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3 Apr 2008 : Column 1203W—continued

Post Office Closures

19. Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent assessment he has made of the impact of post office closures on local services. [198431]

Mr. McFadden: Post Office Ltd., in developing its post office closure proposals, continues to consider a range of factors, including the impact of closures on local economies. For example, under the Northern and Western Isles area plan proposals, currently subject to local public consultation, there will be no change to the office currently used by 83 per cent. of customers and in total 97 per cent. will see no change or be within one mile by road of an alternative branch.

Lending Practices

21. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he is taking to prevent unscrupulous lending practices. [198433]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government are committed to tackling unscrupulous loan sharks who exploit vulnerable people in our poorest communities. In 2004, we established
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two pilot enforcement teams in Birmingham and Glasgow to track down and prosecute illegal moneylenders.

Following evaluation of the pilots, BERR announced £2.8 million in September for a national crack down on illegal lending. There’s now a team in every region of Britain and we have committed to fund this work through the next spending period.

In addition, the Consumer Credit Act 2006, which represents the biggest overhaul of consumer credit legislation since 1974, has boosted consumer rights and redress by introducing a new unfair relationships test and alternative dispute resolution scheme. From 6 April this year, it strengthens the licensing regime for consumer credit businesses to enable more effective action against rogue traders and unacceptable practices.

Power Stations

22. Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what his policy is on development of new coal-fired power stations. [198434]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government’s approach is to provide a regulatory framework which incentivises generating companies to deliver secure energy supplies, within an overall cap on carbon emissions under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Within this framework, decisions on the nature and timing of investment in new generating capacity are a matter for generating companies.

Alcoholic Drinks: Misuse

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of work days lost to UK industries each year through (a) alcohol and (b) drug misuse by employees. [197464]

Mrs. McGuire: I have been asked to reply.

The information is not available in the form requested. However, on alcohol misuse, research published by the Cabinet Office in 2003 estimated that between 11 million and 17 million working days were lost each year due to such misuse (“Alcohol Misuse—How much does it cost?”—Rannia Leontaridi, Cabinet Office, 2003—www.number10.gov.uk/files/pdf/econ.pdf.

Business: Regulation

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he is taking to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and the voluntary sector. [198424]

Mr. McFadden: Government undertook an exercise, supported by industry, to measure the administrative burdens that impact businesses, charities and voluntary organizations and third of all sizes as a result of complying with regulations. Upon the completion of this exercise, 25 per cent. net targets by 2010 were set to reduce this burden.


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In December 2007, 19 Simplification Plans were published, showing more than 700 measures to reduce the burdens of complying with regulations. Over 280 of these measures have already been delivered saving businesses £800 million per year.

Consumer Goods: Health Hazards

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he plans to take to ensure that UK consumers can identify products containing free nanoparticles. [196963]

Ian Pearson: I have been asked to reply.

The Government’s aim is for the UK to derive maximum benefit from nanotechnologies and their products in a way that safeguards health, safety and the environment and addresses the aspirations and concerns of the public. The statement by the UK Government about nanotechnologies, announced in the written ministerial statement of 28 February 2008, Official Report, columns 86-87W, explains what the Government are doing to deliver these objectives.

The Government do not hold a list of products containing free nanoparticles although it has published a report on the manufacture and use of nanomaterials in the UK at:

To promote a standardised approach to labelling and ensure that products containing manufactured nanoparticles can be correctly identified, the British Standards Institute has recently published a good practice guidance document PAS 130:2007 “Guidance on the labelling of manufactured nanoparticles and products containing manufactured nanoparticles”.

The Research Councils are undertaking public dialogue on nanotechnologies and the topic is likely to feature in work resulting from the recent programme of stakeholder engagement to identify the implications of new and emerging science and technology.

Government Departments and agencies are keeping under review the need for action to address regulatory gaps in the light of emerging evidence. The ministerial group on nanotechnologies (which comprises the Ministers for Science and Innovation; the Environment; Public Health; Health and Safety; and Business and Competitiveness) will oversee the process and will also review progress on delivery of the Government’s other commitments regarding nanotechnologies.

Minimum Wage: Females

Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of women who are likely to be affected by the increase in the national minimum wage in October 2008. [198426]

Mr. McFadden: Of the just under a million employees BERR estimates stand to benefit from the October 2008 uprating of the national minimum wage in the UK, around two thirds are women.


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Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the effect on costs has been of applying practices from Nuclear Decommissioning Authority sites to the discharge of British Energy’s liabilities. [198435]

Malcolm Wicks: British Energy (BE) have so far not initiated any decommissioning work as their power stations are not due to close for several years, following the announcement of life extensions to Dungeness B, Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) oversight of BE’s liabilities has therefore focused on their production of lifetime decommissioning plans and near term work plans. BE submitted one set of plans in 2006 and submitted their second edition on 31 March this year. The NDA has applied both the processes used in the development of Site Licence Companies’ lifetime plans, and lessons learned from its review of these plans to the BE equivalents.

The NDA is also working to develop a UK-wide strategy for management of intermediate level waste and this involves both BE as well as other Site Licence Companies.

Rackspace

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the value was of each contract awarded to Rackspace by (a) his Department and its predecessor and (b) its agencies in each of the last nine years. [197515]

Mr. Thomas: Central records indicate that no contracts have been awarded by the Department and its predecessor to Rackspace in any of the last nine years.

I have asked chief executives of the Executive Agencies to respond directly to the hon. Member.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many instances there were of equipment of the armed forces being lost in transit either (a) en route to and (b) in (i) Afghanistan and (ii) Iraq in each year since 2003. [190601]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Other than those attributed to theft, there are no reported instance of equipment of the armed forces being lost in transit between the UK and either Iraq or Afghanistan. In terms of theft, I have nothing to add to the answer I gave on 8 October 2007, Official Report, column 62W.

Ammunition

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many cluster munitions have been deployed in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan; how many were deployed (i) during active hostilities and (ii) since such times; and what estimate he has made of the
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number of people (1) killed and (2) seriously injured by cluster munitions in each such period and country, broken down by (A) UK, (B) other coalition and (C) insurgent forces; and how many civilian casualties there have been. [198157]

Des Browne: The UK employed 68 RBL755 and 2,100 M85 cluster munitions during the initial combat phase of operations in Iraq in 2003. The UK has not employed cluster munitions in Iraq since then, nor have we employed cluster munitions in Afghanistan.

One UK fatality in Iraq, which occurred in March 2003, can be attributed to non-UK cluster munitions. Further casualty and fatality information requested for other coalition forces, insurgents and civilians is not held by the MOD. We also do not hold the information for UK armed forces personnel casualties.

Armed Forces: Females

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many female members of the army who are considered combat effective use hormonal applications. [198204]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The information is not held in the format requested.

Armed Forces: Influenza

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what proportion of the stockpile of A/H5N1 vaccine for use in the event of an influenza pandemic has been allocated for vaccination of (a) healthcare workers and (b) the armed forces; and if he will make a statement; [195255]

(2) for what reason his Department bid for a stockpile size of 54,000 courses of A/H5N1 vaccine, as referred to in paragraph 8 of the Defence Medical Services Department’s policy letter of 20 January 2006, entitled “The use of influenza vaccines and anti-virals in the event of an influenza pandemic” by the Defence Medical Services, reference DMSD/13/1/4; and if he will make a statement. [195350]

Derek Twigg: The Department's stockpile was calculated on the need to have sufficient courses to vaccinate those personnel engaged on, or preparing for, deployed operations and other essential tasks, plus a specific allocation for Defence Medical Services (DMS) healthcare personnel. Around 10 per cent. has been allocated for vaccination of DMS personnel, and the remaining 90 per cent. for other members of the armed forces.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 7 January 2008, Official Report, column 24W, what quantity of anti-virals is held at Permanent Joint Headquarters; and if he will make a statement. [195260]

Derek Twigg: Around 17,500 courses of influenza anti-virals earmarked for future operational demands are held by the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency (DSDA) on behalf of the Defence Equipment
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and Support. PJHQ will authorise distribution of the appropriate quantities to operational theatres as required.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with NATO in the last 12 months on the creation of a joint stockpile of (a) pharmaceutical and (b) other clinical countermeasures to support the continuity of operations in Afghanistan in the event of an influenza pandemic; and if he will make a statement. [195311]

Derek Twigg: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 18 December 2007, Official Report, columns 1447-48W.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many treatment courses of anti-virals are held at (a) role 2 and (b) role 3 medical units, as stated in paragraph 14 of the Defence Medical Services Department’s policy letter of 20 January 2006, entitled The use of influenza vaccines and anti-virals in the event of an influenza pandemic by the Defence Medical Services, reference DMSD/13/1/4; and if he will make a statement. [195348]

Derek Twigg: In accordance with Defence Medical Services guidance, 10 anti-viral courses are held in Role 2(Enhanced) field hospitals overseas; five courses in the unit at Basra in Iraq and five in the one at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. The majority of MOD’s anti-viral stocks are held by the Defence Equipment and Support in the UK, from whence they can be transported at short notice to any overseas location as required.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many courses of anti-virals are now pre-positioned in Permanent joint overseas bases, as stated in paragraph 14 of the Defence Medical Services Department's policy letter of 20 January 2006, entitled The use of influenza vaccines and anti-virals in the event of an influenza pandemic by the Defence Medical Services, reference DMSD/13/1/4; and if he will make a statement. [195351]

Derek Twigg: Around 15,850 Tamiflu anti-viral courses were distributed to MOD overseas bases by the end of January 2006. In addition, just over 1,900 paediatric Tamiflu courses were subsequently distributed to be given to younger children.

Armed Forces: Transexuality

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many transgender sergeants in the process of transition serving in the Army in Germany are (a) receiving medication for their condition in country and (b) have been deployed on exercise in Poland. [198202]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I am unable to provide this information as its release would breach the provisions of the Data Protection Act, specifically in regard to medical-in-confidence issues.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the downgrading of a transgender officer
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to P7, (combat ineffective), can be determined solely on grounds of hormonal reasons; [198205]

(2) whether it is a requirement of army regulations that when an officer is downgraded to P7 (combat ineffective) they should be personally interviewed before a downgrading decision is reached. [198206]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Downgrading decisions are made by medical boards on a case by case basis taking into account all documentary evidence provided by medical staffs. As part of this process, it is normal practice for the individual to appear before the medical board unless they are either unable or decline to attend.

Atomic Weapons Establishment: Manpower

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff were employed at Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston in each of the last five years. [198109]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) plc is split into two sites, Aldermaston and Burghfield. The number of full-time equivalent staff employed at both sites in each of the last five years is shown in the following table. The figures are taken as at the end March in each year and are rounded to the nearest 10. Approximately 92 per cent. of these work at the Aldermaston site.

Manpower level

2004

3,510

2005

3,640

2006

4,040

2007

4,390

2008 (as at end February 2008)

4,620


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