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Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make it his policy to require mobile telephone companies to maintain high standards of signal coverage in rural areas. 
[holding answer 3 February 2009]: There are currently no regulatory requirements for the mobile network operators or constraints under the terms of their 2G and 3G licences for provision of signal coverage in rural areas. Although a population coverage requirement is a condition of their licences, Ofcom are
satisfied that this has in all cases been met. The Government believe that competitive pressure between each operator is fed by information about the markets in which they operate, providing the best basis upon which they can decide whether or not to build mast base stations in areas where signal coverage is poor.
However, the Government are keen to ensure that the benefits of digital technology are enjoyed by as many people as possible. As part of the Digital Britain Interim Report, published on 29 January 2009, we propose a universal service commitment for broadband data. By the publication of the final Digital Britain Report, we will develop plans for a universal service, which will include the role of mobile technologies. We will additionally consider further network, spectrum or carrier-sharing proposals from the operators, particularly where these can lead to greater coverage levels throughout the country.
John Hemming: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will provide credit guarantee support for the purchase of vehicles to provide support for the motor industry. 
Chris Huhne: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform with reference to the Statement of 27 January 2009, Official Report, columns 165-67, on the automotive industry, on support for the automotive industry, if he will ensure that the plan to be drawn up by Lord Davies on access to finance will include commercial vehicle financing. 
Gregory Barker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the support package for the automotive industry includes elements of support for the development of (a) plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and (b) vehicle to grid smart charging technology. 
Ian Pearson: The package I announced on 27 January 2009 will provide loan guarantees to Britain's automotive manufacturers and large suppliers to support investment in low carbon plant and research and development. The criteria of the schemes need to be agreed with the European Commission, however it is intended that projects could include support for the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
On 15 January 2009, Secretary of State for Transport announced £250 million funding to encourage consumers to buy ultra-low carbon cars and electric vehicles and targeted support for electric vehicle charging infrastructure
provision. In addition, the Department for Transport's £20 million public procurement programme will help demonstrate lower carbon and all-electric vans and the Technology Strategy Boards £10 million competition will showcase ultra low carbon cars.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 10W, about cars provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what UK-owned (a) companies and (b) construction companies are taking part in major infrastructure projects in each other EU member state; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on how many occasions the Ministerial Committee on the Post Office Network has met since its formation; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McFadden: Information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees, including when, how often and for how long they meet, is generally not disclosed; as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.
Mrs. May: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many notifications his Department and its predecessor received of businesses making redundancies of 20 employees or more in each (a) year since 1997 and (b) month of the last two years for which figures are available, broken down by (i) region, (ii) local authority and (iii) parliamentary constituency. 
Mr. McFadden: Employers who propose to make 20 or more redundancies at one establishment are required to notify the Secretary Of State of the proposal under provisions contained in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Information on those notifications is only held from January 2006. I have detailed in the following table the number of notifications received for each month from January 2006 to December 2008. The records are not maintained in the format the hon. Member have requested so I regret that I am unable to break them down by region, local authority areas, or parliamentary constituencies.
Mr. Hurd: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much each of the regional development agencies has spent on external public relations in the last 24 months; and what firms each contracted to provide such services. 
Mr. McFadden: The following figures refer specifically to the corporate promotion of each RDA and their respective projects during the 24 month period of January 2007 to December 2008. They do not include expenditure on tourism initiatives, marketing of the region, printing, graphic design, or the production of required documentation such as annual reports or accounts.
|RDA||PR firms||Total spend on external PR in the last 24 months (£000)|
|(1) AWM does not retain external support for corporate PR activities although AWM does incur photography costs associated with the delivery of its corporate PR function.|
Gregory Barker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he is taking to increase take-up of the Export Credits Guarantee Department's £50 million annual underwriting fund for the renewable energy industry. 
Ian Pearson: ECGD cover remains available for UK renewables exporters and the Department continues to work with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, UK Trade and Investment and renewables trade associations to raise awareness of the support available. ECGDs engagement with, and research into, the market indicates that very few UK renewables companies currently plan to export to markets where ECGD support is relevant. The Department is, however, following up a number of potential longer-term prospects with the companies concerned.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many retail enterprises were in operation in (a) the area covered by Hambleton and Harrogate councils and (b) Yorkshire in each of the last 10 years. 
Ian Pearson: Statistical data relating solely to retail enterprises are not available at regional or district level. The estimated number of businesses in Standard Industrial Classification Group G (wholesale, retail and repair) registered for VAT at the end of each calendar year in Hambleton, Harrogate and the Yorkshire and The Humber region is set out in the following table. 2007 is the latest year for which data are available.
|VAT stocks at year end in SIC Group G (wholesale, retail and repair)|
|Local authority district Hambleton||Local authority district Harrogate||Yorkshire and The Humber Region|
VAT figures do not give the complete picture of the number of businesses in the economy. Businesses operating below the VAT threshold are not automatically included, although some businesses do voluntarily register for VAT even though their turnover is below the threshold. It is estimated that at UK level 42 per cent. of businesses are registered for VAT.
Office for National Statistics Inter-Departmental Business Register via NOMIS.
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