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Mr. Sutcliffe: The DTI have funded a pilot project to tackle illegal loan sharks in the Trading Standards areas of the West Midlands and Glasgow. Dedicated teams in each area run the two year pilot, which began in September and is progressing well.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Department is monitoring closely the impact of rising gas prices on British manufacturing. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is meeting representatives of industry today, and I have met two large chemical companies, to address their concerns in this area.
The increases are in the main a result of market forces and follow a period in which gas prices have generally been at historically low levels in real terms. The UK has the most competitive energy market in the EU and industrial electricity and gas prices have been among the lowest in the EU over the last few years.
Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many asbestos claims her Department estimates it will receive from former employees of (a) British Ship Builders and (b) British Coal. 
Nigel Griffiths: I am advised that forecasting future claims is difficult. The volume of asbestos claims for British Ship Builders has been rising. It is estimated that there would be 3,000 to 5,000 future claims.
With regard to employment with British Coal, I am advised that asbestos claims are a very small part of the overall compensation and no future forecast has been made. In the 12 month period, from 1 October 2003, 84 asbestos related claims were received.
Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average compensation payment made to former employees of British Ship Builders diagnosed to be suffering a pleural plaque has been. 
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what definition she has used to assess vulnerable people in the context of proposals to ban cold calling or doorstep selling. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: No such definition has been used. The recent public consultation has been conducted as widely as possible but has included organisations representing sectors of the public often thought to be vulnerable in the context of cold calling and doorstep selling.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what estimate she has made of the amount paid into court pursuant to the provisions of section 430(11) of the Companies Act 1985 in the last year for which figures are available; and what use the Government has made of these funds. 
Jacqui Smith: The last year for which figures are available is that to 31 October 2004. Between November 2003 and the end of October 2004 there were approximately 25 cases where payments were made into court under the provisions of section 430 (11) of the Companies Act 1985. Payments into court involved approximately 7,550 individual dissentient shareholdings with an approximate total value of £1.5 million.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the budget is for the Working Lives Institute's research project on migrant workers commissioned by the East of England Development Agency; what demand there has been for such research; and for what purpose the research results will be used. 
The demand for the study has come from the East of England Regional Assembly, Government Departments, the Trades Union Congress and Keystone Developmenta community and voluntary group who work with migrant workers.
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The purpose of the study is to provide information about the migrant worker population in the East of England which will inform public policy interventions in areas such as health, housing and education.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the implications for (a) household consumers and (b) industrial users of the change in the price of (i) electricity and (ii) gas since 1997. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Domestic electricity prices at the end of 2004 will still be about 10 per cent. below the 1997 level in real terms, and domestic gas price increases this year will mean prices return to around their 1997 levels in real terms.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what discussions she has had with consumer groups about misleading letters sent through the post to people suggesting that they have won prizes; and if she will make a statement. 
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have taken a lead within Europe in taking action against bogus prize draws and lotteries under new powers provided by the Injunctions Directive and the Enterprise Act 2002 ("Stop Now Orders").
The Department is monitoring closely developments in the UK gas market and the recent increase in the wholesale price of gas. Ofgem has now announced its conclusions on its investigation into gas price increases in 2003 and 2004. It has concluded that the main causes of rising UK gas prices are high oil prices feeding into gas prices and declining UK gas supplies. Ofgem is taking two courses of action. It is asking the European Commission to put more resources into making gas competition work, and is continuing to examine why some UK gas supplies did not reach the market.
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While the cost of gas to industry has been rising recently, this should be seen in the context of historical trends. In real terms gas prices for industrial users in 2003 were nearly 30 per cent. below their level in 1990 and well below their average over the last 30 years.
Electricity prices have increased mainly as a result of the rise in gas prices and the recovery in wholesale prices from unsustainably low levels in 2002. Industrial electricity prices in 2003 were nearly 50 per cent. below their 1990 levels. Even after the latest increases we expect prices to remain competitive with those of our major EU competitors.
The Department has recently published a report by Oxford Economic Research Associates which concluded that the UK has the most competitive energy markets in Europe. The report is available at: www.dti.gov.uk/energy/gas_and_electricity/competitiveness_structure/psa_final. pdf
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