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27 Oct 2003 : Column 9W—continued

Company Accounts

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will amend the requirement for companies to submit provisional accounts to the National Statistical Office before those accounts have been audited; and if she will make a statement on the purpose of this requirement. [134237]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

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

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Nigel Jones, dated 27 October 2003:

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Employers' Liability Insurance

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research her Department has conducted into the proportion of the cost of employers' liability compulsory insurance that is taken up by (a) paying the claimant, (b) covering legal costs and (c) covering administration costs; and what steps she is taking to reduce the proportion taken up in (i) legal and (ii) administrative costs. [133413]

Malcolm Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

In the first stage of the review of Employers' Liability Compulsory Insurance the Government, in assessing the scope and nature of the current EL difficulties, examined EL insurance results.

Figures from Datamonitor's analysis of data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showed that, during 2001, claims incurred were 111 per cent. of net written premiums (gross written premiums less outward re-insurance premiums). Management expenses and commission accounted for a further 28 per cent. of net written premiums.

The Department does not have figures within the above analysis telling us precisely the proportion of claims incurred that was made up of legal costs. However evidence from one major EL insurer submitted during the first stage of the review suggested that legal costs represented on average 36 per cent. of the total claims cost for EL.

The Department is working closely with stakeholders to reduce the costs of resolving claims and will report further on this in the autumn.

EU Constitution

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes the Government is seeking in Article III—157 of the draft EU Constitution concerning energy policy. [134315]

Mr. Timms: Article III—157 introduces a new Treaty legal base for EU action on issues relating to energy. There is already Union activity in this area and we believe that creating a specific provision should lead to greater transparency. The Government are considering their position on this article in the context of the Intergovernmental Conference. Any changes to the provisions of the existing EU Treaties, including those proposed in Article III—157 of the draft Treaty, require the unanimous agreement of all member states.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what power the EU will have under Article III—157 of the EU Constitution to regulate UK oilfields by majority vote. [134316]

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Mr. Timms: Article III—157 of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty would give the EU competence in energy matters related to the establishing of the internal market, including natural resources, with voting by qualified majority. Article III-130(2)(c) provides for unanimity on

Gas Supply

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with other governments, with particular reference to those of (a) Russia and (b) Algeria, on the supply of gas to the UK; and if she will make a statement. [134327]

Mr. Timms: One of the goals of the Energy White Paper, published in February this year, is that people and businesses can rely on secure supplies of energy at predictable prices delivered through the market. Part of this is about promoting diverse energy sources, suppliers and supply routes.

We are currently working with industry to maximise the economic potential of our North Sea supplies. But it is still likely that the UK will become a net importer of gas on an annual basis by around 2006.

Against this background, we are making good progress on a Treaty with Norway to underpin future cross-boundary oil and gas developments. I recently agreed the key principles of the Treaty with my counterpart in Norway. This will facilitate direct delivery of around 20 per cent. of UK gas demand from 2006.

Looking more widely, we are continuing our discussions with Russia. We jointly hosted a major conference "Russia/UK Energy: Long Term Partners", during President Putin's State Visit in June, when my Russian counterpart and I signed a Memorandum of Co-operation on the North European Gas Pipeline. This pipeline will encourage suppliers from diverse sources into the EU including the UK. It involves no direct link to the UK, but we hope that some of this gas will come into the UK in the future.

My predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), visited Algeria on a Trade Mission in February and my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Investment, visited in May 2003. Discussions with Algeria also take place through the European Mediterranean Partnership. Seniors officials will attend a Euro Med ministerial in December to discuss energy infrastructure and co-ordinate policies on security of energy supply.

There have also been discussions about a Treaty Framework between the UK Government and Dutch Government for the proposed new interconnector from the Netherlands to the UK. It is expected that this interconnector will import 8 bcm of gas by 2005–06.

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Inkjet Cartridges

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what discussions she has had with EU Trade and Industry Ministers about including printer inkjet cartridges in the implementation of the EU Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment; [134212]

Mr. Timms: The Department has made no specific assessment of the contribution of refilling inkjet cartridges towards environmental objectives. However, the potential environmental benefits of printer cartridge refilling, as well as the contribution of the independent refill sector towards customer choice, are recognised and welcomed by Government.

The Department has recently received a large number of letters from independent printer cartridge refillers, including many from franchisees of Cartridge World. The independent cartridge refillers have raised concerns that recent innovations by equipment manufacturers in printer cartridge technology may hinder or prevent refilling by independent operators. They have pressed for the Government specifically to include printer cartridges as electrical and electronic products in the implementation of the EU Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (the WEEE Directive) and to implement the Directive's "eco-design" provisions to restrict these developments in cartridge technology.

This DTI has not received representations from environmental organisations on these matters.

The Government are currently planning UK implementation of the WEEE Directive, with the aim of publishing implementation proposals later this autumn for consultation. The Directive applies to whole electrical and electronic products, not to individual components, sub-assemblies or consumables. Printer cartridges fall into this latter category.

The Department sees a harmonised approach to the scope of the Directive as desirable. Officials from this Department with responsibility for implementation planning for the WEEE Directive regularly meet their opposite numbers from other EU member states and the European Commission and have discussed the status of printer cartridges under the Directive. A majority of member states and the Commission have said they share the UK's interpretation. DTI Ministers have not discussed this issue directly with EU counterparts.

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