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Mr. Mike O'Brien: Assessments on the impact of the Emissions Trading Scheme should be treated with caution. The impact on electricity prices is difficult to assess and is dependent on the carbon price, so for example at a carbon price of €5 per tonne of carbon dioxide the Department estimates that electricity prices to industry might increase by around 6 per cent. and prices to the domestic consumer by around 3 per cent. An analysis of the implications of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for electricity prices is available at: www.dti.gov.uk/energy/sepn/ilexetsfinal.pdf
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effect on the number of households in fuel poverty of rises in retail prices of gas and electricity since 2003. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The number of people in fuel poverty fell from 5.4 million in 1996 to about 2¼ million in 2002. Analysis of the overall effects of changes in fuel prices and incomes suggests that the total number of vulnerable households in fuel poverty is likely to rise by a limited amount in 2004 and 2005perhaps by up to 200,000 households in England, where vulnerable households are defined as those containing children, the elderly, the disabled or someone with long term sickness.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment she has made of the recent price shock on the spot market for gas in the UK; and if she will make a statement; 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The high spot gas prices at the end of February and beginning of March appear to have been caused by high demand and market concerns over supply tightness during cold weather across Europe. There were also technical problems reducing supplies from the North Sea and issues around the levels in short and medium term storage. Temperatures have now returned to at or above the seasonal average, and supply concerns have lessened. Spot prices have reduced accordingly, and we still have supplies in storage to meet another cold snap. The impact on manufacturing companies will vary extensively and depend on a variety of factors, including how much gas individual companies use and the exposure of a particular company to the spot price.
Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) when the Government will respond to the Office of Fair Trading's announcement of provisional conclusions on newspaper and magazine distribution; 
Mr. Sutcliffe: I understand the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) plans to publish its draft advisory opinion for public consultation around end of March 2005 with a view to publishing a final opinion by 1 May 2005. The OFT's provisional opinion does not include anything that requires a response from the Government.
Ms Hewitt: Expenditure for stationery and office supplies can be provided only from 199899, the first year for which resource information was produced; any earlier figures would not be meaningful. The following figures show the total expenditure between 199899 and 200304.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the latest figures are for online company registration; and what steps she has taken to evaluate consumer satisfaction with the process. 
At the end of February of the financial year 200405 Companies House had incorporated a total of 297,368 companies, of which 219,570 were incorporated electronically. This represents 73.8 per cent. of the total number of incorporations for that period. Companies House has regular contact with the customers for this service via an electronic filing focus group which meets in April and November each year. Customers can also provide feedback through our customer services team at any other time if they wish.
17 Mar 2005 : Column 417W
To evaluate consumer satisfaction with the service, Companies House carries out regular Customer Satisfaction Surveys. The following table gives results from the last two quarters' surveys in areas relevant to online company registration.
The table gives the results of the latest customer satisfaction survey and the figures given indicate the percentage of people satisfied when questioned about the services provided. Figures are given for the previous and most recent quarterly survey.
|Quarter 2||Quarter 3|
|Customer care attitude||83.6||83.5|
|How reliable do you find the service?||80.8||82.8|
|Contact centre staff attitude||83.7||82.7|
|New companies attitude||83.5||81.6|
|How easy did you find the electronic filing service to use?||76.5||80.8|
|IT support attitude||81.7||79.2|
|New companies knowledge||80.9||79.2|
|If you had to call the helpdesk (0845 3333636) how quickly did we resolve the problem?||73.6||74.4|
|If there was a problem with the service how quickly did we make it known?||71.4||71.2|
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is taking to co-operate with those in the microgeneration industry on the removal of (a) network connection requirements, (b) metering requirements, (c) impediments to access to renewables obligation certificates and (d) other regulatory barriers for domestic consumers wishing to install microgeneration. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Energy Act 2004 commits the Government to producing a strategy for the promotion of microgeneration in the UK. As part of the process of developing the strategy we are consulting on an informal basis with key stakeholders in the industry and other interested parties on a wide variety of issues including connection and metering requirements, access to renewable obligation certificates and other regulatory barriers. There will also be a formal public consultation before the final strategy is published.
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the letters of comfort issued by the holding company immediately prior to liquidation of Ballast plc to sub-contractors and suppliers gave a fair and reasonable view of that company's financial position; and if she will make a statement. 
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