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10 May 2006 : Column 259W—continued

The recently announced £6.1 million "Keeping the Nuclear Option Open" research consortium, led by Imperial College London, will be undertaking research to both underpin and specifically address the Generation
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IV research agenda. In part as a result of this recent major investment, EPSRC's expenditure on nuclear power research in 2006-07 is projected to rise to in excess of £1.7 million.

EPSRC is unable to identify from its records specific investment in a number of the various Generation IV technologies. EPSRC has recently funded a research project at the University of Manchester on high- temperature gas-cooled reactors—expenditure on this grant, which is included in the total figures stated above, was £13,505 in 2005-06 and is projected to be £14,849 in 2006-07.

Energy Provision

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average energy cost was of power generation from (a) nuclear, (b) oil, (c) gas, (d) coal and (e) renewables in each of the past 30 years at today's prices (i) excluding and (ii) including public subsidy. [68030]

Malcolm Wicks: Figures for energy costs of generation since privatisation of the electricity industry are commercially confidential. Pre-privatisation figures may be available in the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) Yearbooks but can be collated only at disproportionate cost.

EU Extremely Large Telescope

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment has been made of the impact of (a) light pollution and (b) aircraft vapour trails on the location of the EU Extremely Large Telescope. [67315]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) project is still at the design stage and several possible locations are being surveyed. Many factors are being taken into consideration before a final decision is made as to where such a telescope should be located; including the extent of light pollution and the proximity to high-volume flight paths.

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which organisations are involved in the European Extremely Large Telescope project; and in which country each is based. [67317]

Jim Fitzpatrick: A total of 27 organisations are currently involved in the EU Framework Programme 6 Design Study phase of the European Extremely Large Telescope, led by the European Southern Observatory.

In the UK, the work is led by the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (Edinburgh), with support from the Universities of Durham, Oxford and UCL.

Other partners in the Design Study are:

10 May 2006 : Column 261W

EU Manufacturing

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the levels of competition in manufacturing across the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [68738]

Margaret Hodge: The Government make periodic assessments of the level of competition facing particular manufacturing sectors across the European Union. These assessments include the degree of price competition among firms trading from within the EU and the effects of competition from imports from outside the EU. The Government are fully aware of the strong competition UK manufacturers face from European Union partners, both from Western European economies and lower cost Eastern European countries. We are taking action through the Manufacturing Strategy to promote the development of a successful UK manufacturing base with value added operations in order to help companies to respond to these challenges.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps his Department is taking to support the manufacturing industry and promote UK exports. [68741]

Margaret Hodge: The Government support our manufacturing industry as we set out in our Manufacturing Strategy. Our aim is to help manufacturers in the UK move to high value added production through the application of science and innovation, best practice, encouragement of high value investment and by developing a highly skilled labour force. We set up the Manufacturing Advisory Service in 2002, and we estimate that it has generated £213 million of added value throughout the UK. The Manufacturing Forum monitors and drives the delivery of the Manufacturing Strategy throughout the UK.

Support for UK exporters is delivered through UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the Government organisation that supports UK companies trading internationally and overseas companies seeking to locate in the UK. In 2005, nearly 2,000 companies signed up
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for UKTI's flagship "Passport to Export" development programme helping them prepare to trade internationally, and nearly 6,000 companies were helped to move into overseas markets new to them. Independent research shows that £65 million spent on four UKTI key trade development schemes generated £1.1 billion additional net benefit by enabling over 6,000 businesses, including manufacturers, to upgrade their international marketing strategies.

Fuel Cell Technology

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what help his Department makes available to companies researching hydrogen fuel cell technology for motor vehicle use through a greater understanding of nuclear energy. [69618]

Malcolm Wicks: The DTI commissioned two reports in 2004 in relation to hydrogen: "Hydrogen Energy Support in the UK" and "A Strategic Framework for Hydrogen Energy Activity in the UK". These reports have been published on the Department's website. The second report identified six potential hydrogen energy chains for the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel. One route is to produce hydrogen from nuclear generation.

On 15 June 2005, I announced the Government's response to the second report "A Strategic Framework for Hydrogen Energy Activity in the UK" which included a funding package of £15 million over four years for a UK wide hydrogen and fuel cell demonstration programme. The details of the demonstration scheme are currently being developed, and requires EC state aid approval.

Home Working

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under what legislation employees are granted a right to work from home; if he has any plans to introduce further legislation; and if he will make a statement. [69631]

Jim Fitzpatrick: In spring 2005 there were around3.1 million people in the UK who worked mainly in their own home, or in different places using home as a base. There is no legislation which gives employees a right to work from home, however the Government encourage employers and employees to agree suitable working patterns.

In April 2003 we introduced the right to request flexible working, which includes working from home, for parents of children under six and disabled children under 18. The Work and Families Bill, currently before Parliament, extends this right to carers of adults.

The employment provisions (part 2) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 require employers to consider reasonable adjustments to job application or selection processes, and to premises, practices or procedures, if these would otherwise put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage. This might include allowing a disabled person to work from home if such an adjustment was reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.

There are no plans for further legislation relating to working from home.

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Miners' Compensation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 26 April 2006, Official Report, column 1125W, on noise-induced hearing loss (mining), what assessment he has made of the variations in fixed costs between these agreements; what the reasons were for the decision to refuse costs for certain solicitors since 2005; and which of the fixed agreements have been in place since 2001. [67771]

Malcolm Wicks: The variations between agreements have arisen as a result of those agreements having been individually and commercially negotiated. Costs are disputed whenever they appear unreasonably high and the reasons for each dispute will vary. The agreements are commercially confidential so I cannot provide details.

Agreements with the following solicitors have been in place unchanged since 2001:

Ben Hoare Bell, Brian Mcardle, Browells, Campbell Smith, Comes, Drurmmond Miller, Gorman Hamilton, Gorvin Smith Fort, Graysons, Hickmotts, Ingrams, Kidd & Spoor Harper, Lathams, Lopian Wagner, Marrons, Mcardles, McConville O'Neill, Meloy Whittle Robinson, Morisons, Mortons, O H Parsons, Oxley & Coward, Pannone & Partners, Raleys, Randell Saunders, Saffmans, Simpson Miller, Thompsons, Watson Burton.

Natural Environment Research Council

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what the Natural Environment Research Council science budget allocation was for each centre in each year since 1997; [66367]

(2) what the change in budget will be for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology after the Natural Environment Research Council proposed restructuring plans. [66368]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Science Budget allocation to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has doubled since 1997, demonstrating our commitment to maintaining the quality of environmental research in the UK. Following consultation with stakeholders, NERC has announced that it will implement plans to ensure that the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) can contribute to UK environmental science on a sustainable basis in the future.

CEH is wholly-owned by NERC, which determines its budget each year. I shall ask the Chief Executive of NERC to write to the hon. Member concerning his requests.

Post Office

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he has commissioned a study on the competitiveness of the Post Office in handling (a) television licence purchases and (b) other payment transactions. [67906]

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Jim Fitzpatrick: No. The decision not to renew the television licence contract with Post Office Limited was a commercial one made by the BBC, following a competitive tender exercise. Similarly, decisions relating to Government contracts for handling other payment transactions will be made by respective Government departments or agencies after carrying out competitive tendering exercises to establish best value for money.

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what value of business thePost Office Card Account provided to post offices in (a) Leeds, (b) Yorkshire and (c) the UK in 2005-06. [68534]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 9 May 2006]: Revenue received by Post Office Ltd for managing Post Office Card Account are the subject of commercially confidential contracts with DWP.

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans the Department has to compensate those post offices which will be adversely affected by the proposed closure of the Post Office Card Account. [68861]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 8 May 2006]: The future of the post office network and future revenue will depend on many factors including what accounts, other than the Post Office Card Accounts, will be made available after 2010. Post Office Ltd and the Department for Work and Pensions are currently discussing the various options.

Power Supplies

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State forTrade and Industry how many interruptions to power supply from (a) nuclear, (b) oil, (c) gas, (d) coal and (e) renewables generation there have been in each of the past 30 years. [67824]

Malcolm Wicks: There have been no power supply interruptions due to a shortfall in generation leading to an imbalance between supply and demand over the last 30 years.

Regional Development Agencies

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State forTrade and Industry what the (a) total budget and (b) administrative costs were of each of the regional development agencies in 2005-06; and what the estimated costs are for 2006-07. [66781]

Margaret Hodge: The 2005-06 figures for the total budget and administration costs for the nine regional development agencies are set out in the first table and the indicative budget and estimated administration costs for 2006-07 are set out in the second table.

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RDA Figures Budget (£m) Administration (£000)

Advantage West Midlands



East England Development Agency



East Midlands Development Agency



London Development Agency



North West Development Agency



One North East



South East England Development Agency



South West of England Development Agency



Yorkshire Forward



RDA Figures Budget (£m) Administration (£000)

Advantage West Midlands



East England Development Agency



East Midlands Development Agency



London Development Agency



North West Development Agency



One North East



South East England Development Agency



South West of England Development Agency



Yorkshire Forward



The London Development Agencies administration budget is subject to the approval of their draft 2006-07 corporate plan by the Mayor.

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