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16 Nov 2005 : Column 1350W—continued

Employment Regulations

Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the draft Employment Equality (Age) Regulations on the pay of under 21-year-olds. [28454]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government are satisfied that the national minimum wage age bands are entirely consistent with the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations.
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Energy Costs

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment he has made of the impact of increased energy costs on British manufacturing companies. [28480]

Malcolm Wicks: The impact of increased energy costs on British manufacturing companies will depend on a variety of factors, including how much gas and/or electricity 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, both in the UK and internationally.

Several representative trade associations, such as the Engineering Employers Federation and the British Plastics Federation have made assessments of the impact of increased energy costs on their members. The Department is 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 group has agreed an Action List of short to medium term measures, such as maximising UK gas supplies, encouraging demand side response and pursuing energy market liberalisation in the EU.

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) major UK oil and gas producers concerning the mitigation of the impact of rising energy prices on low-income households. [28492]

Malcolm Wicks: I discuss aspects of energy policy, including tackling fuel poverty, with ministerial colleagues as appropriate. Businesses benefit from corporate social responsibility programmes, and I have encouraged companies in the energy sector to consider low-income households in developing such programmes. It is for individual companies to devise their own corporate social responsibility measures.

European Institute of Technology

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) whether the UK Government will support European Commission proposals for the establishment of a European Institute of Technology; [26198]

(2) what discussions he has had with the European Commission on establishing a European Institute of Technology; [26199]

(3) whether the UK Government would support a bid from Scottish universities to host all or part of the European Institute of Technology. [26200]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 9 November 2005]: The European Commission is currently conducting a consultation on the idea of setting up an European Institute of Technology. I have not had any discussions with the Commission on this issue, but I am clear that any further proposals must result in adding value to
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European universities—boosting excellence and ensuring Europe is prepared to respond to the challenge of globalisation. We do not however believe that establishing a bricks and mortar institution would be appropriate, but clearly we will want to ensure that universities throughout the UK are well placed to take advantage of whatever eventually emerges from the Commission. The UK response to the Commission's consultation will be submitted shortly and a copy will be placed in the House Libraries.

Export and Investment Guarantees Act

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the operation of the Export and Investment Guarantees Act 1991. [28274]

Ian Pearson: The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) is the UK's export credit agency. It is a Department of State whose existence and powers are governed by the Export and Investment Guarantees Act 1991. Its core statutory powers are to facilitate the export of goods and services from the United Kingdom and to insure specified risks on overseas investments made by United Kingdom entities.

Details of the Department's operations are published in its annual review and resource accounts, which are laid before Parliament every year and can be found on ECGD's website at

Export Credits Guarantee Department

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will place in the Library the response made by the Export Credits Guarantee Agency to the Berne Union Survey on Agent's Commissions, published in April. [28660]

Ian Pearson: I have placed copies of the Export Credits Guarantee Department's response to the Berne Union Survey on Agent's Commissions in the Libraries of the House.


Mr. Anthony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many injuries resulting from fireworks there have been in (a) Norfolk, (b) the East of England, (c) England and (d) the United Kingdom in each of the last five years. [28039]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The fireworks injury statistics for these years are as follows:
Firework injuries
(a) Norfolknot available
(b) East of England
2001not available
2000not available
(c) England
(d) United Kingdom

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Statistics for the United Kingdom are for England, Scotland and Wales only. Northern Ireland is not included.

Gas Supplies

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Government continue to regard Iran as a potential supplier of gas to the United Kingdom. [28397]

Malcolm Wicks: With a share of over 15 per cent. of the world's proven reserves of natural gas, Iran has the potential to become an increasingly important gas producer. Whether Iranian gas might at some point in the future supply the UK market would depend on Iranian production and export policies, and be a matter for commercial operators who have every incentive to make their own assessment of the merits of supplies from different countries.

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps his Department is taking to identify (a) which businesses are likely to be most affected by a shortfall in gas supplies and (b) the impact of any shortfall on such businesses; what measures his Department is considering to address such concerns; and if he will make a statement. [28677]

Malcolm Wicks: In the event of a shortfall in gas supplies the Government expect gas demand to reduce itself in response to rising prices. Which companies choose to reduce their gas consumption in this way is a matter for themselves and will depend on such matters as the terms of their gas supply contracts and their own individual cost structures. In previous years, the electricity supply industry has routinely responded in this way to seasonally higher gas prices, switching electricity production to coal-fired and other generating stations instead, and this sector would be expected to respond in the same way this year. This is described in detail in National Grid's Winter Outlook Report, published by Ofgem on 5 October and available at

In addition, the Government commissioned a report from Global Insight earlier this year to consider the likely response from other industrial sectors. This is available at Work is currently under way jointly with industry to update the conclusions of that work in the light of developments over the summer.

The Government and Ofgem have worked with large industrial users of gas through a Demand Side Working Group and through a Gas Prices Working Group to consider ways of facilitating the operation of the market, particularly on the demand side, and mitigating the impact of higher gas prices. Outputs of that work
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include the launch of a new website providing near real-time information about supply and demand in the gas market and the introduction of a Gas Balancing Alert notifying market participants when the supply-demand balance is likely to be tight. The Government are also aware of innovative work by market participants themselves to develop instruments to encourage demand side response on a commercial basis.

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