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30 Jan 2003 : Column 976W—continued

Job Sharing

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the extent of job sharing in her Department. [90874]

Ms Hewitt: Currently in DTI, there are around 28 job shares, including three job shares at senior civil service level; two people work school term times only and the staff survey shows that 78 per cent. of staff state that their managers allow working patterns to help them balance work and home life.

The Department launched a new flexible working policy including guidance for managers and staff in April 2002, to ensure that new ways of working are available to all individuals and the benefits to stakeholders, customers, managers and staff are fully maximised. Emerging results reflect great success with an increase in take up of flexible patterns, including compressed hours. Further evaluation will be carried out in April this year. In February this year, we will be launching a more comprehensive toolkit for managers and staff to provide on-going support and advice.

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North Sea Oil

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the (a) size and (b) lifespan of the North Sea oil reserves. [94126]

Mr. Wilson: The Department publishes annually estimates of oil reserves on the UK Continental Shelf. The latest estimates are that, as at the end of 2001, remaining proven and probable discovered recoverable reserves amounted to 955 million tonnes. A further 475 million tonnes are classified as possible reserves. It is also estimated that, as of that date, additional reserves of between 205 and 1,930 million tonnes existed in fields that had not yet been discovered. How long these reserves will last will depend on whether the additional and possible reserves are brought into production and the rate at which they are extracted, but production is expected to continue beyond 2020.

Nurse Co-ordinators

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance will be given to the proposed nurse co-ordinators on seeking consent from potential embryo donors under the new MRC initiative. [93392]

Ms Hewitt: The regulatory agencies have agreed that there should be standard donor information and consent forms for the donation of embryos. These have been developed by a committee comprising the Medical Research Council (MRC), Department of Health, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), and Medicines Control Agency and chaired by Professor Richardson (a lawyer and member of the MRC Council). The documentation is being reviewed by the MRC Stem Cell Steering Committee, chaired by Lord Patel. It will then be reviewed by HFEA committees, and once the final draft has been approved, it will be piloted in a selection of IVF clinics. It will then be finalised and distributed to all IVF clinics.

Post Office Closures

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) urban and (b) rural post offices have closed in Hull and the East Riding since 1 May 1997. [93822]

Mr. Timms: I am informed by Post Office Ltd. that historic data on the post office network are not available in the form requested as the company does not require these data for operational reasons. I further understand from the company that it compiled a list of post offices by parliamentary constituency as of 20 April 2002, showing their classification as urban or rural offices. A copy of this list is held in the Libraries of the House.

Postage Costs

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on recent consultations by Postcomm of a possible rise in the cost of postage. [94097]

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Mr. Timms: Postcomm is responsible for setting the price control for Royal Mail services. It issued a consultation on the future price control on 3 October 2002. My Department responded with a written submission, now publicly available on the Postcomm website, so that Postcomm could, in reaching a decision, take into account the context and rationale for the commercially based financial package for Royal Mail, the details of which I announced to the House on 16 January 2003. Postcomm has not yet announced its final decision.

Renewable Energy Exporters

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many applications have been received by potential renewable energy exporters for the £50 million in ECGD cover to be available from April 2003; and what extra resources have been allocated within the DTI to encourage applications from the renewable energy sector in the UK. [94149]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 29 January 2003]: ECGD has received three applications and one preliminary inquiry for renewable energy projects that could qualify for support under the renewable energy initiative. Contracts for these projects have still to be agreed, and no guarantees have yet been issued.

The DTI's Renewables UK team, with two Renewable Energy Trade Promoters, are now encouraging applications from the UK renewable energy sector as part of their on-going trade promotion activities.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the £50 million of ECGD cover to be allocated to renewable energy exporters from April 2003 will be available to exporters of energy from waste technology to the developing world, including municipal mass burn incineration. [94150]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 29 January 2003]: Waste to power projects are generally considered to be a source of renewable energy. Such projects will be eligible for support, provided all other environmental impacts, such as air emissions and impacts on local populations etc, are acceptable.

UK Economy

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths) to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink), of 16 January 2003, Official Report, column 809, by which method the Department determines that the United Kingdom is the fastest growing economy in the world. [93851]

Ms Hewitt: The best measures of economic activity is GDP. In 2001, the latest year for which data are available, the UK economy grew by 2.0 per cent. This growth rate was higher than that for the other major economies (G7 countries), according to the latest data published by the OECD.

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Jones Act

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effects on (a) UK and (b) EU shipping of the United States Jones Act] [93946]

Mr. Jamieson: The US Merchant Marine Act of 1920, otherwise known as the "Jones Act", restricts the carriage of sea borne cargo between ports in the United States to vessels constructed and registered in the United States, owned by a United States citizen and manned by United States seafarers. The Act has the effect of denying the opportunity to foreign shipping, including ships registered in the UK and other EU Member States, to compete for coastal trade in the United States. It also affects adversely the ability of foreign shipping companies to move their international cargoes and empty containers more efficiently between US ports using their own vessels on existing international services.


Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) when the major A14 improvements included in the preferred plan of the Cambridge to Huntingdon multi-modal study will be entered into the trunk road targeted programme of improvements; [94565]

Mr. Jamieson: Preparatory work on the major improvements to the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge, which came out of the Cambridge to Huntingdon multi-modal study, are at an advanced stage. The Secretary of State will shortly be receiving the Highways Agency's recommendations after which he will announce his decision. Sufficient funds are available from those set aside for strategic roads in the Government's 10-Year Plan for Transport to pay for this scheme.

A timetable for this scheme was not included in our progress report on the 10-Year Plan entitled "Delivering Better Transport: Progress Report" published in December as it has yet to be added to the TPI. Such information will be made available when the Secretary of State announces his decision.

External Consultants

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department has spent on

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external consultants since its creation; what percentage this sum represents of (a) his Department's total expenditure and (b) the cost of running the Department; and if he will make a statement. [93955]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 28 January 2003]: My Department came into being in May 2002. Expenditure on external consultants by my Department up to the end of December 2002 was £93.1 million. This represents 1 per cent. of my departmental expenditure limit. Of this £93.1 million, £1.7 million relates to the cost of running my Department and this represents 0.4 per cent. of my Department's administration costs limit.

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