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Science Enterprise Challenge Scheme

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many spin-outs in the university sector have been created (a) since 1997–98 and (b) in 2001–02 by the Science Enterprise Challenge Scheme. [47348]

Ms Hewitt: The Science Enterprise Challenge was set up to establish a network of centres in UK universities, specialising in the teaching and practice of commercialisation and entrepreneurialism in the field of science and technology. The creation of spin-outs is not an explicit objective. However, in their first two years of operation (period ending September 2001), the centres established under the scheme have provided help and support with the development of over 400 credible business ideas. Over 80 have led to early stage businesses, including both spin-outs and start ups from individuals receiving training or advice from the centres.

University Activities

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the pilot survey due to be conducted in the first quarter of 2001–02 on university exploitation activities. [47349]

Ms Hewitt: The survey is encouraging and shows that the higher education sector is increasing exploitation activities, resulting in more spin-off companies and a higher proportion of research income from business. Creating stronger links between universities and businesses is an important part of improving our economic performance while maintaining excellence in higher education. The results of the survey are informing the Cross-Cutting Review of Science and Research which is being carried out as part of the Spending Review.

Science Citation Index

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what change there has been in UK performance on the Science Citation Index since 1999. [47351]

Ms Hewitt: Data from the Science Citation Index are used as an indicator of the relative quality of the UK Science and Engineering Base in my Department's Public Sector Agreement. The latest calculations show that there has been no change since 1999. Fuller details will be published shortly in my Department's Expenditure Plans report.

Business Performance

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how and by whom is a judgment reached on progress in UK business performance overseas. [47352]

Ms Hewitt: Engaging in international trade is an important element in improving business competitiveness and productivity.

My Department has an objective, shared with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to enhance the competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas sales and investments. Information on performance against the PSA target supporting that objective is published annually in the Government Expenditure

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Plans reports for my Department and British Trade International, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

Power Cuts

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many electricity power supply interruptions there were in 2001 per customer; and how many minutes per customer were lost in the same year. [47344]

Mr. Wilson: In 2000–01, there were 84 electricity supply interruptions per 100 customers. The number of minutes lost was 86 per 100 customers.

Electricity Prices

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of how (a) domestic and (b) industrial electricity prices compared with the EU/97 median in (i) 2000 and (ii) 2001. [47726]

Mr. Wilson: In 2000, average UK domestic electricity prices, including taxes, were 9.5 per cent. lower than the EU and G7 median based upon data for 11 countries. On an excluding tax basis, the average price in the UK was 14.5 per cent. higher than the EU/G7 median, based upon data for 12 countries.

In 2000, the UK's price for industrial electricity including taxes, was 1.5 per cent. lower than the EU and G7 median based upon data for eight countries. On an excluding tax basis, the price in the UK was 13 per cent. higher than the EU/G7 median, based upon data for nine countries.

Data for 2001 are not yet available from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Gas Prices

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of how (a) domestic and (b) industrial UK gas prices compared with the EU/97 median in (i) 2000 and (ii) 2001. [47728]

Mr. Wilson: In 2000, average UK domestic gas prices, including taxes, were 16 per cent. lower than the EU and G7 median, based upon data for 13 countries. On an excluding tax basis, the UK price was 2.5 per cent. lower than the EU and G7 median, based upon data for 11 countries.

Average UK industrial gas prices in 2000, including taxes, were 38 per cent. lower than the EU and G7 median, based upon data for nine countries. On an excluding tax basis, the price in the UK was 35 per cent. lower than the EU and G7 median based upon data for eight countries.

Data for 2001 are not yet available from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Benchmarking

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the ranking of the United Kingdom is on the Department's International Benchmarking Study. [47346]

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Ms Hewitt: The International Benchmarking Study 2001 was published in October 2001 and is available in the Libraries of the House. The 2002 study is being undertaken at the moment and will be published later this year. The 2001 study showed that the UK continues to be one of a 'leading' group of countries in the general use of e-commerce, along with the US, Canada and Germany. There is no single ranking figure used as the report contains many different facets of e-commerce uptake and development. However in 2001 there was an overall improvement in the UK's relative position against some key indicators—for example:


National Weights and Measures Laboratory

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the National Weights and Measures Laboratory's total overhead costs were at the end of December 2001 as a percentage of total costs. [47337]

Ms Hewitt: Overhead costs at NWML represent 54.7 per cent. of total costs for the period April to December 2001, against a target of less than 55 per cent.

Companies House

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the percentage unit cost reduction was in real terms on document registration achieved by Companies House in 2000–01; and what she expects the reduction to be in 2001–02. [47340]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The percentage for 2000–01 was 7 per cent, as published in the Annual Report and Accounts.

The corresponding figure for 2001–02 will not be known until the accounts are prepared and audited.

Bankruptcy

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the percentage change was in the unit cost of investigating bankruptcy and compulsory liquidation at December 2001, by comparison with (a) December 2000 and (b) December 1999. [47338]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The unit cost of case investigation at December 2001 had (a) decreased by 7.2 per cent. in comparison with December 2000 and (b) decreased by 19.5 per cent. in comparison with December 1999.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources was in (a) 2000 and (b) 2001. [47343]

Mr. Wilson: The percentage of electricity generated in the UK from all renewable sources in 2000 was 2.8 per cent. Detailed renewable energy statistics for 2001 are not yet available, but provisional figures show that large scale hydro schemes provided about 0.8 per cent. of electricity generation in 2001 compared with 1.2 per cent. in 2000. This was because of lower precipitation in Scotland

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during the winter of 2000–01. However, it is expected that generation from other renewable sources will have increased in 2001.

Transport and Telecommunications Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Transport and Telecommunications Council held in Brussels on 25–26 March; what the Government's stance was on issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [46923]

Mr. Alexander: The Deputy UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, Bill Stow, attended the Council on 25 March on my behalf.

There was a Presidency briefing, followed by an exchange of views, on the follow-up to the Barcelona European Council conclusions on the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. There was broad agreement on the importance of third generation mobile and digital television alongside computer-based internet access to deliver broadband services. A UK-led call to focus as much on content as infrastructure, creating demand for broadband services as well as the supply of networks, received the support of six member states. The Commission announced that they aim to have the eEurope 2005 Action Plan ready for the 17 June Telecommunications Council.

The council adopted general orientations on amendments to the existing decisions on electronic interchange of data between administrations (IDA), and the trans-European telecommunications networks (TEN) decision. The Presidency is now expected to pursue informal contacts with the European Parliament to try and secure first reading deals on both dossiers.

The council adopted a resolution on web accessibility, to encourage member states to implement the Web Accessibility Initiative's (WAI) guidelines in respect of public sector websites, aimed at making it easier for the EU's 37 Million elderly and disabled citizens to access the internet. Social and geographic digital exclusion are likely to feature prominently under the Greek Presidency in the first half of 2003.

The commission gave a presentation on international governance of the internet, following which member states exchanged views on reform issues under consideration by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)—the private US corporation established to manage the internet domain name system. The council gave a mandate to COREPER to develop a common EU position to be fed into the EU-US Information Society Dialogue and the ongoing discussions of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) to ICANN.

Final adoption of the regulation to establish the .eu internet top level domain was among the A points adopted by the council.


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