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23 May 2005 : Column 19W—continued


Affirmative Action

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which Royal Mail offices in Northern Ireland have initiated affirmative action measures as a result of an under-representation of a section of the community; what the religious breakdown was in each case; and what change there has been in composition in each case since affirmative action was undertaken. [351]

Barry Gardiner: This is an operational matter for Royal Mail. The Chief Executive has been asked to reply direct to the hon. Member.
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Energy Policy

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the Government's policy is on the use of alternative energy sources. [308]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government have a target of 10 per cent. of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2010. The increase in the use of renewable energy will contribute to reducing the UK's carbon emissions as well as ensuring a diverse fuel mix.

The Government's key policy mechanism for encouraging renewable generation is the Renewables Obligation that requires electricity supply companies to source a specific, and annually increasing, percentage of their electricity sales from renewable sources. The Renewables Obligation is supported by just over £500 million of Government spending between 2002 and 2008 on emerging renewable and other low carbon technologies, such as hydrogen and fuel cells, in the form of capital grants and R&D.


John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many meetings took place between the Department, the Law Society and fraud squad police during April. [46]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department had one meeting with them in April 2005.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his estimate is of the UK's gas reserves; and how many months' supply was available as at 17 May. [42]

Malcolm Wicks: Each year the Department compiles estimates of the discovered gas reserves and undiscovered gas resources on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). These estimates are published on the DTI's Oil and Gas website [at]. The latest published estimates relate to the position as at the end of 2003; estimates as at the end of 2004 are due to be released in June. The published figures are given as ranges depending on the degree of certainty attaching to the estimates. The number of months' supply represented by these resources would depend on the month in question, since gas production (like gas demand) is not flat through the year (being lower in summer and higher in winter) or from year to year (production is now generally falling while demand is flat or rising slowly). Gas production from the UKCS is expected to continue for many years to come but already it no longer meets UK demand on an annual basis though it does still in summer months.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will urge the European Commission to undertake an investigation into the operation of the UK wholesale gas market; and if he will make a statement. [337]

Malcolm Wicks: The European Commission has announced that it will undertake a sectoral inquiry into European gas and electricity markets which will cover
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the whole of the EU, including the UK. We have long been urging the Commission to carry out such an inquiry.

Recent studies by Ofgem, the energy regulator, and independent consultants have highlighted the impact that EU gas markets have on the UK wholesale market and the importance of accelerated liberalisation of EU gas markets. We therefore welcome the Commission's inquiry which should identify obstacles to well functioning and competitive EU energy markets and lead to appropriate remedial measures being taken.

Nuclear Industry

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much public expenditure on matters relating to the nuclear industry there has been since 1 May 1997; and what estimate he has made of future identified public liabilities in respect of existing activities. [169]

Malcolm Wicks: The following documents, which are in the public domain, provide information on the outturn of the Department's expenditure on matters relating to the nuclear industry from 1 April 1997:

As part of the Government's Spending Review 2004 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority received a budget of approximately £2.2 billion for 2005–06 about half of which depends on receipts from commercial activities.

The 2002 Energy White Paper 'Managing the Nuclear Legacy: A Strategy for Action' set the public liability estimate for the nuclear legacy at £50 billion (undiscounted) while acknowledging that there was considerable uncertainty around the figure. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority which assumed responsibility from 1 April 2005 for discharging the nuclear legacy accepted that figure in its first Annual Plan. A key task now for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is to review that estimate carefully to reduce uncertainty and work on that is now under way with a view to publication in December. In the short run, better estimating will almost certainly mean that the estimate will rise. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority maintain the most recent estimate on their website (

Nuclear Power Conference

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who from the Department attended the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power for the 21st Century in Paris on 21 and 22 March; what line they took on behalf of the Department; and if he will make a statement. [127]

Malcolm Wicks: DTI did not attend this event.
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Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether any licences for the export of military vehicles to Sudan have been issued since 1 January. [70]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government publishes Annual and Quarterly Reports on Strategic Export Controls which contain summary information on the goods it has licensed for export, by destination. The Government expects to publish the first Quarterly Report for 2005 covering licensing decisions taken between 1 January and 31 March 2005, at the end of June 2005.

Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether licences for the brokerage of the sale of military vehicles to Sudan from a third country have been granted. [185]

Malcolm Wicks: Summary information on the goods licensed under Open or Standard Individual Trade Control Licence will be published, by destination, in the 2004 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls, which the Government expects to make available in the Libraries of the House by June 2005.

Thorp Reprocessing Plant

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make it his policy to close permanently the Thorp reprocessing plant. [172]

Malcolm Wicks: Our policy remains as set out in the 2002 White Paper "Managing the Nuclear Legacy".

The recent leak of liquid at Thorp, where neither the environment nor people were threatened, has led to Thorp being closed while the situation is assessed.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and regulators are still looking at how best to proceed. We are going to wait for advice from them before taking a decision on the way forward.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total expenditure to date on the Thorp reprocessing plant has been; and how much income has been generated by the plant during that period. [173]

Malcolm Wicks: BNFL has never separated the accounts for the Thorp plant from other areas. The data in the form requested cannot be provided. However for the 2004 accounts period the business segment BNFL ALFA, which includes Thorp, had total sales of £1,449 million. In addition the NDA, which from 1 April 2005 became responsible for this asset anticipates in the Annual Plan receipts in 2005–06 for reprocessing and overseas transport of nuclear materials of £635.1 million.

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