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BSkyB (Manchester United)

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if his predecessor received advice from the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry that there was no conflict of interest which prevented him from dealing with competition issues arising from the proposed takeover by BSkyB of Manchester United. [67356]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 25 January 1999]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), on 27 October 1998, Official Report, column 134.

Departmental Staff (Travel)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the mileage rates currently applicable to staff, indicating what changes have been made to encourage staff to switch from cars to public transport and other less polluting forms of travel. [67492]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 26 January 1999]: Mileage rates paid to staff using their own cars for official business are as follows:

Engine SizeUp to 4000 miles (standard rate) (p)over 4000 miles (lower standard rate) (p)
Up to 1500cc3520
over 2000cc4834

The rates for the two smaller categories of engine are Inland Revenue calculated Fixed Profit Car Scheme (FPCS) rates. However, for the over 2000cc category, DTI pays significantly lower rates than those published by the Inland Revenue. The DTI rates are 48p and 34p per mile compared to the FPCS rates of 63p and 36p per mile respectively. This policy was introduced to discourage use of large engined cars.

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 510

Other encouragements to use public transport, or less polluting forms of transport than cars are:

    provision of parking facilities for cycles in all DTI buildings and shower facilities in some;

DTI is currently reviewing its travel policy and will shortly be producing a green transport plan.

Football Clubs (Media Rights)

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on Government policy on football clubs buying media rights to football coverage. [67334]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 27 January 1999]: I understand that the hon. Member is referring to the general issue of closer ownership ties between football clubs and media companies, and the possible impact which any such ties may have on the televising of football matches, football merchandising, and the choice available to football supporters.

On the question of ownership, the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) advises on acquisitions which qualify for investigation under the Fair Trading Act 1973. Where a merger raises concerns it can be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) for investigation. All cases are considered on their individual merits.

Separately from the arrangements for scrutinising mergers, if any links between media companies and football clubs were to lead to allegations of anti-competitive behaviour or abuse of a dominant position, then, in the first instance, it would be the responsibility of the DGFT to investigate the matter.

In addition, in April 1996 the DGFT referred to the Restrictive Practices Court (RPC) the FA Premier League rules and certain restrictions in agreements between the Premier League, BSkyB and the BBC for televising football. The case is now a matter for the RPC. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has no role in the RPC's procedures. It is for the parties to the agreements to demonstrate to the RPC that the restrictions in the agreements are not contrary to the public interest.

Nuclear Reprocessing

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will place in the Library a specimen contract between BNFL and a German utility covering reprocessing services, excluding any commercially confidential information. [68427]

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 511

Mr. Battle: The contracts between BNFL and its German customers are commercially confidential in their entirety, and therefore we are unable to do so.

Electronic Warfare

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to the answer of the Secretary of State for the Home Department of 25 January 1999, Official Report, column 75, on electronic warfare, what responsibilities of his Department for measures against information warfare will come within the lead responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. [68313]

Mr. Wills: The Home Secretary's new responsibilities to coordinate action across government and work with the private sector to ensure adequate protection for the UK's critical infrastructure were set out in his reply of 25 January. The specific responsibilities of individual Departments have not changed. The Department of Trade and Industry's responsibilities include the promotion of BS7799 (the Code of practice for Information security management) and the c:cure scheme (the scheme for accredited certification against BS7799). Responsibilities also include the relevant initiatives falling within industry sectors (such as telecommunications, oil, gas, electricity). This includes ensuring that these sectors have sufficient systems and controls to protect themselves against the possibility of attack.

Electricity Trading

Mr. Frank Cook: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to ensure that the reform of electricity trading arrangements are subject to an environmental assessment under the environmental policy guidelines. [68318]

Mr. Battle: An environmental appraisal was undertaken in respect of the Government's proposed electricity market reforms, including the reform of electricity trading arrangements, and this was published as part of the Conclusions of the Review of Energy Sources for Power Generation (Cm 4071). Environmental concerns will continue to be a central consideration throughout the process of implementing new electricity trading arrangements.

Working Time Directive

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of proposals to extend the Working Time Directive to the United Kingdom sector of the Continental Shelf in respect of (a) cost and (b) safety; and if he will make a statement. [68368]

Mr. Ian McCartney: On 18 November, the European Commission proposed to extend the Working Time Directive to the excluded sectors. This includes an estimated 20,000 offshore workers in the UK. We are considering the proposals carefully, and will seek to ensure they are balanced, sensible and do not adversely affect the competitiveness or the safety requirements of the industries concerned.

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 512

Due to difficulty in identifying workers within the excluded sectors the cost of applying the Working Time Directive to offshore workers was covered in the original assessment. A copy of this assessment has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Central Arbitration Committee

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about the current responsibility of the Central Arbitration Committee and his plans for extending it. [68628]

Mr. Ian McCartney: The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) currently hears complaints under section 181 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 that an employer has failed to disclose information to a recognised trade union for the purposes of collective bargaining. Under section 212 of that Act, it may also arbitrate in trade disputes referred to it by ACAS, though it has not done so for several years.

The Employment Relations Bill introduced on 27 January contains the Government's proposals both to extend the role of the CAC to deal with applications for trade union recognition and to revise the statutory administrative provisions governing the CAC.

Domestic Gas

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had about extending the domestic gas supply network in the United Kingdom; and what proposals there are for such extensions. [68377]

Mr. Battle: This is a matter for the Director General of Gas Supply (DGSS) who has duties under the Gas Act 1986 (as amended) to exercise his relevant functions to ensure that reasonable demands for gas conveyed through pipes are met where it is economical, and that there is effective competition in the conveyance of gas to new areas. There are now some seven Public Gas Transporters (PGTs). A consumer seeking a gas connection can either seek a connection from a PGT; purchase and lay the pipe himself, or his PGT can use the system of supplemental charges whereby the cost of the connection is recovered over a protracted period of time through an additional charge on each unit of gas used. I understand that a number of PGTs continue to be granted geographical extensions to their licences and that a growing number of premises is being connected to the main gas system.

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