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Gender Pay Gap

24. Mr. Khan: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government are taking to address the gender pay gap. [43251]

Meg Munn: Government have taken various measures to tackle the gender pay gap, including the creation of the Women and Work Commission, and Ilook forward to their final report within the next few weeks containing their findings and recommendations to close the gender pay gap.

We have also introduced and raised the national minimum wage, which has helped increase the pay of women. In October we increased the national minimum wage to £5.05. Around 70 per cent. of the beneficiaries of the uprating of the national minimum wage in October 2004 were women.

Other measures we have introduced to reduce the gender pay gap include the DTI Strategic Partnership initiative supporting a team of Equal Pay Panel of Experts, led by the TUC. The experts will offer free advice/guidance sessions to organisations looking to investigate or undertake an equal pay review. This initiative builds on the TUC Equal Pay project, which has trained over 400 union equal pay reps.


25. Jo Swinson: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if she will make a statement on Government policy on breastfeeding in public places. [43252]

Meg Munn: Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants and we are aware of the important contribution it can make to the health of mothers and infants. The Government are collecting data through the National Infant Feeding Survey 2005 on women's experiences of breastfeeding in public.


Ms Butler: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government are taking to ensure that (a) queries and (b) representations on all four strands of equality are dealt with consistently; and, where different procedures apply, what the reasons are for such differences. [42984]

Meg Munn: The Government are committed to the advancement of equality for all and to encouraging a society where people have an equal chance to achieve
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their potential. The CEHR will bring a more coherent approach to the provision of advice and information across all areas of discrimination, so that for the first time they are delivered from one place.

The Government attach great importance to the communities the CEHR serves being effectively represented in its governance and operations. The provisions in the Equality Bill make clear that the CEHR Board must include members who have knowledge and experience in the fields of discrimination the CEHR will address, as well as human rights, and provides mechanisms such as committees to facilitate further representation and involvement. Where necessary, these reflect the specific circumstances of the groups concerned, for example the CEHR's Disability Committee provides continuity with the requirements in the Disability Rights Commission Act that ensure that disabled people steer the DRC's work.

Women MPs

Julie Morgan: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government are taking to increase the number of women in Parliament. [43250]

Meg Munn: In 2002 we introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act allowing positive measures towards women's increased participation. 20 per cent. of MPs are now women compared with 9 per cent. before 1997.

We are committed to working towards gender equality throughout society, including in political life, and continue to monitor progress in this area.


Workplace Rights

9. Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes to workplace rights since 1997 will be in place by 2007. [43233]

Mr. Sutcliffe: In addition to creating record levels of employment, we have also introduced a safety net of protections for the most vulnerable employees. The most significant include, paid holidays, measures to support working parents, age discrimination regulations and the national minimum wage.

In addition my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has today announced theappointment of Paul Myners as Chair at the Low Pay Commission, who is replacing Lord Turner of Ecchinswell.

Regulation has its place, but of key importance is to encourage cultural change to make working smarter, not harder. We will continue to build on our achievements so that people at work can develop their skills and have the opportunity to maximise their potential, and will ensure that flexibility works for both employees and businesses.

Gas Supply/Storage

10. Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures are in place to increase capacity for gas supply and storage in the UK. [43234]

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Malcolm Wicks: The market based framework in place has already brought forward investment in major new gas storage and import infrastructure. In addition, last Thursday the Secretary of State announced the introduction of a new legal regime which covers new offshore gas storage and offshore gas unloading. This will enable the development of new offshore gas storage facilities.

Company Law Reform Bill

11. Sarah McCarthy-Fry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on drafting the Company Law Reform Bill; and if he will make a statement. [43235]

Alun Michael: The Company Law Reform Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 1 November 2005. It received its Second Reading in that House on 11 January 2006.

Footwear Manufacturing (Northamptonshire)

12. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make an economic assessment of the Northamptonshire footwear manufacturing industry. [43237]

Alun Michael: We have no plans to make a separateeconomic assessment of the Northamptonshire footwear sector. The hon. Member raised this issue in the House on 21 July 2005 when he was invited to write to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry setting out the case for such an assessment.

Employment Tribunal Awards

13. Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps his Department is taking to ensure that employment tribunal awards are paid. [43238]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The enforcement of awards is through the county courts and is the responsibility of the Department for Constitutional Affairs. DTI fully supports and has contributed to the provisions of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill that will streamline the process. Within the existing legal framework, the Employment Tribunal Service and the Courts Service are seeking ways to enhance enforcement.

Energy Supply

14. Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the current and future diversity of the UK's energy supply. [43240]

Malcolm Wicks: With declining reserves of oil and gas in the North sea, and as we become a net importer, Britain faces a new energy challenge. Diversity of energy supply is one of a number of complex issues that must be considered in the Energy Review. Our consultation document will be published on Monday.

UK Manufacturing

15. David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to promote manufacturing industry in the UK. [43241]

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Alun Michael: Government are promoting the development of a successful dynamic manufacturing sector working in partnership with industry. Through the Manufacturing Strategy we are helping more and more companies move to high added value production through the application of science and innovation, world class practice and skills development.

Premium Rate Services

16. Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on what date the extension of Ofcom's premium rate services regulations will be implemented by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services; and if he will make a statement. [43243]

Alun Michael: Many of the most important recommendations from the Ofcom report into premium rate service regulation have already been implemented. For example, from 15 September network operators have been obliged to withhold payments to services providers for 30 days after a call has been made thus enabling repayment or the payment of penalties to be guarantees. This is a powerful discouragement to fraudulent or exploitative activities. Other measures have also been implemented by DTI. For instance we have increased the maximum penalty for breaching the ICSTIS code of practice from £100,000 to £250,000. I expect the remaining recommendations to be implemented in the spring. It is important to get these regulatory changes right for the future and we have to meet requirements for extensive consultation of the industry and the public.

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