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Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much was spent by his Department on consultants providing advice on energy issues over the past 12 months. [73157]

Malcolm Wicks: In the financial year 2005-06, the Energy Group of the DTI spent £4 million on consultants to provide advice on energy issues.

Energy Distribution

Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the adequacy of regional distribution of (a) electricity, (b) gas and (c) heat networks for the implementation of the Government’s microgeneration strategy. [74805]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department has undertaken some assessment of the impact that increased levels of electricity generating microgeneration will have on the distribution network. This research suggests that the network will not experience problems below penetration levels of 50 per cent. We have not undertaken any similar analysis of the gas and heat networks.

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An important characteristic of mot microgeneration technologies is that they can provide a “stand-alone” source of heat and/or electricity with no requirement for connection to electricity, gas or heat networks.

Energy Review

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer to question 72558, which external assessments of the total life-cycle carbon costs of nuclear power will be taken account of in the review of energy policy. [74790]

Malcolm Wicks: The studies that will be considered include:

Household Energy Supplies

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of houses in the UK which do not require external energy sources. [75601]

Malcolm Wicks: We do not have an estimate of the number of houses in the UK that do not require any external energy source (i.e. receive neither gas nor electricity from the national grids). However, a study we commissioned from the Energy Saving Trust suggests that at the end of 2004 there were around 82,000 microgeneration installations in the UK, which means that at least 82,000 dwellings and community buildings are not wholly reliant on external energy sources.

Nuclear Decommissioning

Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in respect of the adequacy of skills available to implement the nuclear decommissioning and waste management strategy approved in April by his Department and the devolved Administrations. [74803]

Malcolm Wicks: The NDA addresses the level and adequacy of skills available to deliver its mission in the context of the Life Time Plans which each of its sites has in place. (The Life Time Plans set out the total scope of activities e.g. project scope, schedule, and cost which need to be undertaken over each site’s planned lifetime to bring the site to its proposed end state). The process is that each site produces a skills strategy which, as a minimum, covers the following areas: key skills required in the short, medium, and long term; identification of skills gaps and links to the migration of the existing work force; sensitivities relating to demographic change;
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recruitment and training strategies; links with training providers; succession planning; and supply chain strategies for long-term availability of skills. The sites’ skills strategies are analysed and developed by the NDA to ensure the appropriate supporting infrastructure is in place, and that any key issues or skills gaps are identified.

Severn Barrage Project

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the merits of a Severn Barrage Project. [73855]

Malcolm Wicks: Between 1978 and 1994 the Government supported the most comprehensive programme of research and development on tidal energy in the world at an overall cost in excess of £20 million. Those studies considered tidal barrage energy schemes at a number of potential sites, the largest being in the Severn estuary. The results of the Severn Barrage study were reported in Energy Paper 57 (ISBN 0 11 412952 5).

The most recent study of the Severn scheme was carried out by the Severn Tidal Power Group in 2002 and available at pubpdfdload=02%2F644

The Department is currently part way through an energy review that will consider all options and opportunities for ensuring we meet our medium and longer-term energy goals.

Deputy Prime Minister

Official Residences (Council Tax)

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which Government Department was responsible for making council tax payments to Westminster city council for his official residence in Admiralty House from 1997 to 2005. [56188]

The Deputy Prime Minister: The Ministry of Defence was responsible for making council tax payments to Westminster city council for my official residence in 1997-98. In 2002-03 responsibility for making those payments rested with the Cabinet Office. In the years since, responsibility has rested with the then Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions or the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Bushmen of the Kalahari

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the welfare of the Bushmen of the Kalahari since their rehousing by the Government of Botswana; what representations the Government have made to the Government of Botswana on this issue; and if she will make a statement. [75487]

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Mr. Hoon: Since relocation, approximately 2,000 San (Bushmen) from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have had enhanced access to water, medical facilities and education. There are differing views among the San communities as to whether these benefits outweigh those of their former lifestyle. Although there have been no representations at ministerial level, our high commission in Gaborone has encouraged both the San and their representatives and the Government of Botswana to address these issues, through a process of dialogue.

European Defence Agency

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans there are to change the number of members of staff working for the European Defence Agency. [73929]

Mr. Ingram: I have been asked to reply.

The European Defence Agency’s 2006 budget was agreed in November 2005 on the basis of ninety-four staff. To date, no recruiting action has been taken on two of these posts. These will remain unfilled until the Agency’s Steering Board decides that they are required. Any plans to change the number of staff working for the Agency in future years will be considered when the Steering Board approves the 2007 budget and the Agency’s Council, acting by unanimity, approves the 3 year financial framework for the Agency later this year.

Guantanamo Bay

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will place in the Library a copy of the response to the letter which her predecessor wrote to Dr. Condoleezza Rice requesting the release of Mr. Bisher Al-Rawi from Guantanamo Bay on non-humanitarian grounds. [74806]

Dr. Howells: The US Government replied to my right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary’s (Jack Straw) letter on 27 April. However, since the response is part of ongoing confidential Government to Government correspondence, the release of the reply would be likely to prejudice international relations and adversely affect the handling of this case. For these reasons I am unable to place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.


Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations her Department has made to the Government of Iran regarding the treatment of Baha’is in that country. [75173]

Dr. Howells: We continue to have serious concerns about the situation of religious minorities in Iran. We have received numerous reports of discrimination against those wishing to practise minority faiths, including the Baha’i community. Ministers and officials have pressed the Iranian authorities on many occasions to address the intimidation and discrimination suffered by Iranian Baha'is. At our suggestion, the EU Presidency did so on
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31 January and on 11 April. Most recently the EU raised the matter on 29 May. On 10 April, EU Foreign Ministers underlined their

We have also taken action at the UN. We were pleased that all EU countries co-sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution on human rights in Iran in December last year. This expressed serious concern at, inter alia,

We expect Iran to uphold freedom of religion and belief in accordance with its international obligations under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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