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Renewable Energy

Mr. Yeo: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what action she will take during the British presidency of the European Union in respect of the White Paper on Renewable Energy; [22287]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 12 January 1998]: The Commission made a presentation of their White Paper to the Energy Council on December 8.

The theme of our current meeting will be energy and environment. During our Presidency we will initiate a detailed discussion of the White Paper and Action Plan with our partners to see what can realistically be done to promote the uptake of renewables throughout Europe. We intend to hold a debate on energy and the environment at the Energy council under our Presidency. This will address the role of renewables, and the Commission's White Paper, as a key item. Within the UK, we are

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currently reviewing our policy on renewable energy including consideration of what would be necessary and practicable to achieve 10 per cent. of UK's electricity needs from renewables by 2010.

Funerals

Dr. Tonge: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will take action to warn (a) pensioners and (b) others about the activities of funeral directors who encourage people to opt for unnecessarily expensive funerals. [24723]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths: I share the hon. Member's concern about this issue. Funeral directors have a duty to deal fairly with people at times of stress. The codes of practice of all the funeral trade associations require their members to make a basic funeral available with its price clearly indicated. Where funeral directors do not do this, I urge consumers to report them to the relevant trade association of the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme as applicable. I am concerned that there is not enough transparency in this and in other aspects of the funeral business and I am looking to the industry in the first instance to improve consumer protection.

Gas Industry

Mr. Boswell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultations she has had with representatives of the gas industry about future strategies for energy supply. [24320]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 21 January 1998]: The gas industry comprises a heterogeneous range of companies--over 60 gas suppliers (many of whom are in other energy businesses such as electricity or upstream oil and gas activities), the transmission network, and manufacturers and suppliers of gas equipment of all kinds. I and my officials meet, from time to time, a range of companies with gas interests, and various issues are discussed, including long-term energy supply.

Coal Industry

Mr Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe has (a) attended meetings, (b) read papers and (c) made comments on coal industry matters in the last three months. [24264]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 20 January 1998]: Matters concerning the coal industry are the responsibility of the Minister for Science, Industry and Energy. His responsibilities also include European coal issues, dealt with at the Energy Council which he attends.

Coal industry matters have arisen only incidentally, e.g. in meetings at which the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe has been present. He has had no direct dealings with the issue.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Board of Trade if the Paymaster General will ensure that the report on the future of the coal industry is completed before the current redundancy terms for miners end on 30 June. [25426]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 26 January 1998]: The Government are not preparing a report on the coal industry. On 22 December, the President of the Board of

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Trade announced details of a review of energy sources for power generation. That review is being carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry, not HM Treasury. The Department has invited representations by 16 February. The review is expected to reach conclusions before 30 June.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much extra British coal she estimates will be burned in British power stations in the second quarter of 1998 as a result of the agreement facilitated by the Paymaster General. [25421]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 26 January 1998]: National Power and Eastern Electricity agreed with RJB Mining to accelerate deliveries of 600,000 tonnes between them in the April-June quarter 1998. Power Gen agreed to purchase 1.1 million tonnes from RJB in this period.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment she has made of the impact of the revised sulphur protocol issued by the Environment Agency on coal mines and jobs in the coal industry.[25418]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 26 January 1998]: Exchanges I have had with the electricity generators suggest that, if implemented, the revised limits proposed by the Environment Agency in a recent consultation paper would have the effect of constraining their purchases of coal and coalburn. My Department is entering into discussions with the Environment Agency and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions about the proposed limits.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade to what extent the amount of coal burned will increase in the second quarter of 1998 as a result of the agreement reached by the Paymaster General with the power generators. [26783]

Mrs. Beckett: Following discussions between the electricity generators and RJB Mining in December 1997, National Power and Eastern Electricity agreed with RJB Mining to accelerate deliveries of 600,000 tonnes between them in the April-June quarter of 1998. Power Gen agreed to purchase 1.1 million tonnes from RJB in this period. The volume of coal burned in the quarter in relation to other quarters will depend upon the decisions of the individual generating companies.

Official Entertainment

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the total cost of the receptions held at her official residence. [25236]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 23 January 1998]: In relation to the costs of official receptions, I refer to my reply to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on 29 January 1998, Official Report, column 356. The costs of any other functions have been borne privately.

Power Generators

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade which Ministers of her Department were notified of the details of the agreement reached by the Paymaster General with the power generators; and if she will publish details of the agreement. [25422]

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Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 26 January 1998]: No agreement was reached between the Paymaster General and the power generators. Arrangements for coal deliveries were agreed between the power generators and RJB Mining. The President and I were fully aware of the discussions that led to these arrangements.

I have arranged for a record of the details of the agreement, agreed with the parties, to be placed in the Library.

Sustainable Development

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what mechanisms she has put in place to ensure the Government's objective of promoting sustainable development is reflected in the outcome of the comprehensive spending reviews for her Department.[25907]

Mrs. Beckett: Sustainable development is a factor in all my Department's work. As part of the comprehensive spending review, I aim to ensure that sustainability, including environmental and social issues, is integrated in all areas and by all Directorates. I have also made sustainability a key part of the remits for my Competitiveness working Groups (business advisory panels) on Management Best Practice and innovation.

Solar Heating

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what surveys have been carried out into the benefits of solar heating systems in houses; what discussions she has had with housebuilders regarding installing solar heating systems when building houses; and if she will make a statement. [25296]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 27 January 1998]: The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have the policy lead on solar energy technologies, whereas it is the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) which sponsors the construction industry. There is, of course a constructive dialogue between the Departments for implementing policy in this area.

A detailed survey was carried out in May 1995, commissioned by the DTI's New and Renewable Energy Programme. The objectives of the survey were to establish how many active solar water heating systems have been installed, how many are still in use and how they have performed. As part of the work, a questionnaire was sent to about 1400 households, 50 per cent. of which were returned. The report concluded that some 49,000 active solar heating systems had been installed in Britain, of which 42,000 were still in use. In general, systems were performing well and the majority of users were 'very satisfied' with their system. The report is available from the Renewable Energy Enquiries Bureau at ETSU--"Survey of Active Solar Heating Systems in the UK--ETSU S/P3/00238/REP".

In addition, as part of the DETR's Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme, an R and D project is currently underway, aiming to assess the performance and economics of installing modern solar heating systems on a housing association site of new-built family houses. Following occupation, eight of the houses will be monitored to measure solar radiation and energy input into heating and domestic hot water, to establish the ratio

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of hot water provided by the solar system. Occupants will also be questioned on their level of satisfaction. A parallel EU-funded THERMIE project aims to establish economic factors such as installation and running costs.

There have been no discussions between DTI or DETR Ministers and housebuilders regarding installing solar heating systems when building houses. However, DTI officials have an active collaboration with the solar heating industry and DETR officials have regular contacts with the building industry on a whole range of energy saving measures in housebuilding.


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