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6 Nov 2002 : Column 382W—continued

Coal Industry

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what proposals her Department has for investment aid for the UK coal industry. [78451]

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Mr. Wilson: We are currently consulting on the case for an investment aid scheme for the UK coal industry. The consultation document is available via the DTI website at http://www2.dti.gov.uk/support/coal/.

The deadline for comments is 15 November 2002.

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what the criteria are for applying the temporary operating aid scheme for the UK coal industry. [78452]

Mr. Wilson: The general criteria for the UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme, as approved by the European Commission in November 2000, are available on the DTI website at www.dti.gov.uk/support/coal

We are also seeking Commission's approval for a targeted extension of the Scheme to the end of this year. The criteria for this extension can be found at http://www2.dti.gov.uk/support/coal/ukcoas ext.pdf

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what plans she has to aid the UK coal industry when the temporary operating aid scheme ends. [78453]

Mr. Wilson: The new European coal State aid regulation which came into force on 24 July 2002 provides us with the flexibility to pay investment aid for pits that have a viable future. This would allow us to pay up to 30 per cent. of the total costs of the relevant investment project. We are currently consulting on the case for introducing a scheme in the UK to make use of this flexibility.

Photovoltaics

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what incentives are available to encourage the installation of photovoltaic cells in (a) domestic and (b) non-domestic premises. [78175]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 29 October 2002]: The #20 million First Phase of the Major Photovoltaic Demonstration Programme offers grants of 50 per cent. on small scale domestic solar panel arrays installed by accredited companies. Grants are also available for larger scale non-domestic systems. The programme has been running now for 6 months and has had 78 successful applications accounting for around #2 million in grants.

By the end of the three year first phase we hope to have installed PV systems on 3000 domestic roofs and 140 medium and large public and commercial buildings.

VAT reductions are also available for professionally installed solar panels.

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, if she will introduce (a) fixed net metering, (b) a feed in tariff and (c) loans for those wanting to install a solar photovoltaic system. [78141]

Mr. Wilson: (a) Fixed net metering is a matter for individual suppliers, as its introduction involves them incurring costs. However, initiatives to promote its uptake are under consideration within DTI, e.g. under the Distributed Generation Co-ordinating Group.

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(b) The Renewables Obligation came into force in April of this year. This is considered a more market-driven approach than a feed-in tariff, and so compatible with a liberalised, competitive market.

(c) Feed-in tariffs and low interest loans are features of the German Government's PV support programme, whereas we have chosen the capital grant route, which is more akin to the Japanese approach. The #20 million first phase of the Major Photovoltaic Demonstration programme, launched in March this year, offers grants averaging 50 per cent. for small and large-scale PV installations. It has been running now for 6 months and has had 78 successful applications accounting for around #2 million in grants. By the end of the three year first phase we hope to have installed PV systems on 3000 domestic roofs and 140 medium and large public and commercial buildings.

Manufacturing (North–West)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, how many people were employed in the manufacturing sector in the north-west in each of the last five years. [79576]

Alan Johnson: The numbers of people employed in manufacturing in the north-west during each of the last five years for which data is available from the Office of National Statistics are as follows:

Year
1996529,351
1997532,200
1998529,604
1999514,114
2000499,020

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what support and assistance she is providing to the manufacturing sector in the north-west. [79575]

Alan Johnson: Much of the work undertaken in the north-west is underpinned by our recently published Manufacturing Strategy in which we have identified several key pillars to assist manufacturing companies in fulfilling their potential in the UK.

The North West Development Agency (NWDA) together with regional partners are charged with taking forward Government support and assistance in the north-west. The NWDA is promoting and sharing best practice through industry cluster programmes for the aerospace, food & drink and chemicals sectors and others. NWDA delivers the supply chain programme which helps and encourages north-west businesses to use north-west suppliers as well as assisting small businesses devise recovery plans should their main customer reduce production or move from the area.

We have established the UK's first Regional Centre for Manufacturing Excellence in Manchester. The Centre provides the DTI's Manufacturing Advisory Service—the practical, hands-on support manufacturers need. Two Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres are based in the University of Liverpool, making a significant contribution to the global competitiveness of UK manufacturing.

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Skills and Employment issues are recognised amongst other issues as an important factor in improving productivity and the NWDA has led on the coordination of a Framework for Regional Employment and Skills action (FRESA).

Electricity Supply

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, (1) if she will make a statement about complaints from members of the public relating to information provided by electricity supply companies about reconnections of supply following the storm on 27th October; [78847]

Mr. Wilson [holding answers 4 November 2002]: Following the storms I asked for a review of how the electricity distribution companies performed and for recommendations to help them ensure that future supplies to consumers are not affected to the same extent. This review will cover the supply problems experienced, including in the Norfolk area, and the quality of information provided to the public by the companies. I hope to publish it during December. Our follow-up plan will certainly include discussions with the industry about what lessons can be learnt.

KPNQwest

Mr. Stephen O'Brian: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade Industry, what representations her Department has received regarding regulatory issues and the bankruptcy of KPNQwest. [79107]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 4 November 2002]: I have been asked to reply.

My Department has not received any representations specifically regarding KPNQwest. There have however been a number of representations on regulatory issues and the risk to continuity of supply in the event of telecoms company failures.

Company Activities

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, in what ways she has encouraged companies to report on the social and environmental implications of their activities. [79055]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government have undertaken a wide range of activity to encourage companies to report on their environmental and social performance. This includes the Prime Minister's challenge to the top 350 companies to publish annual environmental reports, the work of the Pioneers group on Sectoral Sustainability Strategies and practical

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assistance such as the General Guidelines on Environmental Reporting produced by DEFRA and DTI and published in collaboration with the CBI.

In the Modernising Company Law White Paper, the Government proposed that economically significant companies be required to prepare an operating and financial review. The proposals would require information on the company's impact on the environment and wider community, where relevant to an understanding of the company's business, to be covered in the narrative report.

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, if she plans that subclauses 75(2)(d)(e) of the Draft Clauses contained in Modernising Company Law (Cm. 5553) would require the reporting on all significant environmental, social and community impacts of a company covered by this section, were these clauses to be enacted. [79171]

Miss Melanie Johnson: If enacted as presently drafted, clause 75 would require the directors of a company to which it applied to consider whether certain information should be included in its Operating and Financial Review in order to permit the members to make an informed assessment of the company.

While subsections 75(2)(d) and (e) refer to a company's policies on environmental issues, and on social and community issues, relevant to the company's business, subsection (f) relates to the company's performance against those policies.

Further detail on the draft clauses on the Operating and Financial Review is at Annex D of ''Modernising Company Law, Cm 5553-I''.

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, if she will use the Company Law Review to ensure that companies assess the impact of social and environmental issues on their businesses. [79051]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government's response to the Company Law Review is set out in the White Paper ''Modernising Company Law (Cm 5553)''. It contains proposals for a statutory statement of duties that would require all directors to recognise so far as is practical in the circumstances social and environmental issues in deciding how best to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members. It also proposes that the most economically significant companies should report on their policies on these issues, where they are necessary for an informed assessment of the business, as part of a statutory Operating and Financial Review.


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