather than be forced to pay the prices charged by the veterinary surgeon treating their animal. The three-year moratorium on prescription charges is seen by both the Competition Commission and Government as essential to encouraging take-up and opening the market.
Angela Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has made to ensure that the consequences of privatisation of water in developing countries is discussed at the World Trade Organisation talks in December. 
Ian Pearson: There is nothing in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which requires WTO members to privatise water utilities. The GATS provides a framework within which WTO members can negotiate the liberalisation of trade in services. It is up to WTO members to decide in which sectors to make commitments.
Ian Pearson [holding answer 7 November 2005]: Under the Common Commercial Policy, the European Commission negotiates in the World Trade Organisation on behalf of the European Union's 25 member states. The European Commission is bound by a negotiating mandate granted and updated by the Council of Ministers but has the freedom to determine strategy and tactics within the parameters of that mandate. The assessment of Her Majesty's Government is that the offers tabled by the European Commission on 10 and 28 October are within the remit of the negotiating mandate. Her Majesty's Government continues to give its full backing to the Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, in his conduct of the negotiations and is committed to achieving an ambitious, pro-development conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda by the end of 2006.
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