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Miners' Compensation

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many claims have been lodged by former miners for (a) Vibration White Finger and (b) respiratory diseases in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale constituency. [41930]

Mr. Wilson: Claims for Vibration White Finger (VWF), and respiratory disease have been registered in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale as follows:

Number of claims in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale constituency
VWF129
Respiratory disease191

These statistics are available on the Department's website at www.dti.gov.uk/coalhealth.

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 1 February 2002, Official Report, column 615W, on miners' compensation, what progress has been made on deciding how to progress former mineworkers' claims for compensation for respiratory disease from those in (a) safety, (b) salvage, (c) mine rescue, (d) under managers and (e) Group 3 employment. [41755]

Mr. Wilson: The Department and the claimants' solicitors representatives have recently agreed the terms on which safety officers and under managers—who were not originally incorporated within the claims handling agreement—may be compensated for respiratory disease. They have also agreed that claims from mines rescue workers and assistant area salvage reclamations managers may be referred to the Dust Reference Panel on a case by case basis, for a decision on the terms on which they may be compensated. Group 3 employment relates to claims for Vibration White Finger, not for respiratory disease.

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of reports prepared by Healthcall in 2001 on former mineworkers' compensation claims for respiratory disease were (a) returned by the claim handlers and (b) returned by solicitors representing claimants, identifying errors. [41752]

Mr. Wilson: Medical reports are returned by IRISC, the Department's claims handlers, or the claimant's solicitor either to seek further clarification or to identify clerical errors. In 2001, Healthcall, the company contracted to undertake the delivery of the Medical Assessment Process, MAP, completed and passed 44,341 MAP reports to IRISC. Of this number, 5,011 reports (11 per cent.) were returned by IRISC and 2,701 reports (6 per cent.) were returned by solicitors. In both cases, the issues raised related mainly to clarification of points.

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 1 February 2002, Official Report, column 615W, on miners' compensation, what policy has been agreed for handling claims for

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compensation for respiratory disease by or on behalf of the families of former mineworkers who have received payments for pneumoconiosis previously. [41753]

Mr. Wilson: If a claimant has received payments through the Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis Scheme (CWPS) set up in 1974 and is claiming for simple pneumoconiosis in conjunction with COPD, the claim can be processed in accordance with the handling agreement.

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 1 February 2002, Official Report, column 615W, on miners' compensation, what policy has been agreed for handling industrial injury compensation claims on behalf of the families of former mineworkers who died before 1983. [41754]

Mr. Wilson: A separate method of assessment is required for those deceased claimants who died prior to 1 January 1983 to reflect the law prior to that date. Under the previous law, a miner's claim for the years that he lost due to respiratory disease and his loss of expectation of life passed on to the estate as part of the claim under the Law Reform Act (LRA) 1934. The compensation paid to the beneficiary of that claim would be deducted from any entitlement that the beneficiary has to a dependency claim under the Fatal Accidents Act (FAA) 1976.

It has been agreed with the claimants' solicitors that these claims will be dealt with in the following manner:




Natural Gas

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the projected balance of trade in natural gas is for (a) this year and (b) each of the next five years. [41987]

Mr. Wilson: The latest official data available are for the year 2001. Provisional data published recently on the DTI Energy Statistics website show that the UK was a net exporter of gas to the order of 107,771 Gigawatt hours, equivalent to 8.7 per cent. of gross UK production of 1,233,754 Gigawatt hours.

Whether and to what extent there will be net exports of gas from the UK over the next five years will depend on the balance between UK supply and demand. Demand is subject to a number of factors, including weather conditions and the relative price of gas and other sources of energy, none of which is easy to forecast. Gas production from the UK continental shelf is currently projected to peak in the next few years, but it is not possible to predict precisely when UK supply will fall short of UK demand. However, on present evidence, on an annual basis the UK is likely to become a net importer of gas in or soon after 2005.

BNFL

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer of 14 February 2002,

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Official Report, column 523W, on BNFL, when she estimates that the chief executive of BNFL will send the letter promised. [40823]

Mr. Wilson: I understand the chief executive has now written.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on what date work began in her Department on the proposals relating to the liabilities of BNFL announced on 28 November; and on what date they were first considered by Ministers. [40810]

Mr. Wilson: Since the announcement of a possible PPP on 13 July 1999, the Department has been working closely with BNFL on all aspects of its business, including liabilities management. This work, and that carried out under the auspices of the UKAEA Quinquennial Review between April 2000 and August 2001, resulted in the proposals outlined on 28 November. Ministers were given regular reports on the work as it progressed.

Local Loops

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the number of BT local loops that will have been unbundled by 31 July. [41908]

Mr. Alexander: The regulatory framework for local loop unbundling is now in place. It is not possible to estimate how many loops will be unbundled by 31 July as this is dependent on operators' own commercial rollout plans.

Public Bodies

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people from Warrington, North she has appointed to non-departmental public bodies since 1997. [39449]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 5 March 2002]: Information on the town in which individuals appointed to public bodies live is not recorded centrally and it is therefore not possible to give the details requested.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Charles Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to upgrade the capacity of the National Grid to enable further development of renewable energy in the Scottish Highlands; and if he will make a statement. [41587]

Ms Hewitt: I published on 13 February a preliminary feasibility study, undertaken for my Department by PB Power Ltd., of the concept of a subsea electricity interconnector along the western seaboard of the United Kingdom. This initial study sustains the validity of the concept while being realistic about the costs and difficulties.

In partnership with the Scottish companies, the National Grid Company and the regulator, the Government intend to move forward to a more detailed and comprehensive study on options for the development of the transmission system within Scotland and from Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom. I expect conclusions and firm recommendations

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on the way forward to be available within six months. Whatever we do will extend to the north and west of Scotland, including the islands.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she intends to provide an answer to the question from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight of 9 January 2002, Ref 25387. [35523]

Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 13 February 2002]: I replied to the hon. Member on 13 February 2002, Official Report, column 440W.


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