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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 16 December 1999


Astra Commission Payments

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make available (a) to the Trade and Industry Committee and (b) to the Plaintiff before the JDS Tribunal in the case of Gerald James file bundles 120 and 121 in respect of Astra Commission payments. [101460]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 7 December 1999]: Any request for information received from the Trade and Industry Committee would be carefully considered. I understand that the proceedings before the JDS Tribunal in the case of Gerald James were concluded on 8 December 1999.

Ministerial Meetings

Mr. David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what arrangements (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have put in place for the taking and keeping of minutes of meetings between Ministers and people outside his Department. [102362]

Mr. Byers: Decisions on the format of minutes of meetings will depend on the nature of the discussion.

Plutonium Fuel

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what consultations he has had with British Nuclear Fuels plc concerning the quality control procedures covering MOX plutonium fuel manufactured at Sellafield for export to Japan; and what representations his Department has received from (a) Japanese customer companies and (b) the Japanese Government in respect of the monitoring of MOX fuel; [102176]

Mrs. Liddell: Ministers were concerned to learn of falsified quality control data at BNFL's Sellafield MOX Demonstration Facility. The Government have insisted that the company co-operate fully with investigations both by the Japanese customer and regulator and by the HSE's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

No representations have been received by my Department from BNFL's Japanese customers. Inquiries from the Japanese Embassy about the data falsification were referred by my Department to HSE (NII) with a request to respond direct. With HSE's agreement, I am placing a copy of their reply to the Embassy in the Library of the House.

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On 1 December I discussed with the BNFL Chairman, Mr. Hugh Collum, the progress of the investigations being undertaken and the company's strategy for dealing with management issues identified. Remedial measures are in hand to satisfy both HSE (NII) and BNFL's Japanese customers. I have asked the company to make these public as soon as it has satisfied HSE (NII) as to the adequacy of its proposals.


Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the effects of the proposed EU Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society on (a) library and archive services, (b) UK library and archive privileges and their extension to digital copying, (c) lawful copying and use of libraries and archives and (d) music reproduction; and if he will make a statement on the inclusion in the proposed EU Directive of the exhaustive list of exceptions to the restricted acts. [102542]

Dr. Howells: While we do not think that the effects of the draft Directive would be particularly problematic in the case of archival operations, we are concerned about its potential impact on library services and privileges. Our concerns stem chiefly from the exhaustive list of exceptions, which we have always felt is unnecessarily prescriptive and inflexible, and have been increased by European Parliament amendments, largely accepted by the Commission, which seek to restrict further the exception provisions. In particular, these amendments make photocopying and research exceptions in the Directive subject to "fair compensation" for right owners, exclude printed music from the photocopying exception, and limit the only specific library exception to copying for conservation purposes.

Overall, our aim is to ensure that it remains possible to achieve a fair and reasonable balance between the interests of right owners and those of users, such as in the library and archive sectors, and we are therefore pressing strongly for much greater flexibility in the exception provisions. Negotiations on the Directive are still some way from conclusion, and we hope that it will prove possible to obtain improvements, particularly since several other member states share many of our concerns about the approach on exceptions. Moreover, we are aware of the potential conflict between exceptions and the use of technical protection measures by right owners, and, like other member states, are seeking to achieve an appropriate balance in this area also.

Competition Commission

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the projected costs of the Competition Commission for the financial years (a) 1999-2000 and (b) 2000-01. [102751]

Dr. Howells: Forecast net expenditure for the Competition Commission for these financial years is as follows:

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Postal Services Commission

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the projected costs of the Postal Services Commission for the year 2000-01. [102754]

Mr. Alan Johnson: We anticipate that the costs of the Postal Services Commission (PSC) for the year 2000-01 will be in the region of between £2 million and £4 million.

Aircraft Projects

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to make a decision regarding suppliers of the A3XX and A400m projects; and if he will make a statement. [102523]

Mr. Alan Johnson: [holding answer 14 December 1999]: Airbus has been a major success story of European co-operation, and it is important that the UK continues to be involved in it. British companies benefit from the success of Airbus programmes, not only by supplying to BAE SYSTEMS, the UK partner in Airbus, but also to the French, German and Spanish partners. Procurement choices are the commercial decisions of those companies. Over 400 UK sub-contractors and suppliers are currently working on Airbus programmes.

BAE SYSTEMS has applied for launch investment. In assessing this application, we have looked at the potential benefits for the UK economy as a whole to be secured by this programme. It represents the sort of high-tech knowledge based manufacturing which the Government are keen to encourage. This high level of innovation and technology has benefits which cascade throughout the supply chain.

The Future Transport Aircraft competition is being organised by the Ministry of Defence. However, I am well aware of the industrial significance of this project to BAE SYSTEMS and the UK supply chain. My Department has liaised closely with MOD on this, and the decision (expected in the New Year) will properly take account of industrial factors.

Telephone Pornography

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to monitor and control the use of telephone pornography services offered by telecommunications providers. [102838]

Ms Hewitt: Telephone pornography services are offered using the Premium Rate Service (PRS) charging mechanism. The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) has responsibility for regulating PRS, through its Code of Practice. ICSTIS can apply sanctions, ranging from fines to disconnection and barring from service provision, to service providers which breach the Code. ICSTIS and the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) are currently reviewing the regulatory framework for PRS to ensure that consumers continue to benefit from the right level of protection.

The ICSTIS Code requires all providers of services to abide by a number of provisions covering decency, and requires that promotional material does not reach those for whom the service concerned may be inappropriate.

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Gas-fired Power Station, Avonmouth

Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will announce his decision on Scottish and Southern Energy's proposal to build a new gas-fired power station at Britannia Zinc Ltd., Avonmouth. [103464]

Mrs. Liddell: I have decided not to grant consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to Scottish and Southern Energy plc for a 100 MW combined cycle gas turbine generating station at Britannia Zinc Ltd., Avonmouth. The application will be put on hold unless an interested party satisfies the Secretary of State that it should be determined at this stage.

This decision has been taken in accordance with the policy set out in the White Paper entitled, "Conclusions of the Review of Energy Sources for Power Generation and Government response to fourth and fifth Reports of the Trade and Industry Committee" (Cm 4071). I would be prepared to review the decision, if requested, when the stricter consents policy announced in the White Paper is relaxed.

This is the 15th application, totalling over 5,800 MW of new gas-fired generating capacity, which has not been approved since the White Paper was published in October 1998. That would be enough electricity to supply approximately all the households in Greater London or the whole of Scotland.

Copies of the Press Notice and decision letter are being placed in the Library of the House.

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