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Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with the Office of Fair Trading about a block exemption from the EU competition legislation on newspaper distribution in rural areas. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: Over the course of the past 18 months, DTI Ministers and officials have had discussions with the newspaper and magazine industry and with the Office of Fair Trading about the proposal to repeal the Order exempting vertical agreements from prohibition under UK competition law. The Government concluded this Order was no longer required and repealed it with effect from 1 May 2005. The Government's position on this matter was set out in their published response to the consultation which may be found at http://wvvw.dti.gov.uk/ccp/consultpdf/compmodresp.pdf.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is now engaged in discussions with representatives from all sides of the newspaper and magazine industry to ensure the arrangements in place for the distribution of newspapers and magazines will continue to comply fully with domestic and European competition law after 1 May 2005. In the context of these discussions, I understand some parties have submitted arguments in favour of a new block exemption for exclusive distribution agreements between newspaper publishers and wholesalers while other parties have argued against such a move. DTI Ministers expect to receive advice from OFT on progress with discussions on these matters by spring 2005 at the latest.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the sections on (a) nuclear energy and (b) nuclear materials of the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, published in December. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien:
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has welcomed the publication of the High-Level Panel report. The Government are now analysing all aspects of the panel's report including those recommendations relating to nuclear energy and nuclear materials. We will be discussing all aspects of the report with international partners over the coming months and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, 14 December 2004, Official Report, column 1514, the Government have long worked for the reform of the United Nations system and for that reason we greatly welcomed the publication of the report last month from the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level
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Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. This report offered two options for reform of the Security Council, and also proposed new approaches to the use by the Security Council of its chapter VII powers, including a self-denying ordinance on the use of the veto in cases of genocide and large-scale human rights abuses, and observations on the use of force preventatively to stop latent threats becoming imminent. I shall reproduce the UN report as a Command Paper to the House, better to assist debate.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Our assessment is that current policies put the UK on track to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. In 2003, nuclear energy accounted for 4 per cent. of energy consumption. By 2010, we anticipate that this figure will fall to 3.5 per cent.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she expects to reply to the question tabled by the hon. Member for Eddisbury on 29 November on the cost of printing her Department's five-year programme. 
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her policy is on the European Commission's proposal for a council directive on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel, COM (2004) 716 Final, published on 15 November. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Government's position in response to the Council Directive will be set out shortly. The current draft raises a number of issues of concern in relation to the proposed extension of the Directive to cover the shipment of spent fuel for reprocessing and these are being explored further in negotiation of the draft text.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to her Written Statement on the updated policy on intermediate level radioactive waste substitution of 13 December 2004, Official Report, column 115WS, what assessment the Office of Civil Nuclear Security made of the possible opportunities this option may provide for terrorists to intercept or hijack high-level radioactive waste. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The movement of all civil nuclear material, including high-level waste, in the UK and anywhere in the world on board a UK-flagged vessel is carried out in accordance with the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003 which are administered and enforced by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security.
The security standards to be applied to these movements to prevent sabotage or unauthorised removal depend on the category of the material and the threat at the time. Information and intelligence relating to potential security threats to such shipments is closely monitored. If a specific credible threat were detected, the shipment would not be allowed to proceed.
Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will respond to the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its report, Biomass as a Renewable Energy Source. 
Ms Hewitt: Between 199697 and 200405 net Government expenditure on research and development by Departments will have risen by (a) £2.869 billion in cash terms and (b) 49 per cent. in total, in percentage terms. The following table sets out expenditure since 199697, including planned spend in 200405.
|Increase on previous year (Percentage)|
I have not held discussions with any interested parties at this stage. DTI officials are co-ordinating work across Government on future options
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for maintaining access to post office services for those living in rural communities beyond 2008. This work is still at an early stage, and it will need to take into account the outcomes from pilot work on new ways of delivering services for rural communities, which Post Office Ltd. is conducting. I have asked for a report on the outcomes from this pilot work by the end of 2005. Once the range of future options has been identified, my Department, working with Defra and the devolved Administrations, will ensure that views are sought from interested parties.
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