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EU External Trade: Peru

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions his Department has had with the European Commission on its decision to continue multiparty trade agreement negotiations with Peru; and if he will make a statement. [2328]

Mr Davey: Negotiations for an EU-Colombia-Peru multiparty trade agreement were concluded in March 2010, and the agreement is likely to enter into force in late 2011.

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Officials from this Department and DFID have liaised closely with the European Commission throughout the negotiations, and last discussed the agreement with the Commission at the EU Trade Policy Committee on 21 May 2010.

Higher and Further Education: Admissions

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans he has to encourage underprivileged individuals to enter into (a) higher and (b) further education. [761]

Mr Willetts [holding answer 7 June 2010]: The need to attract more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into higher education is written into the coalition agreement. This makes clear that once Lord Browne's review of student finance has reported, its proposals will be judged against the coalition's agreed criteria, which include increasing social mobility and attracting more students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This Government's aim is to create a society where everyone, regardless of background, has the chance to fulfil their talents and ambitions. We envisage creating clear progression ladders, re-engaging young people into work. This will be through a wide range of routes into further education, including high quality apprenticeships. By refocusing employer-responsive budgets this year, we will allocate £150 million for 50,000 new, high quality additional apprenticeship places focused on SMEs.

Higher Education: Manpower

Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the change in the number of staff in universities in the West Midlands between academic years 2009-10 and 2010-11. [1451]

Mr Willetts: The Department does not hold an estimate of the change in the number of staff in universities in the West Midlands between academic years 2009/10 and 2010/11. Data on the number of staff in individual universities is published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). However, data for academic year 2009/10 will not be published by HESA until 2011, and for 2010/11 not until 2012. HESA do not publish staff numbers specifically by region.

Higher Education: Student Numbers

Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the likely change in the number of student places in universities in the North West between academic year 2009-10 and 2010-11. [1662]

Mr Willetts: The number of students in each institution will depend upon the recruitment decisions taken by individual institutions. However, we are making available funding for an additional 10,000 places in academic year 2010/11 which will be allocated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

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Post Offices

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) what plans he has to enable post offices to offer a wider range of services; [R] [2198]

(2) what evaluation he has made of potential new sources of revenue for post offices; and when he expects to make an announcement on the possible creation of a post office bank. [R] [2199]

Mr Davey: I am fully committed to delivering the policy set out in "The Coalition: our programme for government" of ensuring that post offices are allowed to offer a wide range of services in order to sustain the network, and we are working with Post Office Ltd to develop new sources of revenue, including considering the case for a post office bank.

Regional Development Agencies

Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Advantage West Midlands; and if he will make a statement. [2385]

Mr Prisk: An Independent Performance Assessment (IPA) conducted by the National Audit Office in 2006/07 assessed AWM as performing well. The NAO, on behalf of my Department, is currently undertaking an Independent Supplementary Review of RDAs and is due to report shortly.

Mrs Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what reduction is planned to take place in funding by Yorkshire Forward provided through the single-pot budget (a) in total and (b) in Halifax constituency in 2010-11. [2392]

Mr Prisk: No decisions have been made on how projects/programmes currently delivered by Yorkshire Forward will be affected by the £270 million savings from the RDAs budget. We are working closely with Yorkshire Forward and the rest of the RDA network to minimise the impact on priority programmes in line with Government priorities. Stakeholders and delivery partners involved in affected programmes and projects will be kept fully informed as specific decisions are made and plans are developed.


Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills for what public spending projects within (a) Wigan constituency and (b) the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan his Department secured Treasury approval between 1 January 2010 and the date of his appointment as Secretary of State. [1664]

Mr Prisk: The Government are re-assessing spending approvals granted between 1( )January 2010 and the general election to ensure that they offer good value for money and are consistent with the Government's priorities. Further announcements will be made in due course.

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Window Blinds: Safety

Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when he expects the joint statement from the EU, USA and Canada on safety and looped blind cords to be made. [2405]

Mr Davey: The Department has been informed by the Commission that they are in discussions with Health Canada and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission about the release of a joint letter to the relevant standardisation organisations in the different jurisdictions, urging them to come to a swift and ideally harmonised response to the risks of certain window blinds. We are not sure exactly when this letter may be made public.

The Department will continue to work closely with industry and others to consider the case for further action to improve the safety of looped blind cords. We will be writing shortly to major retailers to ensure they are aware of the standard and ensure they educate consumers about the possible dangers posed to young children by internal blind cords.

Working Hours: EU Law

Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether he plans to seek any amendment to the EU Working Time Directive. [1658]

Mr Davey: The coalition agreement made clear the Government's commitment to limit the application of the working time directive in the UK. In that context the Government were pleased to note the emphasis in the European Commission's recent consultation document on the need to consider adapting the legislation in order to better meet the needs of 21st century labour markets. We will be happy to work with them and other member states on this with a view in particular to resolving the problems caused by the SiMap/Jaeger Judgments on on-call time and compensatory rest.

But it will remain an absolute red line that we retain at least the level of flexibility provided by the individual opt-our from the 48-hour week. The opt-out gives people crucial flexibility and choice over their working hours. Millions of people are better off because of that choice.

Deputy Prime Minister

Departmental Manpower

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many (a) special advisers and (b) press officers are employed by his Office; and at what pay grade. [1239]

The Deputy Prime Minister: On special advisers I refer the hon. Member to the statement given by the Prime Minister on 10 June 2010, Official Report, columns 33-34W.

Cabinet Office Communications directorate provides press office support to me from within existing Cabinet Office press office posts at a range of pay grades.

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Departmental Mobile Phones

Mr Watson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he has been issued with (a) a Blackberry, (b) an iPhone, (c) another make of mobile telephone and (d) a personal digital assistant supplied by the Cabinet Office. [1437]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Minister for the Cabinet Office today.

Departmental Official Hospitality

John Mann: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what budget has been allocated for entertainment, including alcohol, for the Privy Council Office in each of the next three years. [1318]

The Deputy Prime Minister: The Privy Council Office has no budget for entertainment.

General Elections

Mr Evennett: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effects on electoral administration of general election counts taking place the day after polling. [1304]

Mr Harper: The Electoral Commission is currently preparing its report on the administration of the elections that took place in May 2010. We will consider the report carefully when it is published and look closely at any findings which emerge from the report on the timing of the count.

House of Lords: Reform

Andrew George: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has for the future (a) purpose and (b) function of the second Chamber. [990]

Mr Harper: As announced by the Deputy Prime Minister on 7 June 2010, Official Report, column 47, the Government have established a Committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second Chamber. The Committee will make specific recommendations on these and other issues by the end of the year.

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 2 June 2010, Official Report, columns 22-23WS, on machinery of government: departmental organisation, what responsibilities he has in relation to Government policy on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. [1908]

Mr Harper: The Deputy Prime Minister has policy responsibility for the legislative framework (as set out in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, as amended) under which the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) operates. This includes matters in respect of the status and statutory functions of IPSA and of the Compliance Officer. How IPSA and the
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Compliance Officer discharge their statutory functions and other matters in respect of the internal workings of IPSA are for the authority and the Compliance Officer as the case may be.


Lisa Nandy: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he plans to publish details of his plans for a statutory register of lobbyists. [1639]

Mr Harper: Ministers will meet with representatives of the UK Public Affairs Council shortly to discuss how to create the most effective register, on a statutory footing. We hope to publish detailed plans in the autumn.

Monarchy: Succession

Mr Bain: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he plans to bring forward proposals to amend the parts of the Act of Settlement which discriminate against Roman Catholics. [2251]

Mr Harper: There are no current plans to amend the Act of Settlement.

Primary Elections

Lisa Nandy: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what criteria will be used to determine those constituencies where state funding will be provided for all-postal primaries for the selection of parliamentary candidates by political parties. [1635]

Mr Harper: The Government have announced that they will fund 200 all-postal primaries over this Parliament, targeted at seats which have not changed hands for many years. These funds will be allocated to all political parties with seats in Parliament that they take up, in proportion to their share of the total vote in the last general election. Further details will be announced in due course.

Voting Rights: British Nationals Abroad

Michael Fallon: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will review the appropriateness of the time limit applicable to voting rights in general elections to UK citizens resident overseas for 15 years or more. [2202]

Mr Harper: The Representation of the People Act 1985 provided for British citizens resident overseas to be able to register to vote in general and European parliamentary elections in the UK. However, the voting rights of "overseas electors" did not continue indefinitely, but was for five years from the time when the UK citizen was last resident and on the electoral register in the UK. The length of the time limit has subsequently fluctuated, first increasing to 20 years, then being reduced to 15 years from 1 April 2002.

The Government have not yet considered the way forward on this issue.


Burglary: Self-defence

Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to change the rights of householders to defend themselves against intruders; and will he make a statement. [1705]

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Mr Blunt: We are reviewing the law and its interpretation carefully and will explore all options before bringing forward proposals. We must make sure that the responsible citizen acting in self defence or the prevention of crime has the appropriate level of legal protection.

Communications Act 2003: Prosecutions

Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prosecutions there have been under section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003; and if he will make a statement. [1905]

Mr Blunt: The number of proceedings at magistrates courts in England and Wales for offences under section 127(1) (a) of the Communications Act 2003 from commencement (25 July 2003) to 31 December 2008 (latest available) is 2,671.

Court proceedings data for 2009 are planned for publication on 31 October 2010.

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