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Regulatory Reform

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the Government will respond to the report of the Better Regulation Task Force on sector regulators; for what reason the response has been delayed beyond the target of 60 days; and what representations she has received from the task force in this respect. [31024]

Ms Hewitt: The Government response is being published today and I have placed a copy in the Libraries of the House. This task force report was unusual in the way it covered a number of different sectors and it was necessary to discuss the response with the relevant economic regulators and co-ordinate it across several Government Departments.

Arms Exports

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the British companies which have received export licences to export arms and army-related equipment to (a) Qatar, (b) United Arab Emirates, (c) Bahrain and (d) Oman in each year since 1995; and if she will make a statement. [34084]

Nigel Griffiths: Information on export licences issued to particular British companies is commercially confidential, and is exempt from disclosure under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Details of all export licences issued are published by destination in the Government's annual reports on Strategic Export Controls. Copies of the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 annual reports are available in the Libraries of the House. The 2001 annual report will be published as soon as possible.


Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) boys and (b) girls are taking apprenticeships within the construction industry in England and Wales. [33559]

Mr. Wilson: The spring 2001 Labour Forces Survey estimates that 47,000 people are currently doing recognised trade apprenticeships in construction. This is almost twice the number undertaking apprenticeships in 1996. It is not possible to split the figures down by gender because the sample size is too small. The survey also shows that of those currently working in construction, 800,000 people have completed or are still on apprenticeship schemes, of these 6,000 are female. The figures should be treated as indicative and are likely to be underestimates, as people taking apprenticeships tend to be young and mobile and do not always show up on surveys.

Nuclear Reactors

Mrs. Ann Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) whether the recent discovery of radiolytic corrosion in the graphite moderators of UK Magnox reactors will result in premature closures; [34002]

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Mr. Wilson: BNFL has announced its strategy for the Magnox stations including maximum operating lifetime limits for each station. Details are set out in the company's annual report and accounts for 2001. Subject to annual reviews, and provided it remains safe and economic to do so, BNFL intends to operate each of the reactors up to a 50 year lifetime. This means the latest closure date for the four reactors at Calder Hall falls between 2006 and 2008 and for the four at Chapelcross the latest closure dates fall between 2008 and 2010. It is a matter of commercial judgment for BNFL as to whether or not any factors might arise which might make it uneconomical to continue operating any reactor up to its maximum lifetime limit.

The phenomenon of graphite weight loss (referred to in my hon. Friend's questions as radiolytic corrosion and graphite depletion) in Magnox reactors, resulting from the irradiation and heating of the graphite during reactor operation, is well known to both BNFL and HSE's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). This affects most of the Magnox stations and is monitored closely to ensure that it does not lead to any problems of safety significance. Graphite weight loss is not a significant issue for the reactors at Chapelcross or Calder Hall as these reactors operate at a lower temperature.

At the start of the routine annual outage of Reactor 1 at Chapelcross at the end of August 2001, BNFL discovered that a number of chargepans on top of the reactor had moved out of alignment. This occurrence is related to the well-understood phenomenon of radiation- induced graphite shrinkage which is a separate matter from graphite weight loss. As the four reactors at Calder Hall are of the same design as Reactor 1 at Chapelcross, BNFL decided, in consultation with HSE, to carry out inspections of these reactors too as these reached their next scheduled outrages. All four reactors at Calder Hall are now shut down. They will not be returned to operation until BNFL and the HSE are satisfied that it is safe to do so. This includes the requirement that the issue of misaligned chargepans needs to have been effectively addressed. This is also the case for Reactor 1 at Chapelcross.

Reactors 2, 3 and 4 at Chapelcross have different design features which means that they are less susceptible to graphite shrinkage. They have not been affected by the misaligned chargepans problem. Reactor 3 at Chapelcross was shutdown in July due to the incident that took place during a fuelling outage when a failed grab in the defuelling machine led to a basket of spent fuel being dropped. Having received Consent from the HSE, BNFL has now restarted Reactor 3. Reactor 2 at Chapelcross is operating and Reactor 4 was shut down at the end of January for its planned annual maintenance outrage. Currently, BNFL is awaiting approval from the HSE to resume refuelling operations at Chapelcross.

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Matters relating to nuclear safety fall to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Neither the issue of graphite weight loss nor that of graphite shrinkage has been discussed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.


Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the change in the size of the UK pallet market in the last four years. [25341]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 9 January 2002]: The Department has made no such assessment. However I would be happy to address any particular concern that the hon. Member may wish to raise.

Public Holidays

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what calculations she has made of the cost to public funds of an additional day's public holiday in (a) the UK, (b) Wales only, (c) Scotland only and (d) England only. [34908]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 11 February 2002]: There has been no cost assessment made of the financial implications to the public purse resulting from an additional day's public holiday throughout the United Kingdom nor individually for Wales, Scotland and England.

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what figures she has collated on the number of paid bank holidays employees are entitled to in each European Union country; what plans the Government have to increase the number of paid bank holidays in the UK; and if employees will be eligible to a paid bank holiday for the forthcoming Queen's Golden Jubilee. [34948]

Alan Johnson: Employees have no statutory entitlement to payment for bank holidays in the UK. Therefore, whether they are eligible for payment in respect of the Queen's golden jubilee holiday will depend on their contract of employment.

There are no plans to increase the number of bank holidays in the UK, and we do not collate figures on the number of paid bank holidays in each member state of the EU.


Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessments she has made of the impact of Britain's employment laws on (a) the loss of jobs in manufacturing industry and (b) the transfer of UK jobs to countries in the Eurozone in the last five years. [34836]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 8 February 2002]: The information is as follows:

(a) The Department publishes Regulatory Impact assessments for all proposals for legislation before they are introduced. There is no evidence to suggest that employment legislation has affected the level of manufacturing employment.

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(b) It is not possible to estimate how many jobs have moved from the UK to other countries in the EU or from other EU countries into the UK. However the UK continues to remain an attractive location for inward investment. Almost a quarter (24 per cent.) of all FDI in Europe goes to the UK compared to 14 per cent. for Germany and 11 per cent. for France (1999).

End of Life Vehicles Directive

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her implementation of the end of Life Vehicles Directive; and whether she intends to make it apply retrospectively on vehicle manufacturers. [32980]

Mr. Wilson: The responses to our consultation paper on options for implementing the Directive are now being assessed, along with the recommendations and conclusions of the Trade and Industry Committee. The Government are working to transpose and implement the Directive in accordance with the dates and options specified in the text, and without putting UK business at a disadvantage. In the Government's view, the Directive's provisions are not legally retrospective.

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