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Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many legal firms his Department appointed to process compensation claims under the coal health schemes; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria his Department used in appointing legal firms to process compensation claims under the coal health schemes; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how his Department monitors the legal firms who have been appointed to process compensation claims under the coal health schemes; and if he will make a statement. 
The Department does not appoint solicitors, claimants choose their solicitor. The Law Society is responsible for solicitors' conduct and has a Helpline (0845 608 6565) which claimants may contact with any complaints about individual firms of solicitors.
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Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether (a) the Office of Fair Trading and (b) other Government Departments consulted the Charity Commission on the impact of the Competition Act 1998 on charities; and what advice the Charity Commission has given on the information-sharing provisions in the Act. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: Prior to the entry into force of the Competition Act 1998 in March 2000, the OFT issued detailed guidelines on the Act and its impact. These guidelines were the subject of extensive public consultation. There is no record of a response to the consultation from the Charity Commission.
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry approximately how many hits a week the website Consumer Direct gets; approximately how many consumer complaints are submitted to the website each week; and which five items consumers have most frequently made complaints about in the last three months. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: Consumer Direct has a telephone helpline as well as an online service, which is operational in Scotland, Wales, and six English regions. The service will be available throughout Great Britain in March 2006. On a weekly basis the website receives approximately 8,722 hits a week, and on average 163 complaint forms are submitted. Approximately 20,000 calls a week and 13,000 new cases are received on the telephone helpline. In the last three months the most frequently complained about consumer goods were:
|Home maintenance and improvements||11,909|
|Second hand cars||9,874|
Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the draft Employment Equality (Age) Regulations on the provision of flexible retirement ages by private businesses; 
Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 14 November 2005]: The draft Employment Equality (Age) Regulations introduce a new statutory right for employees to request working beyond their employers' compulsory retirement age, if there is one. Employers will have a duty to consider such requests seriously. The Coming of Age" consultation document that we published on 14 July explained that:
Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under what circumstances an individual forced to retire over the age of 65 will be able to appeal on grounds of age discrimination under the draft Employment Equality (Age) Regulations. 
Employees will be able to appeal if they believe that the employer has not carried out the new duty to consider" procedure correctly in connection with requests to work beyond a compulsory retirement age. Employees can also challenge a compulsory retirement they believe to be dismissal for some other reason. The consultation on the draft regulations closed on 17 October. We are considering what changes we need to make to the regulations in the light of those responses.
Alun Michael: Analysis of data over the last twenty years shows that the output of the manufacturing sector has tended to behave more cyclically than the economy as a whole, and that the distributive sectors have experienced a similar strength of cycle to that in the economy as a whole. One reason for manufacturing having a stronger cycle is that it is very dependent on world demand, and thus affected by external shocks.
These findings should be seen against the substantial improvement in macroeconomic stability in the economy as a whole in recent years. In the period since 1997 UK GDP growth has been more stable than any other G7 country. By contrast, in the period 19791996 growth in the UK was the most volatile in the G7, with the exception of Canada.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment has been made of the costs associated with being able to provide for future maximum winter electricity demand as a consequence of (a) providing for a strengthened and expanded national grid and (b) decentralising energy supplies; 
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(2) what assessment he has made of the relative costs of meeting peak winter demand for electricity through (a) the provision of extra capacity within the national grid and (b) the decentralisation of energy supply. 
Malcolm Wicks: Assessments of this nature are for market participants to make. National grid publish information on their electricity demand forecasts in their seven year statement to assist such assessments.
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the merits of a waiver of fines for breaching limits on carbon dioxide emissions in the event of a cold winter; and what assessment he has made of (a) the potential for a breach of carbon dioxide emissions targets, in the event of a cold winter a shortfall of gas supplies and (b) options to ensure security of supply. 
Malcolm Wicks: There are no regulatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme requires participants to produce carbon allowances equal to their emissions on an annual basis. Under the rules of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme Directive, the Government allocates a number of allowances to installations free of charge. If an installation emits a high level of carbon at one time, it can either purchase additional allowances to cover that or reduce its carbon emissions at other times so as to remain within its existing free allocation for the year or to sell allowances. The scheme therefore does not place any constraint on fuel switching in the event of temporary tightness in the gas supply market, whether due to a cold winter or other cause. The Government has no intention of waiving the requirements of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
National Grid's Winter Outlook Report, published by Ofgem on 5 October and available at http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/temp/ofgem/cache/cmsattach/l2493_214_05.pdf sets out their assessment of gas supply and demand for the coming winter.
The Government believe that security of supply is best achieved through a liberalised, competitive market in which market participants have every commercial incentive to ensure that supply meets demand and price signals provide the most effective and efficient means of enabling them to do so. The Government and Ofgem work continually with National Grid and with Ofgem to find ways of improving the operation of the market, for example through the provision of better and more timely information and through tackling potential regulatory barriers.
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