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2 Dec 2002 : Column 509W—continued

Business Start-ups

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made towards the target set in 1998 for achievement in 1999–2002, to secure an increase in the number of successful high growth business start ups. [83595]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 26 November 2002]: In 1998, a target was set to secure an increase in the number of high growth business start ups over 1999–2002. The latest figures are for 1997 (provisional) and estimate over 11,000 Xhigh growth" firms. Provisional 1998 and final 1997 figures will be available by the end of the year. The Government made a commitment in the Competitiveness White Paper published in December 1998 to provide a new high-quality advice service designed to support 10,000 pre and start-up businesses a year in England (by the end of March 2002), who were identified as having high growth potential. The programme was managed and funded nationally by the Small Business Service but delivered locally via allocations to the 45 Business Links in England. £20 million of funding was committed between October 1999—March 2002.

By the end of March 2002 around 8,500 pre- and start-up businesses had received support. Support was provided across a variety of business sectors to people who are traditionally considered to face barriers in starting and growing a business including women, ethnic minorities and young entrepreneurs.

Financial support is continuing to Business Link Operators for the delivery of advisory services to pre- and early start businesses identified as having high growth potential. £10 million was included in the Business Link core budget allocation for 2002–2003.

Business Support Schemes

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the members of her Department's investment committee that will assume responsibility for business support schemes, together with their (a) corporate positions and (b) experience. [84158]

Ms Hewitt: Fields Wicker-Miurin will chair the Business Support Investment Committee.

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Ms Wicker-Miurin is an international business executive with more than 20 years experience in the European media and financial services industries. She is Executive Director of Leaders Quest; a Non-Executive Director of United Business Media plc and of Savills plc; a member of the Nasdaq Technology Advisory Council; a Trustee of the London International Festival of Theatre, London Musici, and the Council of Tate Members; a Trustee of the Brogdale Trust; and a Council member of Kings College London, where she chairs the Audit Committee. She is also a member of the DTI's executive board.

The wider membership of the Committee has not yet been determined. It is proposed that it will comprise two to three external members drawn from the Department's new boards, a representative from the Treasury, a Regional Development Agency Chair and senior DTI officials.

Car Boot Sales

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures the Government are taking to end the illegal sale of goods at car-boot sales. [83587]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 28 November 2002]: Last year we introduced Stop Now Orders to give local authority trading standards departments, and other enforcers, stronger enforcement powers for use against a range of breaches of consumer protection legislation. We are strengthening the enforcement powers available to trading standards departments still further in the Enterprise Act 2002, which will extend the scope of Stop Now Orders when the Act comes into force next year.

Civil Nuclear Emergency Planning

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the last emergency exercise took place under the civil nuclear emergency planning programme; what the (a) budget and (b) actual cost was of the last exercise; what assessment of it took place; whether the results were made available to hon. Members; and if she will make a statement. [83656]

Mr. Wilson: The last exercise in the civil nuclear emergency planning programme took place on 7 November 2002 based on Chapelcross Power Station. Previously this year, exercises have also taken place based on Sizewell B on 25 September 2002, Hunterston B on 26 June 2002, Bradwell on 10 May 2002, Capenhurst on 26 April 2002, and Dungeness on 27 March 2002. All of these exercises were designed to test off-site arrangements and involved relevant local and national agencies. The Bradwell and Dungeness exercises were the major national exercises for 2002–03 and 2001–02 respectively.

Costs of exercises have generally been met by the individual responding organisations which see participation as part of their normal preparations to deal with an emergency. Information on budgets and costs are not collected or collated centrally, nor in many cases identified as a separate item. A report is prepared on the outcome of each exercise. Final reports on these exercises are routinely forwarded to the Libraries of the House.

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Construction Industry

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support the Government has given to the British construction industry's recent focus on National Construction Week. [82730]

Mr. Wilson: National Construction Week aims to raise the profile of the construction industry to young people and seeks to increase awareness about the potential career opportunities construction has to offer. The Government welcomes this initiative and fully supports it. As Minister for Construction I attended a number of NCW 2002 events in London and Wakefield.

DTI and DfES have representatives on the NCW Steering Group. DTI's Construction Sector Unit has provided financial support for the Campaign to improve delivery and communications of NCW messages and to assist with the development of the NCW website.

The construction industry needs to attract and retain talented young people and the Government welcomes all activities that aim to raise awareness of the excellent career opportunities it has to offer.

Electricity Generation

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the planned margin of excess generation plant capacity for electricity generation at peak demand for security of supply is; and if she will make a statement. [82900]

Mr. Wilson: Ofgem does not set specific targets for reserve margins as it believes that the incentives in place under NETA and in the markets will provide participants with the appropriate signals for meeting customers' needs.

According to the October update of NGC's 7 Year Statement, the projected plant margin for the coming winter is 17.4 per cent. in England and Wales. However, this takes no account of some 7,000 MW of mothballed plant, a significant proportion of which could be returned to use for this winter if required. If just one quarter of the mothballed plant were to be included, the margin would reach 20 per cent.

The plant margin in Scotland is around 25–30 per cent. even with interconnectors treated as demand.

Monitoring the adequacy of generating capacity and the way that the industry is responding to market signals is one of the key tasks of the DTI-Ofgem Joint Energy Security of Supply working group, set up in July 2001.

Energy Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Energy Council held in Brussels on 25 November; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [84004]

Mr. Wilson: I represented the UK at the EU Energy Council in Brussels on 25 November.

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The Council considered several matters of interest to the United Kingdom. Chief among these was the internal market in electricity and gas on which there was agreement to full market opening by mid 2007.

During the discussion of the Gas and Electricity Directives, all member states agreed on the need for a firm date for full market opening, though one member state said that a final date should be subject to an interim review by the Commission.

The final agreement provides for the opening of the industrial and commercial market by mid 2004 and the opening of the market for all remaining consumers by mid 2007.

In discussions of the key issue of legal unbundling, the European Commission underlined that legal unbundling of distribution system operators and transmission system operators was a minimum requirement of a liberalised market while pointing out that it did not entail separate ownership of distribution and production. Some member states thought other approaches could also achieve the overall objective of market transparency and access to networks—arguing that member states should be allowed to retain measures having an equivalent effect to legal unbundling. The UK, supported by most other member states, disagreed and made it clear that legal unbundling was an essential part of the final package. The overwhelming evidence was that legal unbundling was essential to the development of a liberalised market with little evidence that alternative approaches would work as effectively.

The final agreement provide for legal unbundling of transmission system operators by mid 2004 and legal unbundling of distribution system operators by mid 2007. A Commission report published in 2006 will review the progress made towards liberalisation. It will also provide member states with the opportunity to request a derogation from the legal unbundling requirement for distribution if they can show that equivalent measures are just as effective. However, any such derogation will have to be decided by co-decision.

A Regulation on cross-border exchanges in electricity was also agreed as part of the compromise.

Revised criteria on support to projects under the Trans European Networks (TENS) energy programme were agreed.

Discussion of the EU's Intelligent Energy for Europe proposal, which provides for a new four-year programme of support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, centred on the budget. Agreement was reached on a figure of 190 meuro, a compromise between the 255 meuro sought by the European Parliament and the 150–160 meuro preferred by several member states.

Most member states supported the stated objectives of the Commission's Cogeneration proposal, which seeks to promote the cogeneration of heat and power in order to reduce energy demand as a means to both reduce dependency on external supplies of energy and contribute to the achievement of carbon savings, but thought the 50 MW upper limit on support restrictive, illogical and counterproductive, and that the proposal

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involved bureaucratic and costly compliance burdens. The proposal will be taken forward by the Greek presidency.

Member states agreed on presidency conclusions on the follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.

The Commission made a presentation on its package of nuclear proposals, comprising directives on nuclear safety and waste management together with a proposal for an agreement between Euratom and Russia covering trade in nuclear materials. The Commission justified this largely on the grounds of EU enlargement and the need to reassure public opinion on safety and waste management. Although discussion had not been envisaged, several member states expressed doubts about the treaty base for the proposals, stressing the political sensitivity. One noted that the Euratom Treaty did not provide the Community with competence on nuclear safety, and challenged the proposals as unrealistic.

The Council noted Commission progress reports on the EU-Russia energy dialogue (with adoption of conclusions), the Energy Charter Treaty and the Northern Dimension.

Greece gave a presentation on its presidency priorities. It will concentrate on four main areas: security of energy sources (energy TENS and the EU's proposed oil and gas stocking directives); sustainable development (cogeneration directive and follow-up to Johannesburg); co-operation with third countries (EU-Russia, Energy Charter Treaty, Euro-Med and North Eastern Europe); and continuation of work on the nuclear package.

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