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21 Oct 2002 : Column 67W—continued

Minimum Wage

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much the advertising campaign for the increase in the minimum wage run in association with the Inland Revenue costs; if she will be running an assessment of the success of the campaign; and if she will make a statement. [75118]

Alan Johnson: The advertising campaign this year to publicise the October 2002 increases in the national minimum wage cost #353,000 exclusive of VAT. Research is presently being undertaken on the effectiveness of the campaign.

Sellafield

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which reprocessing plant at Sellafield has the technical capacity to dissolve the unirradiated MOX fuel en route from Japan to Sellafield. [75453]

Mr. Wilson: BNFL have advised that the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) has the technical capacity to dissolve the unirradiated MOX fuel, subject to appropriate regulatory consents.

Nuclear Energy

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether civil safeguarded magnox plutonium from British reactors has been used in MOX fuel sent to Japan. [73566]

Mr. Wilson: The arrangements for manufacture and delivery of MOX fuel are a commercial matter for BNFL and its customers.

Gas

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make it her policy to consult the people of Canvey Island on the provision of (a) new and (b) re-furbished gas storage facilities on Canvey Island. [74331]

Mr. Wilson: If planning permission is sought for gas storage facilities at Canvey Island, it would fall to the local planning authority, or on appeal to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, to determine. The planning process provides an opportunity for the public to express their views on a proposal.

21 Oct 2002 : Column 68W

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what policies she has to increase gas storage facilities. [74297]

Mr. Wilson: The Government's policy is to ensure an appropriate regulatory regime for the gas market in Great Britain, and to keep security of gas supply under review through the work of the DTI-Ofgem Joint Energy Security of Supply (JESS) Group. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) both act under a duty to exercise their relevant functions under the Gas Act 1986 (as amended) so as to protect the interests of consumers. The 1st Report of JESS, dated June 2002, drew attention to the possibility that peak gas demand could exceed maximum gas supply within the next few years if investment in gas storage/infrastructure is delayed. My Department has this year written to two local planning authorities considering proposals for new gas storage facilities about the national need for additional gas storage capacity.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the constituencies where there are (a) operational and (b) potential bulk gas storage facilities suitable for transmission into the National Grid. [74325]

Mr. Wilson: The major gas storage facility serving the market in Great Britain is the partially depleted Rough field in the Southern North Sea. The main existing onshore facilities are: Hornsea, east Yorkshire; five LNG (liquefied natural gas) storage facilities which are integral to the national transmission system and are owned and operated by Transco (at Avonmouth, Avon; Dynevor Arms, mid-Glamorgan; Glenmavis, Lanarkshire; Isle of Grain, Kent; and Partington, Lancashire); and two facilities which recently commissioned, at Hatfield Moor in east Yorkshire and Hole House Farm in Cheshire. A proposed facility at Aldborough, east Yorkshire, has secured planning permission and is under development. In addition a project at Byley in Cheshire is currently seeking planning permission, and a project at Fleetwood in Lancashire is understood to be close to applying for planning permission.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what policies she has to expand the pan-European gas transmission network to improve UK access to imported gas; what estimate she has made of the cost of expanding the network; and if she will make a statement. [74356]

Mr. Wilson: The Government's policy is to ensure an appropriate regulatory regime for the gas market in Great Britain, and to keep security of gas supply under review through the work of the DTI-Ofgem Joint Energy Security of Supply Group. There are a number of commercial projects to increase UK access to imported gas. These include new contractual arrangements and improved connections from the Norwegian Continental Shelf; increasing the import capacity of the existing gas interconnector pipe-line between the UK and Belgium; an additional interconnector between the Netherlands and the UK; and a number of projects to import LNG (liquefied natural gas) into the UK. The costs in each case are a commercial matter. The new price control that Ofgem

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has put in place to regulate Transco as transmission system operator is designed to make Transco's investments in the national transmission system for gas more responsive to market needs, including new patterns of supply as we become increasingly dependent on imported gas.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in which constituencies there are (a) operational and (b) potential liquified gas unloading facilities for the importation of liquefied gas by sea; and what plans she has to utilise these facilities. [74358]

Mr. Wilson: There are no existing operational LNG (liquefied natural gas) importation facilities. I understand that there are commercial plans for the development of LNG import facilities at the Isle of Grain and Milford Haven. Utilisation of such facilities would be a commercial matter.

Disposable Nappies

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures have been taken to ensure that disposable nappies containing tributyl tin are excluded from UK markets; and if she will make a statement. [73990]

Miss Melanie Johnson: No measures have been necessary. Whilst trace levels of tributyl tins (TBT) were reported in certain brands of disposable nappies on sale in Germany in May 2000, this was claimed to be due to contamination during the manufacturing process and was subsequently eliminated. Organotins such as TBTs are not intentionally added to these products. A survey undertaken for the DTI by LGC Ltd (formerly the Laboratory of the Government Chemist), showed that there was no risk to the health of babies in disposable nappies sold in the UK.

European Procurement Policy

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when in 2002 the inclusion of environmental criteria in respect of European procurement policy was discussed by her Department and the European Commission; and if she will make a statement. [74054]

Miss Melanie Johnson: In the context of discussions with the European Commission and other Member States on the proposals to update, clarify and simplify the EC public procurement directives, my officials have covered a number of aspects of procurement policy, including the scope to use environmental criteria at each stage of the procurement process.

Political agreement on the proposals was reached at the Internal Market and Tourism Council on 21 May 2002.

Broadband Communications

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will estimate the proportion of people in each region who are served by (a) broadband-enabled telephone exchanges, (b) cabled-based

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broadband services and (c) either of the above; and if she will estimate the numbers in each category who make use of that facility. [74849]

Mr. Timms: As of the end of June 2002, the proportion of the population in each region and nation able to access broadband through DSL enabled exchanges, cable modem services, and in total, was estimated by independent consultants to be as follows:

Per cent households with broadband access
Region/NationDSLCable modemTotal
North East644372
North West665275
Yorkshire and Humber594264
West Midlands685375
East Midlands553961
East of England543657
South West482251
South East663368
London985398
Scotland39353
Wales322438
Northern Ireland463047

Oftel figures for September 2002 show the number of broadband users nationally was over 885,000, of which around 390,000 used ADSL and 490,000 used cable. Since then, Oftel have announced that there are now in excess of one million broadband users in the UK.


Post Offices

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) rural and (b) urban post offices have closed in each of the last five years; and how many new ones have opened. [75699]

Mr. Timms: In the last five years net annual figures for post office closures are:

March 1998243
March 1999233
March 2000382
March 2001547
March 2002262

I understand from Post Office Limited that gross closure and opening/reopening figures, broken down between rural and urban post offices have only been available since April 2001. In the year ending March 2002, 371 rural offices closed and 177 rural offices opened/reopened and 114 urban offices closed and 46 opened/reopened.



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