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Modernising Government White Paper

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list, for each financial year from 1998-99 until the latest date for which sums have been allocated, the amount his Department has spent and expects to spend on the implementation of the White Paper on "Modernising Government". [143607]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office on 21 December 2000, Official Report, column 245W.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much for each financial year from 1998-99 until the latest date for which sums have been allocated his Department has spent and expects to spend on the implementation of the "Modernising Government" White Paper. [143703]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 21 December 2000]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office on 21 December 2000, Official Report, column 245W.

Post Offices

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many sub-post offices closed between the end of the first half of the current financial year and the latest date for which figures are available. [144151]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 8 January 2001]: I understand from the Post Office that the information requested is not currently available.

Energy Market

Mr. Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures he is taking to liberalise the energy market; and if he will make a statement. [144429]

Mrs. Liddell: We have secured full competition in the supply of gas and electricity and in the generation of electricity, with the benefits flowing through to consumers, while protecting disadvantaged customers and the environment.

Low-sulphur Fuel

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what financial assistance he plans to provide to help increase the number of low-sulphur petrol and diesel outlets. [144058]

Mrs. Liddell: The Government have no plans to offer financial assistance to the roll out of low sulphur motor fuels. Since August 1999, ultra-low sulphur diesel has been available at virtually every UK petrol retail outlet.

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According to HM Customs and Excise, ultra-low sulphur petrol (ULSP) currently constitutes 42.5 per cent. of petrol delivered for consumption in the UK. The United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA)--the trade association representing the major UK oil refiners--has said its members are committed to ensuring the conditions exist for the Chancellor to implement his duty rate reduction in the Budget in 2001.

Power Supply

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what recent measures he has taken to ensure the continuity of power supply; [143922]

Mrs. Liddell: The DTI's Engineering Inspectorate enforces the Electricity Supply Regulations 1988, as amended, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. These regulations require the electricity supply companies to prevent interruption of supply so far as is reasonably practicable, to protect equipment from possible damage or interference and design and operate networks to minimise the number of consumers affected by any fault. The electricity supply companies are also required to report single interruptions of 20 megawatts or more lasting one minute or longer, or single interruption of five megawatts or more or affecting 5,000 consumers or more and lasting one hour or longer.

Engineering Inspectors review the circumstances of each reported event and, where appropriate, investigate the circumstances to check for compliance with the regulations. In addition, Engineering Inspectors regularly challenge the performance of the electricity companies on behalf of dissatisfied consumers who report local problems to the Inspectorate.

All electricity licensees who operate transmission or distribution systems are also required to report annually to the Gas and Electricity Markets authority on their performance in maintaining system security, availability and quality of service. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets publishes this information in an annual report called "Report on Distribution and Transmission System Performance". Ofgem's website: www.ofgem.gov.uk.

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the quality of power supply to businesses and homes in Slough. [143923]

Mrs. Liddell: DTI Engineering Inspectors, who enforce the Electricity Supply Regulations 1988, as amended, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, are aware of two major incidents involving outdoor equipment at Slough Grid substation occurring on 14 April 2000 and 1 May 2000, both of which affected approximately 21,000 consumers in the Slough area. The first incident which lasted an hour was attributed to failure of a 33kV insulator, and the second incident which lasted 45 minutes was caused by a bird straddling 33kV conductors.

There have been other relatively minor supply interruptions in the Slough area in the last 12 months. However, Inspectors are not aware of any level of

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complaints from consumers or reports from the local electricity companies which would indicate a general deterioration of the electricity supply.

Particular incidents of a repeat nature or of long duration should be reported to inspectors who will investigate the circumstances on behalf of consumers to check that the local electricity company is complying with the regulations.

Intellectual Property

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to review the law relating to the theft of intellectual property; and if he will make a statement. [144505]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 8 January 2001]: My Department conducted a consultation exercise on possible changes to the criminal provisions in intellectual property law early last year and as a result the Government have decided to amend the law to bring about some rationalisation of and improvement to the provisions relating to these crimes. More specifically, we intend to raise the maximum penalties for the most serious copyright and related offences to the same levels as currently exists for the trade mark offences--an unlimited fine and/or up to 10 years in prison--improve the police powers of search and seizure across the board and introduce provisions on forfeiture of infringing goods in criminal in the copyright area matching the existing provisions in the trade mark area.

Overall, these changes should provide a significant deterrent effect as well as improve the tools available to those who enforce the law relating to theft of intellectual property. These legislative proposals, which will be brought forward as soon as Parliamentary time allows, are in addition to other approaches to achieve a reduction in intellectual property crime, such as the work in the Counterfeiting and Piracy Forum to identify co-operative and other initiatives involving public sector enforcers, right holders, retailers and consumers. Raising awareness of the issues, such as links between intellectual property and other serious organised crime, the effects of dangerous or damaging fake goods and the impact of intellectual property crime on local employment opportunities, in order to persuade consumers not to buy fakes is another important area of our work.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what categories of submissions from civil servants to Ministers, other than those relating to (a) intelligence and (b) personnel matters, are not circulated to Special Advisers; [143824]

Mr. Byers: Special Advisers in this Department have access to material produced by permanent civil servants in accordance with paragraph 14e of the "Model Contract for Special Advisers".

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Ceramics Industry

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will meet representatives of the British ceramic manufacturing industry to discuss the effect of increased gas prices on competitiveness; and if he will make a statement. [144447]

Mrs. Liddell: I am always ready to meet representatives of industry to discuss energy matters.

As I said in my previous answer on 6 November 2000, Official Report, column 13W, the immediate cause of the rise is oil related gas contracts in Europe which tie the gas price to the oil price. This has brought about a sharp rise in North West European gas prices. This in turn has set the bench-mark for GB prices through trade across the interconnector. My Department continues to monitor the UK market and will not hesitate to refer anti-competitive behaviour to the appropriate competition authorities.

In the longer term, the key to the problem is the rapid introduction of liberalisation and competition in Europe to break the link between gas and oil prices.


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