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28 Feb 2007 : Column 1408W—continued

Corus: Pensions

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of the consequences for employees’ pensions of Tata Steel’s takeover of Corus. [123649]

Malcolm Wicks: Tata made a number of proposals to ensure the long-term security of Corus pensions, which were discussed with the trustees.

Now that the announcement has been made on the recommended final offer for Corus, the Pension Trustees will be meeting with Tata once again in order to develop the constructive discussions on pensions held earlier in the bidding process. These earlier discussions resulted in a memorandum of understanding on pensions which will need to be looked at in the light of the revised offer. The memorandum includes various commitments to the schemes including security measures to address the financing structure of the takeover arrangements. As regards the Corus Engineering Steels Pension Scheme, Tata has offered to make an immediate cash injection of £126 million to clear the accounting deficit. Normal expectations would be for staged payments over a period of time. On the British Steel scheme, Tata will increase payments from 10 per cent. to 12 per cent. until March 2009.

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During these lengthy discussions, the Trustees have been supported by a team of professional advisers. So far as The Pensions Regulator is concerned, they have been kept closely informed of developments by the Trustees throughout the process.

Departments: Appeals

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many independent bodies existed to hear appeals on decisions made by his Department and its executive agencies in (a) 1997-98, (b) 2001-02 and (c) 2005-06; and how many there have been in 2006-07 to date. [121672]

Jim Fitzpatrick: In 1997 there were two independent bodies whose function was to hear appeals on decisions made by the Department and its Executive Agencies; namely:

In 2003, a third body, Competition Appeal Tribunal, was established to hear appeals in respect of various competition related matters. All three bodies continue to function.

Employment: Equality

Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from employers on the impact of age discrimination regulations on employers' enhanced redundancy schemes. [123396]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 provide an exemption from challenge on age discrimination grounds for employers making redundancy payments under the statutory redundancy scheme, or those who have more generous individual schemes which nevertheless mirror the structure of the statutory scheme. If employers had age discriminatory individual redundancy schemes which did not come within these exemptions, they should either have made the necessary amendments to their schemes or stand ready to justify them in the event of legal challenge. In the period since the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations came into force, we have met the Employers Forum on Age, the Confederation of British Industry and the Engineering Employers Federation to discuss this subject.

Minimum Wage: Young People

Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what factors were taken into account in deciding to change the level of the minimum wage paid to those aged under 22 years; and if he will make a statement. [123364]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The independent Low Pay Commission makes recommendations to the Government on the rates of the minimum wage. Before recommending any changes, the Commission carries
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out a wide ranging and in depth consultation and fact-finding exercise. This includes taking views, both written and oral, from employers, workers representatives and other interested organisations and individuals.

The Low Pay Commission’s 2007 report is due shortly.

National Metals Technology Centre: Finance

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the oral statement by the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Competition Policy of 20 February 2007, Official Report, column 236, on British Steel Industry, what resources have been made available to support the National Metals Technology Centre; how many jobs have been created as a result; and what additional resources have been provided to support the materials UK umbrella organisation. [123968]

Malcolm Wicks: In 2002 DTI initially contracted with Beta Technology Ltd. regarding the initial set up and administration of the National Metals Technology Centre (NAMTEC). The total value of this contract was £105,000 plus VAT. Subsequently during the period 2003 to 2006, when NAMTEC was formed and started to operate, DTI provided grant support of £1,500,000 (approximately 28 per cent. of the eligible costs) towards NAMTEC's mainstream activities and running costs.

In addition and in parallel DTI is also providing grant support of £2,500,000 (34 per cent. of eligible costs) to NAMTEC to manage and run the Advanced Metals Technologies Initiative (AMTI). This is a five year programme aimed at a range of specific activities that will enhance the capability of UK casting, forging, metal forming and processing companies and includes R and D, best practice and other activities with a clear focus on SMEs.

According to NAMTEC, 72 jobs have been created and 402 safeguarded in the metals and manufacturing sectors as a direct result of its activities.

DTI has provided direct grant support of £235,000 for Materials UK (£150,000 in the 2005-06 financial year and £85,000 so far in the current 2006-07 financial year).

During the current financial year the Department has also provided £27,000 for the development and publication of a Materials UK booklet intended for schools and £13,000 for survey work related to the establishment of the Materials Property Validation Network and Assets Connect (a research and development assets register). In addition, DTI officials have been involved closely with the administration of several Materials UK Working Groups and the arrangements for various promotional events.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of the implications of the changes to forecasts of the commercial revenues of the Nuclear
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Decommissioning Authority for the future sale of the British Nuclear Group; and if he will make a statement. [118369]

Malcolm Wicks: Following discussions with the NDA the NDA's budget for 2007-08 has been settled. The NDA and site licence companies (SLC) will be able to maintain current levels of programme spend and the agreed settlement is actually a small increase over levels of programme spend in the current financial year.

Parliamentary Questions

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many parliamentary questions were tabled to his Department in 2006, broken down by (a) ordinary written and (b) named day; what percentage of ordinary written questions were answered within 10 working days; and what percentage of named day questions were answered by the specified date. [115325]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The number of parliamentary questions tabled in the session May 2005-November 2006 were (a) 4,136; (b) 1,010. The Department is unable to supply break down data for this period without incurring disproportionate costs. Figures though are available for the period November 2006 to January 2007. During this period the Department has answered 77 per cent. of ordinary written question within ten days, and 33 per cent. of named day questions on the specified date.

Post Offices: Closures

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 7 February 2007, Official Report, column 1011W, on post offices, what role (a) the Scottish Executive and (b) Postwatch Scotland will have in the managed closure programme that is proposed in the Post Office network consultation document. [123948]

Jim Fitzpatrick: As postal services are a reserved matter, the Scottish Executive has no formal role. But we expect Postwatch in Scotland, and across the country as a whole, to play an important role in the development of Post Office Ltd.’s area proposals for a managed programme of post offices closures and other changes in service provision. Their role will be set out clearly in announcing our final decisions after the national consultation.

Renewable Energy

David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of Ofgem's proposal for an alternative to the renewables obligation scheme; and if he will make a statement. [123273]

Malcolm Wicks: We have consulted on ways of streamlining the Renewables Obligation (RO) in order to bring forward emerging technologies, such as offshore wind, that can take us towards our renewable energy targets. We have received from a wide range of interest groups and organisations, including Ofgem, a
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total of 206 responses to our consultation document: ‘Reform of the Renewables Obligation and Statutory Consultation on the Renewables Obligation Order 2007’. All responses will be taken into account when formulating our policies for future support of renewable electricity generation.

Since the introduction of the RO in 2002, eligible renewable electricity generated under the scheme has increased to 4.0 per cent. of total electricity sales to UK consumers in 2005—up from 1.8 per cent. in 2002. This makes it more successful than the previous mechanism, the non fossil fuels obligation, under which the proportion of renewables rose from 0.2 per cent. of electricity sales in 1992 to 1.8 per cent. in 2002. We wish to build on this success with an approach that increases the deployment of renewable generation, maintains investor confidence and increases value for money for the customer.

Retirement: Age

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to abolish mandatory retirement ages. [123347]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Employers are not obliged to impose mandatory retirement ages. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 provide for a default retirement age of 65 that employers can use if they wish. We will monitor the default retirement age over the coming years and will review its effectiveness in 2011. If evidence shows it is no longer necessary we will remove it.

Union Modernisation Fund

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what projects have been funded by the union modernisation fund; and how much was awarded in each case. [123367]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The information requested is in the following table.

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Union name Project title £

Retained Firefighters’ Union

Local Representatives Empowerment Strategy


Nationwide Group Staff Union

Using the Internet to Activate and Empower Members



Race and Diversity


Communication Workers Union

CWU Reaching Out


Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union

Membership Diversity


Wales TUC

Equal at Work


Lloyds TSB Group Union

LTU Technology Modernisation Project


National Union of Teachers



Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists

Shaping the Future - Phase 2


Royal College of Midwives

Improving the communication between the Royal College of Midwives and its members


Union of Finance Staff

Interactive Database Project


Ceramic and Allied Trades Union

CATU Modernisation (2006-2008)


United Road Transport Union

Building for Success



On-Line Talent Directories


Transport and General Workers Union

Establishment of the TGWU Migrant Workers Support Unit


Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union

Membership and Communication Systems


Community and District Nursing Association

Developing the Virtual Union


Transport and General Workers Union

Developing and Supporting Workplace Union Equality Representatives



Creating Capability - Trade Unionism in the Community


Transport and General Workers Union

Preparing Opinion-Formers for Information and Consultation


British Dental Association

Young Member Participation and Engagement: Exploring the Needs for Today and Tomorrow


Transport Salaried Staffs' Association

Increasing Diversity - Turning members into reps



Knowledge Management System



Developing the USDAW Management Model



Electronic Information Systems (EIS)


National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

Web-based Membership System and Associated Training


National Union of Journalists

Equality for All : NUJ Workplace and Freelance Equality Reps Project


Accord, Connect Musicians Union

Transforming union democracy using internet systems


Trades Union Congress

Developing an online support system for union professionals


Community and Youth Workers Union

Membership Diversity Project



Piloting IT Services for Branches



ASLEF Membership and Communications Modernisation Project


WBBS Staff Union

ICE - Integrate/ Communicate and Embrace


General Federation of Trade Unions

Foundations for Success


Portman Group Staff Association

Creating full Partnership working with Portman through a Employee Representative Committee




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