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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the average length of time of each stage of the export licensing process was for licences in respect of exports to each country in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: The Government publish information on the average (median) number of days taken to process all Standard Individual Export Licences applications, by destination. The Government do not break this down into times taken for individual stages of the process.
Mr. Binley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what progress has been made against the Governments target announced in the 2006 Budget to reduce the 3,000 business support schemes to 100 by 2010; and how many of those 3,000 schemes have been (a) ended and (b) merged with other schemes. 
My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced on 23 October 2008 that a streamlined portfolio of 30 national support products within the Solutions for Business portfolio would be in place by March 2009. This portfolio draws on the best of existing and new
schemes and represents a substantial reduction from the estimated 3,000 publicly-funded business support schemes that were previously available.
By March 2010 all Government business support products will either have closed, or been given notice to close or migrated to the portfolio. As products wind down businesses will be steered to Solutions for Business products according to need.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assistance is provided by his Department to help individuals obtain (a) loans and (b) credit; what plans he has to assist individuals in obtaining finance over the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: The Government recognise the difficulties that many individuals as well as businesses are having in obtaining credit at the moment. The Government are particularly concerned about access to credit for low income families.
The Government have implemented a number of measures to support low income families during these difficult times. We are investing £80 million in the Growth Fund to support the expansion of affordable credit alternatives through credit unions. The Growth Fund is tackling financial exclusion in England, Scotland and Wales and has already supported more than 130,000 loans to financially excluded people, worth over £56 million.
We have also acted decisively and without delay taking action to stamp out unfair treatment of borrowers to ensure access to credit for all is maintained throughout the downturn. Following the credit card summit in November 2008 we secured agreement from credit card lenders to develop fair principles for any interest rate increase they introduce on reviewing an individuals risk profile. 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.
I have established the Consumer Finance Forum to allow the Government a platform to continue to monitor the credit market closely throughout the downturn. The forum will regularly bring together representatives from the financial services industry, consumer groups and Government to address issues facing borrowers during the downturn.
David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many (a) EU foreign nationals and (b) non-EU foreign nationals are employed by his Department. 
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many members of staff in his Department and its predecessor have received gifts valued at £100 or higher in the course of their duties in each of the last three years; what these gifts were; and from whom they were received. 
Mr. McFadden: The rules and guidance on receipt of gifts by civil servants are set out in the Civil Service Management Code, and in BERR's Staff Handbook. The following table shows gifts staff have received valued at £100 or higher over the last three years.
|Gifts||Estimated value (£)||From|
Gifts valued at more than £50 are surrendered to the Department unless the individual pays for the value of the gift. None of the above items were kept by the individual recipients but retained by the Department.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the effect of the recession on the pharmaceutical industry; and if he will make a statement. 
This Department is monitoring closely the impact of the recession on all business sectors. The immediate effects of the downturn on large pharmaceutical companies has not been as pronounced as those in many other manufacturing sectors. However ongoing restructuring and cost-cutting programmes which have been established over the last few years by large
multinational pharmaceutical companies are leading to an overall loss of pharmaceutical jobs in the UK and globally.
On 27 January 2009, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of Government and biopharmaceutical business leaders. The overarching aim of the meeting was to identify a long-term framework to help the UK maintain its world class bio-pharmaceutical industry. Government and industry agreed to work together to develop a strategy for the biosciences industry. Action to drive this work forward is being taken forward through the Office for Life Sciences.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representations his Department has received on the effect of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive on business costs; what his latest estimate is of those costs; how many businesses met the deadline for compliance with the Directives provisions in the UK; how many fines have been imposed for failure to comply; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: The Department has regular discussions with a range of stakeholders on the impact of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) in the UK. These discussions have included the costs incurred by business. A full Regulatory Impact Assessment was published alongside the UK WEEE Regulations 2006.
Under the UK WEEE Regulations all producers of Electrical and Electronic Equipment have an obligation to register with a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS) to discharge their obligation. 4,348 producers were registered with PCSs for the 2007 compliance period. This has risen to 5,190 for the 2008 compliance period. All PCSs met their obligations on behalf of their producer members for the 2007 compliance period. No fines have been imposed for failure to comply.
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent assessment has been made of levels of compliance with the provisions of the EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. 
Ian Pearson: The responsibility for enforcement and on-going monitoring of compliance under the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations lies with the Environment Agency (England and Wales), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland. All producer compliance schemes discharged their members obligations for the 2007 compliance period.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will estimate the cost of introducing a de minimis rule in relation to business compliance with the requirements of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. 
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the comparative strengths of different subsectors of the UK's environmental industries. 
The main conclusions were that a green economy will be one in which lower carbon and resource efficiency will permeate all products and services throughout the entire economy, and that more focus should be given to the sectors where the UK currently has comparative advantage.
Ernst and Young identified the following specific key sub-sectors where the UK currently exhibits comparative advantage and could develop green business opportunities: software, electronic equipment, business services, financial services and machinery equipment.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what his Department's policy is on negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: The UK would support the completion of negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council, which have been ongoing since 1989. Progress was made in the technical negotiations at the end of last year, and the UK supports continuation of this effort. However, there remain outstanding issues, which we would need to see resolved before negotiations are completed, in particular with regard to the key political clauses, and with regard to the imposition of export duties in Gulf States.
Tim Farron: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of a supermarket ombudsman in each of the next six years. 
Mr. Thomas: The Department has made no such assessment. The Competition Commission (CC) is continuing to pursue implementation of all aspects of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice. Should no voluntary agreement be possible and the matter be referred to Government, we would need to consider the costs and benefits of a range of options before deciding on a way forward.
However, in its report the CC produced some initial annual costs associated with this remedy which were in the region of £3.9 million to £5.4 million comprising £3 million retailer costs and £0.9 million to £2.4 million
costs for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). There may be additional costs incurred by the Ombudsman driven largely by the number of disputes.
Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what restrictions there are on the export of television sets forming part of a local authority's household waste under the provisions of the EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. 
Ian Pearson: Article 6 of the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive (WEEE) requires that the shipment of any WEEE, including waste television sets, between member states or out of the Community for treatment should be in compliance with the EC Waste Shipments Regulation (EC/2006/1013). The controls that apply depend on the classification of the waste and the destination country. In practice, waste televisions may be sent for recovery only to other countries which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD countries).
Nick Harvey: Staff in the Department of Resources typically have responsibilities for functions which deal with more than one parliamentary allowance. Over 6,000 claims for Additional Costs Allowance are processed each year and it is estimated that this requires the equivalent of some four full-time staff.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality which public bodies have been prosecuted for failing in their statutory equality duties in each of the last four years; and if she will make a statement. 
Maria Eagle: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the Government agency responsible for promoting and enforcing the statutory equality duties. It is not within the Commissions remit to prosecute public bodies, however they have a range of legal powers set out in the Equality Act 2006, which they can and do use to enforce the public sector duties.
The EHRC can issue a compliance notice where they are satisfied a public authority has failed to meet its specific duties. If a public authority fails to comply with a requirement of the notice either to comply with the duty or provide further information, the EHRC may apply for a court order requiring compliance.
The court may grant the order in the terms that the EHRC applied for or in more limited terms. If the court makes an order and the authority does not abide by it, the authority may be held in contempt of court.
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