Previous Section Index Home Page


Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received about the effect of the second change to London telephone numbers on the charity MedicAlert; and if he will make a statement. [115119]

22 Mar 2000 : Column: 608W

Ms Hewitt: Numbering is a matter for the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel). The first change to London telephone numbers in the past five years was in April 1995, PhOneday, on which all geographic codes were changed to begin 01. The second change to London numbers, due on 22 April, will mean that local numbers in London begin with a 7 or an 8, preceded by the new code 020. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has received 12 representations about the effect of the second change to London telephone numbers on the charity MedicAlert, and the Department as a whole has received about 60. Oftel has put in place parallel running for old and new numbers, and "changed number announcements", as well as ensuring that the current change has been publicised sufficiently to minimise the costs to charities such as MedicAlert.

Signals Broadcasts

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the combined power output of all the signals broadcast from the telecommunication masts at (a) the north site and (b) the south site on Old Blandford Road at Harnham Hill, Salisbury; and what assessment he has made of the potential risk to human health. [114804]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 16 March 2000]: The responsibility for monitoring the level of power densities produced by telecommunications masts rests not with the Government but with the operators of the masts in accordance with their duties under their Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974. The Health and Safety Executive expects operators to prevent access by members of the public to areas, usually within a couple of metres of the antennas, where power densities may exceed guidelines for restricting human exposure to electromagnetic fields issued by the National Radiological Protection Board.

The Government are aware of public concerns with regard to reports of possible adverse health effects associated with telecommunications masts. It has initiated an Independent Experts Group on Mobile Phones, chaired by Sir William Stewart, to look at the issue. The Group is due to report in the spring.

Power Lines

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the implications for British energy policies of power lines proposed to be built from Lakenby to Shipton by Bellingborough; what impact they will have (a) on the local industry and (b) on the future of power stations; and if he will make a statement. [115538]

Mrs. Liddell: Each case for an overhead line is considered on its merits. The need for this particular overhead line was spelt out in the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Taylor) on 26 March 1998, Official Report, columns 220-21W, and in the referred to departmental letter. Systems need to be planned to meet robust standards in order to provide reliable supplies of electricity to homes and businesses.

European Spallation Source

Ms Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions have been held

22 Mar 2000 : Column: 609W

within Government about the siting of the European Spallation Source which will replace the ISIS neutron machine at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. [115133]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 17 March 2000]: The European Spallation Source (ESS) is not a replacement for ISIS; ISIS will continue to operate independent of the site selected for the ESS.

The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), which operates the ISIS facility at RAL, is the UK partner in a 10-nation consortium that is developing plans for the ESS.

Astra Case

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the contents of file bundles 120, 121, 140 and 141 in the Astra case. [115410]

Dr. Howells: The references refer to file bundles created by the Companies Act inspectors and contain the inspectors' own copies of Astra company documents and their own working papers. The inspectors' work on these files and other matters is contained in their report published in June 1993.

Electricity Transmission

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of (a) the extra electricity transmission losses and (b) their cost, which will result from new build homes in the South East. [115406]

Mrs. Liddell: No such estimates have been made.

Post Offices (Gloucestershire)

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the impact on the number of post offices in Gloucestershire of the provisions of the Postal Services Bill. [115701]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The Postal Services Bill is primarily about the letters and parcels market and is not itself expected to have an effect on the number of post offices in Gloucestershire or elsewhere.

The Government are committed to ensuring that post offices are equipped and re-designed to face the future, and that they are thereby able to continue to play their role as an essential part of the country's social fabric. The Bill, therefore, has a requirement (at Clause 31) for the new regulator, the Postal Services Commission, to provide (in consultation with the new Consumer Council) advice and information to the Secretary of State about the number and location of public post offices and their accessibility to users of postal and other services. There is also provision (at clause 32) for the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance to the Commission on social and environmental matters. It is envisaged that these will include access criteria for public post offices.

The PIU in the Cabinet Office is carrying out a study on the post office network to identify the contribution made by post offices to the vitality of local communities; to consider how the post office network can best contribute to the Government's objectives for the future;

22 Mar 2000 : Column: 610W

and in the process to formulate objectives for the post office network, including recommendations on access criteria. Conclusions are expected in the spring.

Gas and Electricity Consumers

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the Government's policy on gas and electricity consumers' advocacy, complaints and representation in each region. [115500]

Mrs. Liddell [holding answer 21 March 2000]: The Utilities Bill would establish a statutory Gas and Electricity Consumer Council in place of the existing Gas Consumers Council and Electricity Consumers' Committees. The Council would have access to information in its own right; assist consumers, provide advice and information to regulatory authorities, Government and others whose activities may affect the interests of consumers; and be the chief access point for complaints about energy companies. It would have the function of keeping itself informed of consumer matters and the views of consumers throughout Great Britain.

The Bill recognises the changed circumstances of energy supply since the existing arrangements were put in place. In February, a consultation document seeking views of interested parties on two possible models for the new Council was issued by the Gas and Electricity Consumers Council Task Force. The first provided for regional offices in each of Wales, Scotland and England; the second for five regional offices, one each in Scotland and Wales and three in England. Both models could support regional panels to provide advice and mediate in cases referred by regional offices. The consultation period ends on 29 March 2000 and recommendations will then be made for Government to consider.

Automated Teller Machines

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will provide a regional breakdown of the 3,000 new automated teller machines to be installed in post offices which were announced by the Prime Minister. [115855]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand from the Post Office that contractual and commercial arrangements with potential partners for the provision and installation of new automated teller machines have yet to be finalised. Consequently, no decisions have yet been taken on the locations of the new machines.


State Aid to Industry

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent communications he has received from the European Commission concerning the breach, or potential breach, of the terms of any EU legislation concerning state aids or taxation benefits for (a) firms in Northern Ireland, (b) shipbuilding and (c) motor

22 Mar 2000 : Column: 611W

manufacture or assembly, stating the topic and purpose of each communication. [115251]

Mr. Caborn: I have been asked to reply.

Under their general powers to monitor state aid, in June 1999, the Commission requested information on a Selective Financial Assistance grant to a company in Northern Ireland. The UK supplied the required information, demonstrating that the grant had complied with the terms of state aid approval of Selective Financial Assistance.

22 Mar 2000 : Column: 612W

The UK has not received any recent correspondence from the Commission concerning the breach of the state aid rules as they apply to shipbuilding.

In December 1999, the Commission opened a formal investigation procedure into part of the proposed aid package for the BMW/Rover plant at Longbridge, Birmingham. This procedure is a normal part of the state aid notification process where the Commission requires all information including from third parties in order to assess the case.

22 Mar 2000 : Column: 611W