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19 Sept 2002 : Column 203W—continued

Parliamentary Questions

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will answer the question of 17 June, 2002, from the hon. Member for Maidenhead, ref 464, on the Government's policy towards the independence of the economic regulators of privatised utilities. [71493]

Ms Hewitt: I have answered today.

Parliamentary Answers

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is her policy to ensure that documents referred to in parliamentary answers are available via her Department's website. [72276]

Ms Hewitt: Departmental policy is that all documents published by DTI are available via the department's website. The policy on retention and archiving of elements of the website is currently under review.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for how long she retains documents referred to in parliamentary answers on his Department's website. [72286]

Ms Hewitt: Departmental policy is that all documents published by DTI are available via the department's website. The policy on retention and archiving of elements of the website is currently under review.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will answer the written question from the hon. Member for Chichester, tabled on 22 May, on the official travel of departmental and non-departmental special advisers. [72680]

Ms Hewitt: According to Part 1 of the Order Book for 22 May, there was not a question on this subject tabled to me from the hon. Member.

Regulation

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of (a) the Better Regulation Task Force and (b) the Ministerial Panel for Regulatory Accountability in strengthening the systems which control the regulatory burden. [70099]

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Mr. Douglas Alexander: I have been asked to reply. The Government is committed to ensuring that regulations are fair and effective. The Better Regulation Task Force and the Panel on Regulatory Accountability, together with the Regulatory Impact Unit, are working together to achieve this goal. The Better Regulation Task Force has recently announced its new work programme. It will be reviewing:


To date, the Task Force has published 21 substantive reports, together making over 300 recommendations.

It is established practice under Exemption 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information that information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committee business is not disclosed.

Credit Unions

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what actions she has taken to promote the use of credit unions; and if she will make a statement. [70524]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

Credit unions have an important role to play in tackling financial exclusion and enhancing opportunity, through the provision of core financial services. That is why we have been involved in initiatives to help the movement grow. We are delivering a programme of strategic deregulation to enable credit unions to offer a greater range of services to their members.

Through the Financial Services and Markets Act we have brought credit unions under the regulatory supervision of the Financial Services Authority and given depositors with credit unions similar protection to those with banks or building societies. The new regulatory system, combined with our programme of deregulation, will give the movement a strong position from which to build and thrive.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will include nuclear energy generation in an emissions trading scheme. [71516]

Mr. Meacher: I have been asked to reply.

For target-holders, the UK Emissions Trading Scheme places the responsibility for emissions created by the generation of power with the end user of that power. This provides a strong incentive for energy users to increase their efficiency and to reduce emissions at the point of use. Therefore, if generators were also covered there would be a risk of double counting, where the generators could count emissions reductions made by down-stream users. Therefore, nuclear energy generation is not included in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

Nuclear Power

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress

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the Government have made under the Ospar Convention to reduce nuclear discharges from Sellafield into the Irish Sea. [66106]

Margaret Beckett: I have been asked to reply.

The UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges 2001–20 will be published very shortly. This will show how the UK will implement the OSPAR Radioactive Substances Strategy. The aim of that Strategy is to ensure progressive reduction of concentrations of radioactive substances in the marine environment so that by 2020 they are close to zero to historic levels.

Radioactive discharges from Sellafield have decreased dramatically over the past 25 years, to around 1 per cent. of their peak levels in the 1970s. The Strategy will show that further substantial reductions will be made in the period to 2020. The Environment Agency has carried out a full review of discharge authorisations at Sellafield and are expected to announce their draft decision soon. It will then be for me as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Secretary of State for Health to decide whether we wish to exercise our statutory powers before any changes are put into effect. The Secretary of State for Health and I expect to announce shortly whether we wish to exercise our statutory powers in relation to the Agency's proposed decision on discharges of technetium-99 from Sellafield.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the estimated clean up costs are for each (a) current and (b) past nuclear power station. [73119]

Mr. Wilson: The estimated cost of decommissioning depends on the strategy adopted by the operator and agreed with the relevant nuclear regulators. BNFL and British Energy publish annual accounts that include information on their respective nuclear provisions, including provisions for decommissioning and waste management, and the basis of their approach to decommissioning.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what limit is set on the financial liability of nuclear operators for damage arising from a nuclear accident; and if she will make a statement. [72989]

Mr. Wilson: With regard to liability of the UK nuclear industry in the event of a nuclear accident, the UK is a Contracting party to the Paris and Brussels Conventions on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy. One of the underlying principles of the Paris Convention is that all liability arising from a nuclear accident is channelled to the operator of the nuclear installation on a no fault basis. Present UK legislation requires operators to cover their liability by insurance, (the Nuclear Installations Act 1965) and operator's liability is currently limited to a maximum £140 million per accident.

Liability amounts are reviewed by the UK along with our international partners and the Paris and Brussels Conventions are currently in the process of revision with a view to substantially increase the operator's liability to £430 million per accident.

19 Sept 2002 : Column 206W

Nuclear Waste Disposal

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the timetable for deciding on the disposal of medium-level nuclear waste. [69456]

Mr. Meacher: I have been asked to reply.

We propose to press ahead with a review of waste management options. The review will seek the views of interested stakeholders, the public and government departments. We will appoint an independent body to oversee the review process which will make recommendations on the option, or combination of options, for managing radioactive waste which would achieve long-term protection for people and the environment. We will review all options—including surface storage and underground disposal—and revise the timetable to a four stage process rather than five as proposed in the original consultation.

The waste from our existing nuclear facilities will arise over the next century or so. So we intend, in assessing management options, to include not only materials currently classified as waste but also to consider the consequences of providing for other materials which may have to be managed as waste during the period, such as some separated plutonium, and uranium, as well as certain quantities of spent nuclear fuel.

We propose that the new body will be in place by the end of the year. Over the summer and autumn, we shall publish more detailed proposals. These will include details of the new body and its terms of reference. They will also address pressing issues such as arrangements for managing waste safely in the short-term and an announcement on waste substitution. We shall report progress on the other issues covered in the consultation, including decommissioning nuclear sites, the powers of the Environment Agencies, managing spent sealed sources of radioactivity, and waste classification.


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