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Insolvency Service

Mr. Patrick Hall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has made a decision on the future of the Insolvency Service. [147366]

Dr. Howells: The first stage of the Insolvency Service's quinquennial review has now been completed. I am pleased to say that the review found the Insolvency Service customer-focused and responsive. The standard of the service's work has improved significantly and is well regarded. The service has exceeded or met most of its performance objectives. It has contributed to the achievement of wider Government objectives and is effective in providing policy advice to Ministers. Its standards of customer service are very high. The service has taken a proactive approach to customer satisfaction with many initiatives to identify and meet customer needs. This has been recognised by awards including Chartermark, Investors in People and Plain Language Commission accreditation for its leaflets.

The Insolvency Service will continue as an executive agency of the DTI. The current functions of the service form a coherent block that benefit from being managed as a whole. The review found that agency status was widely thought to have worked well.

Customer needs and continuing efficiency will remain priorities for the service and will be taken forward in response to the Government's modernising agenda. The review supports the service in meeting these objectives by making recommendations relating to options for funding, benchmarking, selective tendering, reorganisation, and clarifying its advisory role. These include:

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Stage 2 of the review is now starting and will consider whether any changes should be made to the way in which the Insolvency Service operates, including its aims and objectives, targets and financial controls.

Nursling Power Station

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will make a decision on the mini- power station at Nursling, near Southampton. [147367]

Mrs. Liddell: I have today given clearance under section 14 (1) of the Energy Act 1976 to Nursling Generating Ltd. to build a 49 MWe gas-fired power station at Nursling, near Southampton.

The developer has been exploring with interested parties the application of the heat from it for a community heating scheme supplying the Millbrook area of Southampton where it could provide heat for council housing, schools and local businesses and is committed to facilitating that.

The proposal is fully consistent with the new requirement that developers considering new power station proposals explore opportunities to use combined heat and power (CHP) and energy policy clearance has therefore been given. CHP can make a major contribution to reducing emissions as well as bringing other benefits such as increased efficiency.

Copies of the press notice and decision letter are being placed in the Library of the House.

Small Businesses (Coventry)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals he has to assist small businesses with management and ITC needs; and in what ways these will help small businesses in Coventry. [146334]

Ms Hewitt: The SBS provides business support, advice, or access to experts, through the Business Link partnerships on every aspect of support a person might need to run their own business, including: management; innovation and technology; business planning; exporting;

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quality; employment issues; training and development; design; information and communication technology and e-commerce.

Business Link Coventry and Warwickshire was successful in bidding to deliver a service in the Coventry and Warwickshire area and are currently developing a business plan for approval.

Improved management skills are a recognised requirement among a large number of businesses and a range of support and initiatives are available in Coventry through the Business Link and its partners. ICT services figure prominently in the BL plan. Building on the DTI's UK Online for Business development, they currently have a network of UK4B centres in the area, including Coventry. This support will cover ICT needs for the day to day running of a business and explore the potential for E Commerce.

MOX Fuel

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if the MOX fuel assemblies owned by the Swiss nuclear company NOK are to be re-imported into the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement; [146902]

Mrs. Liddell: These are matters for the companies concerned.

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. is responsible for the shipment of Belgonucleaire/Cogema manufactured mixed oxide fuel to Japan. [146904]

Mrs. Liddell: BNFL is jointly responsible, along with the French company COGEMA, for the sea transport for Belgonucleaire/Cogema manufactured mixed oxide fuel to Japan.

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many contracts British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. has secured for the supply of mixed oxide fuel since June 1999. [146906]

Mrs. Liddell: Contracts and contracted terms between BNFL and its customers for the supply of goods and services are commercial matters for the parties concerned.

Everything but Arms Initiative

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much sugar by weight and value was exported from each nation covered by the Everything But Arms proposals to (a) the United Kingdom and (b) the European Union. [146414]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 22 January 2001]: EU tariffs on imports of sugar are set at a prohibitively high level. Although they have been progressively decreasing as a result of the Uruguay round, additional safeguard duties ensure that imports cannot undercut the EU support price. Therefore the vast majority of sugar from developing countries that does enter the EU does so in the form of duty-free quotas under two preferential

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arrangements, the sugar protocol and the special preferential sugar arrangement. The sugar protocol quotas are fixed, the special preferential sugar quotas vary annually.

Of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) that stand to benefit from the LDC market access proposal, only four have quotas for sugar under these two schemes, as follows:


Sugar protocolSpecial preferential sugar (2000-01)

(18) Uganda is a signatory to the protocol but does not have a quota. This is so that if the other signatories are unable to fill their quotas, Uganda can be invited to make up the shortfall.

Thus the total amount of sugar imported into the EU from LDCs is some 70,000 tonnes, or 0.004 per cent. of total EU production of 17,680,000 tonnes (1999-2000).

As for value, there are guaranteed minimum prices for imports of sugar under both these access arrangements related to EU intervention prices. However it is difficult to be precise across the whole of the EU, since importers may (and some do) pay a premium on top of the guaranteed price. This is a commercial decision for the importers and companies concerned. As an indication, the world sugar price (based on spot prices for 18 January 2001) is some 264 euros per tonne, raw and white. EU intervention prices are 646 euros per tonne for white sugar (UK) and 524 euros per tonne for raw sugar, about two and a half times the world price.

The UK (Tate and Lyle) takes about 64 per cent. of all cane imported into the EU for refining.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry from which non-Everything But Arms countries sugar can be imported into an EBA nation and then re-exported to the European Union at the EBA tariff rate. [146399]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 22 January 2001]: None, legally. The EU's "Rules of Origin", which apply to those developing countries eligible for trade preferences under the EU's generalised system of preferences (GSP) scheme, preclude this type of carousel trade.

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