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The UK remains committed to an ambitious, balanced and mutually beneficial Association Agreement between the EU and Mercosur. We are keen to make progress in the negotiations, but the overall substance is significantly more important than timing.
David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to what extent Cumbrias economic circumstances contributed to the North Wests allocation of European Regional Development Fund resources from the regional competitiveness programme for the UK. 
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what account was taken of Cumbrias economic circumstances when calculating the North Wests allocation of European regional development funds from the regional competitiveness programmes for the United Kingdom. 
Cumbria did not qualify to receive the highest level of Structural Funds support under the Convergence Objective for 2007-13. It also narrowly missed out from receiving transitional Convergence funding for regions in the older member states who would have received full Convergence funding if enlargement had not taken place. Cumbrias GDP was slightly higher than the threshold to receive this funding (77.2 per cent. of the EU15 average, compared with the 75 per cent. threshold).
Cumbria will be eligible to receive a proportion of the North Wests allocation of Competitiveness funding, which is €1,164 million (in 2004 prices) in 2007-13. The Government believe that their allocation formula for the Competitiveness Objective provides an accurate measure of each regions economic needs. The Government have also decided to apply a 20 per cent. cap and safety net to each regions allocation. This means that no region will receive an increase or reduction in its proportion of funding of more than 20 per cent. in comparison with its proportion of mainstream Objective 2 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) receipts in 2000-06.
In making the regional allocations, the Government used sub-regional data in their allocation formula to take account of economic performance at the sub-regional level, including Cumbria. Within the North West, Cumbria had a GDP per head of 77.2 per cent. of the EU15 average and 84.6 per cent. of the EU25 average, compared with 92.5 per cent. and 101.3 per cent. for the North West region. These figures help to explain why the North West will receive the second highest allocation of mainstream Competitiveness funding of all the English regions. It has also benefited from the application of the safety net for the ERDF.
The Government have noted the arguments of Cumbrian stakeholders for additional funding for their sub-region. However, the Government have decided not to top-slice the totals to provide specific funding for any sub-regions. The allocation of the Funds will be a matter for the Operational Programme, which is currently the subject of consultation in the North West.
Malcolm Wicks: There are currently no applications for gas storage facilities awaiting a ministerial decision under either the Gas Act 1965 or the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. However, a public inquiry has been held into a planning application appeal for a gas storage facility in underground salt caverns in Fleetwood, Lancashire and the inspector is currently writing his report. A public inquiry into a gas storage facility at Caythorpe Gas Field in the East Riding of Yorkshire is also due to commence on 24 April 2007.
Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average fee claimed by solicitors for dealing with a miners compensation claim for (a) chronic bronchitis and emphysema and (b) vibration white finger has been since the scheme was introduced. 
Malcolm Wicks: The average solicitors costs paid on claims settled by payment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and for vibration white finger (VWF) as at 14 January 2007 is shown as follows:
Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much solicitors have claimed in fees to date for dealing with claims from former miners for (a) chronic bronchitis and emphysema and (b) vibration white finger. 
Margaret Hodge: The Northwest Development Agency is currently developing its Strategic Investment Plan working with the Lancashire Economic Partnership to identify priorities for Lancashire, including Morecambe and Lunesdale. Funding is being considered with partners as part of this process, and figures will be available in March 2007. At this point in time, £1.5 million has already been committed to the Midland Hotel in Morecambe and £532,000 to Carnforth under the Market Towns programme, for 2007-08.
John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the additional responsibilities proposed to be granted to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority following the recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management will be funded. 
Malcolm Wicks: The NDA and Government departments will be working within current spending round provisions until the next spending round period begins. The NDA currently funds the Nirex programme of work, so short term funding provisions require few changes. The CSR07 process provides the DTI (and other Departments involved in taking forward the next stages of repository concept development) with the opportunity to bid for funding to meet their policy priorities.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department paid to recruitment agencies for the hire of temporary staff in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The arrangements for employing temporary agency staff in my Department are delegated to local line management units. Managers must follow central guidance on the use of temporary agency staff, and where appropriate, use centrally agreed frameworks.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many serious injuries to school teachers caused by physical violence in schools in (a) England and (b) each local education authority were reported to the Health and Safety Executive in each year from 2000 to 2006. 
Tables 2-7 in support of part (b) of the question are set out in an annexe. Due to the size of the individual outputs I have placed a copy in the Library. These provide a breakdown, by local authorities in England, of non-fatal injuries to schoolteachers involving acts of violence.
|Table 1: Non-fatal injuries to schoolteachers in England involving acts of violence reported to HSE, 2000-01 to 2005-06( 1)|
|Non-fatal major injury||Over-3-day injury||All reported injuries|
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many debt collection agencies the Child Support Agency has used in the last five years; how much the agency paid to such companies in each year; and if he will make a statement. 
In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many debt collection agencies the Child Support Agency has used in the last five years; how much the Agency paid to such companies in each year; and if he will make a statement.
The Agency did not refer any debt to debt collection Agencies before August 2005. Since then the Agency has referred debt to three different debt collection agencies.
The Agencys contracts with these agencies involve paying a fee for successful collection of debt, rather than paying for each referral. A total of £72,000 has been paid to these debt collection agencies for their services up to the 30th November 2006.
I hope this information is helpful.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many value for money exercises on the use of (a) management consultants and (b) professional advisers were conducted by his Department in each of the last five years for which information is available; and if he will make a statement. 
Management consultants and some professional advisors are engaged via a specific framework agreement (known as CIPHER). The framework agreement itself was established following a competition process conducted in accordance with the EU Consolidated Procurement Directives. In addition,
individual contracts let within the framework agreement are subject to a separate mini competition where all the suppliers within the relevant lot on the framework agreement are invited to bid. In this way DWP is assured that all exercises can demonstrate value for money. Professional advisers covered via the framework agreement are in the fields of HR, IT, procurement, finance and programme and project management, others such as legal and property advisers are not covered.
In addition, the DWP internet audit unit are responsible for providing independent assurance on the procurement system processes, including compliance with the CIPHER framework. With regard to specific value for money (VfM) studies, over the last five years there was a review in 2006 covering the use of external resources, although VfM is a consideration in all internal audit reviews.
|Management consultants||Professional advisers|
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) which projects on driving while at work are being prepared by the Health and Safety Executive; and what the timescale for implementation is of each; 
The former Minister for health and safety, Lord Hunt, and the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) discussed safe driving whilst at work in November 2005 and 2006. Officials of the Health and Safety Executive and the Department for Transport are also in regular contact about measures to promote safer driving whilst at work.
HSE has a number of initiatives, including a new three-year project with Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police aimed at improving driver safety in freight transport by road and a three year programme of work aimed at moving goods safely in workplaces. HSE also continues to encourage employers to use the guide Driving at Work, as appropriate.
Sir Peter Soulsby:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what meetings he has had with the members of the board of the Health and Safety Executive to discuss the frequency of inspections in
places of higher education in each of the last five years. 
Mrs. McGuire: No DWP Ministers have had meetings with senior officials of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to discuss this specific issue during the last five years. Ministers do however meet regularly with the chief executive of HSE to discuss workplace health and safety issues.
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