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23 Oct 2006 : Column 1694W—continued

Communications Act

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many prosecutions there have been for the sending of illegal spam under the Communications Act 2003. [91831]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 9 October 2006]: There have been no such prosecutions under the Communications Act 2003 and I do not expect any in the foreseeable future. This does not mean that spammers are evading the law. The vast majority of spammers work outside UK jurisdiction and problems within the UK are addressed by the Information Commissioner using powers granted under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. These Regulations set out the consent rules for receiving unsolicited commercial emails. The Information Commissioner's investigations into breaches of the Regulations have resulted in

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enforcement actions that have been effective and have not needed to be progressed to a prosecution. Our approach to the problem of spam does not rely on regulation and enforcement alone. We pursue a more comprehensive approach that involves consumer education, technical solutions and effective enforcement through national action and collaboration with other enforcement authorities. My Department has been one of the principal drivers of the OECD's London Action Plan that exemplifies this multi-faceted approach.

Departmental Expenditure

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department spent on taxis in the last 12 months. [93107]

Jim Fitzpatrick: In the 12 months to September 2006 the Department of Trade and Industry has spent £293,000 on the use of taxis both in the UK and abroad.

Departmental Mail

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of the Department's mail is shipped using private companies; and what the cost was over the last 12 months. [95155]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department uses Royal Mail and Parcelforce for a large proportion of its outgoing external mail and only a very small percentage—0.4 per cent.—of our mail is sent via private companies. This is primarily made up of international courier shipments and the cost over the last 12 months was £69,700.

Departmental Property

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what items were reported within his Department as being lost or stolen in each month since July 2005, broken down by building; and what the approximate value was of each item. [89717]

Jim Fitzpatrick: 119 items were reported as either lost or stolen in DTI’s three London buildings since July 2005. The breakdown and total approximate value is in the following table:

Item Number Reported Missing Approximate Value (£)

ICT Equipment

34

25,329.00

Mobile phones and equipment

22

2,200.00

Personal Effects, inc cash

63

1,931.00

Totals

119

29,460.00


Departmental Staff

Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many disabled people were hired by his Department in each of the last five years for which figures are available; what percentage of the

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overall workforce these figures represented in each year; and how many disabled people left their employment in his Department over the same period. [92461]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Data on the disabled status of civil servants entrants and leavers are available for 2003, 2004 and 2005. Data are published on the Cabinet Office website at: http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/management/statistics/reports/index.asp.

Comparable information for earlier years is not available.

Departmental records of disabled staff are based solely on voluntary self-declaration of disability. Staff may choose to declare a disability at any point in their career, not only at the point of entry to the Department.

Employment Rights

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what new employment rights have been provided by legislation introduced since 1997. [93502]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 16 October 2006]: In addition to creating record levels of employment, we have also introduced a safety net of protections for people at work:

For trade union members we have provided:


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Energy Markets

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the cost to British consumers and industry of lost opportunities in those EU countries which have not liberalised their energy markets. [95292]

Malcolm Wicks: We have made no estimate of such costs to the UK. However we believe the gains to be had from a properly functioning EU energy market in terms of reliable, affordable and sustainable energy are significant. For example we estimate that a properly functioning competitive EU gas market could have saved UK consumers in the order of £5 billion in the calendar year 2005.

The Government fully support the moves the Commission is taking to develop competition in the sector and look forward to its proposals for further action when it publishes its Strategic Energy Review and the conclusions from the sectoral inquiry in January.

Enterprise Insight

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what (a) gifts and (b) payments have been made by Enterprise Insight to celebrity ambassadors. [92632]

Margaret Hodge: We understand that Enterprise Insight does not pay any of its celebrity ambassadors for their support of and participation in the “Make Your Mark” campaign. Occasionally, small gifts have been given to a celebrity ambassador to thank them for giving their services for free.

Fire Service

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance his Department has given to (a) fire authorities and (b) fire brigades on the working time directive and retained fire fighters. [95802]

Jim Fitzpatrick: My Department provides general guidance on the limits on working time and the entitlements provided for in the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Other Departments may also provide their own guidance for sector specific purposes.

Fireworks

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the merits of introducing a ban on the retail sale of fireworks. [95657]

Jim Fitzpatrick: None.


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Flexible Working

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to ensure that those who care for people with a fluctuating condition will be able to exercise their right to request flexible working. [95496]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 20 October 2006]: Under the Work and Families Act 2006, we are extending the right to request flexible working to carers of adults, with effect from 6 April 2007. Carers will include qualifying employees who care for people with a fluctuating condition. We will be working with stakeholders to raise awareness of the extended right.

We will be laying amended flexible working regulations by the end of this year and, in the accompanying guidance, we will address issues which are likely to be of particular interest to employees caring for people with a fluctuating condition, including the use of trial periods and reviews.

Fuel Prices

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received on the price differential between diesel fuel and unleaded petrol in (a) the UK and (b) other European countries; and if he will make a statement. [95608]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 20 October 2006]: In recent months, I am aware of four letters to the DTI on the subject of the price differential between diesel and unleaded petrol fuels: three relating to price variation across the UK and one relating to comparisons between the UK and other EU countries.

Petrol and diesel are commodity products whose retail price variation is primarily a result of free market forces, and fuel taxation. In the UK, retail sales of unleaded petrol and diesel are both subject to the same levels of duty and taxation. Fuel taxation in other European countries is a matter for individual states.

Furniture Sector

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people are employed in the furniture sector in the UK; and how many were employed in the sector in (a) 1980, (b) 1990 and (c) 2000. [95188]

Margaret Hodge: Employment in the furniture manufacturing industry (standard industrial classification SIC 31.6) in the UK in (a) 1986, (b) 1990, (c) 2000 and (d) 2004 (the latest available figures for the UK) are as follows:

Employment (000)

1986

107

1990

124

2000

155

2004

126

Source:
ONS, Annual Census of Production and Annual Business Inquiry.

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Information on employment in the furniture manufacturing industry prior to 1986 is not available on a basis consistent with the figures presented in the table, due to changes in the standard industrial classification structure.

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his Department’s long-term policy is towards the furniture industry. [95189]

Margaret Hodge: The DTI has been carrying out a review of its Business Relations functions. This has included looking at whether we are concentrating our resources on the right sectors and issues, taking into account the value that our business relations activities can add. I am currently considering the review recommendations with ministerial colleagues.

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he last met representatives of the furniture industry. [95190]

Margaret Hodge: There have been no recent meetings between the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and representatives of the furniture industry.

My hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House formerly the Minister for Small Business, spoke at a reception for the Furniture Industry Strategy Group on 25 January 2005, at the Furniture Show, NEC Birmingham.

DTI officials have continued to maintain a regular dialogue previously with the Furniture Industry Strategy Group (FISG), with the newly formed British Furniture Confederation and with UK First, the Furniture Industry Forum.

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much the furniture industry was worth to the UK economy in the last period for which figures are available. [95191]

Margaret Hodge: According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics, the gross value added by the furniture manufacturing industry (defined as Group 36.1 of the Standard Industrial Classification) was £3.5 billion in 2004, the latest year for which data are available.

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support his Department is giving to the furniture industry in the UK. [95192]

Margaret Hodge: In September 2003 the DTI began providing support to UK First, the Furniture Industry Forum, with £1.75 million provided over 41/2 years to support the UK furniture sector, and provided a forum for sharing best practice and developing a long term strategy for success. Savings to date for companies in the sector have reached over £3.1 million.

We also encouraged the establishment of the Furniture Industry Strategy Group in 2003 to help the sector address key areas affecting productivity and competitiveness. The Strategy Group has helped establish the British Furniture Confederation, which is working to promote the interests of the sector.


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