|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
7 Jan 2004 : Column 377Wcontinued
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will ask the Competition Commission to investigate the share of Sun Chemicals, and its subsidiaries, in the printing ink industry within the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make it her policy to ensure that, in relation to any takeover of a major national newspaper or media group, the procedures adopted by the regulatory authorities are transparent and impartial and that there is no ministerial involvement. [R] 
Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 5 January 2004]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry published a consultation document on 15 December 2003 seeking views on draft guidance which she proposes to issue on the consideration of media public interest cases under the Enterprise Act 2002 (as amended by the Communications Act 2003). The new regime is substantially deregulatory compared to the old, with a small number of narrowly defined public interest considerations approved by Parliament.
7 Jan 2004 : Column 378W
In relation to the newspaper public interest considerations (accurate presentation of news, free expression of opinion and plurality of views), new legislation recognises that, for newspapers, there have historically been a small number of cases that have raised public interest issues beyond those that would have been considered as part of a competition assessment. It therefore allows the Secretary of State to intervene in certain newspaper mergers on these public interest grounds. The draft guidance sets out some indications of the general approach she expects to adopt in deciding whether or not to intervene in a particular newspaper case. However each case will be decided on its own facts.
In relation to the scope of the broadcasting and cross-media public interest considerations, whilst in principle the Secretary of State .may intervene on these public interest grounds in any media merger case where these considerations are relevant, the draft guidance notes that as a matter of policy she expects thatintervention on these public interest grounds will normally only be considered in those areas where media ownership rules have been removed by the Communications Act.
7 Jan 2004 : Column 379W
Mr. Timms: Within the five year period from the beginning of 1999 to the end of 2003, 233 UK patents were granted which relate to life forms in general. This includes 47 patents relating to higher life forms, such as plants or animals, of which 13 specifically relate to animals.
The programme relates only to post office branches that are defined by Post Office Ltd. as 'urban'. I understand that the company classifies as urban any post office within a community of more than 10,000 inhabitants. The Post Office has carried out detailed planning to establish which of its branches should be classified as either rural or urban and has developed a geographical mapping computer model, which measures population in terms of contiguous or very close agglomeration. Thus where a number of villages or small communities adjoin each other or adjoin a larger town, and the aggregate population of the area exceeds 10,000, the model reflects that fact and classifies it as urban.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what data source she has recommended that the Post Office use to determine whether a community has more than 10,000 inhabitants. 
Mr. Timms: The decision to classify a post office branch as urban or rural is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. I understand that the company uses a sophisticated geographical mapping model called the
7 Jan 2004 : Column 380W
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effect that the Government stance on the Posted Workers Directive is having on (a) the job prospects for British workers in the United Kingdom and (b) the wage levels of migrant workers in the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: The UK fully implemented the Posting of Workers Directive in 1999, providing all workers temporarily posted to the UK from another state with certain minimum conditions of employment as laid down by law. We have no reason to believe that its implementation has adversely affected the job prospects of British workers in the UK. Unemployment in the UK fell from 5.9 per cent. in the three months ending October 1999 to 5.0 per cent. in the three months ending October 2003 (ILO Unemployment Figure, Labour Force Survey, ONS).
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government is taking to encourage shareholders to vote at the Annual General meetings of FTSE All-Share companies. 
We fully support the continuing work of the Shareholder Voting Working Group, which has recently embarked upon a new project to identify, and propose practical solutions to, the impediments to casting proxy votes successfully at company meetings. The objective is for there to be a noticeable improvement in time for the 2004 AGM voting season.
The Government has already enabled shareholders, through the Companies Act 1985 (Electronic Communications) Order 2000 implemented in December 2000, to use electronic communications to appoint a proxy. This enables shareholders to issue voting instructions electronically. As stated in our White Paper in July 2002, we also propose to introduce legislative measures to improve the rights of proxies. This will enable investors and others holding shares through intermediaries to ensure more easily that the voting rights in a company are exercised.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the Government's target is for average voting levels by shareholders in Annual General meetings for companies in the FTSE All-Share index; and what the average voting levels were in each of the last five years. 
7 Jan 2004 : Column 381W
Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government regards voting at company meetings as an integral part of shareholder engagement with the companies in which they invest. The Government believes that it is the responsibility of all those involved in the voting process to ensure that it works effectively, in order that shareholders have confidence that their voting intentions are registered at company meetings.
The Government does not collect data on shareholder voting levels centrally. Such information is available from a variety of sources, and shows that shareholder voting has increased gradually over the past five years, and now stands at around 53 per cent.
Mr. Robert Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many of the portfolio companies receiving Regional Venture Capital Funds have been Small Business Service SMART award winners. 
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) individuals and (b) registered companies have applied for grants under the Clear Skies Initiative as a result of including solar power in their home design. 
(b) For community/not-for-profit organisations, 90 applications have been received and 67 projects have been offered grants totalling £955,766.02 for the installation of solar hot water heating systems.
Mr. Timms: The DTI does not keep a record of all solar installations but according to figures from the Building Research Establishment there are approximately 60,000 solar thermal systems installed in the UK.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much money has been spent under the Clear Skies Initiative on grants to homebuilders that include solar power in their home design. 
7 Jan 2004 : Column 382W
Mr. Timms: The DTI is supporting the demonstration of photovoltaics (PV) in housing and large public buildings through the Domestic Field Trial (DFT) and Large Scale Field Trial (LSFT). A combined budget of £10 million is supporting the installation and monitoring of PV systems in around 500 houses (30 projects) and 1215 large-scale public buildings. The Field Trials aim to raise awareness of PV technology, create confidence in its applications, and provide opportunities for the UK photovoltaics industry.
The Government is committed to a major initiative with industry and others to achieve a UK solar PV demonstration programme in line with our main competitors. The current programme, which started in April 2002 and is worth £20 million over three years, is the first stage of this process. At the halfway stage, over half the funding has been allocated.
The DTI is also putting effort into removing a number of barriers to the deployment of very small generators, such as PV. These include reduction of VAT to 5 per cent. for professionally installed systems, a new PV Annex to Planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG22), simplified connection agreements to the local network (G77 and G83/1) and Installer Training and Accreditation Schemes. In addition, the Government plans to amend the Renewables Obligation to enable very small generators like PV to accumulate their production over a year, rather than a month, so as to qualify for ROCs.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|