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Free Trade

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets have been set by her Department to reach global free trade by 2020. [5510]

Nigel Griffiths: Global free trade by 2020 is not an explicit target of the Government.

Pylons (Skin Cancer)

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of evidence suggesting a potential link between pylons and skin cancer. [5430]

Mr. Wilson: The potential link between skin cancer and overhead power lines is one of several ill health effects that have been attributed to the electromagnetic fields that are produced by electrical equipment.

The Government obtain advice on the possible health implications of exposure to electromagnetic fields, including those associated with power lines, from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB). In a report 1 published on 6 March the NRPB's Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation reviewed the potential risks of types of cancer from extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. Their conclusion, based on laboratory experiments and epidemiological studies, is that there is no evidence that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields are capable of producing cancer.

Some evidence has been suggested that the electric fields associated with the higher-voltage power lines are responsible via indirect effects for a range of illnesses including skin cancer. These effects have been considered to arise from changes in the concentration and deposition of particles and other environmental pollutants in the presence of corona ions found in the vicinity of power lines. The physical principle for particle deposition in large electric fields is well understood. However, the NRPB has concluded that it has not been sufficiently demonstrated whether any such enhanced deposition will increase human exposure in a way that will result in adverse health effects. The difficulties with this hypothesis in relation to naturally occurring radiation have

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been examined in detail earlier by the NRPB and others in peer-reviewed journals. The NRPB's Advisory Group had already identified that further consideration needs to be given to the possible effects that might result from the dispersal of corona ions and the way such effects may be assessed. This work will start shortly.

Agriculture and Textiles

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with her European Union counterparts on reducing tariffs on (a) agriculture and (b) textiles in the context of World Trade Organisation negotiations. [5511]

Nigel Griffiths: The Department is working closely with the European Commission to ensure that a new WTO trade round includes negotiations on industrial tariffs, including textile tariffs, aimed at liberalising and where possible eliminating duty rates on all industrial products. We are also working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to influence the European Commission's position at the on-going agriculture negotiations in Geneva, including discussions on tariffs.

Patent Office

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what steps she is taking to ensure that external bids are subject to competition from benchmarking against a detailed in-house bid in relation to the current contract held by W. S. Atkins and Hays in her Department's Patent Office when the contract is reviewed; [5872]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible and place a copy of that letter in the Libraries of the House.

Clean Coal Technologies

Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the development of clean coal technologies in assisting the Government in achieving its Kyoto environmental targets. [5546]

Mr. Wilson: In the October 1998 White Paper "Conclusions of the Review of Energy Sources for Power Generation", the Government stated that cleaner coal technology had a major role to play in sustainability world wide. The paper supported the continuation of a research programme into cleaner coal technology and recommended that a review of the case for a demonstration plant be undertaken before 2003. I announced this review on 25 June 2001, which will include consideration of the environmental benefits of such plant and the contribution it can make towards meeting our Kyoto targets.

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Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what incentives are provided by her Department to assist in the development of clean coal technologies; and if she is intending to review the existing arrangements. [5545]

Mr. Wilson: The Government's policy on cleaner coal technologies was set out in Energy Paper 67: "Cleaner Coal Technologies—Future Plans for research, development, and export promotion", published in April 1999, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House and on the DTI website Activities in the six-year programme include a portfolio of research and development activities in collaboration with UK industry and universities. The DTI website is used to help promote UK capability in this area as well as providing up-to-date information on developments in the DTI programme.

As I announced on 25 June 2001, Official Report, columns 28–29W, the Government are currently undertaking a study to determine the case for supporting a cleaner coal technology demonstration plant. The Review will be examining the case for Government support for the development of demonstration plant(s). We expect to publish the consultation document on this issue imminently.

GM Crops

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the contracts his Department has had with the National Institute of Agriculture and Botany in connection with GM crops or foods. [5655]

Miss Melanie Johnson: None, so far as I am aware.

"It's Time for Justice"

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received in relation to the CAFOD "It's Time for Justice" campaign; and if she will make a statement. [5509]

Nigel Griffiths: My Department has received a number of representations on trade issues from CAFOD under their campaign banner "It's Time for Justice", arguing for changing trade rules to eradicate poverty. Forty nine letters from MPs were received by my Department on behalf of constituents who supported this campaign.

The Government agree with CAFOD that trade should work in the interest of all people. We see liberalised trade, governed by rules which are fair and inclusive, as one effective means of promoting sustainable development worldwide and contributing to the eradication of poverty. A new round of trade negotiations should provide a significant opportunity to advance these objectives.

Social Network Payment

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what the level of the social network payment was in the year to 31 March; what plans she has to vary that level; and if she will make a statement; [5403]

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Mr. Alexander: In line with the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit report on the post office network, there are no plans for such payments to be made to support the rural network until the migration of benefit payments to ACT begins in 2003.


Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to reduce the level of regulation for small businesses. [6221]

Nigel Griffiths: The Government are committed to minimising the burden of regulation as one way to realise our ambition of making the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

The Government also have a responsibility to ensure basic protection and rights to all of society.

However, this Government have taken some key steps to ensure that regulation is used sensibly and sensitively for the benefit of all.

In relation to reducing red tape, the Government have:

Established the Better Regulation Task Force—with members drawn from all sectors of community to advise the Government on action which improves the effectiveness and credibility of Government regulation.

Established the Ministerial Panel for Regulatory Accountability to provide strategic overview of the Government's regulatory plans and to discuss regulatory performance with Departmental Ministers.

Issued a revised "Guide to Regulatory Impact Assessments" so the costs and benefits of proposed regulations are properly analysed.

Launched a "Code of Practice on Written Consultation" in November 2000—ensuring that consultation periods will be at least 12 weeks. "Guidance on Implementation Periods" was released at the same time, requiring that guidance on new legislation be issued at least 12 weeks before the legislation comes into force.

Passed the Regulatory Reform Act that will make possible the reform of outdated, overlapping and over- burdensome legislation.

Established the Small Business Service with one of its aims to minimise regulatory burdens by working with small business and other Government agencies to ensure that small firms' interests are properly considered.

Future steps

The Government will build on the initiatives we took in the last Parliament to ensure we have "intelligent regulation".

We recently announced in "Enterprise for All" that Patrick Carter is examining payroll services for small firms—to make the system more effective and less costly.

The small business manifesto outlined a number of commitments designed to further minimise the burden on business.

The Operational Targets for the Small Business Service in 2001–02 include a target to "put in place a set of actions for reforming the regulatory environment for small business by March 2002".

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These measures show our continuing commitment to reduce the burden of regulation.

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