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19 Dec 2005 : Column 2328W—continued

Gas Supply

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether there is sufficient gas supply to meet the demand of UK industry for the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [37937]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government's approach to security of gas supply is to foster a market-based regulatory framework which incentivises market participants to ensure that supply and demand balance. Both supply and demand can be affected by various different factors on a day-to-day basis, such as the weather, prices both in the UK and overseas, market conditions in supplier and transit countries affecting the availability and price of imported gas, technical issues at production and import facilities, etc. On an annual basis, however, if investment in currently planned import projects goes ahead as expected, there should be sufficient capacity to deliver gas to meet UK demand until at least 2020.

Liquefied Gas Pipeline

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with(a) Cadw and (b) the Countryside Council for
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Wales in relation to the proposed Tywi Route for the liquefied gas pipeline from Milford Haven to Herefordshire. [35595]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department has attended a meeting with key parties on the proposed pipeline from Milford Haven to Aberdulais. It has also attended several meetings on proposed pipeline from Filindre to Tirley at which the proposed route was discussed. Iunderstand the CCW attended all the meetings but not the CADW.


Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he has taken as a result of his tackling over-indebtedness action plan of 2004; what further research and monitoring he carried out further to Annex D of the action plan; and what the results were. [38298]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Actions taken as a result of the tackling over-indebtedness action plan of 2004 are set out in Tackling Over-indebtedness—Annual Report 2005" published in August 2005 (available in the Libraries of the House and on the DTI website: Research carried out further to the 2004 plan is summarised in Annex C of the 2005 annual report. Monitoring of progress against the action plan is included in the annual report, with additional monitoring of the high level factors which influence levels of over-indebtedness reviewed on a quarterly basis (and published on the DTI website: The results of these exercises are set out in the documents referred to and enclosed references.

Post Office

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what reasons the Postal Services Act 2000 does not require the Post Office to compensate for the cost of the postage when a package is lost. [38110]

Barry Gardiner: Section 89 of the Postal Services Act 2000 enables universal service providers (currently only Royal Mail) to make schemes setting out the terms and conditions for their provision of universal postal services. These schemes include provision for compensation payments for loss etc. Postcomm, the independent regulator, is responsible for enforcing such schemes (including on compensation) through the licensing regime also created by the Act.

The powers required for Royal Mail to make such schemes were already in place under previous postal services legislation before the creation of the 2000 Act. Rather than introduce new arrangements, when adequate mechanisms already existed, the Postal Services Act 2000 merely mirrored previous arrangements updating them only to take into account the new framework and references for postal services envisaged by the 2000 Act (i.e. the potential for more universal service providers in addition to Royal Mail and the licensing regime).
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Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many rural post offices closed in the last 12 months. [38696]

Barry Gardiner: I am advised by Post Office Ltd. that total net rural post office closures for the financial year 2004–05 were 144.

Regional Development Agencies

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the written statement of 8 December 2005, Official Report, column 1245WS, on regional development agencies, who the (a) new and (b) reappointed members of the South-west Regional Development Agency are. [38138]

Alun Michael: The written statement lists Kelvyn Derrick, Nigel Costley and Jonathon Porritt as fresh appointments, as their appointments followed an open competition, in accordance with the requirements set down in the Commissioner for Public Appointments Code of Practice. Kelvyn Derrick has been appointed for the first time. Nigel Costley and Jonathon Porritt were already serving as SWRDA Board members.

The chairman, Juliet Williams and board members Judith Reynolds, Harry Studholme and Eric Thomas have all been re-appointed for a second term.

Rogue Dialling

Mr. Binley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make representations to British Telecom on not holding consumers responsible for telephone charges due to rogue dialling; if he will introduce legislation to protect consumers from the effects of rogue dialling; and if he will ask the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information to re-open an investigation of the role of premium media communication and other companies in rogue dialling. [33181]

Alun Michael: The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) has put in place a prior permission scheme for Premium Rate diallers. This makes it possible to assess the dialler software to be used for proposed services, and if appropriate to prohibit their release. The independent regulator for electronic communications, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), 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. Implementing a recommendation from Ofcom's Report into the Regulation of Premium Rate Services, this Department has just increased the maximum fine for breaches of the ICSTIS Code, and ICSTIS intends to review its sanctions policy early in 2006. ICSTIS has also put in place a key recommendation from the report to slow the money-flow to those that abuse the premium rate services charging mechanism. This obliges telecoms companies not to make payments to premium rate service providers for at least 30 days after calls have been made. This gives ICSTIS more time to identify breaches of its Code and enables ICSTIS to direct telecoms companies to withhold funds pending the outcome of investigations.
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As ICSTIS has not had any complaints since May, Premium Media Communications may have withdrawn from the UK dialler market. However ICSTIS plans to write to this company shortly to give it notice of the withdrawal of its licence to operate diallers. This means that no phone company can give Premium Media Communications premium rate numbers for dialler services.

The Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman (Otelo) is the appropriate body to make representations to BT on consumer disputes about telephone charges due to rogue dialling, and regularly contacts BT about specific cases.

Royal Mail

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he is expecting the Royal Mail to publish details of its employee share scheme. [35771]

Barry Gardiner: The Chairman of Royal Mail has said that he is keen to introduce such a scheme as this would give employees a stake in the business and help create the structural changes that are needed to enable the Royal Mail to compete in a liberalised market.

To date Royal Mail has not presented details of any such scheme to the Government for their consideration. Whether or not Royal Mail intend to publish proposals for such a scheme is a matter for them and I have therefore referred my hon. Friend's question to the chairman of Royal Mail and asked that he reply to my hon. Friend directly.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the Stonehenge Visitor Centre project. [38084]

Mr. Lammy: I have been asked to reply.

It is inappropriate for me to comment on the detail of English Heritage's Visitor Centre plans which are now subject to appeal. The present visitor facilities fail to meet the quality visitors expect and are inappropriate to the setting. English Heritage wants to address this and they have my support.

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