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Fuel Poverty

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of (1) the effect of changes in heating oil costs on Government targets to reduce fuel poverty; [136919]

Mrs. Liddell: The latest available figures 1 suggest that about 3 per cent. of households in England have oil-fired central heating. The figures also indicate that 2 per cent. (around 80,000 households) of those in fuel poverty in 1996 had oil-fired central heating. In the four years from the second quarter of 1996 to the second quarter of 2000, there has been a 9.25 per cent. rise in real terms in the price of heating oils.

The Government recognise that recent increases in heating oil prices may have adversely affected those households using this fuel, including those in rural or isolated areas. While the numbers affected are relatively small, compared to the total number in fuel poverty, the Government recognise that fluctuations in prices can take people in and out of fuel poverty.

The Government will be consulting on its draft strategy to tackle fuel poverty later this year.

1 English House Condition Survey 1996.

Nuclear Power Stations

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of UK electricity was provided by nuclear power stations for each of the last 10 years. [137216]

Mrs. Liddell: Nuclear power stations accounted for the following percentages of electricity supplied in the UK by major power producers:

YearPercentage from nuclear


Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics, 2000 (Electricity supplied is measured net of use for pumping at pumped storage stations)

Oil Licensing Agreements

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the factors underlying his decision to announce a further round of oil licensing agreements. [137174]

Mrs. Liddell: The decision to announce the 19th round of offshore petroleum licensing was taken having regard to the United Kingdom's future energy needs and the investment and employment benefits that would derive from the development of any petroleum discoveries.

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The Secretary of State will consider and apply the EU Habitats directive when deciding whether to grant licences in the round. Licence awards will be based on an applicant meeting certain geological, technical and environmental criteria. The results of an extensive public consultation on an assessment of the impact of oil and gas activities on the marine environment of the area of the UK Continental Shelf between the Shetland and Faroes Islands will be taken into account in any decision-making.

Industrial Diseases (Compensation Claims)

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many cases of (a) emphysema, (b) pneumoconiosis, (c) other respiratory illness and (d) vibration white finger claims (i) have been processed and (ii) are outstanding; and what assessment he has made of the length of time needed to complete the outstanding claims. [136960]

Mrs. Liddell: The Department has received over 124,000 claims for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which encompasses all regulatory disease claims, excluding those made solely for pneumoconiosis. Claims for COPD are continuing to come in at a rate of around 1,000 a week. In addition the Department has registered nearly 113,000 claims for vibration white finger (VWF).

Claims for pneumoconiosis are made under a British Coal scheme which commenced in 1979, for which the Department assumed responsibility in April 1998. Under the scheme nearly 86,000 claims have been received.

Of these, 3,300 claims for COPD; 85,600 claims for pneumoconiosis; and 17,500 claims for VWF have been settled in full and final settlement (includes both offers and denials).

Not all aspects of compensation for COPD and VWF are settled--some are being negotiated with the solicitors representing the claimants, and some are with the Court. The Department is therefore not able to offer full and final settlements in many cases, but wherever possible, we are making interim payments. Some 22,300 interim payments have been made to COPD claimants, and a further 17,500 interim payments have been made to VWF claimants.

In total the Department has made payments totalling nearly £260 million to COPD and VWF claimants. In addition, lump sum payments of over £137 million have been made under the British Coal scheme to pneumoconiosis claimants--some claimants also receive weekly payments.

Some 120,000 COPD claims and 94,000 VWF claims remain outstanding. Claims for pneumoconiosis are processed on a continuing basis and only 350 claims remain outstanding.

On COPD an original estimate of two to three years was given to assess all the existing claimants but this is kept under review in view of the escalating number of claims. We are giving priority to claims from those most old and ill, widows and those most likely (on the basis of initial testing) to have emphysema. If these claims were processed in the normal way through the courts it would take 10-15 years.

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On vibration white finger, we aim to have carried out initial assessments on the existing claimants by the end of next year. A further assessment may be required for those claimants seeking compensation for loss of services but this is still under consideration.

EU Combustion Plants Directive

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has made to the European Commission concerning the EC directive on large combustion plants. [137551]

Ms Hewitt: My Department works closely with others, in particular the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to ensure that business interests are properly factored into the development of policy on the protection of the environment, at both national and European levels. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment has represented the views of Her Majesty's Government in the process of reaching a Common Position on the revision of this directive at the June meeting of the Environment Council.


Third-World Debt

16. Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations his Department has received about the alleviation of the debts of countries with a large number of HIV/AIDS cases. [135964]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government receive frequent representations on this issue which was discussed along with other pressing development concerns, for example at the recent meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in Malta where I represented the UK.

Tragically HIV/AIDS is a serious problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In response the Government continue to press for faster, wider and deeper debt relief, are significantly increasing our aid spending and, as announced in the pre-Budget Report, we will be doing urgent work into ways to encourage the research and development of new vaccines for HIV/AIDS and the other major diseases so badly affecting developing countries.

Aggregates Tax (Glass Industry)

17. Mr. Illsley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of the aggregates tax on the glass industry. [135965]

Mr. Timms: Since the sand used in the manufacture of glass will be relieved from the levy, I do not expect it to have an adverse impact on the glass industry. Indeed, the levy will encourage use of waste glass as an alternative to primary aggregate.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

18. Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his Department's plans to encourage the use of LPG fuel. [135966]

Mr. Timms: We support the use of liquid petroleum gas because of its environmental benefits over petrol and diesel. We do so in two ways--first, a substantially lower

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rate of duty on LPG, the rate being frozen again for next year; and, second, support for the Powershift programme, helping people to convert their vehicles to LPG.


19. Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his policy in respect of full employment. [135967]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The modern definition of full employment is the Government's aim of employment opportunity for all. The Government's long-term economic ambition is that by the end of the decade there will be at least three quarters of the working age population in employment. Macroeconomic stability is a prerequisite to achieving this aim, combined with microeconomic policies to ensure an effective, secure transition from welfare into work.

The Chancellor announced in Chapter 4 of pre-Budget Report 2000 a further range of measures, which build on existing employment programmes in order to reach full employment.

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