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16 Nov 2005 : Column 1356W—continued

Pakistan

Mr. Malik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the Government will use their EU presidency to press for Pakistan following the earthquake to be given at least the same trade concessions that were given to the tsunami-affected countries. [27471]


 
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Ian Pearson: To help the tsunami-affected countries, there was an attempt to bring forward the commencement date of the new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) to 1 April 2005 from 1 January 2006. Unfortunately agreement could not be reached at the EU General Affairs External Relations Council on 16 March 2005 to do this (because of differences between member states over the graduation threshold for textiles and clothing). However despite this effort to bring forward the new scheme, the tsunami-affected countries were always set to benefit from the new GSP scheme which will come into force from 1 January 2006.

Sri Lanka, however, has benefited from the introduction of a new GSP Plus scheme which has been in place since 1 July 2005. It was the only tsunami-affected country to meet the criteria for this scheme.

Pension Reform

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he was first informed that he would be responsible for public sector pensions reform. [25163]

Alan Johnson: I was first informed of this responsibility in mid-March 2005.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry from which Departments officials who accompanied him to meetings with trade union representatives to discuss public sector pensions reform came. [25198]

Alan Johnson: I was accompanied to those meetings by officials representing employer Departments (DfES, DH, Cabinet Office and ODPM), policy officials from HMT and Cabinet Office and a DTI Private Secretary and Special Adviser.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list (a) the dates of and (b) those present at meetings attended by him to discuss public sector pensions reform with trade union representatives. [25199]

Alan Johnson: (a) I attended meetings on 31 March, 22 June, 11 and 26 July and 17 and 18 October.

(b) Representatives of the TUC, UNISON, PCS/CCSU, Amicus, SCP, NATFHE, GMB, T and G, ATL and TGWU were present at these meetings. My right hon. Friend, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office and my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth also attended, together with officials representing employer Departments (DfES, DH, Cabinet Office and ODPM), policy officials from HMT and Cabinet Office and a DTI Private Secretary and DTI Special Adviser. Different combinations of these people were present at the various meetings: not everyone attended every meeting.

Phoenix Development Fund

Ed Balls: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many initiatives in (a) West Yorkshire, (b) Wakefield District and (c) Normanton constituency have been awarded funding from the Phoenix Development Fund; and if he will extend funding to encourage the growth of more social enterprises in disadvantaged communities. [28260]


 
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Alun Michael: The Phoenix Development Fund has awarded funding to six projects in West Yorkshire. One of those projects covered the Wakefield district; none covered the Normanton constituency.

Business Support activities and funding for social enterprises, and other disadvantaged communities, is part of the new remit of regional development agencies, who best understand the needs of their communities.

Post Offices

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions his Department and Postcomm have had with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local authorities regarding supporting the rural Post Office network; and if he will make a statement. [28664]

Barry Gardiner: DTI Ministers and officials meet with colleagues across Government, including those in Defra and the Local Government Association on a regular basis to discuss a wide range of issues relating to the Post Office network, including the future of the rural network.

I have asked the Chief Executive of Postcomm to respond directly to the hon. Member on any discussions it has had with Defra and local authorities.

Power Supply (Dacorum)

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the quality of power supply to businesses and homes in Dacorum. [27824]

Malcolm Wicks: Any concerns regarding the quality of power supplies should be directed in the first instance to the appropriate electricity provider. Further concerns should be directed to Energywatch, the independent body for electricity and gas consumers.

Nationally, I am aware that statistics from national grid show that transmission (high voltage) network reliability has improved from 99.9989 per cent. between 1995–2000 to 99.9992 per cent. from 2000–05. The reliability of the distribution networks in Britain has also improved, with power cuts down by 11 per cent. since privatisation.

Radioactive Waste

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the difference in the radioactive longevity of (a) radioactive waste arising from irradiated thermal oxide pressurised water reactor nuclear fuel and (b) mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel. [24641]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department has made no such assessment but I am advised that recent studies by Nexia Solutions on comparison of this nature showed that the radio toxicity of irradiated MOX starts off higher compared to irradiated uranium oxide fuel. This is because MOX incorporates plutonium removed from a store and the residual mass of plutonium at discharge from the reactor is higher. However, for a meaningful comparison, it is prudent to compare the radio toxicity of irradiated MOX fuel against that of irradiated
 
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uranium oxide fuel combined with stored plutonium. This more meaningful comparison shows that the radio toxicity of irradiated MOX starts off higher than irradiated uranium oxide/stored plutonium until after 1,000 years when the radio toxicity of the irradiated MOX falls below that of the irradiated uranium oxide/stored plutonium.

REACH Proposals

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many representations he has received on the application of REACH proposals to the UK minerals industry, broken down by those (a) supporting and (b) opposing its application; and if he will make a statement. [28761]

Barry Gardiner: The Government have received a number of representations from different parts of industry, including the minerals sector, as well as from many other stakeholders on the proposed REACH regulation (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals). These included responses to the UK's public consultation last year.

Engagement with all interested stakeholders has been central to the Government's development of policy on the REACH regulation, and the representations made have been taken into account as far as possible in refining successive drafts of the regulation.

There is general support from stakeholders for the regulation's objectives of enhancing protection of human health and the environment, and rationalising the existing fragmented regulatory regime. The detailed scrutiny given to the regulation over the last two years is now close to conclusion, and includes clarification of certain exemptions that have been welcomed by the minerals industry. The Government believe the final outcome will enable the REACH regulation to achieve its objectives in a way that helps maintain industry competitiveness.

Red Diesel

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the price is of red diesel for agricultural use; and what it was in (a) 1975, (b) 1980, (c) 1990 and (d) 2000. [29011]

Malcolm Wicks: The price of red diesel for agricultural use in 1975, 1980, 1990 and 2000 is given in the following table.
Price (pence per litre)
19755.7
198015.8
199017.0
200023.9


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