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27 Mar 2006 : Column 636W—continued

Cable and Wireless

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will publish the minutes of the meeting in July 2005 between the Minister of State for Trade and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of Cable and Wireless. [53326]

Ian Pearson: The notes of the meeting will be published on the DTI website ( These will be subject to the necessary redactions reflecting the sensitivities (both in relation to the commercial interests of Cable and Wireless and international relations between the UK and other administrations) of some of the issues discussed.

Carbon Emissions

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Tradeand Industry what estimate his Department has
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made of the total life-cycle carbon cost of (a) solar, (b) tidal, (c) wind and (d) nuclear power per GWh-generated. [60911]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department is aware of a number of studies estimating the total life-cycle emissions and carbon costs of different generation technologies.

In November 2005 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that there would be a review of energy policy which would report in summer 2006. This will involve reviewing the existing evidence on the total life-cycle carbon costs of options for meeting the Government's long-term targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Corporate Behaviour

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many investigations have been launched by his Department in each of the last five years into British companies suspected of flouting guidelines on (a) corporate and social responsibility and (b) corruption. [55511]

Malcolm Wicks: No investigations have been launched.

Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are for guidance only. The UK Government do not have the power to investigate companies which flout various guidelines on CSR, including voluntary initiatives to combat corruption overseas and the OECD Guidelines on multinational enterprises.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the merits of establishing clear and binding international human rights standards for corporations. [58801]

Alun Michael: There are currently no binding international agreements on international human rights standards for corporations. However, in 2005, the UN Secretary-General, at the request of the Commission of Human Rights, appointed a special representative to look at the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises—a final report is due to be presented to the Commission in 2007.

The UK will continue to promote several voluntary schemes that provide clear international human rights standards for corporations. These include the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives, Global Compact and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines.

Departmental Policies

Emily Thornberry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to Islington, South and Finsbury constituency, the effects on Islington, South and Finsbury of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [60734]

Alun Michael: The London Development Agency is provided with funds from DTI to provide co-ordinated regional economic development and regeneration, to
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reduce economic imbalances which exist within the capital and to improve competitiveness. The LDA also administer a variety of grants to businesses.

Through the London Development Agency we provide funding for Business Link for London. Business Link provides London's small business community with impartial and comprehensive advice to help them start and grow and develop their businesses. Business Link for London, last year they helped over 90,000 businesses in the capital and achieved a 90 per cent. customer satisfaction rating.

Specific information relating to the Islington, South and Finsbury constituency is difficult to collate, but since 1997 there has been an 8 per cent. increase in the number of VAT registered businesses stock within the borough of Islington.

Different by Design

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what public funding has been (a) allocated to and (b) spent on the Different by Design programme in the West Midlands. [60726]

Alun Michael: Different by Design was allocated £2.7 million in February 2003 by Advantage West Midlands (the West Midlands Regional Development Agency). Spend to date is £1,609,901.

Directors' Reports

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress his Department hasmade with implementing new rules on directors' reports. [60905]

Alun Michael: Following the discussion not to proceed with a mandatory requirement for an Operating and Financial Review, we have invited views on narrative business reporting requirements for the future, with a closing date for responses of 24 March. This consultation has provided an opportunity for all interested parties, including companies and investors, to express their views on all options and relevant issues. The Government will announce its conclusions following consideration of the responses to the consultation and intends to bring forward amendments to reflect any resulting policy changes during the appropriate Parliamentary stages of the Company Law Reform Bill.

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the costs incurred by (a) businesses and (b) his Department on the Companies Act 1985 (OFR and Directors' Report) Regulations 2005. [60912]

Alun Michael: The Government assessed the costs of implementing a statutory Operating and Financial Review against those of implementing an enhanced Business Review in a Regulatory Impact Assessment, which was published alongside the DTI's formal response to consultation. It was estimated that a statutory Operating and Financial Review would cost business £33 million per annum more than the Business Review. Most of these additional costs related to the different audit requirements applying to the OFR compared to the Business Review. As the Business
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Review and OFR reporting requirements are similar, work already undertaken on the preparation of the OFR will be useful in the preparation of the Business Review.

The costs incurred by the department relate to the work of the relevant Departmental officials and have not been separately calculated. The Regulations coveredthe business review requirements necessary to implement the EU Accounts Modernisation Directive as well as the mandatory OFR provisions. Only the latter are affected by the announcement in November and the consultation that has just closed.

Emissions Trading Scheme

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from small and medium sized companies on the implementation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. [60744]

Malcolm Wicks: In July 2005, the Government launched a formal consultation to seek views on proposals for consideration for Phase II of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). 232 written responses were received, the majority of which were from operators in the EU ETS. These responses have not been analysed by size of organisation.

The Government will shortly be publishing their response to the consultation, together with an analysis of the responses prepared by independent consultants.

Energy Market

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken to counter volatility in the energy market. [60635]

Malcolm Wicks: The recent volatility in gas and electricity prices is driven by the current tight supply/demand balance and the general uncertainty in the market over the winter months. The Government have been pursuing a number of avenues to reduce this tightness and improve the operation of the market. We have talked to the North sea gas producers, and the operators and capacity owners of the Bacton-Zeebrugge Interconnector and the Isle of Grain Liquefied Natural Gas import terminal, in order to maximise supplies over the winter. We have encouraged end users, particularly gas-fired power stations and other energy intensive industrial consumers, to respond to price signals by reducing demand and switching to alternative fuels where possible. We have sought to improve the operation of the market by making more information available on a timely basis through the voluntary agreement with the offshore industry, and by encouraging the Futures and Options Association to develop an action plan for improving the liquidity of the gas and electricity markets.

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government is taking to liberalise the energy market. [60630]

Malcolm Wicks: The UK energy market is one of the most liberalised in the world. The UK is giving the European Commission our full support to ensure that EU energy markets are also open and competitive. As
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the Chancellor noted in his budget speech, incomplete liberalisation of EU energy markets is a factor in high gas prices and at the Spring European Council the UK will propose that the energy and other sectors which fail to liberalise and open up to Competition should be subject to independent investigation and enforcement. This work has been ongoing in the energy sector for some time; the Commission launched a sector inquiry into EU gas and electricity markets in June 2005 and the UK gave this prominence during our Presidency of the EU in the second half of last year. The Commission recently reported the preliminary findings of this inquiry and identified a number of areas of concern. We expect the Commission to remedy the defects it has found.

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