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26 Feb 2004 : Column 514W—continued

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many days on average her Department took in Session 2002–03 to give a substantive answer to a parliamentary question for ordinary written answer; and what the greatest number of days taken to answer such a question was. [155928]

Ms Hewitt: According to the Department's PQ database, the Department answered 2,867 Ordinary Written Questions in the session 2002–03. Of these, 2,293 (80 per cent.) were answered within five sitting days. 172 (6 per cent.) took longer than 10 days to receive a reply.

Post Office

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) urban and (b) rural post offices have closed in East Devon since 1997. [155298]

Mr. Timms: Decisions on post office closures are an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. and I have asked the Chief Executive to reply direct to the hon. Member.

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Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many consultations on post office branch closures have been carried out in the 12 months to 31 January; and how many such consultations have resulted in a branch remaining open. [155883]

Mr. Timms: Decisions on post office closure proposals following public consultation are an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. and I have asked the Chief Executive to reply direct to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the closure programme for post offices in urban areas. [156268]

Mr. Timms: Post Office Ltd. reports on the urban reinvention programme on a quarterly basis. As at the end of December 2003:




Post Office Ltd. had approved 388 applications for investment grants to modernise remaining post offices.

On 5 February, I announced a number of changes, agreed between Post Office Ltd. and Postwatch, to the public consultation arrangements to ensure confidence in them and, by maximising the quality of judgment and transparency, to produce a fair result for customers and the company.

Post Office Card Accounts

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress of arrangements for opening post office card accounts. [156011]

Mr. Timms: The post office card account is proving popular with customers. So far, over 2 million people have chosen the card account.

State Aid Applications

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many state aid applications were received in each of the last five years, broken down by region; how many were allowed in each case; and how many are awaiting decisions. [147859]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The following table sets out the best available information on the number of UK notifications made to, and approved by, the European Commission over the past five years excluding agriculture, fishery and transport cases. It would not be possible to break the figures down to regions within England except at disproportionate cost. Where a notification is not clearly regionally specific it is recorded as UK-wide. In addition there were 10, 58 and 61 cases in the years 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively deemed approved under the Block Exemption Regulations and Multisectoral Framework 2002.

19992000200120022003
Notified2026254035
Pending21224
Withdrawn or negative11
Approvedof which:1924243711
UK101111329
England4942
Scotland231
Wales311
Northern Ireland22611

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Taxis/Private Hire Vehicles

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to initiate further consultation on the Office of Fair Trading report on "The Regulation of Licensed Taxi and PHV Services in the UK"; when she intends to make her final response to the report; and if she will make a statement. [153334]

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 23 February 2004]: Both Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Transport have received responses relating to the OFT report. These will be taken into account when the Government respond. When the OFT published their report on 11 November we agreed to respond within 120 days.

Wind Farms

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to facilitate the (a) decommissioning, (b) upkeep and (c) removal of (i) turbines and (ii) transmission facilities from wind farms; and if she will make a statement. [155478]

Mr. Timms: The decommissioning, upkeep and removal of turbines and transmission facilities from wind farms and the restoration of the land are matters for the developer and the relevant planning authorities with appropriate arrangements for these activities being agreed at the planning stage.

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on Government financial support to firms looking to establish wind farms. [155479]

Mr. Timms: The Government's main instrument for supporting the establishment of wind farms is the Renewables Obligation. The Obligation is a market based support mechanism that requires licensed electricity suppliers to provide a specified proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. This provides an assured market for renewable electricity and that it attracts a premium.

To date, the Government have committed £117 million in grant support to early offshore wind farm development. No direct grant support is provided for onshore wind farm development except for some small household or community installations under the Clear Skies scheme.

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive on planning policies for wind farms. [155480]

Mr. Timms: Planning policy in Scotland is a matter devolved to the Scottish Executive and therefore no such discussions have taken place.

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Working Time Directive

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the number of working hours that would be lost per year by (a) all employees, (b) male employees and (c) female employees if legislation were passed to prevent them from working longer than an average 48 hours per week. [153917]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Employers are likely to respond in a variety of ways if legislation were passed to prevent employees from working longer than 48 hours on average. This makes any estimate of the total number of hours worked per year that could be lost difficult.

However, what can be estimated is the total number of hours per year that employees usually work over an average of 48 hours per week. For all employees it is estimated at around 990 million hours per year above 48 hours were worked as of spring 2003. This is equivalent to around 2¼ per cent. of total hours usually worked by all employees. For male employees it is around 820 million hours per year and for female employees around 170 million hours per year.

Wylfa Magnox Reactor

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what information she has received on progress made by BNFL to resolve problems with the superheater penetration welds in the Wylfa Magnox reactor. [144507]

Mr. Timms: I understand from the company that the issue dates back to 2000 and is now resolved with the plant fully operational.

Wylfa power station was shut down in mid April 2000 when a routine inspection of 64 welds in the boiler system revealed flaws in a number of welds. The welds hold 'superheater headers' (64 pipes that carry steam, which is not radioactive, from the station's boilers to its turbines to make electricity) in position. The integrity of the pipes themselves was never in question. A major project to fit restraints to steam pipes at Wylfa was completed at the start of July 2001.

CABINET OFFICE

Special Advisers

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office pursuant to his answer of 26 January 2004, Official Report, column 73W, on special advisers, what the cost of the Knowledge Network was in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [156249]

Mr. Alexander: In the financial year 2002–03 the Knowledge Network cost £1.5 million in current expenditure and £1.7 million capital. (These figures do not include capital charges or Cabinet Office overheads such as accommodation).

The costs represent the provision of ongoing infrastructure support and the development of web solutions and new systems to facilitate cross-government working.

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