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8 Nov 2004 : Column 459W—continued

EU Presidency (Greece)

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many times during the Greek presidency of the EU (a) the Committee on implementation of the multiannual programme for enterprise and entrepreneurship, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises and (b) the Committee on the specific programme for research, technological development and demonstration on promotion of innovation and participation of small and medium-sized enterprises met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (i) technical and (ii) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations each committee produced during that period; what actions were (A) proposed and (B) taken by (1) the EU and (2) the UK Government as a result of each committee's recommendations; and if she will make a statement. [194352]

Nigel Griffiths: The Enterprise Programme Management Committee met once during the Greek presidency, at the European Commission in Brussels on 13 March 2003. Two members of the Small Business Service represented the UK. Article 14 of the Rules of Procedure states that the committee's discussions shall be kept confidential.

The Horizontal Configuration of the Programme Committee of the FP6 Specific Programme, "Integrating and Strengthening the European Research Area", which considers SME issues, met twice during the Greek presidency, at the Commission on 4 March and 21 May. A DTI official from the Office of Science and Technology represented the UK. Article 14 of the Rules of Procedure states that the committee's discussions shall be kept confidential.


Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of prospective changes to the wholesale price of gas in the UK in the course of (a) 2005 and (b) 2006. [196025]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: UK wholesale prices are linked indirectly to movements in oil prices. Markets in continental Europe are not fully competitive and gas prices are contractually linked to oil prices. The UK therefore imports the gas-oil link through the Bacton-Zeebrugge Interconnector. Expectations are that, in the short run, oil prices will remain relatively high.
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Wholesale prices are also in part driven by uncertainty about potential tightness of supply as the UK makes the transition to becoming a net gas importer. There is, however, strong evidence that there are a number of infrastructure projects due to come on stream that will increase gas supply. These include the doubling of the import capacity of the Interconnector and three major LNG import terminals. The DTI and Ofgem Joint Energy Security of Supply Group monitors the situation and provides information to ensure the market is aware of developments.

Nuclear Decommissioning

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what proportion of the revenues accrued to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in its first operational year are earmarked to come from income generated from (a) Thorp and (b) the Sellafield Mox Plant; [196421]

(2) pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mr. Hancock) of 14 September 2004, Official Report, columns 1536–37W, on Mox Plant (Sellafield), for what reasons the details of (a) the Sellafield Mox Plant annual revenues and (b) SMP profits are classified as commercially confidential. [196459]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Details of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) and the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP) annual revenues and profits are classified as commercially confidential, as they relate to future income which if divulged could lead to improper gain or advantage by BNFL's competitors and customers.

The Government recognise that, while THORP and SMP are operational, there will be interest in how the plants perform. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA) annual report and accounts will therefore include information, consistent with the requirements of commercial confidentiality, on the financial and operational performances.

Post Office Closures

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what steps she will take to provide alternative services following the closure of Crown post offices in city centres; [195932]

(2) if she will make a statement on the closure of Crown post offices by Royal Mail. [195933]

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 4 November 2004]: Decisions on individual closures and conversions are operational and commercial matters for Post Office Ltd. The company has no plans for the large scale closure of directly managed post offices and anticipates that fewer than five directly managed branches will close in 2005–06. Post Office Ltd.'s policy is to maintain a core network of directly managed post offices while continuing to drive efficiencies, with the aim of making the business commercially viable. This strategy includes the conversion of some individual directly managed offices to franchise or agency status where suitable opportunities arise.
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Renewable Energy

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to allocate further funding to support the development of renewable energy. [195935]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 4 November 2004]: The Government have announced that they have allocated in total over £500 million in support for research and development and demonstration projects for longer term renewables and low carbon energy generation technologies, over the period from 2002 to 2008.

This includes the additional funding announced in the 2004 Spending Review during the summer. We are currently considering how this additional funding will be allocated between the different renewables technologies.

In addition, the Renewables Obligation, taken together with the exemption from the climate change levy for renewable electricity, is estimated to provide support for renewables of around £l billion a year by 2010.



Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many reports were completed by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) in the last financial year; and in how many cases contact between children and the father was absent at the commencement of proceedings and then re-established following the intervention of CAFCASS staff. [194222]

Margaret Hodge: CAFCASS completed 33,803 reports in the last financial year. CAFCASS does not record the number of cases where contact between children and their father was absent. However, a one-off survey of 300 families (carried out by the National Association of Probation Officers in the summer of 2002) reported that prior to commencement of CAFCASS involvement, there was no contact with the non-resident parent in 42 per cent. of cases; following the completion of CAFCASS work, only 6 per cent. of non-resident parents remained without contact. The information in the survey was non gender specific.

A survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) asked a sample of resident and a sample of non-resident parents about the contact arrangements with their children following relationship breakdown. Results for the non-resident parent sample showed that 78 per cent. of children whose parents had made informal contact arrangements had direct (face-to-face) contact with their non-resident fathers at least once a month. The resident parents sample reported that 61 per cent. of children had direct contact at least once a month.


Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what support is available for
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people who take responsibility for grandchildren who would otherwise be in care; and if he will increase this support. [195609]

Margaret Hodge: Anyone caring for a child under 16 is entitled to claim child benefit and to apply for child tax credits (CTC) subject to the usual eligibility criteria. Where a child is orphaned or one parent has died and the other is missing, the carer may also be entitled to claim guardian's allowance.

Local authorities are also empowered to assist with the care of children and young people under the Children Act 1989. Where the local authority determines that a child is "in need" the authority may then provide services to meet those needs, or, in exceptional cases, provide financial assistance, under Section 17. Some local authorities also support families who have a Residence Order in respect of the child that they are looking after. This type of allowance is generally a contribution towards the cost of accommodating and maintaining them. In both cases the services and payments are provided once an assessment of need has been carried out and are at the discretion of the local authority.

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