Previous Section Index Home Page

12 Dec 2005 : Column 1660W—continued

Construction Act Review

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will consult in the forthcoming Construction Act Review on outlawing (a) pay when certified and (b) pay when paid arrangements; [37016]

(2) if he will consult in the forthcoming Construction Act Review on introducing measures to increase certainty on when a debt is created. [37017]

Alun Michael: Officials at the Department of Trade and Industry and Welsh Assembly Government are currently preparing an analysis of the responses to their consultation on Improving Payment Practices in the Construction Industry". The analysis will be published shortly and will set out the proposals we intend to take forward. We have already undertaken to consult further
12 Dec 2005 : Column 1661W
on amendments to the legislation. The construction industry and its stakeholders will have the opportunity to scrutinise the proposals at that stage.


Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for North Essex of 28 October concerning the Government's energy policy. [32425]

Malcolm Wicks: I have received the hon. Member's letter and have now replied.

Departmental Expenditure

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department has spent on the purchase of branded (a) L.P. bags, (b) plastic carrier bags and (c) pens in each year since 1997. [35449]

Alan Johnson: A response cannot be provided to this question as the Department's records do not capture this level of detail. Finding this information would exceed the disproportionate cost threshold.

Departmental Staff (Chronic Back Pain)

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what initiatives are being taken in his Department to help civil servants with chronic back pain. [34974]

Alan Johnson: The DTI provides medical and other advice, through their Occupational Health Services and through disability management advisers and specialist assessors where appropriate, to identify the appropriate support for employees with medical conditions, including chronic back pain.

Domestic Accidents

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what initiatives his Department is taking to help reduce the number of serious accidents in the home. [36207]

Mr. Sutcliffe: None. The Department has for many years maintained advice on its website on safety in the home. However, the Department's role is to ensure that the right regulatory framework is in place to ensure the safety of consumers. In some product sectors, such as toys, there is specific safety legislation, and new General Product Safety Regulations came into force on 1 October 2005. Other Departments offer advice on e.g. fire safety in the home, but generally other organisations are better placed to take forward safety campaigning and to provide advice on safety in the home.

Doorstep Selling

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what regulations govern doorstep selling; what action his Department is taking to combat aggressive doorstep selling; and if he will make a statement. [36212]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Doorstep selling is governed by the Consumer Protection (Cancellation of Contracts Concluded Away from Business Premises) Regulations 1987.
12 Dec 2005 : Column 1662W

In the light of an OFT market study of doorstep selling, my Department has been consulting on ways to improve consumer protection when buying goods or services on the doorstep. In parallel we have been considering the impact of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD), which is specifically directed at aggressive and misleading sales practices towards vulnerable consumers.

Ministers will be considering next steps and intend to publish a final government response as soon as possible.

Electricity Supplies

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action his Department is taking to ensure security of electricity supply this winter. [31739]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government believe that security of energy supply is best delivered by ensuring that market mechanisms provide incentives to energy suppliers to meet demand. This includes financial penalties, which can be very stringent depending on the overall balance of the market, where suppliers fail to balance the amount of electricity supplied by them to the national grid with the amount of electricity used by their customers. Responsibility for deciding how best to meetdemand—for example, by restoring mothballed generating plants or building up coal stocks or back-up fuel for gas-fired power stations—rests with the electricity supply industry itself.

Energy (EU Relations)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the EU's international relations on energy issues in relation to (a) the EU-Russia energy dialogue, (b) the South East Europe energy treaty, (c) the EU-OPEC dialogue and (d) the energy charter treaty. [34931]

Malcolm Wicks: As I reported at the EU Energy Council on 1 December, a number of developments have taken place or are about to take place under the UK presidency of the EU with respect to the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue, the Energy Treaty with South East Europe EU-OPEC dialogue and the Energy Charter Treaty.

EU-Russia Energy Dialogue

The first EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council on Energy was held in London on 3 October. Ministers discussed the work and future programme of the fourThematic Groups on Energy Efficiency, Trade, Investment and Infrastructure. The Council endorsed an interim list of actions for the groups to take forward. The work of these groups is proving valuable to both partners in the Dialogue and allows us to engage Russia on key issues, including those that are important in the run-up to the St. Petersburg G8 summit in 2006, where energy will be a priority.

EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue

The overall aim of the dialogue is to promote oil market stability and improve mutual understanding. At the dialogue meeting on 2 December in Vienna, we shared perspectives on recent oil market developments and discussed issues of common interest regarding technology. Expert-level roundtable meetings are being organised to develop practical areas of co-operation.
12 Dec 2005 : Column 1663W

The EU Energy Dialogues with both Russia and OPEC are an important part of a broader approach to developing the EU's relationship with major energy suppliers. This was one of the issues discussed at the informal EU Heads of State meeting at Hampton Court on 27 October which considered the challenges of globalisation.

Treaty establishing an Energy Community (with South East Europe)

I am pleased to confirm the signature of this treaty on 25 October. This treaty should facilitate the reconstruction of energy infrastructure in the Western Balkans, the establishment of an efficient energy market in the region and, eventually, its integration with the EU internal market, to the mutual benefit of these countries and EU member states.

Energy Charter Treaty

The negotiations on a Protocol on Energy Transit have continued with increased vigour under the UK presidency but we are not in a position to announce a final protocol. A conference is to be held on 9 December.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the progress made during the UK presidency on the EU's security of energy supply. [34932]

Malcolm Wicks: The UK's presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers continues until the end of December; progress to date has been made on a number of fronts. This includes:

EU Market Liberalisation: The best means we have of ensuring our energy supplies is the development of an open and competitive EU energy market. It is for this reason that I pressed the Competition Commissioner to undertake a competition inquiry into the state of the European Energy Market in electricity and gas (announced in June 2005). The UK has also supported the Commission's report on implementation of the existing directives in electricity and gas. The interim report of the competition inquiry and the 2005 implementation report were both published on 15 November. The UK facilitated substantive discussion of the two reports at the Energy Council on 1 December, where, on the basis of presentations by Commissioners Kroes and Piebalgs, the presidency was able to conclude that secure electricity and gas supplies at competitive prices, delivered on open, transparent and competitive markets are crucial to Europe's competitiveness and that full implementation of the second electricity and gas directives was paramount.

There have also been important steps taken on Energy Efficiency. At the UK's Energy Council on 1 December, energy efficiency was recognised as making an important contribution to all three primary energy objectives of competitive markets, security of supply and tackling climate change. Negotiations have been ongoing during the UK presidency on the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive. We have worked hard to reach a Council position under our presidency and we expect the final agreement of the European Parliament on 14 December. In addition, we have pushed for more long-term action, facilitating discussion of the Commission's Green Paper on energy efficiency. We also held a successful conference on Energy Efficiency on 2–3 November in London.
12 Dec 2005 : Column 1664W

The UK has also furthered the EU's relations with external actors during our presidency, with a view to enhancing our security of supply (as per parliamentary answer 2005/2255). The UK held Permanent Partnership Council on Energy with Russia on 3 October, participated in the EU-OPEC dialogue, on behalf of the Council, in Vienna on 2 December; and facilitated the signing of a treaty establishing an Energy Community (with South East Europe), signed on 25 October. The UK has also been working with the Energy Charter Secretariat ahead of their annual conference on 9 December, particularly on the long running negotiations on a Protocol on Energy Transit.

Finally, the potential for a European Energy policy was discussed at the Hampton Court Heads of State Informal in October. The Commission plans to take this forward through a Green Paper in 2006 and with a view to reporting to the 2006 December European Council. The EU's Security of Energy Supply will be an important feature of this document, on which the UK will continue to work with the Commission.

Next Section Index Home Page