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19 Nov 2002 : Column 110W—continued

Power Failures

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to ensure that compensation is paid by the electricity supply companies following the power cuts on and after 27 October 2002. [80475]

Mr. Wilson: I would urge all customers who feel that their supplier has not fulfilled its responsibility to put in a claim for compensation (which should be made within one month of supply being restored).

Compensation is a matter for the regulator's office, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and I know that it is watching the situation closely.

Compensation is not automatic in the case of storms. Initially, under the guaranteed standards of performance, it is for network operators to decide whether to offer compensation or to invoke an exemption for severe weather.

Customers can challenge non-payment of compensation through the statutory consumer watchdog, Energywatch, which will liaise with Ofgem.

In the final instance, after all other routes have been explored, Ofgem can make a determination.

I welcome the fact that once company has recognised that customers do have rights and has announced that it will be paying compensation in certain circumstances.

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many homes in Essex were without power from 27 October 2002 for (a) 24 hours, (b) 36 hours, (c) 48 hours, (d) three days, (e) four days and (f) more than four days. [80476]

Mr. Wilson: I have been advised by LE Group that the numbers of customers without electricity in Essex arising from the storm on 27 October 2002 were as follows:

Period without electricityNumber of Customers
(b) up to 36 hours15,715
(c) up to 48 hours9,854
(d) up to 3 days (72 hours)5,976
(e) up to 4 days (96 hours)2,398
(f) more than 4 days1,856

With regard to your question (a), LE Group have advised me that they do not have an accurate figure for the number of customers without electricity in Essex

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after the first 24 hours. However they have confirmed that 159,791 customers in Essex were restored in the first 24 hours after the storm.

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with electricity suppliers since 27 October 2002. [80477]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has regular discussions with electricity suppliers. However, following the storms of 27 October, I commissioned British Power International (BPI) to carry out an independent review of the extent to which distribution networks were able to withstand severe weather, and how the distribution licence holders handled the emergency caused by the recent storms. The electricity network operators who are to be reviewed are:


The review has already started and involves detailed questions to each of the companies. Initial findings will be published by the end of December.

Regional Selective Assistance

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what (a) amount and (b) proportion of the Government's budget for regional selective assistance to the Government's south west zone has been allocated to (a) Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and (b) the remainder of its zone in each of the last four years for which information is available. [80758]

Alan Johnson: Based on offers of regional selective assistance made:

Value (# million)Per cent of total south west region
1998–99
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly8.157
Remainder of south west region6.143
1999–2000
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly2.125
Remainder of south west region6.275
2000–01
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly1.012
Remainder of south west region7.688
2001–02
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly4.857
Remainder of south west region3.643

Storm Damage

Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on sustainable energy requirements in the British Isles. [80425]

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Mr. Wilson: The Government are currently carrying out a review of future energy policy with a view to issuing a White Paper in the new year. The White Paper will show how energy policy fits within the Government's overall approach to sustainable development.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what recent assessment she has made of the damage to the electricity distribution network caused by trees and branches during recent storms; and if she will make a statement; [80880]

Mr. Wilson: On 29 October 2002, I commissioned British Power International (BPI), to carry out an independent review of how the distribution licence holders handled the emergency caused by the recent storms. The electricity network operators who are to be reviewed are:


The review has already started and initial findings will be published by the end of December. The study will include an assessment of the condition of the network and its ability to withstand such storms. This includes the degree to which trees and branches have been lopped to prevent them falling on lines during the high winds.

Vibration White Finger

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, under what circumstances would someone get compensation under the Claims Handling Agreement for illness contracted from mining work. [81038]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has two Claims Handling Agreements (CHA's which cover illnesses contracted from mining work. One covers Respiratory Disease and the other covers Vibration White Finger (VWF). The Agreements set out in detail the circumstances in which miners or their families are eligible for compensation.

In order for a claimants to pursue a claim for Respiratory disease the miner needs to have worked after 4 June 1954 for mines in England and Wales, and after 4 June 1949 for mines in Scotland, as well as show signs of respiratory illness as covered by the CHA. In order to pursue a claim for Vibration White Finger the miner must have worked in mines after 1 January 1975 and show signs of Vibration White Finger. Any compensation which claimants then receive for either type of illness would be dependent upon results of a Medical Assessment, the years spent working in the mine, the type of work undertaken, other factors that may influence a claimant's ill health, as well as other factors stipulated under the agreements.