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25 May 2006 : Column 1928W—continued

Temporary Event Notices

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will place in the Library a copy of the summary of responses tothe consultation on temporary event notices; and if she will make a statement. [71615]

Mr. Woodward: We shall soon be announcing the results of our review of temporary events notices (TENs) and consideration of responses to the associated consultation. Shortly thereafter, we shall place a copy of those responses on the Department's website ( Where an individual has written on his or her own behalf, and not in the course of representing an organisation, we will have redacted any personal details such as the name and address.

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The Public

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on what date the Arts Council commissioned the options appraisal of the arts organisation ‘The Public’; and what its remit was. [73838]

Mr. Lammy: The options appraisal was commissioned on 2 February 2006. The remit of the options appraisal was to assist the Arts Council to understand: the immediate cash flow requirements of the charity; the possible funding requirement of ‘The Public’ on opening; the likely further funding required, in addition to that already agreed, to achieve completion of the building; whether there are any viable options which may involve less funding; the impact of the group entering into an insolvency process and the impact on the Arts Council of any such insolvency process; and the current position of the remainder of the charity’s activities.

World Cup

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans (a) she and (b) Ministers in her Department have to attend matches at the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany. [73631]

Mr. Caborn: Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will be attending a number of games during the 2006 World Cup finals being held in Germany this summer.

All travel by DCMS Ministers will be arranged in accordance with the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers.

Trade and Industry

Animal Experiments

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether his plans to protect the names and addresses of shareholders will apply only to companies which carry out animal experiments. [70806]

Mr. McCartney: No: the members of all companies will be protected by the provision in the Company Law Reform Bill that a company need not comply with a request for a copy of its register of members if the court is satisfied that it is not sought for a proper purpose. The Government amendments to the Bill to strengthen further this protection, which were tabled on 18 May, also apply to all companies.

Bank Fees

Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action his Department is taking to encourage banks to reduce late payment fees and other charges following the recent ruling from the Office of Fair Trading; and if he will make a statement. [72375]

25 May 2006 : Column 1930W

Mr. McCartney: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) statement relates to the principles they think credit card issuers should follow in order to set fair default charges. The issuers are being asked to confirm by31 May their response to this statement and their willingness to make any necessary adjustments to their credit card default charges. They are also being asked to consider how these principles may be applicable in other related areas, including the way default charges are applied to current accounts. The OFT has indicated that it has not ruled out future legal action if the market does not respond positively and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

Consumer Protection

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the operation of section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974; what recent representations he has received about the operation of this (a) section and (b) Act; and what amendments have been made to the Act. [72466]

Mr. McCartney: Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act has the effect that where a purchase for an amount over £100 and not more than £30,000 has been funded by a credit card, the purchaser will have the same rights in respect of a breach of contract or misrepresentation against the credit card company, as he would have against the supplier himself.

One area of section 75 around which there has been a degree of uncertainty relates to overseas transactions (i.e. where a credit card is used to buy something abroad). The Office of Fair Trading sought to resolve this issue by way of a Court declaration. The case reached its conclusion on 22 March 2006, when the Court of Appeal ruled that section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 does apply to overseas transactions, as well as to domestic ones.

Before this ruling and during the passage of the Consumer Credit Bill (now the Consumer Credit Act 2006), Baroness Miller of Hendon tabled an amendment to try and clarify the issue of overseas application of section 75. The Government resisted Baroness Miller's amendment on the grounds that the issue was the subject of an ongoing case at the Court of Appeal, and that it would be inappropriate to amend section 75 before that case had reached its conclusion.

The subsequent Court ruling of 22 March is, the Government believe, a good outcome for consumers and they have no plans at present to make changes to section 75 of the 1974 Act.

More generally, as the 2006 Act is brought into force, they will make a number of significant changes to the 1974 Act. In particular:

(a) Improving consumer rights and redress:

(b) Improving the regulation of consumer credit businesses:

(c) More appropriate regulation of consumer credit agreements:

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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will provide a substantive response to question 64806, tabled by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight on 18 April, on telephone numbers. [70139]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 11 May 2006]: I answered the hon. Member’s question on 12 May 2006, Official Report, column 542W, by transferring it to the chief executive of Ofcom and I understand that Ofcom should now be replying substantively in about 10 working days.


Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures his Department plans to take to encourage more (a) women and (b) people from ethnic minorities to become business entrepreneurs. [71094]

Margaret Hodge: Levels of women's enterprise are increasing. The number of self-employed women in the UK has risen from 915,000 in 1997 to 1,022,000 in 2006. This is the highest figure since records began in 1984. But we still have further to go to match levels of women's enterprise in some comparator nations, such as the USA. That is why, from June this year, we will have a taskforce on women's enterprise to encourage the development of women's enterprise working with the development agencies and other partners. Regional development agencies, including the North East, are piloting women's enterprise units to trial different approaches to supporting the start-up and growth of women-owned businesses.

We are also making some progress in reducing differences in self-employment rates between different ethnic groups. The gap in self-employment rates between under-represented groups and others in England has come down from4 percentage points for the year ending spring 2005 to 3.4 percentage points for the year ending winter 2005. In the last four years, the number of self-employed people of working age from under-represented groups has increased from around 80,000 to 120,000 in England. The Department and the small business service are working with colleagues across Whitehall to help deliver the recommendations on enterprise made by the national employment panel in their 2005 report ‘Enterprising People, Enterprising Places’.

This includes working with the learning and skills council on the development of centres of vocational excellence in entrepreneurship in five designated cities (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford and Leicester) and working with banks and financial intermediaries to review the availability and accessibility of finance for ethnic minority firms in those designated cities.

The small business service also supports a detailed programme of activity led by the ethnic minority business forum to promote enterprise amongst ethnic minority groups. Key actions include:

25 May 2006 : Column 1932W

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the biological effects of myalgic encephalomyelitis. [72846]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department supports medical and clinical research through the Medical Research Council (MRC). In May 2003, the MRC invited research proposals on chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) covering basic research through to more applied health services research and interventions; the invitation can be found at: http: syndrome_me.htm.

The MRC has funded seven research studies into CFS/ME as follows:

University/institute Project title

University of Manchester

The role of noradrenalin in the neuropsychological pathogenesis of the chronic fatigue syndrome

University of Manchester

Randomised control trial of nurse led self-help treatment for primary care patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

University of Manchester

The feasibility of a population base study of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and CWP (chronic wide pain)

Queen Mary and Westfield College

Chronic fatigue and ethnicity

Queen Mary and Westfield College

The PACE Trial: A RCT (randomised control trial) of CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), graded exercise, adaptive pacing and usual medical care for the chronic fatigue syndrome

University of Liverpool

Exploratory RCT of training GPs to manage patients with persistent medically unexplained symptoms

University of Edinburgh

A complex intervention for patients with medically unexplained symptoms in neurology clinics

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Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of Government funding announced on 18 May for the Royal Mail will be made available for Parcelforce activities; and if he will make a statement. [73612]

Jim Fitzpatrick: No proportion of these facilities has been set aside for Parcelforce.

Pensioner Debt

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment he has made of the level of personal debt among pensioners; and if he will make a statement; [72584]

(2) what steps he is taking to ease the burden of debt experienced by pensioners; and if he will make a statement; [72585]

(3) if he will introduce a scheme to relieve pensioners of personal debt; and if he will make a statement. [72586]

Mr. McCartney: We are doing much to help those with personal debt problems as outlined in the Government’s 2004 “Tackling Over-indebtedness: Action Plan” and the subsequent 2005 annual report. DTI examples include the recently launched £45 million Face-to-Face Debt Advice Project, that will result in hundreds of new debt advisers and the multi-million pound support given to the National Debtline phone service. Such assistance is open to all and we much welcome the use of them by vulnerable pensioners.

Overall, the Government’s strategy for older people is focused on tackling poverty in old age. The measures include: pension credit which targets help to the poorest pensioners; the state second pension which will provide a more generous additional provision for people on low and moderate earnings; and one-off payments for eligible pensioners to help ensure financial security in retirement and reduce the risk of falling into problem debt.

Priorities for the Government’s strategy for older people in 2006-07 include maximising take-up activity to ensure that those entitled to pension credit receive it and increasing take-up of the state second pension, including among carers and the long-term disabled, and the 200 winter fuel payments.

Post Office Branch Network

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the Government's long-term policy is on the Post Office branch network, with particular reference to rural areas. [73594]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government are committed to supporting the rural post office network with annual social network payments of £150 million for the next two years. The level of any support beyond 2008 will depend, following public consultation, on decisions on the future of the post office network.

25 May 2006 : Column 1934W

Royal Mail

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of part-employee share ownership in respect of Royal Mail. [73591]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government are considering Royal Mail management's proposals for the incentivisation of its workforce through an employee shares scheme. No decisions have been taken on these proposals.

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of options for the long-term ownership structure for the Royal Mail. [73595]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government have made it clear that they will not privatise Royal Mail.

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the rate of return the Government will receive on its loan to the Royal Mail. [73613]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The details of the arrangements for the extension of the debt facilities have yet to be decided. The rate of return on the utilisation of the facilities will be set on a commercial basis.

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria were used in deciding to support the Royal Mail in respect of its pension fund deficit. [73614]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government, as shareholder, considered Royal Mail's investment case on a commercial basis. Under the Government's proposed financial framework, no funds are paid directly into the pension fund. The Government intend to release £850 million of reserves that Royal Mail has built up through past profitable performance so those funds can be transferred to a special account, the pension escrow account, upon which the pension fund trustees could draw, in the unlikely event that Royal Mail should fail as a business. When the pension fund deficit has been recovered and Royal Mail's balance sheet strengthened by successful operation, it is expected that the escrow fund will be released and surplus cash returned to the Government as shareholder. This arrangement provides confidence to pensioners and a sustainable financial framework for Royal Mail.

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