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Business Start-ups

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what services are in place to assist new and small businesses; [16294]

(2) what steps he is taking (a) to improve services for new businesses and (b) to promote new businesses; and if he will make a statement. [16295]

Alun Michael: Business Link provides information and impartial support to new and existing businesses. It provides quick and easy links to a broad range of private, public and voluntary business support services. In 2004–05, Business Link provided support to over 670,000 businesses. Nearly 500,000 of these were existing businesses, the remainder, individuals thinking of, or in the process of, starting up a businesses. Business Link services are available locally in England by calling 0845 600 9 006.

The national website provides free access to all relevant information, guidance, funding and training from Government and the business sector. As one of the leading sites for small business, it has more than 750,000 visits every month from individuals involved in business.

In addition, a range of specific business support products is in place aimed at small and medium size companies. These include:

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Regional venture capital Funds have been set up in each of the nine English regions to address the equity gap encountered by small businesses with high growth potential. Government have also published—in print and on-line—a "No-Nonsense Guide to Government rules and regulations for setting up your business", and separate no-nonsense guides to "Small Business Funding and Finance for High Growth Companies".

Following the devolution of the local management of Business Link to the nine regional development agencies in April, the Small Business Service is working with the agencies to develop a national framework to ensure the continued delivery of an effective Business Link service. Essentially, this is being developed as a strong national brand, delivered locally, and managed at regional level. A core set of Business Link branded services will be offered to businesses, regardless of their location. Once agreed, these will be rolled out in each region during 2005–06. At the same time, RDAs will be making regional decisions about business support priorities and structures for the future, to ensure these core services are delivered in a way which meets local and regional priorities.

One example is the manufacturing advisory service which has proved popular with manufacturers, has helped make significant improvements in the productivity of many firms, and is managed by each regional development agency, with primary access via the local Business Link.

In addition, Government are:

We are also taking steps to promote new businesses and enterprise by supporting the second national enterprise week in the week beginning 14 November to raise enterprise awareness among 14–30 year olds and pointing people to sources of further advice. In addition, a national council for graduate entrepreneurship has been established with its "Flying Starts" programme aimed at inspiring students and recent graduates about enterprise. By the end of the year, around 3,000 will have participated in the programme.

We are working with leaders in key industry sectors to promote ambition and excellence, there is close co-operation between regional development agencies and new regional skills partnerships, and the Department for Education and Skills is investing £60 million each
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year in enterprise education for 14–16 year olds. We are also promoting social enterprise which now makes a significant contribution to the economy.

Small businesses make a major contribution to the health of the economy, helping to boost productivity, increase competition and innovation, and generating employment, which is why the Government's aim is to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

Coal/gas-fired Power Stations

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total installed capacity is of (a) coal-fired and (b) gas-fired power generation commissioned in each of the last eight years. [16304]

Malcolm Wicks: The table shows the installed capacity from 1997 to 2004 by year of commission or year generation began.

A total of 29 gas and coal fired power stations were commissioned or started generation between 1997 and 2004.
Installed capacity—MW

Total capacity of coal fired power stationsTotal capacity of gas fired power stationsNumber of power stations

Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2005, table 5.11

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the total installed capacity of coal-fired power stations that will close as a result of the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive. [16305]

Malcolm Wicks: Owners of coal-fired power stations are required to take a decision on whether they want to comply with LCPD by 31 December 2005. Those who choose not to do so will be required to close by the end of 2015 or after 20,000 hours of operation, whichever is sooner. However, it is possible that some of these plants would have closed in this time scale in any case due to technical or commercial factors, so it will not be possible to state how many closures are specifically as a result of the directive.

Electricity/Gas Prices

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what change he expects in average domestic (a) electricity and (b) gas prices in 2005–06. [16298]

Malcolm Wicks: Looking at price rises already announced in the domestic sector so far in this financial year, it might be expected that gas and electricity prices increase by around 15 per cent. in cash terms in 2005–06, compared to 2004–05.
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Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the change in domestic (a) electricity and (b) gas prices was in each of the last five years. [16299]

Malcolm Wicks: The change in domestic gas and electricity prices, in real terms, for the past five years is shown in the following table.
Gas price
Electricity price
Percentage change relative to previous yearIndex
Percentage change relative to previous year

Figures include VAT at 5 percent.
Office of national statistics, figures taken from the retail price index, relative to GDP (market prices) deflator.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effect of the renewables obligation on electricity prices. [16300]

Malcolm Wicks: In its "Domestic Competitive Market Review 2004" Ofgem estimated that the renewables obligation currently accounts for 2 percent. of an average domestic direct debit electricity bill.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effect of the Emissions Trading Scheme on electricity prices. [16301]

Malcolm Wicks: In 2004, Ilex Energy Consulting were commissioned to undertake an independent study on the impact of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) on the price of electricity for consumers across Europe. The results of this study were taken into account in developing the UK National Allocation Plan for Phase I of the EU ETS. The final report is available on the Department's website.

In July 2005, IPA Energy Consulting were commissioned to conduct a study on the impact of the EU ETS on investment and pricing within the UK power generation sector. The final report will be published on the Department's website as soon as practicable.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his assessment is of the cost per therm of (a) liquid natural gas and (b) natural gas. [15618]

Malcolm Wicks: The following table gives the price of natural gas in pence per therm for domestic consumers, manufacturing industry and power producers in the second quarter of 2005.
UserPrice in pence per therm
Domestic consumers65.4
Manufacturing industry33.9
Power producers25.5

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No information is currently available on the price of liquid natural gas. The market for LNG is developing but is still small. The pricing will be affected by supply and demand but also by the oil price and the cost of pipeline gas where customers have a choice of supply.

Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will assess the impact of recent changes in wholesale gas prices on energy intensive users, with particular reference to the North-West; and if he will make a statement. [15116]

Malcolm Wicks: The impact of recent rises in wholesale gas prices on energy intensive users will depend on a variety of factors, including how much gas a particular company uses, the degree of their exposure to spot and/or forward prices, and the duration of the high prices. The impact on their competitiveness will also be affected by the energy prices paid by their competitors.
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We are working with the Energy Intensive Users' Group and Ofgem through the Gas Prices Working Group to develop ideas for improving the operation of the forward market and ways to mitigate the effects of high forward gas prices. The EIUG delegation includes representatives from industry in the North West.

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