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Enron

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the implications of the problems faced by Enron for the UK electricity market, with particular reference to (a) volatility, (b) liquidity and (c) pricing; and if she will make a statement. [22591]

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Mr. Wilson: It is important to recognise that Enron's current situation was not caused by any problems in the UK electricity market, but by the collapse of its US parent company. The wholesale electricity market coped well with the circumstances surrounding Enron's administration. The new electricity trading arrangements have provisions within them to deal with companies going into administration. It is difficult to identify the precise impact of any one event within the wholesale markets. There were however no significant increases in the level or volatility of prices over the past four weeks. Liquidity, particularly on the power exchanges, did however increase as market participants sought to offset any potential counterparty risk exposure.

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the public service agreement target on UK performance in transposition of EU single market measures. [23167]

Nigel Griffiths: The UK had transposed 97.2 per cent. of EU single market measures due by November 2001. Work is in hand across Government on this and we expect to exceed the PSA target in 2002.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the Public Service Agreement target on the number of successful high growth business start ups. [23175]

Nigel Griffiths: For the purposes of this target high growth is defined as achieving annual sales of £1 million or more, or employing 10 or more people, by the fourth year of trading. Latest data from the Inter Departmental Business Register maintained by the Office for National Statistics show the figure for 1997–98 was 12,600 and for 1998–99 was 12,800.

Due to the long time lags inherent in this target, it is too soon to establish further progress.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the Public Service Agreement target on productivity and profitability of small and medium sized enterprises assisted by Business Link partnerships. [23176]

Nigel Griffiths: The last Business Link Value for Money study in 1997 showed that after allowing for wider positive and negative effects, it is estimated that Business Links have generated at the national level more than 8,000 jobs, nearly £1 billion extra business turnover, more than £300 million extra profits, £145 million worth of extra net assets and nearly £400 million of extra exports in the last three years. The targets is to improve on this each year. Another VFM study is planned in 2002 to compare with the original study.

Year on year progress is being monitored by SBS using business data provided by Business Links. The monitoring system was only recently established so no year on year data are available yet. First comparative data are expected in February 2002.

Various quality measures are being introduced to monitor both customer satisfaction with Business Link Services and the Business Link operators themselves.

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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the Public Service Agreement target on performance against a set of competitiveness indicators. [23177]

Ms Hewitt: The DTI published its most recent assessment of progress in "UK Competitiveness Indicators: Second Edition", a copy of which is available in the Libraries of the House. The DTI is currently working on an update of the "UK Competitiveness Indicators" to be published next year.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the Public Service Agreement target on the productivity gap relative to other industrialised countries. [23178]

Ms Hewitt: The most recent ONS data shows that in 2000, UK productivity on both a "per worker" and "per hour worked" basis was lower than in France, Germany and the US. However, since 1997, the productivity gap on both a per worker and per hour basis has closed slightly with France and Germany. The gap with the US has remained broadly the same on a per hour basis, but has widened on the per worker measure. This is largely the result of the exceptional growth experienced by the US during the second half of the 1990s. The productivity data is available from the December 2001 ONS publication "Economic Trends", available from the Libraries of the House.

The Government's aim is to close the productivity gap through policies to encourage enterprise, innovation, investment, competition and the acquisition of skills. The policies have been designed to correct long-standing problems and so we should not expect to see results immediately. However, the slight narrowing of the productivity gap with our European competitors is encouraging.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the Public Service Agreement target on the number of UK small and medium sized enterprises connected to the digital market place. [23174]

Mr. Alexander: The number of UK SMEs which are "connected" (i.e. have a website, or use external e-mail or Electronic Data Interchange) is now 1.9 million, up from 1.7 million in 2000, and 600,000 in 1999. This is well in excess of the Government target of having 1.5 million SMEs connected by 2002.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the Public Service Agreement target on electronic trading. [23169]

Mr. Alexander: The recently published International Benchmarking Study showed that 540,000 UK businesses are trading online, up by 90,000 since 2000.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress with the target on the Radio Communications Agency financial efficiency, between 1998–99 and 2002–03. [23161]

Mr. Alexander: Under the DTI Public Service Agreement the Radiocommunications Agency has a target to achieve a gain in financial efficiency of 20 per cent. over the five-year period 1998–99 to 2002–03.

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The Agency achieved annual gains of five per cent. in each of the year's 1998–99, 1999–2000 and 2000–01. It's latest Corporate Plan for 2001–02 to 2005–06 set targets of three per cent. for 2001–02 and two per cent. for 2002–03 which if met will ensure it delivers the overall target of efficiency gains of 20 per cent.

Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under what circumstances operators are permitted under the NFFO transfer provisions to aggregate two or more existing NFFO contracts from different sites into one project. [23039]

Mr. Wilson: Decisions on whether modified NFFO contracts remain qualifying arrangements for Fossil Fuel Levy purposes are for Ofgem. My understanding is that aggregation of contracts is not permitted under current arrangements, and that the Locational Flexibility Order will not change this position.

The possibility of allowing aggregation was raised in the consultation on locational flexibility.

We will consider the complex legal and policy implications of aggregation with a view to bringing forward possible further legislation in the new year to allow some aggregation.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many requests to amend NFFO contracts to enable implementation Ofgem has (a) received, (b) granted and (c) refused; and in cases where they have been refused, for what reason. [23041]

Mr. Wilson: This is a matter for Ofgem.

I have asked Mr. Callum McCarthy, the chief executive of Ofgem, to write to the hon. Member and to copy his reply to me, so that it may be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Ofgem, however, does not grant or refuse contract amendments as such amendments are a matter for the contracting parties. Ofgem has to assess whether any contract amendment would cause the project to cease to be a qualifying arrangement for receiving support from the fossil fuel levy. Each case is considered on its facts. If Ofgem decides that a project for which a contract amendment has been agreed has ceased to be a qualifying arrangement, that project will cease to receive support from the fossil fuel levy.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance she has provided to (a) the Non-Fossil Purchasing Agency and (b) to Ofgem defining the criteria for the transfer of NFFO contracts. [23037]

Mr. Wilson: The criteria for the transfer of NFFO contracts are set out in the Electricity from Non-Fossil Fuel Sources (Locational Flexibility) Order 2001.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the roles are of (a) her Department, (b) the Non Fossil Purchasing Agency and (c) Ofgem in approving requests for NFFO contract amendments. [23038]

Mr. Wilson: The DTI has no role in approving requests for NFFO contract amendments.

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The Non Fossil Purchasing Authority (NFPA) is counter-party to contracts and must agree any amendment. If the NFPA has any doubts as to whether the amended contract would remain a qualifying arrangement for support from the fossil fuel levy, it consults Ofgem.

Ofgem's role is to make payments from the fossil fuel levy in respect of qualifying arrangements and to set and collect the levy. Ofgem cannot make payment in respect of contracts which are no longer qualifying arrangements.

Ofgem is also required under NFFO contracts to approve terminations of contracts for economic reasons. Other terminations are matter for the NFPA and the contract-holder.

Separate but similar arrangements apply in Scotland where the SRO contracts are held by the supply successor companies and not by the NFPA.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many NFFO contracts which would otherwise have failed she expects to be brought to fruition through the new arrangements for site transfer; and what steps she is taking to maximise take-up. [23040]

Mr. Wilson: The industry estimates that over a 100 projects across a wide range of technologies want to move.

The Government have played their part by making the NFFO Locational Flexibility Order, and it is now up to developers to take advantage of the new opportunities provided by that Order.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the contracts under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation which have been transferred from one site to another since March. [23036]

Mr. Wilson: There have been none. The Government are introducing an Order to facilitate such transfers.


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