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8 Nov 2005 : Column 294W—continued

Global Interactive Entertainment

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the UK's position within the global interactive entertainment market place; and what steps he is taking to prevent the relocation overseas of UK-based interactive entertainment corporations. [24960]

Alun Michael: In 2002 the DTI published a detailed study of the competitiveness of the UK computer games industry entitled From Exuberant Youth to Sustainable Maturity". A copy was placed in the Libraries of the House. The analysis confirms that the UK has a vibrant and valuable computer games industry.

DTI works closely with UK Trade and Investment and the sector in focusing its efforts on maintaining the UK's position as a centre of excellence for the global electronic interactive games industry. The UK is a free and open market for international business so the Government does not seek to inhibit companies from placing their global business in the location that best suits their need.

Home Credit Providers

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of whether a conflict of interest may arise from the Office of Fair Trading being responsible for regulating home credit providers and for assessing competitive problems in the market. [24491]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The OFT is a regulatory body which is charged with certain responsibilities set out in statute. Under the Consumer Credit Act many types of business—including home credit companies—have to obtain a licence from the OFT. Under the Competition Act and Enterprise Act the OFT is responsible for competition law.

These functions are consistent as the OFT seeks to make markets work well and the CCA and competition powers both contribute to this aim. Therefore it is highly unlikely that any conflict of interest should arise.
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Household Energy Bills

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average annual household bill has been for (a) gas and (b) electricity in each year since 1997. [25543]

Malcolm Wicks: The average annual standard credit household bills for gas and electricity for each year since 1997 are shown in the following table:


Gas bills are calculated using an annual consumption of 18,000 kWh, electricity bills a consumption of 3,300 kWh. Figures are inclusive of VAT. Figures for 2005 bills for both fuels are provisional. These figures are in cash terms.
Quarterly Energy Prices, DTI.

Land and Vertical Agreements Exclusion Order

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what reasons the Government decided to repeal the Land and Vertical Agreements Exclusion Order 2000. [25327]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government repealed the Land and Vertical Agreements Exclusion Order 2000 as part of the package of legislation that came into effect on 1 May 2004 to modernise competition law. The substantive arguments concerning repeal of this order may be found in the following documents:

Magazine Distribution

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations the Office of Fair Trading has received from the European Commission on the legality of magazine distribution in the UK. [25326]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The EU Commission submitted views to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on the application of EU Competition Law to agreements on the distribution of newspapers and magazines, in response to the OFT's consultation document Newspaper, Magazine Distribution—Public Consultation on draft opinion of OFT" issued 19 May 2005.
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James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the measures being taken by other European Union countries to ensure that they are compliant with relevant European Union competition law in respect of magazine wholesalers and distributors. [25328]

Mr. Sutcliffe: None. It is for other national competition authorities and/or the companies concerned to look at their domestic systems of newspapers and magazine distribution to assess whether they are compatible with competition law (including EC competition law).

Martin Benfield

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department were first informed of the allegations concerning Martin Benfield, a former secondee working in his Department in relation to his involvement with Europa Crown Limited; what information concerning the allegations was made known to (i) Ministers and (ii) his Department; what action was taken as a result of information received, including information from criminal proceedings in the USA; whether an investigation was conducted; and whether disciplinary procedures were pursued against any individuals. [21678]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 25 October 2005]: Bribery and corruption are criminal offences and as such are dealt with by the criminal justice system; in any such case evidence should be handed over to them. UKTI takes such allegations very seriously and co-operates fully with the criminal justice system if asked to do so.

National Minimum Wage

Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many individual workers have benefited from the recent rise in the National Minimum Wage. [26140]

Mr. Sutcliffe: In October 2005, the national minimum wage for adults (workers aged 22 and over) increased to £5.05 per hour. For workers aged 18 to 21, the National Minimum Wage was increased to £4.25 per hour.

The DTI estimates that around 1.3 million people in the UK will be covered by the October 2005 uprating of the National Minimum Wage. The DTI has based this estimate on data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2004.

Natural Gas

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which companies are the five largest suppliers of natural gas in the UK. [25120]

Malcolm Wicks: Because the source of the available information is a statistical survey, the information requested cannot be given without the direct agreement of all the companies concerned.

Nuclear Power

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the practicality of developing nuclear-based combined heat and power energy services in the North East. [24935]

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Malcolm Wicks: The Department has undertaken no assessment of combined heat and power energy systems utilising nuclear generation.

Nuclear Reactors

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, what assessment has been made of the increase in the mass of spent fuel over the current stockpile that would be created by a new programme of 10 AP-1000 nuclear reactors. [25596]

Malcolm Wicks: While the Department has undertaken no formal assessment, an industry assessment is included in papers on keeping the nuclear option open (KNOO) that were prepared for the DTIs Energy Advisory Panel and contributed to the work on the Energy White Paper:

These papers were placed in the Libraries of the House at the start for this year in response to a written parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent on 23 February 2005, Official Report, column 648w.

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