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7 Feb 2006 : Column 1071W—continued

Energy from Waste Plants

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry why energy from waste plants accepting mixed waste will not be eligible for renewable obligation certificates. [47813]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government made clear in the statutory consultation document on the 2005–06 review of the renewables obligation that the majority of new energy from waste projects should not need the support of the obligation to be economic. For this reason the Government does not propose to introduce an amendment to eligibility, which would allow the majority of new projects using conventional technologies to claim renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) from mixed waste.

The statutory consultation document also made clear that whilst the majority of new energy from mixed waste plants, utilising conventional combustion technology, should be economic without the support of the obligation, energy from mixed waste plants, which utilise combined heat and power (CHP), would be likely to face additional capital costs in relation to the supply of heat. Given the carbon abatement benefits arising from the use, rather than the waste of heat from the combustion process, the Government proposes to extend ROC eligibility to electricity generated from the biomass fraction of mixed waste, which uses CHP. This change will take effect from 1 April 2006.

Energy from mixed waste, using advanced conversion technologies such as pyrolysis, gasification and anaerobic digestion, remains eligible for support under the renewables obligation.

A copy of the statutory consultation document on the 2005–06 review of the renewables obligation is available from the Libraries of the House.

Mobile Telephones (Charges)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures are being taken by his Department to prosecute companies who charge people for a service they did not want on their mobile telephone. [48380]

Alun Michael: The Government's aim is have in place controls which give the consumer sufficient safeguards but which do not unduly hamper the development of the market. Unsolicited text (SMS) messages are illegal under new statutory controls, which were introduced as part of the new Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) is responsible for administering Premium Rate Services (PRS) and can fine companies and bar access to services.

As a result of various PRS scams during 2004, the Government asked the communications and media regulator, Ofcom to carry out a review of PRS regulation. In December 2004 Ofcom published a report, which contained a set of recommendations to
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reduce the scope for consumer harm. Most of Ofcom's recommendations have already been implemented to improve the PRS regulatory regime, including raising the maximum penalty for breaches of the ICSTIS Code of Practice from £100,000 to £250,000.

The recommendations focus on:

One key recommendation that has already been implemented is to slow down the flow of funds from network operators to service providers, by making operators withhold payment for 30 days from when a PRS call is made. New rules on compensation for consumers who have been subject to a scam are also being implemented. Then, if there are complaints, it will be possible to hold back funds for a longer period, thus ensuring that fines and repayments can be paid. This will reduce the likelihood of a quick gain being made through the provision of unwanted or unacceptable practices. The new requirement will allow ICSTIS to have suspect services cut off at an earlier stage using its emergency procedure and prevent service providers from being paid for fraudulent services. The commencement date for this new requirement was 15 September 2005.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is an independent body set up by the advertising industry to police the rules laid down in the advertising codes. ASA receives and upholds many complaints from parents whose children have received large phone bills because they downloaded ringtones without realising the financial commitment involved.

The industry itself announced in January 2005 that consumers must be clearly informed by text about what they have subscribed to, the cost, and how to stop the service (a consumer must" be able to switch off the service with the universal stop" command). All the UK mobile operators have signed up to these new safeguards and agreed to require those content providers using their networks to comply with them. In other words all content providers have to comply with the new safeguards or will face the suspension of their services (and therefore the blocking and loss of revenue).

National Minimum Wage

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which companies have been found not to be paying their employees the national minimum wage in each year since 2001; and what penalties were imposed. [48398]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I have been asked to reply.

HM Revenue and Customs do not routinely reveal the identity of the employers found not to be paying the minimum wage.
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North Sea Gas

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry why natural gas from UK offshore North Sea sources has been depleted at a faster rate than was envisaged in the 2003 Energy White Paper; and if he will place his Department's calculations in the Library. [46566]

Malcolm Wicks: The 2003 Energy White Paper did not specifically forecast the rate of depletion of UK gas but it did say that it is...likely that the UK will become a net importer of gas on an annual basis by around 2006" (paragraph 6.13). This was in line with the
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projections of outside analysts. For example, Wood Mackenzie, in its August 2001 multi-client report entitled Running Short of Gas: The Outlook for UK and Irish Gas Markets", had said It is probable that the UK will become a net importer of gas in either 2005 or 2006." The following table compares the Department's central view of both production and demand at the time of the Energy White Paper with its current central view. This shows that our own gas production from the North Sea declined faster than expected in 2004, with declining production from existing fields not being offset by production from new, smaller fields, and we moved to being a small net gas importer.
Energy White Paper projected Net UKCS gas productionCurrent actual(1)/projected net UKCS gas productionEnergy White Paper projected net UK gas demandCurrent actual(1)/projected net UK gas demand

(1) Actual.

Nuclear Fuels

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many tonnes of nuclear fuel were imported into the UK in the latest year for which records are available, broken down by country of export. [48022]

Malcolm Wicks: Spent nuclear fuel is imported into the UK for reprocessing services. The precise details of deliveries from individual customers are commercially confidential. I can, however, confirm there have been no such imports in the financial year 2005–06.

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what nuclear fuels have been consumed in the UK in each of the last three years; and how many tonnes of each type of fuel were consumed in each of those years. [48023]

Malcolm Wicks: British Nuclear Fuel and British Energy have informed me that their generating reactors have used the following volumes of Uranium over the last three-year period for which figures are available:

Tonnes uranium

British Energy

Tonne uranium

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