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7 Dec 2004 : Column 463W—continued


Arms Embargo (China)

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Government support the lifting of the arms embargo on China; and if she will make a statement. [200368]

Mr. Rammell: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) today (UIN 200354).

British Energy

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when her Department agreed to a three month extension to the financial restructuring support agreements for British Energy; until what date the extension will run; what its value is; and if she will place in the Library a copy of the extension agreement. [202810]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The extension of the backstop date in the Government Restructuring Agreement from 31 January 2005 until 30 April 2005 was agreed to in, and put into effect by, a letter dated 29 November 2004. I have placed a copy of that letter in the Library of the House. As explained in the written statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 30 November 2004, Official Report, column 28–30WS, the Department granted the extension as the best means of ensuring the Government's overarching objectives of safety, security of supply and value for money for the taxpayer. No further drawings can, of course, be made on the Credit Facility Agreement following the European Commission's decision to approve the Government's restructuring aid to British Energy on 22 September 2004.

Business Links

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is taking to enable Business Links to continue to deliver all the services they currently deliver after 1 April 2005 when they will no longer be able to claim full recovery of VAT on their services. [202052]

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Nigel Griffiths: The Small Business Service is supporting Business Link Operators and the Regional Development Agencies, which from April 2005 will be responsible for Business Link services in their region, as they work through the implications on VAT recovery on future BL service delivery.

Under the Business Link transformation programme, Business Link branded activity will be moved increasingly toward the delivery of information, diagnostic and brokerage services. However, these services will only represent one aspect of the licensed operators overall activities and consequently the VAT implications will vary across different BL licensed organisations depending on the mix of their overall activities.

BLOs have still to provide the information to enable an assessment of the impact of irrecoverable VAT on service delivery.

Business Support Initiatives

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many people have visited her Department's website promoting Access to Business Practice; and what other material is available as part of this business support product; [200526]

(2) what the uptake has been of each Support to Implement Best Practice in each region; and if she will make a statement; [200525]

(3) what the take-up has been in each region in the current financial year of (a) Access to Best Business Practice and (b) Support to Implement Best Business Practice; and if she will make a statement. [200599]

Nigel Griffiths: Regional take-up of the Access product is not recorded. However from 1 April 2004 to 31 October 2004 there have been over 300,000 visits to the Access to Best Practice pages on the DTI's website. During this period 100,000 hard copy publications have been ordered and dispatched. In October alone there were 50,000 downloads of electronic documents from the site. Information on the site is grouped under a number of key themes: Management; Operations; Sales and Marketing; People; Design and Innovation; and Communications and IT. There are over 300 downloadable documents on the website covering aspects of business best practice as well as case studies. The website also provides a range of on-line self-assessment tools.

Since the release of the Support to Implement Best Business Practice product in April 2004 until week ending 27 November 2004 some 1,956 in-depth diagnostics had been undertaken. The regional breakdown is as follows.
East Midlands92
North East12
North West347
South East226
South West339
West Midlands278
Yorkshire and Humberside187

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Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry with what financial support products UK Trade and Investment assists UK businesses. [200559]

Mr. Alexander: UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) products which offer an element of financial assistance to companies include: Passport to Export; Support for Exhibitions and Seminars Abroad (SESA); and Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS). Core UKTI services, however, also include a range of free or subsidised products, aimed at boosting UK business competitiveness.

Carbon Emissions

Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the carbon emission levels were (a) in the UK and (b) in other EU member states at the latest date for which figures are available. [200229]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The following table contains carbon emission levels published by Eurostat. 2002 is the latest year for which figures are available for European member states.

Note that these figures reflect the fact that the economies of some states are larger than others and not necessarily the extent to which they take steps to reduce the generation of emissions.

Carbon emissions in 2002 (million tonnes)
United Kingdom146.6
Czech Republic33.6
Slovak Republic11.8

These figures exclude land use change and forestry. The latest published UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory figure for 2002 is 150.3 million tonnes of carbon including land use change and forestry.
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Combined Heat and Power

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support her Department is making available to encourage micro combined heat and power generation. [200651]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 30 November 2004]: I have been asked to reply.

The Department sponsors the Carbon Trust, who are conducting field trials of micro-CHP units to better understand their potential energy and carbon savings. Our proposal for the Energy Efficiency Commitment 2005–08 includes an incentive for innovative technologies, such as micro-CHP with a electrical capacity of up to 50 kilowatts. This year the Chancellor announced the possibility of widening the Budget 2002 VAT reduction on some micro-CHP installations. The Government are also formulating a strategy for microgeneration, with input from Defra.

Electricity Blackouts

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the possibility of electricity blackouts due to a lack of gas this winter. [201589]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 2 December 2004]: Gas supplies are likely to be tighter this winter than in previous years. This is mainly due to the long-term decline of production from the North sea.

However, National Grid Transco's assessment in their "Winter Outlook Report" published by Ofgem on 20 October, is that supplies of gas, including for electricity generation, can be maintained from the UK Continental Shelf, gas imports, storage and demand management where necessary, even in a winter of a severity expected only once every 50 years.

Electricity Generation (Renewables)

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to increase the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources; and if she will make a statement. [203072]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Government's main mechanism for supporting renewable energy is the Renewables Obligation. Electricity supply companies are required to source a percentage of their electricity sales (increasing each year) from eligible sources. The Obligation for the 2004–05 period is 4.9 per cent. It will remain in place until 2027.

The RO is supported by around £500 million of spending between 2002–08 to help develop emerging technologies. This will take the form of spending on R and D and funding for capital grants. This includes among other things grants of £117 million for offshore wind, over £60 million for energy crops and biomass, £31 million for PV and £12.5 million for community schemes. In August 2004 it was announced that a special £50 million Marine Renewables Development Fund would be set up to help bridge the funding gap between pre-commercial and supported commercial technologies.
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Renewable energy is also exempt from the Climate Change Levy (a tax on non-domestic energy use disaggregated by fuel type). For renewably generated electricity this adds £4.3/MWh of support.

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