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Alun Michael: The importance of manufacturing to the North East of England, and to the whole UK economy, is reflected in the Department of Trade and Industry's Manufacturing Strategy. Launched in 2002, the strategy sets out the actions needed to create a high value, high skill manufacturing sector capable of introducing new products and processes into our economy, creating new markets, and delivering a huge boost to our prosperity. In response to the strategy, and the subsequent review in 2004, we have:
Established the Manufacturing Forum to ensure the effective implementation and evolution of the Manufacturing Strategy. This sets out priority areas for targeted action, bringing together Government, industry, trade unions, Regional Development Agencies, and other stakeholders to support manufacturing.
Set up the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) to give manufacturers in every region direct access to practical advice and support from manufacturing experts. Since its establishment in 2002 the MAS has generated over £12 million in value-added for manufacturing firms in the North East of England alone.
Set up innovation and growth teams to plan how the UK can best respond to the competitive challenges that key UK industries, such as automotive, aerospace, chemicals and materials, will face in the future.
Built on the UK's world class science base, and strengthened links between higher education and industry. The science budget has more than doubled from £1.3 billion in 1997. This will rise to £3.4 billion in 200708, enabling businesses gain competitive advantage by drawing on a strong science base.
Supported investment through changes to Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax, through the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme, and through programmes such as Selective Finance for Investment in England (previously Regional Selective Assistance), Grant for Research and Development, and new regional venture capital funds.
Regional Development Agency, ONE NorthEast, administers the Selective Finance for Investment in England (SFIE), and Grant for Research and Development schemes in the region on behalf of DTI. Total spend (in £ million) since 2002 on these schemes in the North East of England is set out in the following table.
|Total spend (£ million)|
|SFIE||Grant for R & D|
In addition, ONE NorthEast's North East Productivity Alliance (NEPA) has successfully assisted a large number of manufacturing companies to gain from enhanced engineering expertise, leading to significant productivity improvements.
The Department of Trade and Industry also provides funding through a wide number of schemes, initiatives and collaborative programmes of direct and indirect benefit to the manufacturing sector in the North East of England, including :
Commitment of £7.2 million funding to ONE NorthEast under its University Innovation Centre (UIC) programme in 2002 to fund the North East UIC in Nanotechnologya consortium of the five regional universities, in association with industrial partners;
Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF, jointly funded by DTI and DfES) allocation of £13 million through HEEF1 (200204) and HEIF2 (200406) to the North East's universities for projects benefiting business and the community;
In addition to the specific initiatives mentioned, measures to streamline business support, ensure better business regulation, open up international markets, provide support for exporters, build flexible labour markets, foster science and innovation, deliver secure and sustainable energy, encourage knowledge transfer, support the implementation of best practice, and reform company law, are currently being pursued. These measuresalong with providing strong economic stability through low inflation, low interest rates and low unemploymentwill benefit all business sectors, and will allow manufacturing businesses across the North East of England to plan and invest with confidence for the long term.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the
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impact on jobs and investment in the UK's micro renewables sector of his Department's decision to end annual grant support to micro renewable customers from 2006 to 2009; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Department will continue to fund the micro renewables sector between 2006 to 2009 through a new Low Carbon Buildings programme, which will continue to offer grants for the installation of renewable technologies. The original budget of £30 million was also increased in the Budget 2006 with an additional £50 million.
Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the occasions on which the Minister of State for Energy has met (a) the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and (b) British Energy in the last 12 months. 
Malcolm Wicks: International gas market issues are important elements of the UK's approach to energy security as set out in the document UK International Priorities-The Energy Strategy" produced jointly by Department of Trade and Industry, FCO and DEFRA. It is available online at:
The strategy recognises that low (or capped) gas prices in Russia (and by implication China) deter investors from building new capacity in production and infrastructure and reduce incentives for energy efficiency. DTI, FCO and DEFRA will continue to assess the implications to UK energy security in the context of all the issues identified in the strategy.
The Renewables Obligation (RO) will remain in place until 2027 to ensure investor confidence in the long-term. Although the Government
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is not currently considering extending the RO beyond 2027 the RO will continue to be monitored to ensure investor confidence is maintained.
Barry Gardiner: The Government have made available up to £300 million to support the non-commercial part of the rural post office network until 2008. In addition, Post Office Ltd. has published its report on the findings of its trials of new, innovative and cost-effective ways of delivering post office services to rural communities.
This report will help stakeholders and customers to understand better the range of delivery options being tested by Post Office Ltd. and will make an important contribution to the wider consideration and ongoing discussions about the most effective way to deliver post office services in the 21st century. For that reason the no avoidable closures policy for rural post offices has been extended until the Autumn.
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