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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what criteria apply to the allocation of funds being made available by regional development agencies to businesses experiencing losses during the recent floods; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: Several Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) covering areas affected by the recent floods have set up schemes to assist recovery for businesses suffering losses. In most cases these take the form of grants of up to £2,500 available to small and medium enterprises applying for assistance.
Additionally, Yorkshire Forward has announced a scheme primarily for companies with more than 50 employees, offering grants of up to £100,000 with the amount available dependent on the number of employees. This scheme is intended to cover costs that will not be met by business continuity insurance. Under this scheme, companies with fewer than 50 employees will also be considered on a case-by-case basis for grants larger than £2,500.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether farming businesses will be eligible for funds being made available to businesses which have suffered damage due to the recent flooding; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: Several Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) have set up schemes to provide small amounts of recovery support to businesses affected by the floods. These schemes operate under the European Commissions de minimis State Aid regulation. Aid under this regulation is restricted in the agricultural sector. RDAs can and are giving aid to agricultural businesses/farmers if they are involved in the processing and marketing of agricultural products (subject to certain exclusions) and for diversified businesses (farm shops, farm parks etc.).
Farmers have a wide range of successful risk and crisis management strategies at their disposal, including forward contracts, weather insurance, diversification and self-insurance through saving and borrowing. An increasing number of farmers are making use of such tools and DEFRA is supporting their take up, by sponsoring risk and crisis management workshops in partnership with the industry.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will assess, with reference to the experience of countries which have such a system, the merits of introducing in the UK a system of national fuel pricing. 
Malcolm Wicks: Last year the Government carried out a full review of energy policy, culminating in a White Paper published in May this year. The Government continue to believe that fuel prices are best set through the interplay of supply and demand in an open, competitive and transparent market. Price signals which clearly reflect supply and demand conditions, including any local variations, are the most efficient way of bringing supply and demand together, through (for example) supply increase through investment in new supply capacity and demand reduction through investment in energy efficiency. Nationally regulated prices disguise these signals and may lead to waste, inefficiency and shortage as supplies fail to get to where they are most needed.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate his Department has made of the number of people able to (a) work from home and (b) participate in flexible working; and what steps the Government are taking to allow more people to do so. 
Mr. McFadden: The Department undertakes periodic surveys of flexible working, the most recent of which was the Third Work-Life Balance Employee Survey conducted in 2006. The research findings, published in March 2007, found that 90 per cent. of employees reported that at least one flexible working arrangement was available to them if they needed itan increase from 85 per cent. in 2003. The survey also found that 23 per cent. of employees reported that working from home on a regular basis was available to them (an increase from 20 per cent. in 2003).
We are encouraging flexible working through the introduction of the right to request flexible working which was introduced in April 2003 for parents of young and disabled children. In April 2007 we extended this right to carers of adults. We also encourage flexible working through providing detailed guidance and promoting the benefits. The business.link.gov.uk website has a number of interactive tools. Both employers and employees can access the ACAS telephone helpline.
Trading standards officers may enter a residential property where it is also being used as a business premise. When entering premises that are a mix of domestic and business, it is common for trading standards officers to do so with a warrant and the presence of the police.
Mr. Andy Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what assessment he has made of the potential legal implications under the Cotonou Agreement of applying standard generalised system of preferences import duties on imports from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific non-least developed countries which are not in a position to enter into an economic partnership agreement with the EU by 1 January 2008; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what assessment he has made of the UK's responsibility under the Cotonou Agreement not to apply standard generalised system of preferences import duties on imports from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific non-least developed countries which are not in a position to enter into an economic partnership agreement with the EU by 1 January 2008; and whether he has taken legal advice on the matter. 
The Commission should be ready to provide an alternative to an EPA at the request of any African, Caribbean or Pacific (ACP) country.
This remains our position. We would be very happy to consider and implement a WTO compatible alternative if put forward by any member of the ACP. However, the ACP have made it clear that they are committed to completing EPA negotiations by the end of this year
and the UK Government consider it a priority to work with them towards that goal.
In the event that the deadline is not met in any of the regions, our position is that we would like to see arrangements which are least disruptive to ACP exporters and that do not leave the ACP any worse off than they are under current arrangements.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions have taken place with Capita on the outsourcing of miners' compensation claims to India. 
Mr. Thomas: Capita made their initial proposal regarding off-shoring in 2006 since when detailed discussions have taken place with the Department. In reviewing the proposal, the Department was keen to ensure the stability of the Coal Health compensation process, taking into account the challenges associated with completing the compensation schemes over the next 18 months.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment his Department has made of the average cost to (a) the Government, (b) the employer and (c) the employee of an employment dispute (i) resolved through an employment tribunal, (ii) resolved through mediation and (iii) in which mediation was unsuccessful. 
Mr. McFadden: The most recent assessment of average costs of employment disputes to employers and employees carried out by my Department was the 2003 Survey of Tribunal Applications. The next such survey is scheduled for the first half of 2008. Information on costs to the Government is provided in the annual reports of the Employment Tribunal Service. Average costs are not available for those cases going to mediation, as the Department does not conduct research on mediation of employment disputes outside of the Employment Tribunal System.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the annual costs of informing parties in employment disputes of their local mediation service. 
Mr. McFadden: The Government have recently consulted on the introduction of a new advice service on dispute resolution, to provide impartial advice about different methods of resolving disputes. Such a service could encourage appropriate cases towards early mediation. We will publish our response to the consultation in the autumn. The Government's estimate of the costs of a new advice service was set out in the partial regulatory impact assessment published in the consultation paper in March 2007, copies of which were placed in the House Libraries.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what support is offered to promote technology careers to those working in manufacturing sectors. 
Mr. Timms: Government published "World Class Skills: Implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England" on 18 July 2007. It sets out how Government will take forward the recommendations of the Leitch Review to ensure that manufacturing has a world class skills base to meet the challenges of technological advance. We will work closely with others to take forward the package Leitch has recommended including proposals for manufacturing.
Current support includes funding for Foundation Degrees and the Adult Apprenticeship Scheme to which the Learning and Skills Council has recently made available an additional £16.7 million. We have also established the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing which offers employers an opportunity to shape the content of skills training to meet the needs of the sector.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many residents in each London constituency filed for bankruptcy in each of the last five years. 
Classifying bankrupts into geographic areas is done using the postcode that the bankrupt individual provides. The use of this in assigning an individual to a constituency is thus as reliable as the postcode information provided.
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