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Mr. Sanders: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to encourage investment in the biotechnology industry. 
Ian Pearson: The Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015 was published on 22 January 2009 and its recommendations are currently being considered by the Government. A formal response will issue in the spring.
Businesses, including firms in the biotechnology sector, can find out about eligibility for a range of Government support schemes from the Real help for businesses now web page hosted by Business Link at
Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he is taking to inform older people of the risks they incur through borrowing too much. 
Mr. Thomas: The Government fully recognise the risks for older people of borrowing too much, particularly for those on low incomes. The vast majority of older people have no debts and are able to manage their finances. However, we are aware that many older people struggle to meet the cost of day to day living, and that some have been borrowing to finance these costs.
The Government have invested considerable resource in debt advice over recent years. It has allocated £130 million to expand the provision of free debt advice for the financially excluded through the Financial Inclusion Fund. A further £15.85 million was allocated to support the National Debt Line and Citizen's Advice in the last Pre-Budget Report. These services are targeted at the financially excluded, including older people in financial difficulty.
The Government have also undertaken a number of measures to strengthen signposting to debt advice services, including a Direct.Gov campaign. The Direct.Gov website provides links to Help the Aged, Age Concern and other organisations able to provide financial information to this vulnerable group.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assistance his Department provides to businesses to assist them with export activities. 
Mr. Thomas: UK Trade and Investment is the joint BERR/FCO organisation that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy and assists overseas companies to bring high quality investment to the UK.
UKTI's trade development services for UK-based companies help them to develop their international trade potential, and to access international markets. Further details on these services can be found in UKTI's Autumn Performance Report 2008 (Cm 7520) and on UKTI's website
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment his Department has made of the proposal from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts for a fund to support early stage companies. 
The Government are aware of the difficulties small companies are facing in raising venture capital funding and the risk that this poses to the UK's economic future. We are currently working with the venture capital sector, businesses and investors to discuss possible solutions. This includes discussions with NESTA about their proposal, but no decisions have yet been made.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) how many redundancies from positions in the car manufacturing industries have been notified to his Department in the last 12 months; 
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. Records are held using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. In the period 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008 this Department was notified of the following proposed redundancies:
(SIC 29) Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers6154
(SIC 30) Manufacture of other transport equipment9098
Mr. McFadden: At the current time, 12 Consumer Focus staff work primarily on postal services issues, including postal and post office network activity. A further five staff work directly on postal services issues, as part of their wider responsibilities.
Of the 17 staff who work directly on postal services issues, 11 staff work on a Great Britain wide basis, there are three staff in Consumer Focus Northern Ireland post, two staff in Consumer Focus Scotland and a staff member in Consumer Focus Wales.
Jessica Morden: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to ensure that credit card companies do not charge exorbitant interest rates. 
Mr. Thomas: The Government fully understand the recent concerns over high interest rates charged by some credit card lenders. We secured agreement from credit card lenders to develop fair principles for any interest rate increase they introduce on reviewing an individuals account. These came into force in January 2009 and provide extra protections when a customer or group of customers interest rate is changed as a result of a perceived change in their ability to repay their debts.
Where a lender increases their rates, customers will be given the option to close down their account and repay their remaining balance at the existing rate of interest. Lenders also agreed not to increase rates for customers who have failed to make two or more consecutive minimum payments, where an agreed repayment plan is
in place for the account, or where lenders have been notified by a not-for-profit debt advice agency that the customer is in serious discussion with it.
Credit card lenders will also give a breathing space of up to 60 days to borrowers in difficulty. During this time lenders will not commence debt collection proceedings, giving borrowers time to agree a repayment plan with the help of a not-for-profit debt advice agency.
We have also implemented a number of measures to provide vulnerable and low-income consumers with access to affordable credit and free debt advice. £80 million has been invested in the Growth Fund scheme to support loans to low-income families, and £130 million has been allocated to expand the provision of free debt advice for the financially excluded through the Financial Inclusion Fund. The Government will continue to monitor the credit market closely through the new Consumer Finance Forum, bringing together representatives from the financial services industry, consumer groups and Government. This Forum will meet regularly to address issues facing borrowers during the downturn.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what statutory requirements there are on credit reference agencies to provide information to his Department and its agencies; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas [holding answer 10 February 2009]: Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, credit reference agencies must be licensed by the Office of Fair Trading. Certain essential information about the firm must be provided to OFT as part of the application process for a licence. Credit reference agencies may also be required or permitted to supply information to relevant investigating authorities for the purposes of criminal investigations under the Social Security Fraud Act and the Data Protection Act. There are no specific statutory requirements for the provision of information to BERR or its agencies by credit reference agencies.
The Government are in discussion with the credit industry with regard to agreeing the voluntary provision by lenders of data on the performance of credit markets. This may involve the release of data held by credit reference agencies on behalf of credit providers. Any such data sharing will be compliant with data protection principles.
Justine Greening: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent assessment he has made of whether personal reserves on bank accounts should be brought within regulations under the European Consumer Credit Directive. 
Mr. Thomas [holding answer 29 January 2009]: Bank accounts that offer personal reserve facilities do fall within the scope of credit agreements covered by the consumer credit directive. The directive is due to be implemented by June 2010 and BERR will be consulting formally on implementation proposals in spring 2009.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many official journeys (a) the Secretary of State and his predecessors and (b) his officials made by plane in each of the last five years. 
Mr. McFadden: The number of official journeys made by plane by (a) Minister of State for the Department for Business and Regulatory Reform and his predecessors and (b) his officials for the last five years was as follows:
|January to December each year||(a)||(b)|
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many expert advisers, excluding special advisers, have been commissioned by his Department since June 2007; and on which topics they have advised. 
Jenny Willott: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 16 December 2008, Official Report, column 599W, on departmental ICT, what the original expected (a) cost and (b) delivery date was of each project referred to; and if he will make a statement. 
(a) £7.2 million for development and implementation; £1.1 million per annum for support.
(b) May 2008.
(a) £897,000 for development and implementation; £155,000 per annum for support,
(b) March 2009.
(a) £800,000 for development and implementation; £641,000 per annum for support.
(b) December 2008.
(a) £1.6 million; support costs continue to be negotiated.
(b) March 2010.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which ICT projects his Department and its predecessors initiated and abandoned before completion in each year since 1997; what costs were incurred in each project; who the contractors for each were; on what date each was (a) commenced and (b) abandoned; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McFadden: Since 1997 the Department and its predecessors have not abandoned any ICT projects initiated during this period. The Department has a main information technology contract which is a private finance initiative (PFI) agreement with Fujitsu Services and this has been in place for more almost 10 years as well an alternative IT framework agreement with a number of other suppliers to enable competition.
David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what records his Department maintains of its expenditure on (a) official hospitality and (b) alcohol for official hospitality. 
Mr. McFadden: All expenditure on entertainment and hospitality is recorded on Mentor, the Department's financial accounting and management system. There is no separate record of expenditure on alcohol for official hospitality. All spending on official entertainment is made in accordance with the principles set out in Managing Public Money.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much his Department spent on Ministerial hospitality in (a) 2004-05, (b) 2005-06, (c) 2006-07 and (d) 2007-08, expressed in current prices. 
Mr. McFadden: The Departments accounting system does not separately identify ministerial hospitality from other forms of hospitality. To provide the information could be achieved only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to advise staff of pension options available to them in relation to added years or additional voluntary contributions. 
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