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5 Jun 2006 : Column 232W—continued

Npower Renewables

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what level of public funding the company Npower Renewables will receive in connection with the development and operation of the Rhyl Flats offshore wind farm. [73774]

Malcolm Wicks: Npower Renewables will receive a capital grant of £10 million towards the development of the Rhyl Flats offshore wind farm.

The Government have committed a total of £107 million in grant support towards the capital installation of 11 early offshore wind farm developments.

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the company Npower Renewables have applied for public funding in respect of the development of the proposed Gwent y Mor offshore wind farm. [73775]

Malcolm Wicks: Npower Renewables have not made an application for public funding for the Gwent y Mor offshore wind farm.

Nuclear Safety

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research has been conducted by his Department into the threat posed to the stability of coastally-located licensed nuclear sites from (a) coastal erosion and (b) inundation due to sea level rise. [73605]

Malcolm Wicks: The DTI does not conduct research into the threat to coastally-located licensed sites from coastal erosion and inundation due to sea level rises.

Operators such as British Nuclear Group and British Energy are responsible for flood defences and coastal erosion at nuclear sites. Nearly all the sites are situated on the coast and rest behind sea defences, which are maintained to a very high standard. Reviews are made periodically to monitor long-term protection, and regional shoreline management plans have been developed on behalf of the coastal authorities.

Parcelforce

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the options for the long-term ownership structure of Parcelforce. [73590]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government have made it clear that it will not privatise Royal Mail. Parcelforce is an operating division of Royal Mail (and there are no plans to privatise it).

Patent Applications

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many patent applications were made by (a) individuals and (b) small and medium sized enterprises in each of the last three years; and in how many of these cases an application had previously been made for Government grant support. [74130]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The number of UK patent applications filed by individuals in each of the last three years was 10,292 in 2003, 9,626 in 2004 and 8,624 in 2005. Patent law does not require applicants for patents, where they are not individuals, to disclose the size of their company, and so the Patent Office does not have data on the number of small and medium sized enterprises which applied. Moreover, information is not held centrally which would show in how many of these cases the patent applicants have also previously applied for Government grants. This information can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Pensioners (Internet Access)

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate his Department has made of the number of pensioners who (a) have and (b) do not have access to internet services in (i) England and (ii) Beverley and Holderness; and if he will make a statement. [73576]

Margaret Hodge: The Department does not collect information of this nature. However, the Office for National Statistics provides statistics regarding internet access broken down by region and age group on its website (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/).


5 Jun 2006 : Column 233W

Personal Debt

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to reduce levels of personal debt; and if he will make a statement. [73348]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 25 May 2006]: Personal debt has risen substantially over the last 10 years, both in real terms and as a proportion of income. By the end of 2005 borrowing stood at approximately £1.3tn, or 151 per cent. of income. This compares to a real value of £530 billion in 1995, or 75 per cent. of income.

Despite these significant rises in the uptake of borrowing in the UK we do not believe that personal debt constitutes a major problem. The large majority of consumers continue to use credit in a productive and prudent way.

However, the Government recognise that for a small but significant number of individuals debt causes serious problems. Current estimates suggest that the number of individuals experiencing such debt problems stands at around 5 per cent. of the adult population.

In recognition of these problems we are doing much to help those with personal debt problems as outlined in the Government's 2004 “Tackling Over-indebtedness: Action Plan” and the subsequent 2005 Annual Report. DTI examples include the recently launched £45 million Face-to-Face Debt Advice Project, which will result in hundreds of new debt advisers, and the multi-million pound support given to the National Debtline phone service.

The DTI also recognizes that over-indebtedness is an issue that can only be resolved through the close co-operation of a number of different Government bodies, and actively supports programmes by other Departments including major financial education policies currently being implemented by the Financial Services Authority and Department for Education and Skills.

Furthermore, the DTI is committed to the continued monitoring of the over- indebtedness picture in the UK and will report again in early 2007 on the extent of the problem.

Post Office

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what capital assets have been transferred from public ownership to private companies under the post office franchise arrangements. [58248]

Barry Gardiner: Transfers of capital assets are operational matters for Post Office Ltd. and details are commercially confidential. However, I understand that the company’s chief operating officer has written to the hon. Member about this and other matters he has raised about post office franchising arrangements, and that a meeting has also been arranged with him.


5 Jun 2006 : Column 234W

Private Copying Levy

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the merits of a private copying levy on blank recording media and devices; and if he will make a statement. [74933]

Jim Fitzpatrick: No assessment of the merits of private copying levies on blank recording media and devices has been made since the introduction of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act in 1988 in the UK. However, the European Commission has commissioned a study which will look at the whole body of copyright legislation in Europe and has indicated it will review levies in 2007. Currently, the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property is looking at the whole UK IP framework, and analysing a number of copyright issues, including private copying. The Review will report to Government in the autumn.

Royal Mail

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take steps to change the rules which prevent the Royal Mail taking out a fully commercial loan from the private sector. [73592]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Changes to guidelines on the ability of public sector bodies to borrow from the private sector are a matter for the Treasury. The Treasury's policy on commercial lending is set out in DAO GEN1304 and can be found at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/meddia/698/21/6982130E-BCDC-D4B3-lC19D3292B571825.pdf

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether any of the operating profit made by the Royal Mail in the 2005-06 financial year will be returned to the Government. [73995]

Jim Fitzpatrick: None of Royal Mail's operating profit will be returned to the Government.

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the statement by Adam Crozier, chief executive of the Royal Mail, that he could meet the legal obligations for post office service provision with approximately 4,000 post office branches. [73996]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The minimum legal obligations for post office service provision are determined according to the universal service obligations set by the postal services regulator, Postcomm and are reflected in Royal Mail's licence. The Royal Mail chief executive's reference to a network of 4,000 post office branches reflects a hypothetical network geared solely towards fulfilling licence criteria for provision of mail services. However, the Government's track record shows that it has made a substantial investment in the post office network in recognition of the many more services it provides, for example access to cash and other Government services.


5 Jun 2006 : Column 235W

Sunday Trading

David Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he received on the Sunday Trading Act 1994 from (a) retailers and (b) others prior to 13 January. [72552]

Mr. McCartney: On 14 November the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced that he was asking officials to carry out a full cost benefit analysis of the scope for further liberalisation of Sunday trading. This led to representations from a range of stakeholders, including retailers.

David Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research his Department has (a) conducted and (b) plans to conduct on the likely impact of proposed changes to the Sunday Trading Act 1994 on shops of under 3,000 square feet. [72593]

Mr. McCartney: The DTI appointed Indepen Consulting Ltd. to produce an economic cost benefit analysis of easing the restrictions on Sunday shopping. We published Indepen's report on 5 May on the DTI website:

This includes analysis of the impact on small and large stores.

From 13 January to 14 April we asked for views and evidence on all aspects of extending Sunday shop opening hours. We are currently analysing the large number of responses we received. We intend to publish a summary of the responses on the DTI website within three months of the close of this consultation. Ministers and officials also met with a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of small retailers, to discuss Sunday shopping.

In addition, on 8 February the DTI held a focus group for small retailers specifically exploring the impact of liberalising Sunday shopping. We intend to publish a report of this event on our website shortly.

Also, on 10 May the DTI held a stakeholder conference where Indepen presented their cost benefit analysis and participants were able to discuss the assumptions and findings. This was followed by optional forums on specific themes; one of the themes was the impact on the retail sector. We intend to publish a report of this event on our website shortly.

Should we decide to proceed with the review of the current legislation restricting Sunday shopping hours, we will formally consult.

UK Trade and Investment

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Government have any plans to give regional development agencies any greater control over UK Trade and Investment’s remit in respect of inward investment. [73498]

Mr. McCartney: No. We have no plans to alter current arrangements involving UKTI’s leadership of the UK inward investment network through the Committee on Overseas Promotion.


5 Jun 2006 : Column 236W

UK Trade Targets

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list his targets relevant to UK trade with (a) India, (b) China, (c) the EU and (d) the USA. [72081]

Mr. McCartney: In 2004, DTI’s Five Year Programme set the framework to create the right conditions for business success, including when trading with other nation states. The relevant targets to UK trade with the countries listed that underpin this are:

Union Recognition (Retail Industry)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number and percentage of relevant employees who are members of unions which are formally recognised by retailers. [72060]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Unfortunately the DTI does not hold this type of information.

VAT De-registration

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many VAT de-registrations there were in the retail sector in the county of Northumberland in each year since 1995. [71511]

Margaret Hodge: Information on VAT de-registrations in the retail sector in Northumberland for 1994 to 2004 (2005 figures are not yet available) is set out as follows:


5 Jun 2006 : Column 237W
Analysis showing the count of VAT de-registrations in Northumberland County SIC2003 Division 52-Retail, data taken as at May 2005
Northumberland County

1995

130

1996

120

1997

110

1998

100

1999

105

2000

85

2001

95

2002

105

2003

105

2004

100

Notes:
The figures presented here are at enterprise level and roughly equate to the number of independent retail shops. The data also differ slightly from those published by the Small Business Service (SBS) as adjustments for death lags have been applied only to the published data. Further information on business start ups and closures can be found in the National Statistics publication “VAT Registrations and De-registrations: Business Start-ups and Closures” available on the SBS website: www.sbs.gov.uk
Source:
Office of National Statistics. IDBR

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