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European Union (Economic Effect)

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many jobs in (a) Yorkshire and the Humber and (b) York she estimates are dependent on exports to or investment from other EU states. [192429]

Mr. Alexander: Information is not held in the form requested. However, international trade in goods accounts for 20 per cent. of the Yorkshire and Humber region's GDP, representing £9.1 billion per annum.

There are approximately 164,000 businesses in the Yorkshire and Humber region, of which 8,000–10,000 are estimated to export goods and services.
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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the wholesale price of gas was in each month during the last two years. [196026]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The majority of gas is traded under individual commercially confidential contracts. However, National Grid Transco (NGT) publishes System Average Price data, which is the price set by all NGT and shipper trades on the wholesale gas on-the-day commodity market (OCM) on a given day. Monthly averages for the last two years are recorded in the table. Individual contracts may reflect factors other than this spot price.
Monthly average of System Average Price (SAP) from November 2002 to October 2004


Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what procedures are used to assess the risk of terrorist attack to the (a) Bacton to Zeebrugge and (b) St Fergus to Frigg gas interconnectors. [195067]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The assessment of the threat posed by terrorists to the UK is kept under constant review by her Majesty's Government. The review applies to the whole of the critical national infrastructure. The security of gas interconnectors and other pipelines is a key part of that work. It would not be appropriate for me to comment in further detail.

Internet Access

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of changes in UK productivity as a result of increased (a) dial-up and (b) broadband internet access. [197600]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The economic impact of increased internet access is difficult to separate from the impact of adoption of the full range of information and communication technologies (ICT). Indeed, there is a consensus both that the use of ICT has been and will continue to be a major contributor to productivity growth, and that its full value is realised by using a mix of the technologies to transform the way that organisations perform their business.

An assessment of the increase in business productivity associated with increased use of a range of ICTs was published in DTI Economics Paper No. 8: "Raising UK productivity—developing the evidence base for policy". This found that in 1995–2000 the growth in labour
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productivity in ICT-using industries was 3.72 per cent. p.a. compared with 0.20 per cent. p.a. for non-ICT industries. This study also showed that, based on results of DTI s "International Benchmarking Study: Business in the Information Age" and controlling for other variables, the average sales per employee was significantly and positively related to the intensity of use of connectivity technologies (including internet access).

The most recent International Benchmarking Study (2004) found that businesses that have upgraded their internet connection over the last two years reported a range of benefits. These included time savings through faster connection (79 per cent.), improved real time communication (17 per cent.), ability to use more applications (9 per cent.) and increased reliability (9 per cent.).

These results are consistent with a range of research and surveys conducted by other organisations over the past few years. For example, the recent survey by the Institute of Directors ("Broadband: its impact on British Business") found that 84.3 per cent. of respondents who used broadband saw a quantifiable increase in productivity and about two thirds felt able to predict an increase in profit.

Job Creation (Lancashire)

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many jobs have been created by the (a) Heysham Business Park, (b) Mellishaw North and (c) Luneside West developments; how many jobs have been created by each development to be taken up by residents of communities in need; and what the estimated cost per job created by each development is. [192936]

Jacqui Smith: Heysham Business Park, Mellishaw North and Luneside West are sites with development potential located within the Lancaster and Morecambe economic development zone. Lancaster city council has encouraged the private sector site owners of each site to come forward with the appropriate development proposals that will lead to job creation. To date no suitable proposals have emerged and consequently there has been no recent job creation on these sites.

The NWDA have maintained a regular dialogue with the site owners regarding the development of the sites. These discussions will continue, but much will hinge on the support of the private sector owners.

Until such time as a development proposal crystallizes and the public sector contribution (if any) is identified and compared to the anticipated job creation for that proposal it is not possible to estimate costs per job.

All sites identified are privately owned. With regards to Heysham Business Park, the NWDA, contacted the site owners about selling the site but this was not feasible. The owners of Luneside West are currently seeking to develop a planning application for housing which is not support by the NWDA. The owners of Mellingshaw North have expressed a wish to develop the site for alternate uses.
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The NWDA will continue to discuss the development of these sites with the owners. However the final decision will firmly lie with private sector owners.

Loan Debts

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment the Government has made of the judgment at Liverpool county court in the case of Meadows v. London North Securities; and if she will make a statement. [195771]

Mr. Sutcliffe: As the hon. Member is aware I am unable to intervene in individual cases such as this, which must be resolved by agreement between the parties or by recourse to the courts.

We have been paying close attention to this case and I have written to John Vickers, Chair of the Office of Fair Trading, alerting him to the complaints made to me about this lender by a number of hon. Members.

In order to ensure that in the future consumers are not faced with this situation we will be introducing the Consumer Credit Bill, once Parliamentary time permits. The Bill would widen consumer protections by replacing the current extortionate credit test with one of unfairness and introducing a compulsory Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department has taken since 1997 to restrict unscrupulous lending. [195773]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Under Section 21 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a license is required to conduct consumer credit business or consumer hire business. To get a licence, applicants must satisfy the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that they are fit persons to carry on licensed activities. If a licensee does not continue to act in a fit manner, OFT can revoke the licence.

A 2001 Labour manifesto commitment to 'toughen the laws on rogue traders, unfair terms in contracts, and loan sharks', prompted the Department of Trade and Industry to launch a full scale review of the Consumer Credit Act.

Following an extensive period of consultation with stakeholders—business, consumer groups and enforcement agencies, the Government produced a White Paper outlining proposals for reform.

I laid four Statutory Instruments in June 2003, aimed at increasing transparency in the credit sector, enabling empowered consumers to make informed lending decisions.

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