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Industrial Gas Prices

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will estimate the average price of a unit of gas supplied for industrial use in (a) January 2000 and (b) January 2001. [148301]

Mr. Hain: The average price of a unit of gas delivered to industrial end users in Great Britain was 0.556 p/kWh in the first quarter of 2000. The latest available comparable figure relates to the third quarter of 2000 when the average price was 0.552 p/kWh. Accurate figures for the average price paid in January 2001 are not available. However provisional information on price movements suggests that, on average, prices paid by industrial end users have risen by about 40 per cent. between January 2000 and January 2001. This average figure will reflect prices paid by all industrial customers, including those on long term fixed contract prices.

MOX Fuel Shipments

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by what authority UK Atomic Energy constables are accompanying the shipment of Belgonucleaire/Cogema manufactured mixed oxide fuel from France to Japan. [146905]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 24 January 2001]: The UK Government have accepted the responsibility for ensuring that the shipment is undertaken in accordance with our international obligations on nuclear non-proliferation and physical protection of nuclear material, arising from the fact that the transporting vessels fly the British flag. The Director of Civil Nuclear Security has approved a transport plan for this shipment, of which the UKAEA Constables are an essential element. They are deployed with the agreement of the UKAEA.

Employment Relations Act

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will publish a consultation document on possible extension to the clergy and other official holders of rights under the Employment Relations Act 1999. [149115]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I intend to publish later this year a discussion paper on all the legal issues relating to employment status as they affect the coverage of statutory employment rights. I envisage that the position of members of the clergy and other office holders will be among the issues raised. Any future proposals for changes in the legislation in this regard will be considered in the light of responses to the discussion paper.

Petrol Prices

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list for each of the last

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36 months (a) the average retail price of four star unleaded petrol and (b) the average price of a barrel of oil. [145343]

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Mr. Hain: The average retail prices of four star and premium unleaded petrol are given in the following table, together with the average price of a barrel of oil:

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Year/month4 Star(25) (pence per litre)Premium unleaded (pence per litre)Barrel of oil(26) ($ per barrel)Barrel of oil(26) (£ per barrel)

(25) From October 1999 four star prices represent lead replacement petrol

(26) Two month Brent futures

(27) Provisional data


DTI Energy Trends and IPE

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Life Sentences

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) men and (b) women were serving a life prison sentence in prisons in Northern Ireland on 1 January. [148897]

Mr. Ingram: At 1 January 2001 there were 84 men and one woman serving sentences of life imprisonment in prisons in Northern Ireland. The figure of 84 men includes eight prisoners on restricted transfer to NI from the Home Office. In addition there were three males detained at the Secretary of State's Pleasure (convicted of murder committed while under 18 years of age).

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Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 29 and 30 January was; and if he will make a statement. [148200]

Mr. Nick Brown: I attended the Agriculture Council meeting held in Brussels on 29 January, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and Brid Rogers MLA, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Executive.

The main focus of the Council was BSE. The Commission reported on progress by member states in implementing the new measures adopted in December, as

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well as on the market and budgetary problems arising from the dramatic fall in beef consumption in many member states. In the light of advice from the Scientific Steering Committee, the Council agreed new rules should be put in place banning the use of mechanically recovered meat from ruminant bones, requiring heat treatment of fat from ruminants for use in feed, and requiring the removal of vertebral columns from cattle. I made clear that the SSC advice required no ban to be imposed on UK beef on the bone and this was not opposed.

The Council will receive, before its next meeting, a package of proposals addressing the problems in the beef market. These will be financed within the budget limits laid down by the Berlin European Council.

The Council also heard presentations from Commissioner Byrne on proposals to improve the welfare of pigs and planned proposals to improve the operation of the Directive on the welfare of animals in transit. I warmly welcomed both and urged the Council to agree to implement the planned improvements for pigs on a faster scale than proposed.

Commissioner Fischler presented new proposals for reform of the olive oil regime and for a pilot scheme introducing a new simplified subsidy to replace certain production-linked aids. The scheme would be limited to farmers receiving no more than euro 1,000 a year.

Fish Farming

Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans are in place to lease areas of sea adjacent to the coast for the purpose of fish farming. [148679]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 5 February 2001]: Requests to lease areas of the sea bed adjacent to the coast should be made to the Crown Estate or the Duchy of Cornwall.

Once a lease has been granted, fishermen can apply to the Minister of Agriculture for legal powers to protect shellfish farming. The creation of Several and Regulating Orders can help to preserve and encourage shellfisheries, while promoting the sustainable future of the fishery.

River Idle/River Don

Caroline Flint: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how frequently (a) the River Idle near Bawtry and (b) the River Don along the Sprotborough Gorge are dredged; and to what depth. [149067]

Mr. Morley: I understand that the Environment Agency has not identified a need for dredging the River Idle since a flood alleviation scheme was constructed. A recent visual inspection showed no evidence of significant siltation but the Agency is planning a full survey to check against original design depths.

The Agency has no plans to dredge the River Don at Sprotborough Gorge for flood defence purposes. I understand that British Waterways determine the width and depth of the river for navigation purposes.

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Caroline Flint: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures the Environment Agency has planned for flood prevention and defence for (a) the River Idle and (b) the River Don along the Sprotborough Gorge. [149052]

Mr. Morley: I understand the Environment Agency has no plans to add to the flood alleviation works already in place from West Stockwith to Bawtry on the River Idle.

As far as Sprotborough Gorge is concerned, I understand that the Agency will be investigating the adequacy of existing flood defence measures as part of its preparation of a strategy for the River Don later this year.

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