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26 Feb 2004 : Column 508Wcontinued
Mr. Sutcliffe: My Department has introduced various initiatives in recent years to promote new ways of working in industrial relations. The Employment Relations Bill, currently before Parliament, includes provisions to implement the information and Consultation Directive and an amendment to provide funding for the modernisation of trade unions.
Ms Hewitt: The recently published Innovation Report, "Competing in the Global Economy: The Innovation Challenge", sets out an action plan to drive up levels of innovation in UK-based businesses. We are also taking forward a range of actions, as part of the Government's Manufacturing Strategy, to promote innovation in manufacturing to help our companies compete effectively in the global marketplace on the basis of high-skills and high-value products. These actions include the highly successful Manufacturing Advisory Service we have established in every region; the extension of the R&D tax credit; and our work with the RDAs to help manufacturers exploit the UK's strong science, engineering and technology base. We will publish a progress report on the implementation of the Manufacturing Strategy in May 2004.
|Staff costs (£)||Car charges (£)||Car charges asa percentage of staff costs|
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Mr. Timms: Based on data published by the National Grid Company in its annual "Seven Year Statement" and quarterly updates, out-turn figures for the total installed generating capacity, the average cold spell peak demand and the corresponding plant margin in England and Wales since the winter of 199394 are shown in the following table.
|Winter||Total installed capacity (GW)||Average cold spell peak demand (GW)||Plant margin (Percentage)|
Mr. Timms: Department of Trade and Industry Ministers hold regular meetings with electricity companies, including generators, to discuss a wide range of issues affecting the electricity industry, including the supply of electricity.
Mr. Timms: Ofgem's principal objective under the Electricity Act 1989 (as amended) is to protect the interests of consumers and, in performing that duty, it has regard to, among others, individuals in rural areas. Ofgem also has duties to promote efficiency and economy on the part of the distribution network operator (DNO), and the operators themselves have duties under the Act to maintain an efficient and economical system. Ofgem are required to balance these duties and so improvement in rural stability as a consequence of network investment is balanced against the additional costs involved.
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I understand that Ofgem are currently in the process of reviewing the distribution price controls with new controls due to be introduced in April 2005. As part of this review, Ofgem will set the limit on the amount of revenue each distribution company can earn per year. As part of the review, Ofgem is assessing the efficient levels of operating and capital costs required for DNOs to meet their statutory obligations as well as to meet pre-determined targets, for example with respect to the number and duration of interruptions.
While Ofgem considers DNO forecasts of costs in assessing the required levels of revenue, it does not endorse or reject investment proposals on an individual basis. Instead, Ofgem provides a package of overall revenue allowances and network performance targets, relating in part to the number of customer interruptions and the duration of interruptions. Dependent upon performance against these targets, DNOs are either financially rewarded or penalised.
Ofgem are currently undertaking customer research to assess customers' willingness to pay for any improvements in standards, the findings of which are due to be published in May 2004. The research aims to gain a better understanding of the relative importance that customers place on quality of service issues and the customer's willingness to pay for any improvements.
I understand that this research will guide Ofgem's decisions on the Ievel of price control revenues and will be taken into account by Ofgem when setting network performance targets, including the amount of revenue exposed for over or under-performance.
Mr. Timms: Legal responsibility for energy security is shared by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Ofgem. My right hon. Friend is responsible for setting the overall regulatory framework for the supply of electricity. A key part of that framework is set out in section 3 A of the Electricity Act 1989 as amended by the Utilities Act 2000 and includes the objectives "to protect the interests of consumers". To this end the Secretary of State has made a statutory instrument (The Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002) requiring electricity distribution companies to prevent interruption of supply as far as is reasonably practical. These regulations are enforced by DTI Engineering Inspectors.
Electricity for domestic consumers is provided through their contracts with electricity supply companies which must meet standard licence conditions including the need "to secure that all reasonable demands in Great Britain for electricity are met".
The infrastructure and the flow of electricity between generators and consumers is the responsibility of National Grid and electricity distribution companies. They are both regulated by Ofgem and also have licence conditions and objectives. For example, National Grid has a licence condition to operate the electricity system in an economic, efficient and coordinated manner. The
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Secretary of State lays down the Standard Licence Conditions. Enforcement of the licence conditions is for Ofgem.
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the estimated number of customer minutes lost of electricity was in (a) Dumfries and Galloway, (b) Scotland and (c) the UK in 2003. 
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