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Concrete Flues

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a further statement on the safety of concrete flues in dwellings. [136427]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Last year the Government were made aware of concerns about the safety of certain flue liners which are intended for use in chimneys serving appliances burning solid fuel. The Minister for Housing and Planning made an announcement about this on 24 February 1999. To resolve these concerns my Department commissioned a risk analysis, and has considered with experts what may need to be done about existing houses and what amendments might be necessary to improve the Building Regulations approved guidance. This report was published today, and can be viewed on the DETR Website at

The Department's risk analyst contractor CRE Group Ltd. has been unable to show conclusively that the concerns over additional danger are well founded. As well as this, neither my Department nor the two principal housing warranty providers are aware of any fatal or other accidents that have arisen as a result of the failure of the sorts of concrete flue liners whose safety has been questioned. On the evidence that the experts have produced it therefore seems reasonable to believe that householders are unlikely to be exposed to additional dangers if they apply common sense in following combustion appliance manufacturers' advice on routine maintenance and chimney sweeping.

There remain some doubts however about the durability of poorer quality, cheaper varieties of concrete flue liners, and owners of dwellings built since about 1990 with concrete flue liners may be faced with the need for repairs or replacements sooner than they might have expected. This should not be a risk to safety unless householders fail to carry out the proper maintenance and sweeping previously mentioned.

Whilst not finding clear evidence of additional risks, CRE Group Ltd, has made a number of useful recommendations regarding the safety of flues in general. They include improvement of the performance standards given in the Building Regulations, improving the competence of those engaged in building, maintaining and sweeping chimneys, remaining alert to the possibility of clusters of flue failures, and reminding those householders

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who burn solid fuel as their main heating source that proper appliance maintenance and chimney sweeping are essential. Most of the recommendations are accepted in principle, and my Department will be working with the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, the DTI, and with the fuel suppliers, chimney component manufacturers and chimney engineers and sweeps to implement them as soon as practical by:



Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the cost to businesses of the EU agreement on e-commerce jurisdiction in favour of powers of courts of a consumer's country of residence; and if he will make a statement. [135565]

Mr. Alan Johnson: My Department has made a provisional Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) on the consumer provisions of the European Commission's proposal for a Community Regulation on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (the "Brussels Regulation").

Compared to Article 13 of the existing 1968 Brussels Convention, the Commission proposal broadened the scope for consumers to take legal action in their home country when in dispute with traders in other EU member

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states. The RIA suggests that the risk of being sued by a consumer in another member state is small, but that the Commission proposal could lead to a slight increase in legal expenses insurance premiums for those traders who take out such insurance.

The Government opposed the part of the Commission proposal (Recital 13) that would have meant that firms maintaining internet websites would automatically have been at risk of being sued in other EU jurisdictions. The Commission's amended proposal which has just been received omits that recital. Discussions between member states in the Council working group last week suggest that the amended Commission proposal is likely to form the basis of the final agreement on the consumer provisions of the draft Regulation. My Department will prepare a revised RIA. Our provisional assessment is that in comparison with the existing Article 13, the final text is unlikely to impose substantial additional costs on traders.

Post Offices

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will ask the Post Office Users' National Council to reconsider the guidelines for consultation by the Post Office on the closure of main offices with a view to requiring such consultation before any commercial contracts are agreed. [134508]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I understand that the Post Office Users' National Council and the Post Office are in the process of reviewing and revising the Code of Practice on post office closures, including the consultation procedures, to see how the code might be improved and strengthened.

Airbus A3XX

Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what is the expected percentage real return for the Department of Trade and Industry on the launch aid which has been provided for the Airbus A3XX; [135853]

Mr. Alan Johnson: Conditions in the A3XX launch investment contract, as with all other launch investments, remain commercially confidential.

Launch investment is a risk and revenue sharing Government investment in the design and development of specific civil aerospace projects in the UK. The investment is not a grant and is repayable at a real rate of return, usually via levies on sales of the product developed.

Multiple Deprivation Index

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if his Department uses the Index of Multiple Deprivation in the allocation of funds. [134574]

Mr. Alan Johnson: No. In 1999, the Government, co-ordinated by the Department of Trade and Industry, used ward information from the previous 1998 Index of Local Deprivation in England and its Scottish and Welsh

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equivalents to help identify areas covered by the urban strand of Objective 2 of the European Structural Funds for the period 2000-06. No similar decisions have occurred since publication of the new Indices of Deprivation 2000.



Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many (a) external consultants and (b) departmental officials her Department employed in Tanzania between 1997 and 2000-01; and if she will list which projects they have worked on. [135217]

Mr. Foulkes: Between 1997 and 2000-01 this Department has directly employed more than 230 external consultants from many different countries, including as many as possible locally, on over 300 assignments to contribute to our programme in Tanzania and has increased the number of our staff in country from 14 to 26. We have also contributed resources to joint Government of Tanzania/multi-donor projects that employ local consultants. All projects in the Tanzania programme have benefited from consultancy inputs.

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