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BNFL Inc 1998 Annual Report

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will place copies of BNFL Inc's 1998 annual report in the Library. [29395]

Mr. Wilson: No. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 20 November 2001, Official Report, columns 163–64W.

Nuclear Power Stations

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many nuclear power stations are to be (a) constructed, (b) modernised and (c) closed under the Energy Review. [28016]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 21 January 2002]: The Energy Review team has now completed its work and I submitted the PIU report to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the end of December. It is for Ministers

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collectively to determine next steps on the report, including publication arrangements. It would not be appropriate to speculate on the content of the report in advance of publication.

Energy Providers

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received about energy providers poaching domestic customers from other companies; and if she will make a statement. [29755]

Mr. Wilson: I have received a large number of representations about domestic gas and electricity competition. A competitive market requires consumers to have access to offers from a number of suppliers, to be able to compare those offers and to be able to transfer between suppliers to make financial savings or gain improved service. It is also entirely legitimate that suppliers should promote their offers. The vast majority of contracts between suppliers and consumers are carried out in an appropriate manner, to the advantage of both. Since competition was fully introduced 14 million customers have benefited from greater choice and reduced energy prices by switching suppliers, and new entrants have been able to join the market.

It is important that consumers have confidence in the competitive market, and that problems that serve to weaken that market and cause distress to consumers be addressed. The problems raised in the representations made to me chiefly surround the erroneous transfer of gas and electricity supply, whether by administrative or data error or dishonest sales practice. It is the responsibility of the industry regulator, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), to oversee competition as a whole, and to monitor and address suppliers' performance and compliance with the range of statutory and regulatory instruments.

To reduce erroneous transfers, Ofgem and the Gas and Electricity Consumer Council—Energywatch—have developed the Erroneous Transfer Customer Charter. All domestic gas and electricity suppliers have accepted this charter, which came into force on 1 January. The charter should ensure that consumers transferred in error are restored to their original supplier swiftly, and with the minimum of inconvenience. Ofgem will review the industry's response to the charter in August 2002. If it feels that the response has been inadequate, or that insufficient progress has been made, it will consider the use of regulatory measures. These include the imposition of standards of performance (which can carry requirements for automatic compensation) and the modification of supply licence conditions. Ofgem will shortly also have the powers to levy financial penalties on companies for breach of licence conditions.

In addition, in November 2001, I wrote to all gas and electricity suppliers to express my support for the charter, and to stress the need for all suppliers to eradicate sales malpractices, which cause distress and inconvenience to consumers and bring the competitive market into disrepute. I made it clear that, if the problems surrounding sales malpractices were not dealt with, we would have to look again at how best consumers could be protected.

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Overhead Transmission Lines

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she has taken to curb the number of overhead transmission lines that have been planned for the future. [30143]

Mr. Wilson: The National Grid company has a duty to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of electricity transmission. It is a matter for that company what proposals it brings forward. These applications are then considered by the Department in the section 37 procedure and decisions reached on them.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she has taken to ensure that National Grid abides by the relevant planning conditions when erecting pylons for the Lackenby to Shipton overhead transmission lines, with particular reference to access to land in dry conditions. [30142]

Mr. Wilson: It is a matter for the relevant local planning authorities to enforce the planning conditions applied to the North Yorkshire power line. However, where there is doubt over the interpretation of a condition the Department has been willing to provide clarification.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of recent research by the National Radiological Protection Board on the relationship between magnetic fields and the risk of miscarriage. [30192]

Mr. Wilson: The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) has not recently conducted specific research into any possible relationship between magnetic fields and the risk of miscarriage.

Two papers have, however, been published in the January 2002 journal Epidemiology by authors funded by the California Department of Health Services. Both papers purport to show an epidemiological association between magnetic fields and the risk of miscarriage and have attracted some media attention.

One leading American epidemiologist has, in an editorial in the same journal, already questioned the papers' findings and the possible influence of confounding factors.

The conclusions of the papers are also contrary to the findings of an expert Standing Committee of the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, who thoroughly reviewed the published epidemiological literature on electric and magnetic fields and health over the last three decades. Their review was published in December 2001.

The NRPB's Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) will be looking at these papers during the coming weeks and will report its views.

End of Life Vehicles Directive

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with other EU member states regarding the implementation of the end of life vehicles directive. [30149]

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Mr. Wilson: None within the past few months. Officials are, however, monitoring other member states' implementation plans, to ensure that our own transposition and implementation of the directive do not place UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on recent progress of negotiations on the implementation of proposed European legislation on vehicle recycling. [30224]

Mr. Wilson: 116 responses were received to the DTI's consultation paper on options for implementing the end of life vehicles directive and these are now being assessed, along with the recommendations and conclusions of the recent Trade and Industry Committee report, to help the Government decide on the best means of transposition and implementation of the directive. We are committed to achieving the important environmental objectives of the directive at least cost, and without putting UK business at a competitive disadvantage.


Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many times the ministerial group on manufacturing job losses has met since 21 December 2000. [30129]

Mr. Wilson: There is no ministerial group such as the hon. Member assumes. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 16 January 2001, Official Report, columns 218–19W, to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady).

Climate Change Levy

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice the Manufacturing Advisory Service is offering to firms in respect of the climate change levy. [30146]

Mr. Wilson: The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) is being set up to help increase the competitiveness of UK manufacturing (especially SMEs), by the transfer of knowledge, new technologies, best practice methods and processes, and facilitating innovative training, education and skills development. Although the MAS will not offer specific advice on the climate change levy (CCL), it will encourage manufacturers to look at the efficiency and cost effectiveness of their energy usage and be able to signpost businesses to the relevant organisations for this. HM Customs and Excise provides advice on administrative arrangements for the CCL; the Carbon Trust will provide advice through the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme which will cover information on cost-effective, low carbon technologies and other measures, including information on the enhanced capital allowances scheme for investments in energy saving technologies; while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) handles the climate change agreements including advice on eligibility for these.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the impact of the climate change levy upon the manufacturing sector. [30153]

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Mr. Wilson: The climate change levy is an environmental protection measure designed to avoid damaging the competitiveness of UK manufacturing. The levy's impact on individual manufacturing businesses will depend on the extent to which they take advantage of the various levy exemptions, the new scheme of enhanced capital allowances for energy efficiency, and energy support from the new Carbon Trust; and whether their sites qualify for a discount from the levy. Eligible sites in energy intensive industries are receiving an 80 per cent. levy discount where they have committed to challenging energy saving targets in negotiated agreements with the Government.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what recent representations she has received from British industry regarding the climate change levy; [30152]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has received a number of representations from business about the climate change levy.

The Government are keeping in touch with business on the levy to monitor initial experience with its operation. Primary responsibility for the levy lies with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor the Exchequer.

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