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30 Nov 2005 : Column 577W—continued

Hearing Loss Claims

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many hearing loss claims have been registered by Vendside Ltd. with his Department since 1997; and how many cases have been (a) partially and (b) fully paid out. [31409]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 November 2005]: Vendside Ltd. have not registered any hearing loss claims with the Department. As at 20 November, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers have registered 10,166 claims in which 8,859 claimants have received damages.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether legal advice was (a) sought and (b) received by his Department before the decision was taken to allow hearing loss claims in the mining industry to be represented solely by a claims handler. [31410]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 November 2005]: No such decision has been taken. The choice of representative is a matter for each individual claimant.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by whom the decision to allow claims handlers to represent claimants in common law hearing loss claims was made. [31412]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 November 2005]: Who represents them is entirely a matter for each claimant.

Householders' Contracts (Good and Services)

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what decisions have been made regarding the cooling-off period for contracts between householders and (a) unsolicited visits by those offering services or goods and (b) solicited visits by those offering services or goods; and if he will make a statement; [31999]

(2) when he expects to announce his proposals following the consultation on doorstep selling and cold calling which closed in November 2004; and if he will make a statement. [32050]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government's final response to the OFT report on doorstep selling has been delayed for a number of reasons.

There was a substantial number of responses to the consultation, which needed to be considered carefully. In addition, the Government wished to await greater clarity on the impact of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD), which is specifically directed at aggressive and misleading sales practices towards vulnerable consumers. This clarity was not available until early summer 2005. We also wished to take account of the wider context set by the DTI's Consumer Strategy published in July.

The Department held a stakeholder event earlier this month to explain this wider context for decisions on doorstep selling and to debate the pros and cons of the
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seven options for change originally consulted on. This was attended by key stakeholders from the doorstep selling industry, consumer groups, bodies representing vulnerable consumers, OFT and Trading Standards. In the light of the comments received from stakeholders, Ministers will be considering next steps and intend to publish a final response from the Government as soon as possible.

Industrial Injury Claims

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many common law industrial injury claims relating to the coal industry have been paid out through (a) all claims handlers and (b) Vendside Ltd. in the last eight years. [31411]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 November 2005]: No common law industrial injury claims have been paid through claims handlers. All common law industrial injury claims settled in the last eight years have been from either solicitors (21,246) or the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (8,758).

Low Skilled Workers

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research his Department has undertaken on the scale of the shortage of low skilled workers in big cities in the UK. [32849]

Alun Michael: The Department of Trade and Industry has published a report on Regional Employment and Skills in the Knowledge Economy by Local Futures (URN 05/1328) which looks at regional differences in both the supply and demand for people at all skill levels. This is available in the House of Commons Library and can be obtained from DTI publications on 0845 015 0010 or from the Vote Office.

The main source of information on skill shortages is the Learning and Skills Council's National Employers Skill Survey that in 2003 surveyed 72,000 employers. The survey is updated every other year and 2005 figures will be available shortly. It highlights skill shortages according to occupation (low skilled workers will typically be in elementary occupations) and while not looking at the city level provides information for each of the RDA regions and for the 27 local LSC areas. Other research in this area is being undertaken at the regional level and an example of this is the 'Northern Way' initiative that looks at the eight city regions in the three Northern RDAs

Miners' Compensation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many requests were made by (a) National Union of Miners and (b) National Union of Miners (Yorkshire Area) for a separate claims-handling agreement for miners' compensation between 1997 and 2000. [32313]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 28 November 2005]: The National Union of Mineworkers made three requests for a separate claims handling agreement for miners compensation between 1997 and 2000. No such requests were received from the National Union of Mineworkers (Yorkshire Area).
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Rogue Dialling

Mr. Binley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take steps to protect consumers from the telecommunications fraud known as rogue dialling; and if he will make a statement. [33007]

Alun Michael: Protection has been put in place to deal with the annoying activity of rogue dialling but it is not simple. Since August 2004 the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) has operated a prior permission scheme for premium rate diallers. This has been at the least of discouraging rogue dialling and it has greatly reduced the incidence of rogue dialling. The independent regulator for electronic communications, the Office of Communications, is currently consulting on extending this scheme to enable ICSTIS to take action against any rogue dialler irrespective of the telephone number or call charge used. We are increasing the maximum fine for breaching the independent regulator ICSTIS' code of practice from £100,000 to £250,000, in order to deter rogue diallers.

Sectoral Investment

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what sectoral investment opportunities he has identified for United Kingdom businesses in (a) Argentina and (b) Uruguay; and if he will make a statement. [29774]

Ian Pearson: In both countries there are likely to be investment opportunities across all sectors in Argentina some sectors (mining, agriculture, construction) are growing rapidly, although others are still suffering following the economic crisis in 2002.

There are investment opportunities in Uruguay for British firms in a number of sectors including agriculture, tourism, forestry and energy. In addition, state companies operating in various sectors (electricity, fuels, oil refining, telephones, railroads and ports) are seeking consultants to advise on public-private partnerships (PPP). Plans to construct a new airport and modernise the health sector may give rise to a range of opportunities.

Solar Photovoltaics

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to encourage private sector investment in the UK solar photovoltaics sector. [33283]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) on 17 November 2005, Official Report, column 1510W.

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of (a) capital grants, (b) feed in tariffs and (c) other support mechanisms in developing the UK's solar photovoltaics industry. [33284]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is as follows.

(a) The capital grants provided through the Solar PV Programme have contributed to the development of the solar photovoltaics industry in the UK. This includes
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raising awareness of PV and developing an installer base. The new low carbon buildings programme will continue to fund the installation of solar technologies in household, community and large-scale projects. The new programme will have a budget of £30 million over three years and will start in April 2006 subject to EU State Aids clearance. The microgeneration strategy, to be published April 2006, will look at removing some of the wider barriers currently hindering market development.

(b) and (c) We believe for the UK that it would not be right to set a price for exported electricity. To do so would risk distorting the electricity supply market and would be incompatible with the liberalised arrangements for the UK electricity market and the market for renewable electricity provided by the Renewables Obligation. The framework underpinning our competitive energy markets was established to provide market-based solutions to our energy needs. Intervention by the Government to the extent of setting a price for exported electricity would be an unwarranted intervention that could have adverse effects on the confidence and certainty our liberal framework provides for investors. In addition the current Renewables Obligation Review is looking to simplify the way in which small-scale generators can claim Renewable Obligation Certificates.

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