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21 July 2009 : Column 1681W—continued


The Government are committed to rebuilding apprenticeships. Since 1997 we have witnessed a renaissance in apprenticeships from a low point of 65,000 to a record 225,000 apprenticeship starts in 2007/08. Completion rates are also at a record high with 64 per cent. successfully completing an apprenticeship-up from 37 per cent. in 2004/05.

Apprentices: Public Sector

Mr. Kemp: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many public sector apprenticeships have been started in (a) Sunderland and (b) England since 2005. [289156]

Kevin Brennan: We do not hold centrally data on the number of apprentices employed within the public sector. The Government are committed to developing and expanding apprenticeships in the public sector and earlier this year Cabinet colleagues announced plans for the expansion of the apprenticeships scheme across the
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public sector. We announced a £140 million package to deliver 35,000 extra places this year, of which, 21,000 would be in the public sector.

From 1 August 2009, a key employer field in individual learner records (ILR) will be compulsory for the first time. This will allow us to estimate the number of public sector apprentices more accurately.

Apprentices: Redundancy

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what information his Department holds on the number of apprenticeships interrupted by redundancy in the last 12 month period for which figures are available. [289140]

Kevin Brennan: We do not currently hold data centrally about the total number of apprentices made redundant. Working with Construction Skills and the National Apprenticeship Service we have established a matching service to help apprentices in the construction sector at risk of redundancy to find alternative employment and to complete their apprenticeship. We do have some information on redundancies in the construction sector where 665 redundant apprentices have been subsequently re-employed. We are continuing to help 775 redundant apprentices in the construction sector.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

John Penrose: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what evidence was provided to the Better Regulation Executive by his Department in relation to the statement that, "Costs to existing recognised Awarding Bodies are expected to be neutral, on average", in the Impact Assessment of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill relating to the creation of the awarding body regulator, Ofqual and the QCDA. [285501]

Ian Lucas: The impact assessment which accompanied the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill was prepared and published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The forecast benefits, set-up and steady state costs associated with this regulation are set out in that impact assessment. These are based are a range of cost and break-even scenarios.

British Telecom

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on what dates members of BT's board have met (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department in the last six months. [285069]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 8 July 2009]: In the last six months, members of BT's board have had five meetings with Ministers, and a further six meetings with BIS officials only. The dates for these meetings are:

(a) Ministers


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(b) Officials only

Members of BT's board will also have been present at a number of wider meetings attended by Ministers and officials.

Broadband

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of jobs to be created through (a) the roll-out of universal broadband access to 2012 and (b) the roll-out of next generation broadband services. [282638]

Mr. McFadden: This Department has not made any estimates of the number of jobs to be created through (a) the roll-out of universal broadband access to 2012 and (b) the roll-out of next generation. However, a recent report by the Information, Technology and Innovation Foundation suggested that a nominal £5 billion investment in broadband networks infrastructure would generate 280,000 jobs.

Broadband: Essex

Bob Spink: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps his Department and its predecessors have taken to ensure competition among high-speed broadband providers in Essex in the last three years. [279335]

Mr. McFadden: My Department has made no steps to ensure competitiveness among high speed broadband providers specifically in Essex. However, through Ofcom, the government has ensured that the majority of consumers across the country benefit from competition in the broadband market by ensuring wholesale access to the BT Openreach network, and the local loop unbundling of BT exchange.

Broadband: Finance

Mr. Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what funding his Department has allocated to facilitate universal provision of high-speed broadband in 2009-10; and from which budget. [281196]

Mr. McFadden: The Digital Britain Report set out our plans for a Universal Service Commitment in relation to broadband. This will ensure virtually every household will be able to access a broadband line capable of delivering at least two megabits per second. This will be funded, by approximately £200 million, drawn from a combination of the emerging under spend on the Digital Switchover Help Scheme (from the TV licence fee) and the £750 million BIS Strategic Investment Fund announced in the recent Budget to support advanced industrial
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projects of strategic importance. The finer details of how funding for this will be done year on year to 2012 are yet to be determined.

The Digital Britain Report also proposed that a Next Generation Fund should be created to encourage investment in high speed broadband in those parts of the UK where commercial investment will not reach. This would come from a small supplement of 50 pence per month on fixed telephone lines, which represents a fair and sensible national investment to ensure that the overwhelming majority of the country can get access to next generation, high speed, broadband.

Bob Spink: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will exempt (a) elderly people and (b) vulnerable groups from liability for payment of the Next Generation Fund supplement; and if he will make a statement. [285226]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 9 July 2009]: Under existing rules any individual in receipt of income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, pensions credit (guaranteed credit) or employment and support allowance (income related) is entitled to social telephony. As set out in the Digital Britain White Paper published on 16 June 2009 the Government do not wish to see a widening digital divide. Therefore the Government expect that individuals who are in receipt of social telephony packages would also be exempt from the broadband levy to fund the deployment of next generation networks.

Broadband: Kent

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps his Department is taking in conjunction with BT to upgrade the BT broadband service in the Chartwell and Pootings area of West Kent. [286782]

Mr. McFadden: I am not in a position to comment on BT's commercial plans. In the Budget on 22 April we confirmed the Government's commitment to delivering a Universal Service for broadband at a speed of 2 megabits per second, by no later than 2012. In the Digital Britain White Paper, published on 16 June, we set out our plan of how this Universal Service Commitment will be achieved.

Broadband: Merseyside

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many households in (a) Crosby and (b) Merseyside had access to high-speed broadband services in each year since 1997. [278908]

Mr. McFadden: The matter raised is the responsibility of the independent regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is accountable to Parliament rather than Ministers. Accordingly, I have asked the chief executive of Ofcom to reply directly to the hon. Member. Copies of the chief executive's letter will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how much funding his Department has allocated for expansion of high-speed broadband usage in (a) Crosby and (b) Merseyside since 1997. [278909]


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Mr. McFadden: This Department has not allocated central funding for expansion of high-speed broadband usage in (a) Crosby and (b) Merseyside since 1997.

As my hon. Friend may already be aware, in the Budget on 22 April the Chancellor confirmed the Government's commitment to delivering a universal service for broadband at a speed of 2 megabits per second, by no later than 2012. In the recently published Digital Britain report, we have set out in greater detail our plan of how the universal service commitment might work.

Broadband: Rural Areas

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what range of broadband speeds the Universal Service Commitment will deliver to rural areas by 2012. [287418]

Mr. McFadden: The Digital Britain Report, published on 16 June outlined a minimum broadband speed of 2 megabits per second for virtually everyone by 2012 under the Government's Universal Service Commitment (USC). Greater speeds may be achieved depending on the technology used to meet the USC and the Report estimated that approximately 1.5 million households may benefit from Next Generation broadband speeds as a result.

Building Schools for the Future Programme

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what discussions the Secretary of State has had with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on the transfer of some sixth form college capital projects to the Building Schools for the Future programme. [288466]

Kevin Brennan: The Government's intention to bring sixth form colleges within the scope of Building Schools for the Future programme was announced in the White Paper Raising Expectations: enabling the system to deliver (Cm7348), which was published in March 2008. That was a joint publication by the Secretaries of State for Children, Schools and Families and Innovation, Universities and Skills. The DCSF continues to work closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on matters involving capital investment. It remains our position that we will bring sixth form colleges within the scope of the BSF programme and we will make the details clear as soon as we are able.

Business: Advisory Services

John Penrose: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what progress has been made in providing face-to-face advisory sessions on business advice open days as referred to in the Government's response to the Anderson Review of Good Guidance. [274367]

Ian Lucas: BIS, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, ACAS and the Health and Safety Executive have established a working group to take forward recommendations on improvements to HMRC's Business Advice Open Days (to be rolled out from autumn 2009). In the interim, the Better Regulation Executive are represented at the five Business Advice Open Days over the summer and will provide information on employment law guidance with the participation of BIS colleagues where possible.


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Business: Credit

Mr. Touhig: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent assessment he has made of levels of access to credit for small businesses. [279261]

Ms Rosie Winterton: BIS makes regular assessments on the availability of credit to small businesses by monitoring statistics produced by the British Bankers Association (BBA) and the Bank of England, as well as monitoring findings from a large number of regular surveys by business representative bodies. In addition, BIS collects data monthly from the five main banks on their lending activity to small and medium-sized enterprises. BIS also carries out regular surveys of businesses examining a wide range of issues including access to finance.

From these data sources, it is apparent that the stock of bank lending has increased compared to 2007 and 2008. For instance, the BBA has reported that the stock of bank lending to SMEs has increased in the first five months of 2009 and was about 4 per cent. higher in May 2009 than a year ago. However, there has been a decline in new bank lending to SMEs. This is due to a reduction in the demand for finance with declining loans and overdraft applications, as well as a decline in approval rates reflecting tighter credit conditions.

Approval rates (approvals of new borrowing as a ratio to applications) have fallen compared to the corresponding months in 2007. Likewise, the BIS SME Barometer shows that although the majority of SMEs can obtain the finance they need, there has been a reduction in the proportion of businesses being able to raise finance. In February 2009, 60 per cent. of SME employers obtained some finance from the first source they approached. In comparison, the Annual Small Business Survey 2007-08 shows 84 per cent. of SME employers obtained some finance from the first source approached. Banks attribute the fall in approval rates to a decline in the quality of applications as well as a tightening in credit availability.

There has been a reduction in the demand for finance, as measured by the number of loans and overdrafts applications compared to corresponding months in 2007. This is especially pronounced for SMEs with turnover of less than £l million. It is likely that businesses have become more cautious and are delaying capital investment.

Although access to finance is vital for supporting businesses during the current difficult economic conditions, only a minority of businesses seek finance. The Business Barometer shows 21 per cent. of SME employers sought finance in the last six months. Furthermore, the majority of SMEs (39 per cent.) report the economy as the main barrier to the success of the business, compared to only 4 per cent. who report access to finance as the main barrier.

Business: EC Law

Philip Davies: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent assessment his Department has made of the cost to UK businesses of the implementation of EU regulations. [287808]


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Ian Lucas: It is very difficult to provide precise figures for the cost to UK businesses of the implementation of legislation that stems from the European Union.

The administrative burdens measurement exercise carried out by the Government in 2006 put the proportion of administrative burdens stemming from the EU at approximately 1/3 of the annual total of £13.2 billion.

Business: Enfield

Joan Ryan: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many loans have been granted under the Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme to small and medium-sized businesses in (a) the London Borough of Enfield and (b) Enfield North constituency since the establishment of the scheme. [282574]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Enterprise Finance Guarantee was launched on 14 January. Information for the London borough of Enfield and Enfield North is as follows:

London borough of Enfield

Number

Loans offered

14

Loans drawn

9


Value (£ million)

Loans offered

1.37

Loans drawn

0.66


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