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Mr. Prisk: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) how many agencies are funded by the Government to provide advice and assistance to businesses; 
Ian Pearson: Business Link is the primary free advice and support service for businesses in England. Over 30,000 businesses have already taken advantage of a free health check. In addition to the extensive information and advice available, Business Link provides a brokerage service to more specialist support. Business Link is also the main access point for the new streamlined Solutions for Business portfolio, which brings together all publicly-funded support under an easily recognisable brand identity; and provides access to the specialist services of other organisations whether in the public sector, such as the Manufacturing Advisory Service, or the private sector. Business Links directory of business organisations can be searched online. Businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can also access local business support networks.
The Business Link service in England is delivered by operators under contracts let by the nine regional development agencies. Business link services are delivered under a framework agreement that describes the range of services that should be delivered. In addition (www.businesslink.gov.uk) website content managers and lead policy Departments work closely, using formal procedures, to ensure all information available to businesses on the website is accurate and up to date.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the proposed timetable for the publication of the Government's low-carbon industrial strategy is. 
Ian Pearson: At the Low Carbon Industrial summit, jointly held with the CBI and TUC on 6 March, the Government launched their vision for a low carbon future and a new interactive website (www.hmg.gov.uk/lowcarbon). This was the first step in a process of engagement with business which will ultimately lead to a low carbon industrial strategy being published in the summer.
David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many staff in his Department (a) were disciplined and (b) had their employment terminated as a result of a poor sickness record in each of the last 12 months. 
Mr. McFadden: Genuine sickness absence is not considered a disciplinary matter in the Department. Sickness absence is handled under separate poor attendance procedures. As such no staff have been disciplined as a result of a poor sickness record within the past year.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many post offices the Secretary of State has visited on official business in the last 12 months. 
Philip Davies: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what information his Department holds on the (a) sex, (b) ethnicity, (c) age, (d) disability, (e) sexual orientation and (f) religion or belief of its staff; and what assessment he has made of his Department's performance against its targets relating to diversity in its workforce. 
Staff are able to individually record ethnicity and disability on the staff database, on a voluntary basis. Currently 79 per cent. of staff have chosen to do so. The facility to record sexual orientation and religion or belief will be added during 2009.
Anonymised information on ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief is also collected annually as part of the Department's staff opinion survey and used as part of the assessment of the Department's performance against its targets relating to diversity in the work force.
There are a number of metrics used by the Department to assess performance against achievement of the priorities in the Diversity Strategy. These targets include numerical representation of diverse groups within the senior civil service, the results of external benchmarking exercises
and the results of specific groups participating in the staff opinion survey. The current Diversity Strategy was agreed and launched in October 2008 and progress is due to be formally reviewed in May 2009.
|Senior civil service diversity representation and targets|
|1 April 2008 actual||1 December 2008 actual||1 April 2011 targets|
|Number minority staff||Number of staff at Band||Current percentage||Percentage||Percentage|
Grant Shapps: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what (a) summits, (b) conferences and (c) seminars his Department has hosted since January 2008 at which a primary subject of discussion was the effect of the economic situation on matters within his Department's responsibility. 
Mr. McFadden: This Departments core focus is on business and economic issues. Face to face stakeholder engagement plays a key part in helping us to understand and tackle the issues facing different organisations as a result of the current downturn. It is not possible to provide a complete centralised list of all our work on the economic situation, as this is a broad subject area and could potentially cover a wide range of different areas of the Department.
However, in terms of events hosted in our Conference Centre at 1 Victoria Street since January 2008, this Department has hosted three summits, 16 conferences and eight seminars at which the primary focus was the effects of the economic situation on matters within its responsibility.
These pertained to a broad range of different issues within Ministers briefsfrom small business to consumer protection and the automotive industry. It also includes inter-departmental meetings between Whitehall economic experts.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the effect of trends in commodity prices on waste electrical and electronic equipment treatment facilities; and if he will make a statement. 
No direct assessment has been made of the effect on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) treatment facilities of falling commodity prices. However, concerns have been expressed by a number of organisations about the difficulties in issuing evidence of collection, treatment and reprocessing of WEEE as a
result in a fall in commodity prices and in particular a fall in demand for metal and plastics. To alleviate cash flow problems in the short-term, this Department has introduced interim arrangements to allow the issue of evidence for metal and plastics at the stage it has completed all the necessary treatment processes.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment for benchmarking purposes his Department has made of the implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive in other EU member states. 
Ian Pearson [holding answer 5 February 2009]: The UK has kept in close contact with the European Commission and other member states in the development and implementation of the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive across the EU. No formal review of all member states WEEE systems has been undertaken by BERR at this time.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions Ministers in his Department have had with members of the European Parliament on the effect on retained firefighters of the removal of the UK opt-out on the Working Time Directive. 
Mr. McFadden: The UK Government recognise that losing the individuals right to opt-out of the 48 hour working week as set by the Working Time Directive, would have a detrimental effect on the hours which firefighters working the Retained Duty System could be available for duty, especially the substantial numbers who work full-time for their primary employer. Many other workers also use this important flexibility and so we are firmly of the view that this right should remain. We, through Council, have pressed this point during informal conciliation discussions with the European Parliament and will continue to do so as the formal process begins later this month.
I am aware of the widespread concern on this issue among retained firefighters, and both from this Department and the Department for Communities and Local Government have worked very closely with the Retained Firefighters Union and will continue to keep them informed throughout the negotiations.
Mrs. Moon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will take steps to assist the furniture industry adjust to the withdrawal of credit insurance. 
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform when the European Commission notified his Department of the decision to give clearance for the commencement of the proposed scheme for (a) loans and (b) loan guarantees for the automotive industry. 
Stewart Hosie: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the monetary value is of secured loans to the automotive industry which have been facilitated by his Department. 
Ian Pearson [holding answer 6 March 2009]: The Automotive Assistance Programme (AAP) received EC State Aid approval on 27 February 2009. No loans to the automotive industry have yet been offered under the AAP. A seminar was held with industry and bank representatives on 11 March to explain the programme in detail and BERR expects to receive applications shortly which it will assess as speedily as possible.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will assist the British automotive industry by introducing a programme of wage compensation. 
Ian Pearson: We will continue to assess whether such a proposal can add to the real help we are already providing for industry and the people who work in itincluding the up to £100 million funding under Train to Gain that automotive firms can access.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will examines the merits of the introduction of wage compensation measures as part of training packages for automotive industry workers presently on short-time working. 
Mr. McFadden: The case for the introduction of training and wage subsidies has also been put to Government by the automotive sector and others including the TUC and the Federation of Small Businesses. We will continue to assess whether such proposals can add to the real help we are already providing for industry and the people who work in it.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will hold discussions with (a) his EU counterparts and (b) the European Commission on the implications for EU competition regulations of direct financial subsidies from the (i) French, (ii) German and (iii) Italian governments to their car manufacturers. 
Ian Pearson: At the EU Competitiveness Council on 5 March, I and my EU counterparts and the European Commission discussed and agreed conclusions on cars and on the importance of action that is consistent with Single Market rules.
Margaret Moran: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what guidance he has provided to regional development agencies on their support for social enterprise in the current economic climate; 
(2) what proportion of the support to small and medium-sized enterprises his Department has instructed regional development agencies to provide in the current economic climate is to be directed to support social enterprise. 
Mr. McFadden: Social enterprises, both at start-up and when established, can access the full range of business support products available through the Business Link network managed by the Regional Development Agencies. Business Link does not directly deliver business support programmes but acts as an impartial gateway to all publicly funded and private sector business support. For the 12-month period ending 12 September 2008 Business Link helped 146,000 social enterprises. This equates to 16 per cent. of the overall Business Link customer base. The Government does not set RDAs detailed targets for particular types of expenditure.
Geraldine Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many expressions of interest the Government have received on the partial sale of Royal Mail; and from whom such expressions have been received. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 13 March 2009]: Government have received a number of expressions of interest regarding entering into a partnership with Royal Mail. At this stage of the process only TNT has made their interest public. For commercial confidentiality reasons it would not be appropriate to reveal details on who else wishes to explore the possibility of entering into a partnership with Royal Mail.
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