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19 Dec 2005 : Column 2325W—continued

Bio-energy Capital Grant Scheme

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in respect of how many of the projects for large scale electricity generators of greater than 20 MWe for which grants were awarded under the bio-energy capital grant scheme draw-down of the grants have begun; what sums have so far been paid out for such projects; and to whom. [33982]

Malcolm Wicks: Of the three projects in this category £2,975,000 has been paid to Sembcorp for the Teesside project. On the E.ON project at Lockerbie, the grant has been accepted and work is under way, but no grant payments have yet been made; and the Peninsula Power WINBEG Project has yet to accept its grant offer.

Business Start-ups

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many business start-ups have taken place in (a) Tamworth constituency and (b) the West Midlands in the last 12 months; and what steps he is taking to increase the number in each case. [37835]

Alun Michael: There is no statistical information available which can accurately record the total number of business start-ups as such. New VAT registrations can be used as a proxy for business start-ups, and these show that in 2004 there were 225 new registrations in the Tamworth district council area and 14,855 in the West Midlands. The Tamworth constituency covers a greater area than that of Tamworth district council but it has not been possible to quantify the number of start-up or VAT registrations at a constituency level as records are not maintained by constituency area.

The Department of Trade and Industry sponsors the regional development agencies (RDAs) which are charged with the responsibility for the economic
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development of their regions and to work with partners to increase the sustainability of businesses and foster business start-ups. Advantage West Midlands supports a range of regional-level schemes and programmes that support start-ups including Mustard which exists to give new and young business start-ups the right kind of help when they need it the most. It is an initiative offering practical, hands-on expertise to high growth-potential new and young business start-ups in the West Midlands. Mustard is a unique private/public sector collaboration managed by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry and delivered by the region's Business Links and leading private sector consultancies.

Advantage West Midlands has also established a suite of regional funds available to start-ups including the Early Growth Fund, the Growth Fund and Advantage Business Angels and created a searchable database of all public and private sector sources of finance in the region—

The region's three high technology corridors are sites providing more incubation space for high value start-ups. For example, the Wolverhampton to Telford corridor has just completed work on the £5.5million e-Innovation Centre in Telford, providing start-up premises and grow-on space for companies involved in high-technology businesses such as e-commerce and e-engineering.

To create an enterprise culture in Tamworth and the West Midlands region in general, Advantage West Midlands has established the West Midlands Enterprise Board. One of the targets the Enterprise Board has set itself is increasing the number of self employed people in the region by 35,000 by 2010. To help achieve this, it has recommended reforming the business support network. The new reformed network will include in-depth, specialist support to a wide range of start-ups across the region and ensure that the various initiatives which are already in place to stimulate entrepreneurship and start up activity are effectively brought together to provide cohesive packages of support. Under the current business support regime Business Link Staffordshire has assisted 1,816 start-ups in the county during the period 1 January 2005 to 15 December 2005.

Carbon Capture

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria were used to decide that £25 million was the appropriate amount for the initial investment in carbon capture and sequestration. [36408]

Malcolm Wicks: The £25 million was assigned in the Carbon Abatement Technology Strategy to provide capital grant support for the demonstration of a Capture Ready Plant or Carbon Dioxide Storage. The precise amount needed to support such projects depends on what industry brings forward, but £25 million is a significant contribution and would help leverage additional funds from other sources.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently announced an additional £10 million in his pre-Budget statement, which increases the amount to £35 million.
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Coal Mining

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will instigate a review of the policies related to the production of coal in the UK; and whether he has made a recent assessment of the potential for further coal production in the UK. [37866]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 15 December 2005]: The current Energy Review will consider the role of coal in delivering our energy policy goals.

An assessment of the potential for further coal production in the UK was made in 1999. There are no present plans to commission a further assessment.

Competitiveness Council

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals on energy issues were put before the EU Competitiveness Council on 28–29 November in respect of the consideration of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme. [35652]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 15 December 2005]: The Commission's proposal for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) includes energy research as one of nine thematic priorities. The EURATOM programme for nuclear research and training also includes a number of relevant activities. The Competitiveness Council on 28 November considered a UK Presidency compromise text of the FP7 Proposal and member states agreed to a Partial General Approach, which excludes budgetary aspects pending the outcome of the negotiations on the EU budget.

Deceased Optional Risk Offer Scheme

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what payments have been made in each quartile under the Deceased Optional Risk offer scheme since payments began. [37935]

Malcolm Wicks: As at 11 December 2005, 904 payments of £1,200 to widows and 2,539 payments of £1,000 to ex-miners' families had been made under the Deceased Optional Risk Offer scheme since it became operational on 1 September. This scheme is intended to quickly compensate those claimants where there is no evidence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Under the full scheme, the average payment in equivalent circumstances is £822. Claimants' representatives will be able to advise for each claim on the eligibility for and merits of a DOROS payment.

EU-China Textiles Agreement

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the likely effects of the EU-China textiles agreement on numbers of jobs in (a) the EU, (b) China and (c) the UK; and if he will make a statement. [16844]

Ian Pearson: The textiles agreement between the European Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce concluded in June and subsequently revised in September limits imports into the EU from China of 10 textiles and clothing products until the end of 2007. This agreement provided a level of stability for trade in these products and avoided the uncertainty of the
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alternative of a succession of product-by-product safeguard investigations. I have made no assessment on the effects on jobs in the EU, China or the UK.

EU-Vietnam Trade Dispute

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the trade dispute between the EU and Vietnam. [36670]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 12 December 2005]: I am not aware of any trade dispute between the EU and Vietnam. However, the European Commission is investigating the alleged dumping of Vietnamese (and Chinese) footwear. The European Commission has yet to produce the preliminary findings of its investigation.

Gas Prices

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make it his policy to cap wholesale gas prices; and what discussions he has had with UK industry on the effect of unregulated gas price increases on business. [37936]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government's approach to security of energy supply is to let the market work so that price signals reflect supply and demand conditions and thereby encourage restraint on the demand side and additional provision on the supply side as necessary. A cap on wholesale prices would be wholly contrary to that approach and would be likely to have an extremely damaging impact on the market's ability to balance supply and demand in the short-term and on investor confidence in the longer-term.

I, as well as DTI and Ofgem officials, have had numerous meetings with industry representatives to discuss the impact of high gas prices and ways of mitigating that impact.

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