Previous Section Index Home Page

22 Feb 2007 : Column 878W—continued

Jim Fitzpatrick: We have regular discussions with other Departments about ways in which Government can sensibly use the network. However, it is clear that people increasingly choose to access services in different ways—using direct debits, ATMs and the phone and internet. Government cannot ignore these changes and has to offer choice in how its services are accessed. Our proposals for the network will help it
22 Feb 2007 : Column 879W
become more competitive in the future and better placed to win contracts on commercial terms including Government contracts.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many responses have been received to the current consultation on the future of the Post Office network from each region of the UK. [122119]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 21 February 2007]: As of 19 February, the Department had received 367 responses to our current consultation on the future of the Post Office network. The following table provides a breakdown by region.

Region Responses

South East England


Greater London


South West


Eastern England


East Midlands


West Midlands




North East England


North West England






Not given


Northern Ireland




Science Centres

16. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of (a) performance of UK science centres and (b) the adequacy of funding for those centres. [122149]

Mr. Darling: Science centres are one of many ways in which enthusiasm for science can be generated among young people. My Department is providing £500,000 over two years to help science centres become financially viable. Responsibility for funding and performance of these centres is a matter for the centres themselves.

Ticket Agents

17. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the level of competition in the ticket agents market. [122150]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Competition in the ticket agents market is a matter for the independent competition authorities. In this case it is the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The OFT published a report on ticket agents in the UK in January 2005 looking at the services provided to consumers. The report did not find that there was a lack of competition resulting in a higher gross ticket price to consumers.

22 Feb 2007 : Column 880W


18. Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on progress towards further trade agreements with India. [122151]

Mr. McCartney: The UK welcomes the discussion in the EU of draft negotiating mandates for a potential Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. Discussion on the draft mandate has been under way since the start of this year and is still ongoing. We recognise the benefits that FTAs may bring to both parties if they are deep and comprehensive agreements that take full account of the development issues and are complementary to the multilateral process.

Our top priority remains an ambitious and pro-development outcome to the Doha Development Agenda. This will bring the greatest benefit to the widest range of constituents.

Departments: Complaints

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff worked in dedicated complaints units in his Department and its executive agencies in (a) 1997-98, (b) 2001-02 and (c) 2005-06; and how many have done so in 2006-07 to date. [121673]

Jim Fitzpatrick: There are currently no dedicated complaints units in DTI or its Executive agencies, and nor were there any at the dates given. DTI's Executive agencies have their own complaints procedures, which are published on their websites. All complaints about other parts of the Department are dealt with by the DTI Response Centre—two members of staff handle complaints as a part of their responsibilities. The DTI’s complaints procedure can be found at:

Newspaper Press: Monopolies

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received on monopoly ownership in the newspaper industry. [122139]

Margaret Hodge: I have received one letter about this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mrs. Dean) wrote to me on 5 February 2007 enclosing correspondence relating to calls by the National Union of Journalists for an inquiry into the impacts of consolidation in the regional newspapers market on the quality of journalism.

Post Offices: Devon

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of rural post offices which will close in Devon in each of the next three years. [122480]

Jim Fitzpatrick: None. After the end of the national consultation on its proposals for maintaining a national post office network, the Government will reach and announce its decisions. It will then be for
22 Feb 2007 : Column 881W
Post Office Ltd. to develop local area implementation plans within the framework set by Government.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department paid in public subsidy for post offices in Devon in 2006-07. [122481]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government’s subsidy for the rural post office network supports the overall costs, including central costs and overheads, of maintaining the rural network and is not allocated to individual post offices, but amounts to £150 million.

Post Offices: Norfolk

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what areas of the South-West Norfolk constituency are considered to be (a) urban, (b) rural and (c) remote under the access criteria for the post office network. [121888]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Areas of South-West Norfolk constituency comprising settlements of more than 10,000 inhabitants are classified as urban in the context of post office access criteria and those with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants are classified as rural. Of the 59 post offices in the constituency as at June 2006, all but four in Thetford were classified as rural.

Post Offices: Standards

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the current access standard is for post offices in (a) urban areas and (b) deprived urban areas; what proposals he has made to change these standards; for what reasons changes have been proposed; and if he will make a statement. [122083]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Currently there are no access criteria for post offices in urban, deprived urban or rural areas. The access criteria proposed in the Government's consultation document are designed to balance the Government's desire to preserve a national network with protection for vulnerable communities with the need to put the post office network on a more stable financial footing.

Northern Ireland

Digital Switchover

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 23 January 2007, Official Report, column 1713W, on digital switchover, if he will take steps to ensure the take-up of digital television in Northern Ireland is equivalent to the take-up in the rest of the United Kingdom. [120563]

Mr. Hain: The Government are currently working with Digital UK to ensure that the public have the correct information to enable them to switch to digital television in time for the switchover date for their particular region. Digital UK is launching its public awareness campaign in each TV region three years
22 Feb 2007 : Column 882W
prior to the date of switchover. Northern Ireland will switchover in 2012 along with the London, Tyne Tees and Meridian TV regions.

Domestic Rates

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the new capital value for local domestic taxation purposes is of the ministerial residences at (a) Hillsborough Castle and (b) Stormont; and who will pay the (i) domestic rates and (ii) domestic water bills. [120857]

Mr. Hanson: For rating purposes the ministerial residences at Hillsborough Castle and Stormont are treated as integral parts of larger non domestic properties with total net annual values of £93,700 and £270,000 respectively. Domestic rates and domestic water bills are therefore not levied.

Electoral Register: Northern Ireland

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken to publicise the availability of electoral identity cards in Northern Ireland in the run up to the Assembly elections. [120285]

Mr. Hanson: A number of measures are in place to publicise the availability of the electoral identity card. These include information being carried on the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland's website; a dedicated telephone helpline; media interviews by Electoral Office staff that promote the card; the issuing of the card at special mobile sites across Northern Ireland; and an extensive advertising campaign, funded by the Electoral Commission, raising awareness of the benefits of the card. I understand that the Northern Ireland parties are also informing voters how they may obtain electoral identity cards.

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether the Northern Ireland Assembly will be able to amend or revoke the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 on a simple majority basis. [121947]

Mr. Hanson: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 may be amended or revoked by regulations brought forward by OFMDFM, or by a Bill of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly would be by simple majority vote, subject to Section 42 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Ethnic Minority Achievement Service

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what criteria were used to locate the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service in the North Eastern Education and Library Board. [122091]

Maria Eagle: The Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) will be established from 1 April 2007 as a regional service to bring consistency to the
22 Feb 2007 : Column 883W
provision of services, and the implementation of policy, for English as an additional language (EAL). Pending the establishment of the single Education and Skills Authority the management of the staffing and financial resources of EMAS have been located in the Northern Eastern Education and Library Board to allow the Department of Education to channel funding into one board and facilitate the early operation of the regional service. The choice of the education and library board was related to the chairmanship of the English as an Additional Language inter-board Group, which had been instrumental in the development of the regional arrangements, which were endorsed by the Association of Chief Executives.

Staff of EMAS will continue to be based throughout Northern Ireland and the expertise, which has been built up in each board, will be available across all areas to provide a more effective and equitable service.

Housing Associations

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) Protestant, (b) Roman Catholic and (c) non-determined appointees there were to housing associations in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years. [122364]

Mr. Hanson: Housing associations are independent voluntary organisations led by boards of voluntary members. The boards are elected from the membership in accordance with the constitution of each association.

The only circumstance in which the Department for Social Development may appoint members to a board of a registered housing association is if serious mismanagement is detected. The Department has never had to exercise this power.

The Department requires all registered housing associations to offer their housing services impartially to all members of the community and expects associations to aim for a situation in which their boards broadly reflect the composition of the client group the association was established to serve.

Housing associations are bound by the Fair Employment law. They recruit employees and make returns to the Equality Commission in accordance with the law.

Mental Health Services

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans there are to enhance the provision of psychological therapies in the Province. [120347]

Paul Goggins: The Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability has emphasised the importance of psychological interventions and recommended that a range of psychological therapies and psychosocial interventions should be farther developed. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety is considering ways to implement these recommendations. In addition, the Department has commissioned the Northern Ireland Centre for
22 Feb 2007 : Column 884W
Trauma and Transformation to work with Health and Social Services Boards to develop Cognitive Therapy programmes.

Northern Ireland Assembly: Elections

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will invite the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to monitor the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election; and if he will make a statement. [118994]

Mr. Hanson: The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have not expressed an interest in monitoring the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections. The Government have no plans to invite them to do so.

The running of the election is the responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland, who is statutorily independent of Government. In addition to the measures which he will be putting in place to ensure that the election is fair and free from fraud, the Electoral Commission will be appointing observers who will visit both polling stations and count centres on the day of the election.

Next Section Index Home Page