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Cashmere Exports

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the instruction he gave earlier this year to the Export Credits Guarantee Department to establish a bond guarantee scheme for cashmere exports to the US. [103465]

Mr. Byers: In March of this year, the dispute between the EU and the US over the EU's banana regime led to the US requiring the posting of bonds in respect of potential additional customs duties for certain categories of EU goods, including cashmere knitwear, pending the decision of the WTO arbitrator. Given the potentially devastating effect this could have had on the UK cashmere industry, the Government decided to establish a limited scheme, to be administrated by the Export Credits Guarantee Department, to indemnify cashmere exporters against losses arising from these bonds and additional customs duties.

ECGD's Accounting Officer advised me that, in his judgment, the risk involved in giving such guarantees under Section I(1) of the Export and Investment Guarantees Act 1991, could not be accepted under ECGD's normal underwriting criteria.

However, in view of the importance which Ministers attached to ensuring the future of the UK cashmere industry, I instructed him to make such guarantees available.

Cashmere was subsequently removed from the list of affected goods and I can now report that the scheme has been closed down and that ECGD has not been and will not be required to pay any claims.

16 Dec 1999 : Column: 239W

Export Controls

Mr. O'Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the Government are in a position to respond to the recommendation by the Trade and Industry Committee in its Second report of Session 1998-99 on Strategic Export Controls (HC 65) that, prior to the passage of new legislation, consideration be given to laying any new orders made under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939 before the House. [103547]

Mr. Byers: We have considered the Committee's recommendation on this matter and concluded that, pending the introduction of new primary legislation which will provide for parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation on strategic export controls, as proposed in the Strategic Export Controls White Paper, any further Orders made under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939 will be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

Combined Heat and Power Station, Hythe

Dr. Whitehead: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will announce his decision on the proposal by Scottish Power Plc to build a combined heat and power station at Hythe, Hampshire. [103561]

Mrs. Liddell: I have today given clearance under Section 14 of the Energy Act 1976 to EniChem UK Ltd. and Scottish Power plc's notification to build a 45 MW gas-fired combined heat and power station at the EniChem works, Hythe. The 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).

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

Equal Pay

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to amend the law on equal pay. [102724]

Ms Hodge: I have been asked to reply.

We are tackling the gender pay gap through a range of action, including encouraging less gender stereotyping in subject choices and career choices at work. We will ensure the right legislative framework is in place which complies with our European obligations, and we will consult on changes to Tribunal procedures to speed up and simplify equal pay claims.

National Minimum Wage

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of workers being paid less than the national minimum wage. [102723]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to reply.

16 Dec 1999 : Column: 240W

Letter from Tim Holt to Mr. David Crausby, dated 16 december 1999:

    Definitive estimates on the number of people that are being paid under the national minimum wage are not yet available. Currently available estimates for assessing the number take data from both the New Earnings Survey and the Labour Force Survey and adjust them for known limitations in each. However, the latest adjusted estimates are based on data for the spring (March-May) 1999 Labour Force Survey and this period spans the introduction date for the national minimum wage legislation. As a result, the adjusted estimates may be giving a misleading picture of the effect of the minimum wage legislation since employees might legitimately have been earning below the minimum wage rates in March 1999.

    The currently available estimates were published in an ONS First Release on 14 October and show that the number of people earning below the minimum wage rates fell significantly between 1998 and 1999. A copy of this first release will be available in the House of Commons Library.


Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the projected costs of Ofgem for the financial years (a) 1999-2000 and (b) 2000-01. [R] [102756]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

This information is contained in a consultation document recently published by Ofgem, "Office of Gas and Electricity Markets Plan and Budget, April 2000-March 2001", copies of which are available in the Library. Financial Decisions on Ofgem's budget for 2000-01 have not yet been taken.


Road Deaths

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what percentage of road accident deaths in each of the last 10 years involved (a) excess alcohol, (b) drugs and (c) both. [100043]

Mr. Hill: The percentage of persons killed in accidents where one driver or rider involved was over the legal alcohol limit in each of the last ten years was as follows:


Statistics are not available for road accident deaths involving drugs or both alcohol and drugs. The Department has recently completed a three-year sample survey of the incidence of drugs in road accident fatalities

16 Dec 1999 : Column: 241W

for which interim results were released in February 1998. These showed that 6 per cent. of all road users (including drivers, riders, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists) had measurable traces of medicinal drugs and 16 per cent. had traces of illicit drugs (mainly cannabis). The results also showed that 19 per cent. of the sample of drivers and riders killed had taken illicit drugs and consumed alcohol over the legal limit. A full report on the research will be available next year.

The presence of drugs in an accident victim is not evidence of accident causation, although there may be an association. The picture is further complicated by cannabis, because traces can remain in the body for four weeks or more after use, long after it has ceased to have any effect.

Local Speed Limits

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to amend the guidance given in Circular 1/93 from his Department to local highway authorities about local speed limits; and if he will make a statement. [98729]

Mr. Hill: It is likely that the speed review that is due to report shortly will result in some changes to that guidance.

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Sexual Abuse Victims (Compensation)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance his Department issues to local authorities regarding compensation payments to victims of sexual abuse. [100238]

Ms Beverley Hughes: There is no specific guidance issued to local authorities on this issue.

London Underground

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the number of station closures on each line of the London Underground from 1995 to 1999 and the projected station closures over the next 12 months, indicating the reason for closure in each instance. [100947]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 6 December 1999]: This is an operational matter for London Underground. I understand that the detailed information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost as it would include:

    Weekend engineering work.

However, the following table summarises past and future major planned station closures:

16 Dec 1999 : Column: 241W

Since 1995CentralOngar and North WealdInsufficient use to warrant remaining open
Since 1995PiccadillyAldwychInsufficient use to warrant remaining open
1995-April 1998NorthernMornington CrescentLift replacement
1995-98East LondonShoreditch, Wapping, Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays, New Cross and new Cross GateWork to upgrade the line, improve the signalling and Thames tunnel
Early July-late October 1996NorthernLondon Bridge, Borough and KenningtonWork on tunnel segments
November 1996-July 1997BakerlooLambeth NorthTunnel strengthening under the Thames
21-30 October 1999BakerlooQueens Park to Harrow and WealdstoneTrack replacement (Railtrack work on Silverlink tracks that are shared with the Underground)
Spring 2000BakerlooEdgware RoadLift replacement
April 2000 (15 April-1 May)VictoriaPimlico, Vauxhall and BrixtonTrack works to replace life-expired cross-over at Brixton

16 Dec 1999 : Column: 241W

The future closures are still provisional and subject to further planning and more detailed consideration. Major works which have only resulted in partial station closures or service disruption have been excluded.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many escalators are not in use at London Underground stations, indicating the stations affected and the length of time escalators have not been in use. [101602]

Mr. Hill: This is an operational matter for London Underground. However, I understand that at 14 December 1999, 35 escalators out of 381 were out of service 1 2 .

These are as follows:

Date went out of serviceStation
13 July 1999Baker Street
5 November 1999Bethnal Green
2 December 1999Bethnal Green
24 September 1999Camden Town
28 May 1999Chancery Lane
23 June 1999Charing Cross
3 October 1999Clapham North
24 November 1999Clapham South
30 November 1999Heathrow Airport
28 May 1997Holborn
2 November 1999Holborn
3 June 1999Hyde Park
19 November 1999London Bridge
29 March 1999Manor House
26 November 1999Manor House
1 September 1999Notting Hill Gate
6 October 1999Notting Hill Gate
19 June 1999Old Street
24 September 1999Old Street
3 May 1999Oxford Circus
12 August 1999Oxford Circus
24 November 1999Piccadilly Circus
24 September 1999Shepherds Bush
26 September 1999South Wimbledon
2 October 1999South Wimbledon
2 August 1999St. Johns Wood
21 June 1999Tottenham Hale
22 September 1999Waterloo
30 September 1999Waterloo
30 October 1999Waterloo
30 October 1999Waterloo
16 November 1999Waterloo
16 November 1999West Ham
1 December 1999Wood Green

16 Dec 1999 : Column: 243W

London Underground have implemented a new programme of expenditure on escalator maintenance and repair of more than £100 million over the years 1998-99 to 2000-01 (1998-99 £26 million, 1999-2000 £44.8 million, 2000-01 £66.1 million).

In most cases where an escalator is out of order there will be a parallel escalator which is in operation to minimise passenger inconvenience and disruption. This enables stations to remain open while the works are in progress, and at all times safety is the priority.

    2 There are five "redundant" escalators at Charing Cross Station that lead to the former Jubilee Line platforms that are no longer in use following the closure of these platforms.

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