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12 Jul 2005 : Column 854W—continued


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with representatives of oil companies since June 2004 on the future of the Iraqi oil sector, broken down by (a) date and (b) location; if he will publish the minutes of those meetings; and if he will make a statement. [11460]

Malcolm Wicks: There is no record of any discussions having taken place.

Kyoto Targets

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his policy is on the allocation of individual carbon allowances in order to help the UK meet Kyoto targets for carbon dioxide emissions; and if he will make a statement. [10755]

Mr. Morley: I have been asked to reply.

The Government have recognised the fact that additional measures are necessary to meet the UK's ambitious domestic emission reduction targets. The current review of the UK Climate Change Programme is looking at how existing policies are performing and the range of policies that might be put in place in the future to put us back on track to achieving our domestic goals.

Allocation of individual carbon allowances (sometimes called domestic tradable quotas) raises several issues that need to be addressed before coming to a conclusion on feasibility, including whether the benefits of introducing such allocations are proportionate to the costs of administering them as well as the public acceptability of such a scheme.

MG Rover

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the future of the MG brand. [5870]

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Ian Pearson: The future of the MG brand is not yet clear as it depends on the outcome of the efforts of the administrators to sell the assets of MG Rover.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many workers made redundant at MG Rover have found new employment; what assistance he is giving to workers who have not yet found employment; and if he will make a statement. [8100]

Ian Pearson: Of the 4,991 former MG Rover and Powertrain workers who registered with Jobcentre Plus, 1,355 had found new employment by Tuesday 5 July 2005. In addition, some 400 former MG Rover employees chose not to register and a proportion of these will have found new employment.

All former employees are being offered a personal training plan and as at 24 June 2005 a total of 3,151 such plans had been developed, with 1,318 individuals actually undergoing training. Various agencies working under the auspices of the Rover Task Force have worked with colleges of further education and other providers in the West Midlands to expand capacity so as to accommodate this extra demand.

MOD Textile Contracts

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effects on the UK textile industry of Ministry of Defence textile contracts being awarded in China. [10786]

Alun Michael: No direct contracts for clothing have been awarded by MOD to Chinese companies although contractors based in the EU have let sub-contracts to Chinese based companies.

No assessment has been made of the effects on the UK textiles industry of sourcing from China. Most combat clothing in the UK is categorised as non warlike. MOD's supplier base optimisation (SBO) programme in relation to non warlike supplies has to comply with EU public procurement regulations against the criteria of the most economically advantageous tender. However, industrial implications are noted during the tender process and brought to the attention of Ministers in the ministerial submission for SBO contracts.

Nuclear Power

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions his Department (a) has had and (b) plans to have with (i) current UK nuclear operators, (ii) overseas nuclear power generators and (iii) investors in respect of conditions which would be necessary for them to consider constructing or financing new nuclear power plants in the UK. [10814]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department is always willing to meet companies engaged in the energy industry and we have regular update discussions with a wide range of such companies including those in the categories referred to. Where issues relevant to new nuclear build are raised, we are quite prepared to listen to the views put to us.
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Oil Imports

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to reduce the UK's dependency on imported oil. [10875]

Malcolm Wicks: Although the UK currently remains a net exporter of oil, it is likely we will become a net importer by around 2010. However, relying on imports need not be a problem in itself, although it does require us to take a longer-term strategic international approach to energy reliability. Oil is an internationally traded commodity and all countries, whether import-dependent or not, have a common interest in promoting open markets. Most other advanced industrial economies already import significant proportions of their oil needs without noticeable disruption.

Notwithstanding this, however, the Government remain committed to maximising the economic recovery of the UK's own oil (and gas) reserves. The PILOT initiative—a joint programme involving the Government and the UK's oil and gas industry—is central to this aim. Moreover, the Government are already putting in place policies that will help ease the UK economy away from power supplied primarily through fossil fuel supply, by increasing energy efficiency and developing alternative technologies. Information on these policies can be found in the Energy White Paper 2003 Our energy future—creating a low carbon economy" (

In parallel, the Government have put in place a number of measures to improve the average fuel efficiency of vehicles, as set out in the July 2002 Powering Future Vehicles Strategy. These include fiscal incentives, such as the graduated, CO 2 based Vehicle Excise Duty and Company Car Tax schemes. The Government are also promoting the use of renewable transport fuels, such as biofuels, by means of fuel duty incentives. Sales of biofuels have increased rapidly during 2005, and currently stand at some 10 million litres a month, a five-fold increase over sales in 2004.

Post Offices

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many direct post offices have closed in the last 18 months in (a) the UK and (b) Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [11201]

Barry Gardiner: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. (POL) and the Chief Executive has been asked to reply direct to my hon. Friend.

Pregnant Workers (Discrimination)

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to help prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace; and if he will make a statement. [10061]

Meg Munn: Employers who discriminate against pregnant women are breaking the law. We have taken the opportunity afforded by the amended Equal Treatment Directive to clarify the law and are amending the Sex Discrimination Act so that it explicitly outlaws pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. These regulations will come into force on 1 October 2005.
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The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) recently published a final report on their investigation into pregnancy discrimination at work. We will be considering the report and recommendations carefully.

Royal Mail

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 4 July 2005, Official Report, column 60W, on Royal Mail, whether the Government will be the only shareholder in Royal Mail in the future; and what plans are being considered to provide shares to (a) employees and (b) others. [11642]

Barry Gardiner: As I said in my previous answer, the Government have given the Royal Mail greater commercial freedom and have no plans to privatise it. Neither do we have plans to issue shares to employees or others.

Our ambition is to see a publicly owned Royal Mail fully restored to good health providing customers with excellent service and its employees with rewarding employment.

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