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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 29 March 2001


Departmental Policies (North Devon)

Mr. Harvey: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will set out, including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the North Devon constituency, the effects on North Devon of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [155906]

The Solicitor-General: The North Devon constituency falls within the geographical area covered by the Devon and Cornwall Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). In November 1999, in line with national policy, CPS Devon and Cornwall, in liaison with the police and the North Devon magistrates court, introduced procedures based on the Narey proposals. All adult defendants charged with a criminal offence in North Devon should make their first appearance before Barnstaple magistrates court within eight days.

A CPS Crown court Unit based in Exeter deals with serious crime at Exeter and Barnstaple Crown courts. The CPS has set as a goal the better handling of serious cases in the interests of justice and the victims. From 15 January 2001, a fast-track procedure was adopted which will ensure that offences, which must be heard in the Crown court, normally come before a judge within eight clear days of their first hearing in the magistrates court.

The CPS together with other agencies has been working to speed up youth justice, particularly Persistent Youth Offenders. The time taken for Persistent Youth Cases has fallen in the CPS Devon and Cornwall Area from 141 days in 1997 to 60 days in 2000. This places Devon and Cornwall at the top of the national league.

All these changes illustrate the government's successful policy of speeding up the criminal justice system.

On 30 November 2000, the Exeter office of CPS Devon and Cornwall altered its structure so as to fall in line with proposals in the Glidewell Review. This represents a policy of more effective working between the police and prosecutors and will enable the CPS to place greater emphasis on the more serious criminal cases.

Action and policies of the Treasury Solicitor's Department and the Serious Fraud Office do not directly affect the hon. Member's constituency.


New Millennium Experience Company

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans he has to release for (a) parliamentary and (b) public scrutiny the papers held by the New Millennium Experience Company. [155472]

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Janet Anderson [holding answer 26 March 2001]: As a non-departmental public body, the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) will release to the Public Records Office papers across the spectrum of the Millennium Experience project that are potentially of historic interest or significance. Other papers will be passed to my Department for archiving. NMEC's arrangements regarding the PRO and the Department have been informed by discussions between NMEC and my Department to ensure that public sector archiving guidelines and requirements are followed, and that they have due regard to NMEC's status as a Companies Acts company.

The Department and NMEC fall within the scope of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, and will respond to specific requests for information in accordance with that Code.


Conference on Research Infrastructure

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by whom the UK Government were represented at the conference on Research Infrastructure held in Strasbourg in September 2000. [153673]

Ms Hewitt: The UK was represented by a senior official of the Office of Science and Technology who in turn was representing my noble Friend the Minister for Science.

Insolvent Companies

Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions directors of insolvent companies have been disqualified under section 6 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986; and what this is as a percentage of the total number of directors. [156006]

Dr. Howells: As at 28 February 2001 there had been a total of 9,734 directors disqualified since 1986 when the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 commenced. A further 1,721 cases are awaiting a court hearing of which 90 per cent. are expected to result in disqualification orders. The exact total numbers of directors returned as serving in office at any given time is not available (because, for example, some individuals hold more than one directorship) but an approximate number is 3.6 million.

Small Building Contractors (Regulations)

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals he has to improve regulations for small building contractors. [153509]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 14 March 2001]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has no plans to increase regulation specifically for small building contractors.

Universal Banking Services

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on progress in establishing the universal bank. [155914]

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Mr. Alan Johnson: Good progress is being made with the development of Universal Banking Services. Discussions with the banks are at an advanced stage and I hope they will be resolved shortly.

Windfarm (Northumberland)

Mr. Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will announce his decision on AMEC Border Wind's proposal to build a windfarm at Humble Hill, Kielder, Northumberland. [156637]

Mr. Byers: I have today, reluctantly, decided that consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to AMEC Border Wind's application to build a 80 MW windfarm at Humber Hill, Kielder, Northumberland cannot be given. However keen the Government are to see new wind projects, we are not in the business of taking risks with aircrew lives.

My decision was taken only after extensive discussions over a period of years to try to resolve the difficulties.

Despite these protracted discussions and the willingness of everyone to try to reach agreement and enable the windfarm to proceed, the underlying concern of the Ministry of Defence could not be removed. That concern rested on the effect the proposed windfarm would have on the operation at the Spadeadam Electronic Warfare Tactics Range (EWTR).

The EWTR lies to the south of the site of the proposed windfarm and aircraft approaching it would have had to fly over the windfarm. There is no other route and the proposed windfarm would interfere with radar and with low flying, particularly at times of poor visibility.

The MOD informed me that facilities at the EWTR are unique, as there is no other site like this in Europe, so it is imperative for the front line training of RAF crews and therefore the tactical training value of the range must be safeguarded. Safety is of paramount importance. DTI and MOD are working closely together to find solutions to the problem of developing commercial windfarms, both onshore and offshore, while preserving the UK's defence interests.

This decision was due to the unique local circumstances and is not a general precedent. Our policy remains that each application will be considered on its merits, but in doing so it is quite right that we should look carefully at concerns over a particular siting. It also remains our intention that 10 per cent. of our electricity supply should be generated by renewable resources by 2010.

Copies of the Press Notice and the decision letter are being places in the Library of the House.

Electricity Security and Stability

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress the steering group on electricity security and stability issues has made in following up the recommendations made by the consultants Merz and McLellan in the White Paper "Conclusions of the Review of Energy Sources for Power Generation" and the Government response to the fourth and fifth reports of the Trade and Industry Committee, Cm 4071. [156550]

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Mr. Hain: The steering group, chaired by my Department, published its final report today. The conclusions take into account the responses to a consultation paper issued by the group in April 2000, which set out their initial conclusions. The group concluded that the further work recommended by Merz and McLellan or raised in the responses to the consultation exercise has been undertaken or is in hand. In the responses to the consultation document, there was general agreement with the steering group's recommendation that following the introduction of New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA), the Regulator--the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem)--should keep under review system security to ensure that the electricity and gas systems remain robust, that roles and operational responsibilities are clearly identified, and that adequate emergency procedures are in place. Further work will therefore be taken forward by Ofgem in consultation with interested parties. The group's report also addresses the detailed points raised during the consultation exercise.

Copies of the report are being circulated, in the first instance, to all those who responded to the consultation document. I am placing copies in the Libraries of the House. The document, and the earlier consultation paper, are available on the DTI website at http://www.dti.gov.uk/ energy/ and on request from Natalia Davie, NEP, DTI, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET (Phone: 0207 215 6488).

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