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Mr. Mike O'Brien: While the Government supports the two broad perspective of the proposed Directive on Batteries and Accumulatorsto contribute to a high level of environmental protection and to contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market, the detail is still being discussed. These seek to reduce the quantity of hazardous and non-hazardous waste batteries going to landfill and would increase recovery of their materials. At the same time, the Government wants an effective and workable Directive whose costs are proportionate to its environmental benefits.
Mr. Sutcliffe: We have carried out various pieces of work with the free debt advice sector to assess the need for money advice and debt counselling services. This includes work to evaluate the National Debtline and work to identify the potential shortfall in supply versus demand for free debt advice services for the telephone gateway project.
We continue to work closely with the Department for Constitutional Affairs to examine the effects of debt advice and methods of delivery. The Department for Constitutional Affairs has recently commissioned the Legal Services Research Centre to carry out research into the impact of debt advice. This work is expected to report back towards the end of 2005.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) fuel-poor and (b) vulnerable fuel-poor households there were in (i) the UK, (ii) each region and (iii) each constituency in each year since 1997. 
Figures for 1997, 1999 and 2000 are not available. In addition, as fuel poverty is a devolved issue, figures have been collected on a country-by-country basis, with varying definitions and time frames covered.
Data for England will, in future, be sourced from this new rolling English House Condition Survey (conducted by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister), and will be published annually. The first set of annual data, that for 2003, will be published in 2005 in the 3rd UK Fuel Poverty Strategy Annual Report.
Data is available for Scotland based on the 2002 Scottish House Condition Survey, conducted by Communities Scotland. The first set of regular annual data for Scotland will be released in 2007, and will relate to 2006 figures.
The Welsh Assembly's current estimates of fuel poverty are based on eligibility for the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme. Initial results of the new Welsh Household and Dwelling Survey are likely to be available in 2005, and thereafter annually.
|Government office region||Number of households in fuel poverty|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||238,000|
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with (a) other countries and (b) UK companies on the prospects for importing gas from abroad; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien:
Further to the answer given by the then Minister for Energy, the hon. Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms), gave to the hon. Member's question on 13 May 2004, Official Report, column 504W.
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Negotiations with the Norwegians for a new Framework Treaty are nearing completion. The Treaty will facilitate a wide range of cross-boundary projects and in particular the construction of the new Langeled South gas pipeline to meet up to 20 per cent. of UK gas demand from winter 200607. The new BalgzandBacton Dutch Interconnector is also expected to be operational for winter 200607.
During a trade visit to Russia in June, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry held meetings, including with Russian Industry and Energy Minister Victor Khristenko, on a wide range of energy-related matters. Licensing, the regulation of projects under Production Sharing Agreements, and energy co-operation during the UK's G8 and EU Presidencies were some of the issues discussed.
The department is in regular contact with the commercial sponsors of gas import projects. And, although progressing gas import projects is a commercial matter, the Joint Energy Security of Supply Working Group (JESS), chaired by DTI, publishes a regular overview of security of supply indicators, including details of forthcoming planned gas import projects.
As set out in the White Paper "Our energy futurecreating a low carbon economy" published in February 2003, the Government believes that allowing the free operation of a competitive British market, within an appropriate regulatory framework, is the most efficient way to ensure security of supply of gas. Commercial operators have incentives to ensure a diversity of sources of gas, of supply routes and of entry points so as to reduce the risk of supply interruption through disruption of any one source or supply route.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the issues are which have given rise to the delay in the transposition of the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: As I stated in my answer of 5 May 2004, Official Report, column 1645W, the main delays have resulted from getting the powers introducing the last resort product recall provisions right. There were also delays at the European Commission in providing guidance to support some important practical aspects of the Directive.
Other issues have included ensuring compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, devolution issues and pursuing the possibility through the draft Regulations to be able to prosecute across local authority borders for breaches of the Regulations and more efficient product safety enforcement.
The independent competition authorities (the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission) are responsible under the
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Enterprise Act 2002 for decision-making in merger cases, with Ministers having no role in this process. The Office of Fair Trading undertakes an initial investigation of each merger case before deciding whether to refer to the Competition Commission.
Ms Hewitt: There are no official estimates of this kind. Announcements by companies of decisions to transfer operations offshore do not necessarily imply equivalent job losses in the UK. They can be accounted for by business growth, and are often accompanied by no compulsory redundancy policies. Offshoring also represents a very small amount of activity compared to total UK employment, which at 28 million is now at record levels.
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