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21 Nov 2005 : Column 1549W—continued


Abingdon Green Ticket Booth

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the cost of providing the ticket-booth on Abingdon Green during the summer was; and who bears the cost. [28722]

Nick Harvey : The cost of erecting and fitting out the ticket booth at the beginning of the season and taking it down at the end amounted to some £73,000. Electricity used during the summer opening is estimated to have cost some £230. 60 per cent. of these costs are borne by the House of Commons and the remainder by the House of Lords.

Cleaners' Pay

Lynne Jones: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the oral answer of 18 October 2005, Official Report, column 699, on cleaners' pay and conditions, if the Commission will meet the Transport and General Workers Union and the employers of the contract cleaners employed on the Parliamentary Estate; and if he will make a statement. [30840]

Nick Harvey: The Commission has no plans for such a meeting. The current dispute is between the employers and their employees. I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 15 November 2005, Official Report, column 1102W.

Information Office

Mr. Steen: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many enquiries the House of Commons Information Office has received in each of the past three years; how many members of staff it employs; and what the cost has been of providing the service in each of the last three years. [30166]

Nick Harvey: The following table shows the information requested:
Financial year:2002–032003–042004–05
Number of enquiries received75,70064,72058,067
Full-time equivalents in post at year-end12.512.512.5
Finance (£000)
Total identifiable costs(6)426.5442.2431.5
of which:
Staff costs(7)344.9345.0319.7

(6) Figures exclude costs which cannot be identified separately from the Library's budget (stationery, publications, training, IT support, postage) and costs which are not included in departmental budgets (IT network, telephones, accommodation, utilities).
(7) Includes provision for pension liabilities, calculated as 17 per cent. of basic pay.

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The number of enquiries received has declined over the last three years as the House of Commons Information Office has made more information generally available to the public via the Parliamentary website. This includes the Weekly Information Bulletin, factsheets about the work and history of the House, the Constituency Locata service and, most recently, Commons Knowledge, a newsletter providing information on forthcoming business, following the Commission's agreement to a recommendation made by the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons.


Business Incentives

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the initiatives, awards and grant programmes offered by his Department for (a) small businesses and (b) all businesses. [25610]

Alun Michael [holding answer 7 November 2005]: The national Business Link website——contains advice and information on support available to businesses, whether directly from the Department or via Business Link and many other sources.

Carbon Offset Scheme

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much is planned to be spent by (a) his Department and (b) each agency of his Department in (i) the 2005–06 financial year and (ii) each of the next four financial years on the carbon offset scheme; how many flights are planned to be subject to the scheme in each case; what the distance of those flights is; and what carbon dioxide emissions are planned to be offset in each case. [21508]

Alan Johnson: The interdepartmental scheme to offset carbon emissions from UK official air travel will come into effect from April 2006. The scheme is currently being developed by an interdepartmental working group led by DEFRA but the formula for calculating the level of contributions required to be made by Departments has yet to be agreed. My Department does not yet have firm forecasts of the level of carbon dioxide emissions to be used in order to calculate the expenditure required. It is assumed that all departmental UK and overseas flights will be covered by the scheme.

Contributions to the scheme are due to start in the financial year 2006–07. The scheme is currently only focusing on core government departments and not their agencies so any figures will exclude air travel by my Department's agencies.

The scheme also covers travel and other energy usage associated with events hosted for the EU presidency and contributions to the scheme will be made in 2006–07
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to cover carbon offsets; Defra are in the process of developing the formula to calculate the level of contributions required.

Company Communications

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the proportion of company shareholders who would prefer to receive company communications in electronic form. [26992]

Barry Gardiner: Consultation to the White Paper on Company Law Reform published in March this year revealed broad support for the Government's proposals to facilitate greater use of electronic communications. Initial estimates prepared with the help of interested stakeholders suggest cost-savings in the region of £47 million per annum for FTSE-listed companies and a likely take-up of hard copy information by 0.3 per cent. to 5 per cent. of shareholders.

The Government recognise that shareholders should be able to receive company communications in a form which is convenient to them. That is why the Company Law Reform Bill will enable shareholders to approve the use of electronic communications, but permit the legal titleholder of the share to receive documents in hard copy.

Company Directors

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he will take to ensure that company shareholders without access to the internet do not become disenfranchised from exercising their rights as shareholders if a company opts to communicate through electronic means. [27002]

Alun Michael [holding answer 10 November 2005]: The Company Law Reform Bill will allow companies to use electronic communications with their members. This will enable companies and their members to benefit from the immediacy of electronic dialogue. However, the Government recognise that electronic communications will not suit everyone. A change to the use of electronic communications will need to be approved by a resolution of the members of the company. In addition, a member, that is the legal titleholder to shares, will have the right to require the company to send a hard copy version of documents or information.

The Bill also provides a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations to require companies to send documents or information to a person or persons nominated by the member. Such persons could, for example, be those investing in shares through intermediaries. The regulations may require documents or information to be supplied to nominated persons in hard copy form, if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the additional benefits to nominated persons would outweigh the likely costs resulting from such an obligation.

Contingency Planning (Power Supplies)

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what range of scenarios the
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Government Chief Scientific Adviser is considering in terms of oil and gas reserves for contingency planning purposes. [27930]

Barry Gardiner: Currently, the Office of Science and Technology, headed by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, is reviewing a large number of issues through its Horizon Scanning Centre and Foresight programme. Energy is one of these issues.

The selection of future Foresight projects requires that the projects must tackle issues which look ahead at least 10 years, are driven by science and technology, have outcomes that can be influenced, are not covered by work carried on elsewhere, require an inter-disciplinary approach and command support from other organisations.

It is too soon to consider the range of scenarios that might be explored in any of these future projects.

Energy contingency planning is primarily carried out by the DTI's Energy Group.

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