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Written Ministerial StatementsThursday 8 January 2004


Duke of York's Royal Military School andQueen Victoria School

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): The Quinquennial review into the Duke of York's Royal Military School and Queen Victoria School has been discontinued before the production of a report in view of the constraints imposed by the royal warrants underpinning both foundations that effectively ruled out the review team's main recommendations, which involved removing the schools from Government control. The review did, however, identify a number of issues for further study. These will be taken forward by the Adjutant-General's headquarters in conjunction with the chief executive or head of each school. In the meantime, the two schools will remain as agencies of the Ministry of Defence.


L21A1 Baton Round

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): I have placed in the Library of the House a statement by the Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC) on the ricochet potential of the L21A1 baton round. This baton round is used as a less lethal option by the police and the Army.

The Ministry of Defence has carried out research on the post-ricochet trajectories and kinetic energy of baton rounds. The Sub-Committee, Defence Scientific Advisory Council has assessed the medical implications of the ricochets and has made a statement.

The DSAC statement concluded that the experimental studies and analysis undertaken were an acceptable technical approach to the prediction of the risks.

DSAC has recommended:

The Association of Chief Police Officers tell me that police firearms training addresses the ricochet potential of ammunition used by the police service. However, in order to ensure that this issue is specifically addressed, the results of these studies will be brought to the attention of persons responsible for firearms training in

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all forces throughout the United Kingdom. Current Army training on the use of baton rounds already addresses the issue of ricochet potential.


NATO Parliamentary Assembly

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) has replaced the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) as a member of the United Kingdom delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.


Small Business

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths): The Small Business Service (SBS) is today publishing a Government action plan for small business. It builds on existing Government support for small business, marshalling the whole of government behind the small business agenda. I am placing copies in the Libraries of both Houses.

In December 2002, the SBS published Small Business and Government—The Way Forward—a strategic framework for a Government-wide approach to helping small businesses based around seven core themes: building an enterprise culture; encouraging a more dynamic start-up market; building the capability for small business growth; improving access to finance for small businesses; encouraging more enterprise in disadvantaged communities and under-represented groups; improving small businesses' experience of Government services; and developing better regulation and policy. These themes were identified as key drivers for economic growth, improved productivity and enterprise for all.

Since then, partners at national, regional and local level have worked together using the strategic framework to develop a set of practical actions focused on improving policy and delivery as it affects small business.

Actions identified in the plan, include:

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Implementation of the Action Plan will require the involvement of a wide range of Government Departments and agencies and delivery partners. A web-based implementation programme is being made available at www.sbs.gov.uk setting out milestones and target dates for the implementation of the new actions. It will be updated on a regular basis to show the progress that is being made.

Gas Quality

The Minister for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services (Mr. Stephen Timms): My predecessor, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), launched a three-phase strategy on 5 June 2003 to look at the issue of gas quality, as the UK becomes increasingly import dependent. Phase one was a scoping study on whether there would be a gas quality problem, in particular but not exclusively in relation to the Wobbe number. ILEX Energy Ltd was appointed to take this work forward. This study is now complete and an edited version of this report, without commercially sensitive information, is available on the DTI/Energy Website [www.dti.gov.uk/energy shtml/domesticmarkets/gas market/index]

ILEX approached this study by carrying out a supply-demand analysis and identifying the main sources of gas required to meet the forecast demand. An assessment was then made of the likely quality of the various sources of imported gas and the implications of those gas supplies for Great Britain's entry terminals. ILEX had a number of meetings with future and potential future suppliers to gather quantitative data on the likely quality of gas from new import sources. These data, much of which are commercially sensitive, will be used by DTI, HSE and Ofgem to inform this exercise.

During Phase 1 the DTI, HSE and Ofgem held a workshop to engage industry at the early stages of this exercise. The workshop was successful in providing a forum for industry to discuss gas quality issues.

ILEX's work confirms that the future Wobbe 1 specification of much gas imported into the UK before processing, is likely to fall outside the current upper Wobbe limit in the Gas Safety Management Regulations (GSMR). The UK's increasing dependence on imported gas does therefore raise the question whether the current upper Wobbe limit should be increased.

In the light of this result I have asked my officials to proceed with phase 2. Phase 2 will be a tripartite (DTI, HSE, Ofgem) consultation on the appropriate policy response. As my predecessor said, our broad policy options appear to be: the default option, to retain the current Wobbe limit (this would avoid the need to remove household appliances, but it would have the 1 The Wobbe Number represents a measure of the heat release when a gas is burned at constant gas supply pressure. The Wobbe limit range in The Gas Safety Management Regulations is between 47.20 MJ/cubic metre and 51.41 MJ/cubic metre.

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disadvantage of limiting UK access to the global gas market); or to change the current Wobbe limit (this would require the identification and removal of non-compliant gas appliances, but with an advantage in terms of facilitating gas imports).

My officials, together with HSE and Ofgem, will be working over the next months to prepare the ground for a consultation exercise on the policy option. My officials are also in discussion with the European Commission and representatives of the gas industry in the EU, about the work being carried out at the EU level on gas quality and the interaction with the present exercise.

I shall make a further statement to the House in due course to announce the forthcoming public consultation document. My Department would propose to hold a further workshop at that time.

This exercise has been developed by the DTI as a member of the Sustainable Energy Policy Network (SEPN), which is working to deliver the Energy White Paper "Our Energy Future—creating a low carbon economy".

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