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23 Mar 2006 : Column 510W—continued


National Minimum Wage

14. Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact of the national minimum wage since its introduction; and if he will make a statement. [60685]

Mr. Sutcliffe: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given earlier today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson), Official Report, column 395.


15. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to assist manufacturing in the west midlands; and if he will make a statement. [60687]

Alun Michael: The Government are taking steps through the Manufacturing Strategy to encourage manufacturers in all regions to move to high value
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added production through the application of science and innovation, world-class practice and skills development.

Gas Prices

16. Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on commercial gas prices. [60688]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government take the recent increases in energy prices very seriously and are very concerned about the impact on businesses. We are aware that this creates tough trading conditions, especially for energy intensive users. Prices have risen over the past year mainly as a result of increasing oil prices, leading to higher wholesale gas prices, and higher international coal prices. Recent periods of high gas prices during this winter reflect the supply-demand balance in the UK. We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to find solutions and to reduce the impact on those most affected.

Aerospace Industry

17. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken to increase the competitiveness of the UK aerospace industry. [60689]

Alun Michael: In 2003, the Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team report set out the Government's vision for the UK aerospace industry. We aim to improve all aspects of the industry's productivity and competitiveness. We have drawn up and are implementing the National Aerospace Technology Strategy; we have set up the National Composites Network and supported it with investment of £30 million; and we are developing the sustainable aviation strategy.


Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the most recent balance of trade with China is; and if he will make a statement. [60686]

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Ian Pearson: In 2004 the UK's export of goods and services to China amounted to £3.4 billion; imports of goods and services amounted to £10.9 billion; giving a balance of trade in China's favour amounting to £7.4 billion.

UK exports to China are growing strongly. Chinese figures for the first 11 months of 2005 shows that UK exports grew by 15 per cent. higher than any of our major European competitors (Germany 1 per cent. Italy 9 per cent.) with the exception of France (16 per cent.). As China's economy develops, new opportunities are becoming available to UK business. Ensuring that UK business is best placed to take advantage of this is a key priority for the Government.

Many UK companies decide to invest in, rather than trade with, China. The UK is one of the largest investors in China (and the largest EU investor in China and Hong Kong combined) with a total of over 4,834 British-invested projects as of November 2005.

UK Trade and Investment is leading on the Chancellor's Asia Task Force initiative and working actively with its Chinese counterparts on a range of market access and trade and investment issues through the UK-China Joint Economic Trade Commission.

Communications Act

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people have been (a) charged, (b) convicted, (c) fined and (d) cautioned under the Communications Act 2003; and what the average level of fine levied has been. [59141]

Fiona Mactaggart: I have been asked to reply.

Data from the court proceedings database held by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform on the number of people prosecuted, found guilty, fined and cautioned under the Communications Act 2003 for England and Wales, is shown in the table. The Communications Act 2003 provisions came into force in April 2004. Figures have also been included for TV licence evasion offences under the Wireless Telegraphy Acts. Information on charges is not collected centrally.

Court statistics for 2005 will be available in autumn 2006.
Number of defendants prosecuted at magistrates court, found guilty at all courts fined and cautioned for offences relating to the Communications Act 2003 and the Wireless Telegraphy Acts, in England and Wales, 2004(30)

Offence ActOffence descriptionCautionedProsecutedFound GuiltyFinedAverage fine amount (£)
Communications Act 2003Offences in connection with information requirements
Communications Act 2003 S.125Dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services1716492
Communications Act 2003 S.126Possession or supply of apparatus for contravening S.125322155
Communications Act 2003 S.127Improper uses of public electronic communications network21414331145
Communications Act 2003 and Wireless Telegraphy ActsInstalling or using a television receiver without the appropriate licence and other summary offences1115,64297,76696,192231

(30) These data are on the principal offence basis.
(31) Nil.
RDS—Office for Criminal Justice Reform

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Cold Calling

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the consultation document Doorstep Selling and Cold Calling of July 2004, whether (a) primary and (b) secondary legislation would be required to extend the statutory cooling-off period for consumers entering into a contract as a result of an unsolicited visit to the same length of time following a contract as a result of a solicited visit. [60813]

Mr. Sutcliffe: On the basis of our assessment of the financial and numerical significance of solicited visits compared with unsolicited visits which are covered by the directive on contracts negotiated away from business premises (85/577/EEC), we have concluded that this change would require primary legislation.

Equal Treatment Directive

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress is being made towards implementing EU directive 2004/113/EC on equal treatment in goods and services; and when he plans to bring forward enabling legislation. [59368]

Meg Munn [holding answer 17 March 2006]: The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 currently meets many of the requirements of the EC gender directive on equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services (2004/113/EC). Work to implement the remaining requirements of the directive is being carried out as part of the Discrimination Law Review (DLR). The decision on which legislative vehicle should be used to transpose the directive has not yet been taken. This decision will determine the timing of its implementation.

European Space Agency

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in encouraging the European Space Agency to review its procurement policy of fair return. [60690]

Barry Gardiner: Following UK representation ESA and the EU will carry out a review of options for governance and implementation mechanisms for future European space activities. Procurement policy will be included in the review. The review will feed into the European Space Policy which is expected to be finalised in 2007. The UK will continue to participate in the relevant forum to ensure that the review is carried out thoroughly.

Industrial Support

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much funding his Department has provided to support the (a) aerospace, (b) agricultural, (c) automotive, (d) biotechnology, (e) chemical, (f) construction, (g) research and development and (h) tourism industry in (i) the North East and (ii) the Tees Valley in each of the last five years. [59928]

Alun Michael: It should be noted that the agricultural and tourism industries are likely to receive funding from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) respectively and figures are
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not available in the precise format specified in the question. Government funding for ONE North East, the Regional Development Agency for the North East of England, for the last five years amounts to:
Financial yearFunding (£ million)

ONE North East

ONE North East estimate that around 25 per cent. of its resources, or £262 million over the last 5 years, have been provided to support projects and initiatives in the Tees Valley sub-region, including resources devolved to the Tees Valley Partnership.

In addition, since April 2002 ONE North East has administered the Selective Finance for Investment in England (SFIE) and Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) schemes on behalf of DTI. Total spend on this scheme in the North East and Tees Valley sub-region is outlined in the following table:
£ million

Financial yearTotal spendTees Valley spend

ONE North East

ONE North East also administers the DTI Grant for Research and Development (previously Smart) scheme to encourage SMEs to undertake science and technology research and development activities. Spend on this scheme is outlined in the following table:

Financial yearTotal spendTees Valley spend

ONE North East

The Department also provides funding through a wide number of schemes, initiatives and collaborative programmes of direct and indirect benefit to the North East and the Tees Valley, including the business sectors identified in the question. These include:

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