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Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) when he expects the Office of Fair Trading to make a decision on the approved scheme to run an estate agent redress scheme from April 2008; 
Mr. Thomas: The OFT will shortly publish the criteria it will use when assessing applications to run a redress scheme together with an invitation for scheme operators to submit applications for approval of their redress scheme. To date there have therefore been no applications or formal expressions of interest.
Subject to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) receiving a suitable application to run an estate agents redress scheme, the OFT may be in a position to approve a scheme in late February or early March 2008.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make a statement on progress with the assistance offered to those affected by the Farepak collapse; and what (a) compensation and (b) restitution they have received. 
Mr. Thomas: The Government are entirely sympathetic to the plight of those who lost money in the Farepak collapse. They were strongly supportive of the commendable efforts of the Farepak response fund appeal which raised £8 million from business and members of the public to help those affected.
It is the central duty of the liquidators to realise as much as possible for the benefit of all of the creditors of the collapsed company. The timing and level of any dividend payment to unsecured creditors (including the agents and customers) is as yet uncertain. On present information, however, the dividend will be approximately five pence in the pound.
For the future, the Government have taken steps to provide better protection and information for consumers. They have worked with the other hamper companies to put in place greater protection for customers' prepayments, and are pleased to note the initiative of the companies in improving security for consumers' money, which is now held in trust accounts under the control of independent trustees. The arrangements within the individual companies will be monitored by a new trade body, the Christmas Prepayments Association, with a new code of practice to ensure that customer protection measures are established and operated effectively.
The Government have also given the OFT funding for a consumer education campaign so that consumers are better aware of their options for Christmas savings and empowered to make decisions that are right for their own circumstances.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what progress has been made by the inquiry set up by his predecessor Department to investigate the Farepak collapse. 
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the total estimated annual cost is of (a) expenses, (b) salary, (c) office space, (d) administrative support and (e) special advisers for the new Minister of State in his Department. 
Mr. Thomas: The Government have a long-standing policy of not encouraging British firms to trade with or invest in Burma. We offer no commercial services or support to companies wishing to trade with or invest in Burma. British companies who inquire about trade with Burma are informed of the grave political situation, the regimes atrocious record on human rights and the countrys dire economic prospects.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what monitoring the Government undertakes of British business activities in Burma; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: We do follow reports on business activities in Burma produced by the UN, NGOs and other organisations. We monitor the level of UK corporate activities through statistics from Office for National Statistics and Her Majestys Revenue and Customs, which show that trade with and investment in Burma has fallen in recent years.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the value of (a) imports and (b) exports of (i) goods and (ii) services between the Maldives and the United Kingdom was in each of the last 10 years. 
|UK imports of goods from the Maldives||UK exports of goods to the Maldives|
(ii) Data on trade in services are not available for the full 10 years requested. Table 9.13 of the UK Balance of Payments Pink Book 2007 gives the following figures for UK trade in services with the Maldives:
|UK imports of services from the Maldives||UK exports of services to the Maldives|
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what progress has been made on implementing the recommendations of the Pomeroy Review of Christmas hamper savings schemes. 
Firstly, the Government have taken steps to provide better protection and information for consumers. They have worked with the other hamper companies to put in place effective protection for customers' prepayments, and are pleased to note the initiative of the companies in improving security for consumers money, which is now held in trust accounts under the control of independent trustees. The arrangements within the individual companies will be monitored by a new trade body, the Christmas Prepayments Association, with a new code of practice to ensure that customer protection measures are established and operated effectively.
In response to the recommendation on mounting an awareness campaign, the Government have given the Office of Fair Trading ( OFT) funding for a consumer education campaign so that consumers are better aware of their options for Christmas savings and empowered to make decisions that are right for their own circumstances. The OFT education programme is delivering face-to-face sessions for consumers across the UK. The sessions, run by community groups, explain the options for people and help them to
choose the best way to save for them as individuals, pointing out the features of the alternatives. This work is being well received and will continue to be delivered into 2008.
The OFT were also asked to consider whether there were any competition issues in the hamper scheme market. The OFT examined the merger of Park Group and Home Farm Hampers and found that alternative sources of saving operated as a constraint on the merging parties. This is because the majority of customers are prepared to consider switching between a wide range of savings products. No competition concerns were raised either by competitors or customers.
As detailed in the review, a number of credit unions across the country have historically also offered Christmas saving accounts, and this number increased significantly after the collapse of Farepak. There are now more than 100 such accounts. The OFT's Save Xmas campaign has provided consumers with information on all Christmas saving options, including credit union Christmas and regular saving accounts. This will ensure consumers have the necessary information to choose the right product for their needs. The Financial Inclusion Taskforce has reported that Post Office Limited's plans to launch a Christmas saving product is progressing.
The Government's work on financial inclusion and capability has responded to the recommendation that informal saving schemes be given greater emphasis. In addition to the OFT Save Xmas campaign, the Department for Work and Pension's now let's talk money campaign, which provides people with information and support in accessing financial services, is providing guidance on the different ways in which people can save. The Thoresen review on generic financial advice, which will shortly be publishing an interim report, with a final report to follow early next year, is considering the provision of guidance on informal savings. And the FSA's money made clear website also has information on Christmas saving schemes.
Finally, on the recommendation relating to Government awareness of all methods of savings, the new wealth and assets survey is collecting information on informal saving. Interim findings from the first wave of data collection will be published by the end of the year.
Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the likely effect on carbon emissions of (a) the proposed introduction of outreach service points to replace certain post offices branches in (i) the UK and (ii) Suffolk Coastal and (b) the proposed closure of post offices in (A) the UK and (B) Suffolk Coastal. 
Mr. McFadden: No such estimates have been made by my Department. But, in developing its proposals for post office closures and new outreach service points, Post Office Ltd takes into account the Governments access criteria and wider factors relating to accessibility of post office services.
Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the estimated cost to (a) Royal Mail and (b) UK business has been of the recent Royal Mail dispute. 
Mr. McFadden: We have not estimated the costs of the dispute. It is clear that the strikes have impacted on business. The Federation of Small Businesses reports that 94 per cent. of small businesses rely on the Royal Mail as their provider of postal services.
Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate his Department has made of planned expenditure on business support and promotion of enterprise for 2007-08 and each financial year to 2010-11. 
Mr. Timms: The Department plans to spend the amounts shown in the table on business support and promotion of enterprise in 2007-08. Plans for future years are subject to the normal business planning process following the recent announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the outcome of the Business Support Simplification Programme.
The amounts shown relate only to those products or services that are funded directly by the Department or are centrally designed but funded through the RDAs single pot (e.g. the Manufacturing Advisory Service). So, for instance, it excludes regionally designed business support products and schemes as well as expenditure on regional enterprise promotion activities (which are funded from the RDAs single pot), as this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
|Expenditure plans 2007-08|
|Business support products||Amount (£ million)|
Promotion of Enterprise includes funding for the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Insight (e.g. the Make Your Mark campaign, Enterprise Week and the Enterprising Britain competition)
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