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Utilities Working Group

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the members of the joint working group of her Department and Ofgem to monitor security of supply; and what its terms of reference are. [10236]

Ms Hewitt: The Working Group comprises officials from my Department, Ofgem and the Performance and Innovation Unit. It is chaired jointly by the Deputy Director General of Energy in my Department and the Technical Director of Ofgem. Representatives of Transco and the National Grid Company will be invited to attend meetings when appropriate. The remit of the Working Group is:

Aggregates Tax

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received about the effects of the aggregates tax upon the construction industry. [10643]

Mr. Wilson: A number of construction products companies and associated trade associations have made their concerns regarding the potential impact of the aggregates levy on their overall competitiveness and future level of performance known to me. My officials have drawn these representations to the attention of relevant Government Departments to ensure they are taken into account in the course of discussions between HM Customs and Excise and the industry over the form, implementation and mechanism of the levy.

End of Life Vehicles Directive

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list which countries in the EU have decided on the start date for the implementation of the End of Life Vehicles Directive; and if she will make a statement. [9690]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 23 October 2001]: All EU member states are required to transpose the End of Life Vehicles Directive by 21 April 2002—18 months after it came into force. The directive mandates various dates when individual requirements (e.g. the new recycling standards) must come into force, and in some cases there are options (e.g. when producers must take responsibility for meeting the cost of take back of ELVs). Decisions on these optional dates have in most cases not yet been made.

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he plans to start implementing the end of vehicles life directive. [9597]

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Ms Hewitt: The Government are working to transpose the End of Life Vehicles Directive by 21 April 2002—the date by which all EU member states are required to do so—and to implement its various provisions in accordance with the dates and options specified in the text.

Depleted Uranium Imports

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what approval her Department has given for the import of (a) depleted uranium and (b) products containing depleted uranium, over the last 10 years; what regulations apply to the import of depleted uranium into the UK; and if she will make a statement. [10544]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 29 October 2001]: Imports of depleted uranium into the United Kingdom do not require the specific approval of my Department. All imports of armour piercing ammunition, whether or not containing depleted uranium, require an individual import licence granted by my Department under the Import of Goods (Control) Order 1954. No other product containing depleted uranium requires such an individual import licence.

Information on imports of armour piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium over the last 10 years is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Colliery Canteen Workers (Bassetlaw)

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress his Department has made in the investigation of equal pay claims made by colliery canteen workers in Bassetlaw. [9880]

Mr. Wilson: Of the 1,300 valid equal value claims made by former canteen ladies and workers, 115 are from the Nottinghamshire area, including those living in my hon. Friend's constituency of Bassetlaw. Of those, 99 have already received payment, and efforts are being made to locate the remaining 16.

We also have details of some 175 women who do not have valid claims as they were not lodged with an Employment Tribunal in accordance with the terms of the Equal Pay Act 1970.

Oil Shortages

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what contingency plans she has to deal with an oil shortage. [9943]

Mr. Wilson: Under EU Directive 93/1998 each European Union member state has an obligation to keep stocks of oil that can be made available in the event of any disruption to international oil supplies. As part of this, the UK has an obligation to hold stocks of oil products (including motor spirit) or crude oil equivalent equal to or above 67.5 days' worth of consumption at any one time. In addition, the UK is a member of the International Energy Agency. The 26 IEA member countries, which include the USA and Japan and all other EU member states, all hold emergency stocks of oil and have committed themselves to take effective measures in accordance with IEA plans to meet any international oil

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supply emergency. The IEA regularly holds exercises to ensure that procedures within the IEA and its member countries are kept up-to-date.

Late Payment

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for each year from 1990 to 2001, what proportion of commercial payments have been late. [10133]

Nigel Griffiths: The Department does not hold this information.

The Credit Management Research Centre (CMRC) has produced a quarterly report on credit management practices in the UK since 1998.

The CMRC reports show that there has been a fall of almost 7.5 per cent. in the percentage of payments that are reported as being late by the businesses that they survey. This fall relates to the period between their first survey and their most recent published survey, ie the quarter ending June 1998 and the quarter ending June 2001. During the same period their reports show that the number of debtor days for small businesses has fallen by almost 24 per cent. and that the mean number of debtor days for all businesses has fallen by almost 20 per cent.

Finally, the "European Business Survey" for 2001, produced by the accountants Grant Thornton, shows the UK as having a payment period almost a week (five days) shorter than the EU average (52 days).

Universal Bank

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the latest estimates of the cost of the Universal Bank for (a) the predicted 2 million and (b) the 6 million prospective customers. [10130]

Mr. Alexander: Universal banking services consist of two elements, namely access to the financial institutions' basic bank accounts at post offices and a Post Office Card Account (POCA) for the encashment of benefit and tax credits for those unable or unwilling to use even a basic bank account. The banking industry will meet the costs of providing post office access to their own accounts. The cost of the POCA, which will be met by Government, together with a fixed contribution from the financial institutions, is subject to commercial negotiations between Consignia and the Paying Departments and between Consignia and the potential supplier of the banking engine for POCA. The estimate of costs are confidential under

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Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, because they are subject to commercial negotiations.

Mr. Beard: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in establishing the Universal Bank; and which commercial banks are collaborating with the scheme and in what way. [10756]

Mr. Alexander: Barclays, Lloyds TSB, RBS/NatWest, HSBC, Abbey National, the Halifax, Alliance and Leicester, the BOS, NAG, the Co-operative Bank, and the Nationwide Building Society have signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing that they will make their PAT 14 basic bank accounts accessible through post offices, commit to simple and straightforward opening of those bank accounts at a post office and contribute £180 million to the costs of the Post Office Card Account (POCA).

Implementation of universal banking services is making good progress as detailed commercial negotiations continue between the banks, the Paying Departments and Consignia.

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