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BNFL

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who the employer was of the quality control official at Sellafield who first detected the falsification of quality control data at the MDF plant at Sellafield. [149632]

Mr. Hain: As noted in the Health and Safety Executive's report published on 18 February 2000 on the events and issues surrounding the falsification of quality control data at BNFL's MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF), it was a member of BNFL's quality control team at MDF who first identified, and brought to the attention of quality control managers, similarities between successive sets of records for secondary MOX pellet diameters. I understand from BNFL that the individual concerned was, at that time, employed as a contractor to BNFL through the Employment Agency NRL. The individual has subsequently joined BNFL as a permanent member of staff.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the reasons were for the dismissal from BNFL last year of (a) Mr. John Taylor, (b) Mr. Ross Chiese, (c) Mr. David Coulston, (d) Mr. Roger Leek and (e) the non-executive directors; and what compensation terms they received. [149633]

Mr. Hain: I understand that Messrs Taylor, Chiese, Coulston and Leek left the company by mutual agreement following a review of management conducted by the chairman of BNFL designed to ensure greater management focus, transparency and accountability. As part of that review, the chairman announced that he was looking to refresh and strengthen his team of non-executive directors in the light of the different future needs of the company. All six of his then non-executive directors have now left the company.

As members of the BNFL board, payments to John Taylor and Ross Chiese are published in the company's annual report and accounts and are therefore a matter of public record. They received £300,000 and £270,000 compensation respectively for termination of their employment. David Coulston and Roger Leek were employees of the company, but not members of the board. As such, any compensation was entirely a matter between the company and those individuals. The departing non-executive directors were not entitled to compensation for loss of office.

15 Feb 2001 : Column: 282W

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many BNFL (a) non-management employees, (b) managers, (c) senior managers and (d) directors who were granted voluntary severance terms were subsequently re-employed by BNFL as (i) consultants, (ii) contractors and (iii) employees; [149871]

Mr. Hain: These are matters for the company's management. I have asked the chief executive of BNFL to write to the hon. Member and a copy of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Electricity Industry

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will publish a draft order under section 59(1) of the Utilities Act 2000 relating to the provision in section 27A(8) and (9) of the Electricity Act 1989. [149661]

Mr. Hain: My Department plans to publish a draft order for consultation shortly.

Legal and Accountancy Professions

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has received the report of the Office of Fair Trading into the legal and accountancy professions; when he will publish the report; and if he will make a statement. [150002]

Dr. Howells: I have received the report. It is for the Director General of Fair Trading to decide when it is to be published.

Fireworks

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received about the sale of fireworks; what plans he has further to restrict the sale and use of fireworks; what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of current legislation on the control and use of fireworks; and if he will make a statement. [150022]

Dr. Howells: I have received a total of 361 representations on firework safety matters during the period 1 September 2000 to 31 January 2001, comprising 155 letters from parliamentary colleagues, six parliamentary questions and 200 letters from the public.

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 provides powers to deal with the intrinsic safety of goods, including fireworks, but not to regulate when they are sold or used. The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 introduced comprehensive controls on the types and sizes of fireworks which can be sold to the public. I have made no formal assessment of the effectiveness of the 1997 regulations, but my Department continues to monitor movements in the annual firework injury statistics.

15 Feb 2001 : Column: 283W

Post Office Services

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the Girobank contract with Post Office Counters Ltd. prevents POCL giving better prices to clients wishing to use bill payment services for their customers at post office counters. [149846]

Mr. Alan Johnson: The Post Office is in partnership with Girobank for the provision of over-the-counter bill payment services. The terms of this contractual relationship are commercially confidential under exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Coal Mine Methane

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the potential for energy generation from coal mine methane. [150101]

Mr. Hain: The Coal Authority monitors for methane emissions at over 100 sites and this information is made available to coal mine methane operators and other interested parties on request.

Operators have shown considerable interest in several of the sites and are currently evaluating the potential for commercial gas extraction. To date, schemes are operational at five Coal Authority sites:






Enterprise Skills and Innovation

Mr. White: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement concerning the publication of the White Paper on enterprise skills and innovation "Opportunity for all in a world of change" (Cm 5052). [150692]

Mr. Byers: The White Paper on enterprise, skills and innovation "Opportunity for all in a world of change", was published jointly by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and me on 13 February 2001.

At the request of Mr. Speaker, I have investigated a number of matters.

It appears that elements of a draft version of the text of the White Paper--but not the final version--were obtained by the Financial Times prior to publication. I share Mr. Speaker's concern about this matter. However, I have investigated this and can confirm that no advance copies of the White Paper were made available to the media by my Department or by the Department for Education and Employment prior to the day of publication.

The House was informed of the publication of the White Paper in a written parliamentary question at 8.30 am on 13 February. Publication of the White Paper was announced to the media at a press conference which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I held at 12.30 pm on 13 February.

15 Feb 2001 : Column: 284W

The White Paper was laid before Parliament at 11.00 am. Copies of the White Paper were due to be delivered to the Vote Office of the House for release at 11.00 am. Unfortunately, these were delivered late by The Stationery Office with the result that copies were not available in the House until noon. The delay in delivering copies of the White Paper to the House was very regrettable and my Department has asked for procedures to be put in place by The Stationery Office to ensure that such a delay is not repeated in future.

Solar Energy

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assistance the Government give to (a) householders and (b) businesses towards the installation of solar energy devices. [150266]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 14 February 2001]: The White Paper on enterprise, skills and innovation, published on 13 February, includes a major initiative for a solar photovoltaic (PV) demonstration programme to bring us in line with those of our main competitors. The aim is to support the installation of PV arrays on the roofs and walls of domestic homes and medium and large-scale non-domestic buildings. This should enable the establishment of a high-tech industry of the future in the UK with the potential to challenge our main competitors in this field, Japan, Germany, and the US.

The new proposal complements current Government support for field trials for domestic and large-scale building-integrated PV systems. In addition, since April 2000, a reduction of VAT from 17.5 per cent. to 5 per cent. has been available for professionally installed solar panels.


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