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26 Apr 2006 : Column 1122W—continued

Energy Suppliers

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what information and assistance his Department provides to vulnerable groups to assist them in selecting electricity, water and gas suppliers. [64620]

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Malcolm Wicks: Energywatch, the statutory gas and electricity consumer body, is responsible for providing customers, including vulnerable customers, with comparative information about energy suppliers and the range of tariffs they offer. The Security of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for water industry issues.

Financial Assistance (Heating)

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many days financial assistance with heating costs was provided to disabled people in receipt of benefits in (a) the North West and (b) England in each of the last five years. [64378]

Mr. Plaskitt: I have been asked to reply.

During the winter months disabled people in receipt of benefits may be eligible to receive a cold weather payment. Cold weather payments are intended to provide extra help to the most vulnerable people towards additional heating costs during a period of cold weather. People receiving pension credit are eligible as are income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance customers with a pensioner or disability premium, or who have a child under five or a child who is disabled.

The cold weather payment scheme is in place each winter from 1 November to 31 March. Every residential postcode in the country is linked to one of the 74 weather stations used in the scheme. A payment is made when the average temperature at a given weather station is recorded as, or is forecast to be, zero degrees or below over seven consecutive days. Thus, when a payment is 'triggered', it in effect covers seven days.

In the last five years, it has never been the case that all weather stations covering the north west or all weather stations covering England have triggered payment at the same time.

For each of the last five years, the number of weather stations triggering payment for a particular number of times is given in the following table.
Number of weather stations with stated number of triggers

Number of triggersNorth WestEngland

1. The north west has been interpreted as the area covered by the north west Government office region.
2. Some weather stations cover areas which straddle regional or country boundaries. Any weather station which covered part of the north west or part of England has been included, even if it covered part of another region or country as well.
3. The number of weather stations and the areas they cover have changed slightly over the years.
4. The number of people who qualify for a cold weather payment varies greatly by weather station. For example, for weather stations covering England which triggered payment in 2005–06, the number of people who qualified per weather station varied from an estimated 8,000 (for a weather station covering an area straddling England and Scotland) to an estimated 141,000.
Unpublished DWP Cold Weather Payments statistics.

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Geothermal Energy

John Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what Government support is available for geothermal energy; and if he will make a statement. [65251]

Malcolm Wicks: Between 1976 and the early 1990's the UK carried out a major Geothermal Research Programme at a cost in excess of £50 million. The key conclusions from the programme were that the UK is unlikely to see major developments based upon geothermal aquifers or the hot dry rock (HDR) method due to a limited resource, poor economics and limited scope for their application.

Unless the technical, practical and economic constraints identified under the previous Geothermal Programme can be addressed, the prospects for geothermal power in the UK would appear to be limited.

More recently interest has been growing in the use of Ground Source Heat Pumps. This technology can be applied to buildings of virtually any scale including domestic dwellings. It relies on heat exchange with the ground immediately beneath or close to buildings. There are at least 15 installations connected to commercial or public buildings in the UK, including the recently opened Welsh Assembly building.

Both DEFRA and the DTI, in collaboration with the Heat Pump Association, have helped establish a UK Heat Pump Network to develop a partnership between manufactures, specialist advisers, and user groups. This network will ensure that independent and authoritative advice is available on the application and use of heat pumps.

The recently launched Low Carbon Building Programme with a £80 million budget over three years, will provide support for a range of micro-generation
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technologies including ground source heat pumps. More information on the grant levels and how to apply is available at

Low Carbon Buildings Programme

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to confirm the starting date of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme; what the planned date for the first funding round is; if he will list the grant eligible technologies; and if he will make a statement. [63251]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 18 April 2006]: The Low Carbon Buildings programme was launched on 28 March 2006 as part of the Government's strategy for the promotion of micro generation. Applicants under the household stream 1 of the programme can start registering for application forms from 24 April 2006 and applications will be processed from the beginning of May 2006. You can find more information on the programme's website at:, including a list of eligible technologies, grant levels and how to apply.


John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many complaints have been made to his Department about NIG Ltd in the last five years. [64444]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department is not aware of any complaints having been made about NIG Ltd in the last five years.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (Mining)

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which solicitors and claims handlers have had a fixed cost agreement with the Department for miners' claims for noise-induced hearing loss since 1999; for how much in each case; and when each (a) began and (b) ended. [64440]

Malcolm Wicks: The solicitors and claims handlers with whom we have fixed cost agreements for handling miners' hearing loss claims are listed:

Many of these agreements were in place at the time British Coal's liability was transferred to the Department in 1998. The agreements continue in force as long as the listed firms continue to submit claims. The Department is unable to divulge specific details of any particular agreement as these are commercial agreements and the terms are confidential between the parties.
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Nuclear Decommissioning

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the full costs of (a) decommissioning nuclear power plants and (b) disposing of spent nuclear fuel will be taken into account in cost-benefit analysis of each nuclear power plant in (i) future energy White Papers and (ii) the current energy review; and if he will make a statement. [64414]

Malcolm Wicks: The Energy Review is examining potential costs of decommissioning any new nuclear plants and managing spent fuel.

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the full costs of (a) decommissioning nuclear power plants and (b) disposing of spent nuclear fuel are calculated; and if he will make a statement. [64415]

Malcolm Wicks: The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) assumed responsibility for the decommissioning and clean up of the UK's civil nuclear legacy on 1 April 2005. The cost of the decommissioning and clean up of the NDA's sites is calculated by means of Life Cycle Baselines—which are long-term plans providing a detailed assessment of the scope, methodology, and timescale of proposed site clean up activities. Life Cycle Baselines are published by the NDA and are available on their website at:

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 21 March 2006, Official Report, column 197W, on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, how many shipments of reprocessed uranium have been returned to customers in each year since such dispatch from Sellafield began; to which countries uranium has been returned; what quantities of uranium were involved in each shipment; over what time period interim storage or reprocessed uranium has been offered to each customer; how much revenue has been raised from such storage contracts in each year since the storage contracts were activated; what the country of origin was in each case where the title of the reprocessed uranium did not reside with the originator of the reprocessed spent nuclear fuel; and what plans there are for the management of the reprocessed uranium not covered by return-to-sender clauses. [63589]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 April 2006]: The terms and conditions of British Nuclear Group's contracts with its reprocessing customers are confidential. This applies to historical information about shipments in previous years, including to which countries uranium has been returned, the quantities involved and the revenue raised from storage contracts.

It is the decision of the customer to which country their reprocessed uranium is exported and who transports it. Once chosen, the destination country is incorporated into British Nuclear Group's contract with its reprocessing customer and is confidential.

British Nuclear Group has agreed relatively long storage periods with UK customers. Overseas reprocessing customers are entitled to a much more limited period of storage under their reprocessing and associated contracts. In respect of reprocessed uranium stored in the UK, it is currently stored in steel drums
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within designated stores located on nuclear licensed sites. Options for reprocessed uranium are currently being considered by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as announced in its strategy published on 30 March 2006.

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