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Power Lines

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment she has made of the information contained in recent correspondence from the hon. Member for Vale of York on the health effects of electromagnetic fields; and if she will impose a moratorium on the proposed Lackenby to Shipton overhead transmission line; [21951]

Mr. Wilson: While we are always interested to note the hon. Member's representations, development consent was granted for the North Yorkshire power line in March 1998 and it is now up to the National Grid Company to implement that decision.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment the Secretary of State has made of the implications of the new ownership of the former Enron power station in Teesside; and if she will make a statement. [21965]

Mr. Wilson: If a transfer of ownership qualifies for investigation under the Fair Trading Act 1973, it will be for the Office of Fair Trading to advise me on whether to refer the merger to the Competition Commission. If, on the other hand, it falls under the European Community Merger Regulation, it will be for the European Commission to consider it.

Gas Supplies

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage loss of gas supply (a) during a 1 in 20 peak demand and (b) during an average peak demand on the gas system in (i) winter 2001–02 and (ii) winter 2005–06 would trigger emergency measures under the Emergency Powers Act 1920 or Energy Act 1976. [22340]

Mr. Wilson: It is not possible to define when such measures might be triggered. Losses of supply can occur at any time and not just in periods of peak demand.

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Transco (who manage the National Gas Transmission System) are already empowered to take significant steps to mitigate against losses of supply. These are set out in Transco's Network Gas Supply Emergency Procedures which are tested regularly. I have arranged for copies of the procedures to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

If the situation arose, it is likely that the powers contained in the Energy Act 1976 would be sufficient to handle a gas supply emergency.

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what contingency planning her Department undertakes with (a) the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, (b) Transco, (c) the National Grid Company and (d) the Health and Safety Executive to prepare for disruption to supplies of gas; and if she will make a statement. [22342]

Mr. Wilson: We have set up the Gas Industry Emergency Committee. Its membership includes Ofgem, Transco, NGC, HSE and many others from throughout the supply chain. It assesses the risks of new and emerging developments that could lead to large-scale gas supply failures. Its aim is to ensure that in the event of a gas supply emergency, contingency plans are in place to ensure the rapid and safe restoration of supplies to consumers.

These contingency plans have been tested in various exercises in recent months. Further tests are planned for the future to ensure that they are kept up-to-date and are fit for the purpose.

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the emergency gas stockholding capacity is in days of use at full levels of generation for each of the combined cycle gas turbine power stations commissioned since 1990. [22341]

Mr. Wilson: Combined cycle gas turbine power stations do not hold emergency stocks of gas, nor are emergency stocks of gas specifically held as part of the UK gas transmission system for these generators. Where a gas facility is dual fired, power stations usually hold stocks of their alternative fuel—predominantly coal or oil products. Some gas is stored, but this tends to be at the extremities of the transmission system in facilities such as salt cavities' offshore fields or as liquefied natural gas.

Some liquefied natural gas is held by Transco to cope with system emergencies. The remainder is used to help maintain the overall balance within the gas transmission system between supply and demand for gas. The stored gas tends to be used during periods of peak demand (e.g. winter months) and to meet shortfalls of gas supplies at other times during the year. Combined cycle gas stations compete for any gas coming from storage along with other gas users.

Telecommunications Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Telecommunications Council held in Brussels on 6 and 7 December; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [22182]

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Mr. Alexander: The Deputy UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, Bill Stow, attended the Council on 6 December on my behalf.

The Presidency reported to the Council on the state of play of negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposed new regulatory framework for electronic communications. The most contentious issues on which agreement is still outstanding are:

The March 2000 Lisbon European Council set a target of the end of 2001 to agree this legislative package. Informal discussions between the Presidency, the Commission and the European Parliament will continue during December with a view to finding an agreement as soon as possible and so avoid the need for conciliation under the forthcoming Spanish Presidency.

The Council reached political agreement on the proposed Communications Data Protection Directive by qualified majority; the UK voted in favour. In particular, the Council agreed on:

The Council adopted a Resolution on "a common approach and specific actions in the area of network and information security", and the Commission will now bring forward proposals for setting-up a cyber-security task force to assist member states in developing the capabilities to address network security problems.

The Commission presented a Communication on the exploitation of public sector information which aims to remove many of the barriers that content companies currently face in trying to develop the next generation of cross-border information services and products based on public sector information. The Commission may now propose a Directive to cover the commercial exploitation of public sector information. The Commission also gave a presentation on the seventh implementation report on telecoms regulation.


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what EU legal requirements governed the transfer of 70,000 telephone lines from Spain to Gibraltar. [21546R]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 10 December 2001]: The allocation to Gibraltar of numbers from the Cadiz exchange is a matter for the Spanish authorities. HMG is

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pressing the Spanish Government for an early resolution to the problems caused by non-recognition of Gibraltar's international dialling code.

Gender Pay Gap

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of equal pay legislation; and if she will make a statement. [21776]

Ms Hewitt: The Equal Pay Act 1970 has enabled many women to make real headway, allowing women to claim their rights in a number of landmark cases and to challenge stereotypical assumptions about aspects of their work that have been undervalued.

The pay gap has halved from 37 per cent. when the Equal Pay Act was introduced 30 years ago to 19 per cent. today. Individual claims brought under the Act can impact on many other women and lead to employers making significant changes to their pay systems.

Work is under way to streamline and speed up employment tribunal procedures to make it easier for women to claim their rights on equal pay. Equal Pay tribunals can be stressful and time consuming for women and for employers faced with a claim. The proposal to introduce a questionnaire procedure into the Equal Pay Act has been included in the Employment Bill that was introduced on 7 November 2001. It will enable an individual who believes they may not be receiving equal pay to request key information from their employer when they are deciding whether to bring a case.

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