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Telecommunications (Liabilities)

Ms Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many companies granted a licence under section 10 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 have complied with the requirement under Condition 16 of Schedule 4 of their licence to have satisfied the Director General of Oftel that they have sufficient funds secured to meet any liabilities arising from their activities. [37202]

Mr. Alexander: Two operators, Orange and Vodafone, have satisfied the Director in accordance with condition 16 of their licences. Discussions are taking place between Oftel and two further operators, Energis and Telewest.

In order to improve this position and to reflect changes in the industry since the original Condition 16 arrangements were established, the Director General has had detailed discussions with both the industry and the Highway Authorities and has now completed a public consultation on proposals to change these arrangements. He hopes to commence a second public consultation shortly on a proposal for a new approach which will be easier to implement and should prove to be less costly for the companies concerned.

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Postal Services

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the implications are for postal services of the judgment in Consignia plc v. Hays plc; and if she will make a statement. [33489]

Mr. Alexander: I understand that this matter is still before the courts. It would therefore be inappropriate to make a statement at this time. If the final decision in this case has important implications for postal services these will need to be considered in the first instance by Postcomm.

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government will take to safeguard the future of postal services in rural areas. [31275]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 29 January 2002]: Under the Postal Services Act 2000 the postal regulator the Postal Services Commission (Postcomm) has the primary duty to ensure the provision of a universal postal service. The obligation consists of a service provided at an affordable price determined by a public tariff uniform throughout the UK and includes the delivery each working day to the home or premises of every individual in the UK and a collection each working day from access points.

Subject to this primary responsibility Postcomm is also under a duty to exercise its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to further the interests of users of postal services, wherever appropriate by promoting effective competition between postal operators. In performing this secondary duty Postcomm shall have regard to the interests of, amongst others, individuals residing in rural areas.

Currently Postcomm requires Consignia plc, in the licence to provide a universal postal service. Subject to Consignia's universal service obligations, the number and timing of deliveries is an operational issue for Consignia.


Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) whether the Broadband Fund has received clearance from the European Commission as required by the state aid regulations; [33753]

Mr. Alexander: Although the Broadband Fund has not been notified to the European Commission, any expenditure therefrom, to the extent that it amounts to state aid within the meaning of Article 87(1) of the EC Treaty, will have to be in conformity with the block exemption regulations or alternatively notified to, and approved by, the Commission.

The responsibilities of an RDA Accounting Officer encompass ensuring compliance with the EC rules on state aids. Advice and guidance on compliance is available to all public sector bodies from the State Aid

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Policy Unit in the Department. In particular, this Unit publishes "European Community State Aids—Guidance for All Departments and Agencies".

All projects under the UK Broadband Fund have been developed in consultation with DTI officials, although use of funds is a matter for SWRDA.

Road Bridges

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the Ministers in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to ensure that contractors accessing pylons under construction are not endangering road bridges over railways. [37635]

Mr. Wilson: I have had no such discussions.


Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how much caesium-147 is stored in above-ground tanks at the BNFL reprocessing plant at Sellafield; [37701]

Mr. Wilson: The liquid high-level radioactive waste (Highly Active Liquid (HAL)) held at the B215 facility at Sellafield contains essentially all the radioactive isotopes produced in a nuclear reactor. This includes caesium 137 which is estimated to account for approximately a quarter of the total activity contained in the HAL. The total amount of HAL kept in the highly active storage tanks at any one time is related primarily to (1) the total amount of HAL arising from spent fuel reprocessed at Sellafield and (2) the amount of HAL that is converted from liquid form into vitrified form (solid glass blocks).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a number of detailed reports by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) on the safety of storage of liquid high level waste (HLW) at Sellafield. The report published by HSE in February 2000 assesses the key safety issues associated with HLW storage at Sellafield and the actions to be taken to reduce the stocks of liquid waste contained in the tanks to buffer volumes by the agreed target date of 2015. This report and an addendum to it that was published by HSE in August 2001 are in the Libraries of the House. The February 2000 report includes at appendix B a detailed outline of the history of HLW storage at Sellafield. From this it can be seen that the first eight tanks at B215 were commissioned in 1955 with a further 13 commissioned during the period between 1970 and 1990.

There is no projected design lifespan for the highly active storage tanks. BNFL and HSE monitor them carefully to ensure that no factors have arisen that might affect their continued safe operation. To ensure defence

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in-depth for the continued safe operation of the HASTs, the NII continues to require BNFL to maintain one in four of the tanks in reserve as spares.

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations her Department has received concerning the adequacy of current security provision at BNFL's B215 facility at Sellafield, with particular reference to waste storage containers. [37700]

Mr. Wilson: I responded on 12 November 2001, Official Report, column 541W to a question on this matter from my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) and the Minister for Industry and Energy responded to a question from the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) on 18 January 2002, Official Report, column 511W which concerned intermediate and high level nuclear waste storage facilities. There have also been a number of letters from hon. Members on behalf of their constituents including references to high level waste storage at Sellafield as well as a few letters received direct from the public and one from the Isle of Man Government received in January through the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Statutory Social and Environmental Guidelines

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when her Department will issue the statutory social and environmental guidelines to the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority. [37699]

Mr. Wilson: The Department is looking afresh at the draft social and environmental guidance in the light of the Energy Review report published on 14 February by the Performance and Innovation Unit. The report has implications for the guidance, and will need to be considered carefully. Once that process has been undertaken, we will be in a better position to assess the timing for issue of the guidance.


Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to ensure that the Government's CHP target is reflected in her Department's aims and objectives with particular reference to guidelines on sustainable development; and when she plans to issue them to the non-Ministerial Government departments for which she is responsible. [37703]

Mr. Wilson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 25 February 2001 to PQ No. 35387.

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