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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what additional measures she proposes to promote the construction of (a) wave, (b) solar, (c) hydro electric, (d) wind and (e) other renewable energy sources. 
Mr. Wilson: The Department is taking a wide range of measures to promote the construction and development of renewable energy sources. The new Renewables Obligation and associated Renewables Obligation Scotland will oblige all licensed electricity suppliers in Great Britain to supply a specified and growing proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. The obligation will create a long-term market for renewables which will be worth over £1 billion per year by 2010.
The obligation will be the main mechanism through which we meet our renewables targets, and will be underpinned by direct Government funding worth over £260 million between 2001 and 2004. This will support a number of measures including my Department's £55.5 million R&D programme, and an extensive capital grants programme. An announcement will be made shortly on the detailed allocation of the £100 million for renewables announced by the Prime Minister in March this year.
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Mr. Alexander: British Telecom and the cable companies set broadband prices on a commercial basis. As I have already made clear, they need to be driving these prices down, and demand up, so that more consumers have the opportunity to benefit from fast, always-on, access to the internet. Equally, prices must be set at fair levels. The Director General of Telecommunications has powers under the Competition Act 1998 to act where any company has entered into an anti-competitive agreement or is abusing a dominant position. He also has powers to take action if any licensed operator is not acting in accordance with the terms of its licence.
Mr. Alexander: Ministers and officials meet BT regularly to discuss BT's role in introducing broadband services across the UK. 60 per cent. of UK households are now connected to a BT ADSL enabled exchange. This represents a significant investment by BT in broadband Britain. I have recently challenged BT to do more to exploit this investment more aggressively so that the benefits of broadband are spread to as wide a market as possible.
Mr. Alexander: As set out in 'UK Online: the broadband future', published in February 2001, international comparisons on broadband are patchy; however, in this strategy document the Office of the E-Envoy committed to undertaking a rolling programme of research.
In addition, the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) published in January 2001 its report on international benchmarking of DSL and cable modem services. This compared the market for these technologies in the UK with that of France, Germany and the US. The study highlights that reliable and consistent data for all the G8 countries are difficult to obtain. However, Oftel will continue this programme of international benchmarking of broadband prices and roll-out.
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Mr. Alexander: Availability of broadband services via cable, ADSL or wireless technology stands at around 66 per cent. of consumers and small businesses. The Government, in partnership with industry, are taking a number of measures in order to make the broadband market more extensive and competitive, building on the recent progress in advancing access across the country. However, the broadband market is at an early stage, and any forecasts are liable to be speculative.
Mr. Alexander [holding answer 16 October 2001]: The information requested on total net closures is set out in the table. I understand from the Post Office that historic data on the post office network before the year ending March 2001 are not held on regional basis. For the year ending March 2001, there were 10 net closures in the London region.
|As at 31 March||Crown offices||Sub-post offices||Total||Closures in year|
|Year ending March||Number|
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