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7 Jan 2003 : Column 157W—continued

TUPE Regulations

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will respond to the consultation on the reform of TUPE Regulations, with particular reference to the treatment of occupational pension rights; and if she will make a statement. [88046]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 19 December 2002]: The Green Paper XPensions and the Workplace", published on 17 December 2002, reaffirms that the Government remain committed to the long-standing policy of protection for employees' occupational pension rights on a Xbroadly comparable" basis for public sector transfers, both on first transfer of a service to the private sector and on any subsequent transfers within the private sector. It also seeks further views on the question of providing a degree of explicit legal protection for occupational pension rights on transfer, including in the private sector, in the light of the wide range of views expressed in response to the options put forward in our initial consultation at the end of 2001.

As regards the other aspects of our proposed TUPE reform, we aim to carry out a further round of public consultation in 2003 on draft revised regulations.

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Undersea Cables

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the likely cost of undersea cables to take power from northern Scotland to southern England, down the west and east coasts; and if she will make a statement. [88663]

Mr. Wilson: The Department commissioned a high level feasibility study into the possibility of building a subsea cable to transfer electricity generated in Scotland down the west coast to markets in the south. The report, which was published in February and is available on the DTI website:, includes capital costings for different systems and costs will be dependent of course on the length of the cable and its capacity. For illustrative purposes, the report concludes that the capital costs of an HVDC link capable of transferring 2000 MW of electricity would range from #790 million for a 200 km cable to #1,700 million for a 700 km cable.

The report is a useful contribution to the important debate on the best way of transmitting renewable energy generated in Scotland to centres of demand in the south.

Wind Power

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on how the Government plans to reach its aim of 6 per cent. of Britain's electricity to be provided by wind power by 2010. [88066]

Mr. Wilson: The Government's target for renewable energy is that, by 2010, 10 per cent. of electricity should be supplied from sources eligible for the renewables obligation. While we expect wind to make a substantial contribution to this target, no specific targets have been set in relation to its contribution to the overall 10 per cent. target.


Bank Clearance System

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when power will be granted to the Office of Fair Trading to allow it to regulate the bank clearance system; and if he will make a statement. [88661]

Ruth Kelly: The Government is closely monitoring developments in payment systems and will introduce legislation to give the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) new powers to promote effective competition in payment systems as soon as parliamentary time allows. Progress has already been made through, for example, the removal of charges for most cash withdrawals from automated teller machines (XATMs") and reforms to the governance structures of the main UK payment systems. The Government welcome these moves by payment system participants to address the competition issues identified by the Cruickshank report and urges the industry to continue with these reforms.

To promote its understanding of how payment systems operate, and to help pave the way for its prospective powers, the OFT announced on 27 November that it will conduct an empirical study into recent payment system developments, starting early in 2003.

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Productivity Performance Figures

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the productivity performance figures were in each year since 1992 for (a) output per worker and (b) output per hour. [88856]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from K. Dunnell to Dr. Vincent Cable, dated 7 January 2003:

Central Government Accounts

Norman Lamb: To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on progress towards publication of the first consolidated Central Government accounts for 2003–04. [89271]

John Healey: The Government is working towards publication of the first consolidated Central Government accounts for 2003–04 by producing dry run accounts for 2001–02 and 2002–03. Data in respect of 2001–02 is currently being submitted to the Treasury by departments.

Climate Change Levy

Sue Doughty: To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer what the anticipated receipts are during the current fiscal year from those companies subject to negotiated agreements under climate change levy. [88539]

John Healey: No estimate is available of levy receipts the Exchequer anticipates to receive during 2002–03 from those companies covered by negotiated climate change agreements.

Debt Relief

Tony Worthington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his policy is on further debt relief additional to that currently available. [87572]

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John Healey: The UK Government have been at the forefront of the international debate on debt relief issues, and continues to press for the rapid and full implementation of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Under the terms of the HIPC initiative bilateral creditors typically provide 90 per cent. debt relief. However, many creditors, including the UK, go further and provide 100 per cent. debt relief to qualifying countries.

In the provision of interim debt relief at Decision Point to reach a debt-to-exports ratio of 150 per cent. this additional bilateral voluntary debt relief is excluded. Subsequently at Completion Point if this debt ratio is greater than 150 per cent., perhaps due to new borrowing or weaker export prices, the initiative provides the option for further debt relief or 'topping-up'. Moreover, the UK has argued that we should be prepared to be proactive and flexible in providing this additional debt relief at Completion Point.

But at present this additional bilateral voluntary debt relief is included in the calculation of any 'topping-up' needed, and the net effect is that this additional relief benefits other creditors and not the HI PC. The UK believes that this additional relief should be excluded from the calculation of topping-up at Completion Point, and this would delineate more clearly the burden sharing between all creditors, both bilateral and multilateral, in the HIPC initiative.

This policy would ensure that this voluntary debt relief over and above HIPC terms would be truly additional. Moreover, it would provide an additional degree of support to vulnerable HIPCs facing the challenges of a global economic slowdown and weaker commodity prices.

However, even the provision of 100 per cent. debt relief to all low-income countries would still far short of the resources needed to fund the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is our ultimate objective to make a lasting difference in the lives of the world's poorest people by achieving the MDGs, but debt relief is only part of the solution: the real issue is one of total resources. That is why the Chancellor has proposed an International Financing Facility to leverage significant additional resources from developed countries, to help achieve the 2015 MDGs. Increasing our support from $50billion currently to the $100 billion a year needed to meet the MDGs would transform the ability of countries to increase their investment in critical poverty reducing programmes. The UK Government will shortly be publishing a detailed proposal on the International Financing Facility.

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