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16. Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what role his Department and the Certification Officer play in regulating trade union political funds and donations to political parties. 
Mr. McFadden: The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has no regulatory role in these areas. The Certification Officer has a number of statutory functions relating to political funds and the financial affairs of trade unions.
Malcolm Wicks: Since 1996, we have made good progress towards our targets on fuel poverty. Most recent figures show there are approximately 2.5 million households in fuel poverty in the UK in 2005. This is around four million fewer than in 1996, but represents an increase of 0.5 million households since 2004, reflecting the impact of rising energy prices on fuel poverty. While initiatives to tackle fuel poverty have helped millions of households, recent trends in energy prices present a significant challenge.
Mr. Thomas: The Department, together with UK Trade and Investment, assists UK exports to China in many ways, largely through its partnership with the China-Britain Business Council and by nurturing the already strong bilateral relationships during ministerial visits in order to retain the UK as China's preferred partner in Europe.
20. Anne Moffat: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to improve the regulation of temporary worker employment agencies; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McFadden: Last December, Amendment Regulations to the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 were approved by both Houses. These implement additional measures to protect vulnerable agency workers and come into force on 6 April.
We are also proposing measures in the current Employment Bill to increase penalties for offences against the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and to improve investigative and enforcement powers for the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what powers he has to investigate the affairs of accountancy firms which have been found to be selling tax avoidance schemes which have been declared unlawful by tax tribunals. 
The Tax Avoidance Disclosure regime means that those selling avoidance schemes have a direct obligation to provide information about (disclose) a scheme to
HMRC if it falls within certain descriptions. The Finance Act 2007 gave HMRC new powers to inquire into a promoter it reasonably suspects of failing to disclose a scheme if required
Aside from this, HMRCs powers in relation to third parties (including those who sell avoidance schemes) are generally restricted to collecting information relating to the tax payable by the individual or corporate taxpayer. Powers to inquire into the affairs of an agent are generally restricted to instances of criminal behaviour by the agent.
Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, what steps he will take to ensure that UK firms can bid for contracts to undertake work on nuclear power stations developed by foreign owned companies. 
It will be for the private sector to manage these projects, and we are keen that the market chooses the best options for all parts of the projects. Government should not impose conditions on any part of the process that are not designed to ensure that this objective is met.
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 16 January 2008]: The certification officer determines complaints brought by members alleging breaches of political fund rules or about the conduct of political fund ballots or the application of general funds for political purposes. He also considers for approval the draft political fund rules of a trade union and the draft rules for ballots concerning political funds.
The certification officer receives, examines and makes available for inspection the annual returns of the financial affairs of trade unions, which include accounts of political funds. I refer to my answer to question 2007/968 about the certification officer's treatment of the annual returns of trade unions. He may, in specified circumstances, appoint an inspector to investigate and report upon the financial affairs of a trade union (except certain federated trade unions). He may also, if he thinks there is good reason to do so, require a trade union to produce relevant documents and explanations of the documents.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what proportion of the Certification Officers time is spent overseeing political funds and finances of trades unions. 
[holding answer 16 January 2008]: The certification officer (CO) estimates in broad terms the proportion of time spent by his staff (not including the COs time) in certain areas of his statutory duties. His annual reports for the past five years show the following in relation to the proportion of time spent by
his staff on finances of trade unions and political funds. The column headed Political Funds will mainly relate to the approval of political fund ballot rules and political funds rules. However, some political fund work may also be included in the other two columns.
|1 April to 31 March||Political funds||Annual returns of trade unions and employers associations and the maintenance of the lists of TUs and EAS||Complaints and trade union finances|
|(1) Political funds and trade union independence|
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 16 January 2008]: The certification officer has no statutory authority to undertake general investigations into the affairs of trade unions. He may, in specified circumstances, appoint inspectors to investigate and report upon the financial affairs of a trade union (except certain federated trade unions). He may also, if he thinks there is good reason to do so, require a trade union to produce relevant documents and explanations of the documents.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many hearings before the Certification Officer were held to consider complaints against trades unions in each of the last five calendar years. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 16 January 2008]: The following table shows the number of hearings before the Certification Officer that were held to consider complaints against trades unions in each of the last five calendar years:
|1 January to 31 December||Number of hearings|
Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 9 January 2008, Official Report, column 684W, on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, what steps he plans to take to strengthen consumer protection from misleading copycat packaging once the regulations come into force; and what assessment he has made of the capacity of Trading Standards to enforce the regulations. 
Mr. Thomas: The Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards Services will have a duty to enforce the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) implementing the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The Government believe that these enforcement arrangements suffice to adequately enforce the CPRs, including in relation to misleading copycat packaging design. OFT and Trading Standards Departments will have to act in a manner consistent with their duty to enforce the regulations. Indeed the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property notes that in this context the Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services have said that once the UCPD is in place they will act on behalf of consumers by pursuing businesses who act improperly.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much (a) her Department and (b) the Minister of State for Housing spent on (i) Christmas cards and (ii) postage of Christmas cards in 2007. 
Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department gives to local authorities on claims for single person discount for council tax from single parents whose children are serving with the armed forces. 
John Healey: The Secretary of State for Defence announced on 25 September 2007 that service personnel on operational duty in Iraq or Afghanistan will receive a flat rate payment of £140 for a six-month tour of duty to help with the cost of their council tax and is equivalent to 25 per cent. of the average council tax bill for 2007-08.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what products featuring departmental or Government branding were procured by (a) her Department and (b) its agencies in each of the last five years. 
to meet the cross-government target of increasing the recycling rate to 40 per cent. of total waste arisings by 2010, which the Department has already met, and to increase the rate to 75 per cent. by 2020.
to use resources more efficiently by following the waste management hierarchy; that is, to eliminate the requirement for resources where possible, to reduce consumption and to encourage re-use, to provide recycling and composting schemes wherever possible and to ensure any non-recyclable waste is disposed of by the most sustainable method available
to ensure that
i. all waste is dealt with according to the law and best practice guidance
ii. key staff are trained in what the law and best practice demands
iii. all staff are encouraged to adhere to the waste management hierarchy, avoiding waste production wherever possible, recycling all waste where facilities exist and only using general waste bins for non-recyclable waste
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