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MINISTER FOR WOMEN

Company Boards

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps she is taking to assist women in reaching more senior positions on company boards. [34645]

Meg Munn: Government take improving board effectiveness very seriously and that's why it is vital to encourage more women into the senior roles and ultimately, top executive positions. This year's female FTSE 100 report revealed that 78 FTSE 100 companies now have women directors, up 13 per cent. from last year.

However, there is still more work to be done which is why Government support initiatives such as the FTSE 100 cross company mentoring scheme—'Women Directors on Boards', which is backed by 29 Chairman and CEOs.

"Building Better Boards", published by the DTI one year ago, spells out the business case for diversity and the different ways in which companies can recruit and develop and a wider range of talent.

Non-working Mothers

Mr. Bone: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what measures the Government propose to take to encourage women to stay at home and look after their children rather than returning to work. [33640]

Meg Munn: Parents are the best people to make decisions about the interests of their children. The Government's role is to support families and to ensure they have meaningful choices about how they live their lives. The core aim of the Work and Families Bill is about helping to give children the best start in life and how to enable all families to have genuine choices about how they balance their work and family caring responsibilities.
 
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The 2005 budget announced a commitment to increase the child element of child tax credit at least in line with average earnings up to and including 2007–08. It is currently worth up to £1,690 a year per child, benefiting 7 million children in 3.6 million families.

Pension Inequality

Stephen Hesford: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent steps the Government have taken to tackle women's pension inequality. [35170]

Meg Munn: The Department for Work and pensions published a report entitled 'Women and pensions: The evidence' in November. This will inform the ongoing National Pensions Debate.

The Pensions commission published their report on 30 November 2005, and we will wish to analyse the evidence and consider the options and recommendations put forward by the commission and involve every section of our community as we work towards the publication of a White Paper in the spring.

This will help us to build on the achievements we have already made in lifting £1.9 million pensioners out of absolute low income 1.3 million of whom are women.

Student Loans

Mr. McGovern: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality whether the provision of student loans for postgraduate students will be covered by the clauses of the Equality Bill on age discrimination. [33959]

Meg Munn [holding answer 2 December 2005]: There are currently no clauses in the Equality Bill on age discrimination. Age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services is currently being considered as part of the Discrimination Law Review, announced in February. We expect to publish a Green Paper in late spring 2006.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Departmental Finance

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the real terms percentage increase in allocated resources for his Department (a) was for the period 1997–98 to 2004–05 and (b) is estimated to be between 2005–06 and 2007–08 (i) for each period and (ii) for each year. [31041]

Alan Johnson: The information requested is as follows.

(a) The real terms percentage increase in allocated resources for the Department of Trade and Industry for period 1997–98 to 2004–05 was 5 per cent.

(b) The estimated real terms increase in allocated resources for the Department of Trade and Industry between 2005–06 and 2007–08:


 
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Departmental Staff

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff in his Department have been relocated into London and the South East in each of the last five years for which records are available. [31741]

Alan Johnson: The Department does not hold records on staff that have been relocated into London and the South East in each of the last five years. Following the Lyons Review of Public Sector Relocation and the Spending Review 2004 the Government set Departments targets to relocate 20,000 posts from London and the South East by 2010. The Department has committed to relocate 685 posts by 2010 and 194 posts had been relocated by end October 2005.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to relocate staff in his Department and related agencies into London and the South East. [31748]

Alan Johnson: The Department has no plans to relocate staff in the Department and related agencies into London and the South East. Following the Lyons Review of Public Sector Relocation and the Spending Review 2004, the Government set Departments targets to relocate 20,000 posts from London and the South East by 2010. The Department has committed to relocate 685 posts by 2010 and 194 of these posts had been relocated by end of October 2005.

Doha Trade Talks

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recommendations he will be proposing on agricultural tariffs to the Doha trade round talks in Hong Kong. [33641]

Ian Pearson: The Government's long-term goal is to abolish progressively all barriers to agricultural trade in the forms of both tariffs and quotas. The Government aims to take an important step towards this goal through the Doha Development Agenda.

The European Commission negotiates in the World Trade Organisation on behalf of the European Union's 25 member states, within the parameters of a negotiating mandate laid out in a succession of council conclusions.

Export Credits Guarantee Department

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many investigations into companies have been undertaken by the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) in each of the last five years; and what steps the ECGD takes following an allegation of corruption or bribery against a company to which it has provided guarantee support. [33930]

Ian Pearson: ECGD makes Inquiries appropriate to each case before providing support for a transaction. ECGD reports any allegations of wrongdoing, or other suspicious circumstances which come to its attention, to the appropriate investigatory authorities, where a decision can be made regarding investigation by the appropriate criminal investigative bodies. ECGD has made enquiries in two instances, in 2003–4 and 2004–5, where companies have been convicted or admitted to bribery.
 
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Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many export credit guarantees have been entered into by subsidiaries of Halliburton since 2004; what the terms were of the deals for each of these guarantees; and if he will make a statement. [33932]

Ian Pearson: I refer the hon Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) on 22 February 2005, Official Report, column 556W. ECGD has not provided any guarantees for subsidiaries of Halliburton since 2004.

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for which transactions related to agent's commissions the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) requested an independent value for money check in each of the last 10 years; which countries were involved in each such transaction; what the value of each of the relevant contracts was; which exporters were involved in the transactions; and what conclusion the ECGD reached in each case. [33962]

Ian Pearson: ECGD does not carry out independent value for money checks of the amount of agent's commission. Where there is agent's commission payable, in respect of transactions for which ECGD support is being requested, the Department has a system in place for checking the legality of any such agent's commission and whether the amounts involved conform with normal market practice in the country concerned. ECGD also reserves the right to ask further questions of the exporter if the level of the agent's commission appears excessive compared to the services being provided.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the sum is of Nigeria's debt to the UK Export Credits Guarantee Department which is scheduled to be removed by arrears payments and buy-backs by Nigeria and cancellation by the Government by April 2006; what the purpose of the loans was; and who the original lenders were. [34178]

Ian Pearson: The total debt owed to ECGD by Nigeria, which is the subject of the latest debt agreement, is £3.4 billion plus US$1.8 billion.

The majority of this debt, relating to a number of large capital goods contracts and diverse smaller, short-term business, accrued during the 1980s debt crisis. Because it arose from ECGD support for many thousands of contracts and hundreds of exporters, details about individual contracts could be supplied only at disproportionate cost.


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