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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the proportion of people in rural areas who use post offices regularly; and what research he has evaluated on that proportion. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department has considered information on post offices in rural areas from a range of sources including Postcomm, Post Office Ltd. and National Federation of Sub-Postmasters. Post Office Ltd.'s rural pilot activity report, published in March 2006, indicates that the rural network serves a rural population of 21 million people. However, analysis of customer usage levels also indicates that a total of 1,600 rural post offices serve fewer than 20 customers a day.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on achieving the European Union target of three per cent. of GDP being allocated to research and development investment by 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 12 March 2007]: The aspiration for investment in R&D across EU countries to reach 3 per cent. of GDP by 2010 is a challenge for Europe as a whole. But it is not necessarily appropriate for an individual member state.
In the light of UK circumstances, the 10-year Science and Innovation Framework set out a long-term ambition to see the total R&D to GDP ratio in the UK increase to 2.5 per cent. of GDP by 2014. The R&D measure is the Gross Expenditure in Research and Development (GERD), which is the sum of R&D performed in business (BERD) and public expenditure on R&D, by Government Departments and higher education.
|GERD as per cent of GDP|
|BERD as per cent of GDP|
Mr. Stewart Jackson:
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment has been made by his Department of the possible effect on international competitiveness in (a) biosciences, (b) engineering sciences and (c) medical research of the
2007-08 reduction in funding to the UK Research Councils; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 12 March 2007]: In order to help to manage the significant pressures on the Department's budget in 2007-08, a decision has been made to use some of the accumulated unspent funds within the science budget. This decision will not affect research projects which are already being funded.
The UK has a strong track record in research excellence, and benefits from a consistently good performance across disciplines. On the basis of an independent report, it is currently ranked second in the world in biosciences and health-related sciences, and fourth in engineering. The report is available on the DTI website at:
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he plans to assess the impact on scientific research of the planned reduction in funding to UK Research Councils in 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 12 March 2007]: In order to help to manage the significant pressures on the Department's budget in 2007-08, a decision has been made to use some of the accumulated unspent funds within the science budget. This decision will not affect research projects which are already being funded. The sum in question amounts to less that 1 per cent. of the nearly £10 billion awarded to science over the three-year spending period.
Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what consideration the House authorities have given to providing filtered tap water as an alternative to bottled water in committee and meeting rooms; and what estimate has been made of the costs of providing (a) tap and (b) bottled water in these rooms in 2007-08. 
Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer of 22 February 2007, Official Report, column 1451W, on Freedom of Information, whether the log of FOI requests is available for inspection by hon. Members. 
Nick Harvey: The logs used to track the House's responses to FOI requests are maintained on computer spreadsheets. The logs include personal data relating to requesters and other third parties, a brief summary of the request and an indication of any exemption that might have been applied. Rather than providing full details of each request and response, each log makes reference to documents held in electronic and paper format; it is these documents that provide information relating to the full text of the request and the exact nature of the response. Therefore, in their current form, the logs are not available for general inspection by hon. Members. Further consideration will be given to producing and making available for inspection a summary of requests and responses. I will write to the hon. Member with the outcome of that work in due course.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average business rates bill was in (a) England and (b) each government office region in England in each year since 1996-97; and what she estimates it will be in 2006-07. 
Mr. Woolas: The average business rates bill (in £s) in both England and in each Government Office region in each year since 1996-97, including the estimated average figures for 2006-07, are shown in the following table.
|North East||North West||Yorkshire and the Humber||East Midlands||West Midlands||East of England||London||South East||South West||England|
The data are taken from NNDR returns submitted by billing authorities. Average business rate is calculated by dividing the net rate yield from local authoritys lists by the number of hereditaments on local list as at 31 December of the previous year.
Comparisons across regions and years may not be valid as the rateable values for individual properties, and hence actual rates bills, vary greatly. Changes in the figures for the years around 2000-01 are affected by transfers of properties from the central list to local lists, transfers of Crown properties to local lists and the adjustments made to the multiplier at the time of the 2000 revaluation to take account of losses from appeals. Changes in the figures for the years around 2005-06 are also affected by adjustments made to the multiplier at the time of the 2005 revaluation.
David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to publish the conclusions of her inter-departmental taskforce on the improvement of energy performance in existing buildings. 
Yvette Cooper: The Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings is looking at improving the performance of existing buildings in terms of their water efficiency and resilience to climate change, as well as energy efficiency. An initial analysis of the energy efficiency of existing dwellings was published on the CLG website in November 2006 and further work is under way.
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