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Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will initiate discussions with domestic energy utilities on ensuring that (a) carbon dioxide emissions from fuel consumption and (b) where appropriate, the fuel mix, is shown on the face of domestic energy bills. 
Malcolm Wicks: Under fuel mix disclosure provisions inserted into electricity supply licences by regulations made under the European Communities Act, suppliers are already required to calculate, and make available to customers, information about the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each kWh of electricity generated. That information may be provided on or with bills. No equivalent provision exists for mains gas. The Energy Review is considering the arguments for requiring more informative bills for domestic gas and electricity customers.
Malcolm Wicks: The Department has taken a number of actions to help vulnerable domestic gas and electricity customers. We have liaised closely with energy suppliers on the development of the Home Heat Helpline, a one-stop service providing vulnerable customers and their representatives with the range of help and information available from suppliers and Government. We have worked with Energywatch and Ofgem to encourage customers to use the competitive market to get the best deal. We have successfully promoted the introduction of social tariffs and price freezes for fuel-poor and low-income customers.
DTIs Design and Demonstration Unit, a team of private sector secondees that works in support of Energy White Paper objectives, has designed and delivered projects to provide gas connections to deprived communities, and is now developing community projects utilising renewable technologies.
DTI and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) share PSA targets in respect of fuel poverty. As part of the Energy Review, DTI is seeking to determine what further measures are needed to tackle fuel poverty.
Mr. McCartney: The Government are putting in place arrangements that will secure redress for consumers when they have legitimate complaints against estate agents. My officials are in discussion with the ombudsman for estate agents about approving a redress scheme under the Housing Act 2004 for complaints in respect of home information packs. The Government intend to extend the right of redress to cover all relevant complaints against estate agents throughout the UK at the first legislative opportunity. The Government also intend to introduce other measures to improve the regulation of estate agents that were recommended by the Office of Fair Trading.
Malcolm Wicks: Since last summer, the Department and OFGEM have been working closely with the Futures and Options Association (FOA) to identify the reasons for the lack of liquidity in the gas and power markets and to see if there are any barriers the Government could help overcome.
To establish a Steering Group to assess the viability, and, as appropriate, take forward the establishment of an auction market
for the trading of UK powerthis is expected to make a recommendation to the industry in the summer with a view to implementing changes before the winter.
To respond to the Government announcement for reviewing energy policy, particularly in the context of appropriate market mechanisms, and to brief MPs on energy issuesthe FOA organised a briefing session under the auspices of the Associate Parliamentary Group on Wholesale Financial Markets and Services on 6 March.
The FOA held a further roundtable for investment banks and brokerage houses on 6 June to ascertain their views on the state of the energy market, and what could be done to improve liquidity.
In addition to the work with the FOA, DTI officials have been holding separate meetings with representatives of traders and exchanges to investigate why there are not more players and whether there is anything that could be done to improve the structure of the market.
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment he has made of the impact of gas and electricity prices on public sector expenditure; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: Preliminary figures from the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) indicate that public expenditure on gas and electricity was between £1.5 and £2 billion in 2003-04. This figure is indicative as it is based on information from a sample of public sector administrations. This information is not regularly updated.
The latest DTI statistics, March 2006 (http://www.dti.gov.uk/files/file26972.pdf) indicate that retail prices paid by small industrial consumersa proxy for the public sectorfor gas and electricity increased by 80 per cent. and 53 per cent. respectively, between January 2004 and January 2006.
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment he has made of the impact of gas and electricity prices on UK competitiveness; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Government take the recent increases in energy prices very seriously, and particularly their impact on the competitiveness of UK industry. We have been engaged in continual dialogue with industry to find solutions and mitigate the impacts of high gas and electricity prices. Our discussions with the Energy Intensive Users Group and others have helped us focus our efforts on maximising gas and electricity supplies, improving the operation of the market, encouraging demand side response and pursuing fair access to markets across Europe.
Over the summer we will be pursuing a detailed work plan with Ofgem, national grid, industry and others to ensure we are in the best possible position ahead of next winter. And at a higher level, the new Business Energy Forum will discuss security of supply from a strategic viewpoint.
The impact on UK businesses of increases in gas and electricity prices will depend on a variety of factors, including how much gas or electricity a particular company uses, the degree of their exposure to spot and forward prices and the duration of high prices. It will also be affected by the energy prices paid by their
competitors. A further sector-specific issue is whether they are in a competitive market where international trade sets the price or in a sector where prices are determined more locally and rising energy costs could be passed on.
It should be noted that between 1990 and 2004, the relative costs of gas and electricity to UK industry were approximately £8 billion and £9 billion less respectively than their German counterparts. I do however recognise that the UK has seen sharp price rises since then.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what evaluation his Department has carried out of the potential energy generation from the River Severn from (a) incorporating hydroelectric generating equipment at the five existing weirs between Stourport and Gloucester and (b) building five variable height weirs with hydroelectric generating equipment between Bridgnorth and Stourport. 
Malcolm Wicks: In 1987 the then Department of Energy commissioned the University of Salford to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the economic potential for small-scale hydroelectric generation throughout the UK.
The scope of the study extended to sites with installed capacities in the range 25 kW to 5 MW. Further limiting conditions were to disregard sites with hydraulic heads of less than two metres, with existing civil works, or less than three metres with no existing civil works.
The comprehensive results of the study were published in the report Small Scale Hydroelectricity Generation Potential in the UK ETSU-SSH-4063 (parts 1-3) a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much was spent on information technology (IT) sourced from outside his Department in each of the last five years; who is responsible for such projects in his Department; and what IT (a) expertise and (b) qualifications they possess. 
Responsibility for ICT projects rests with Information and Workplace Services Directorate within the Department. As it is a PFI contract the IT expertise, and associated qualifications, rests with Fujitsu.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the (a) originally estimated, (b) most recently estimated and (c) outturn cost was in each of the five largest information technology contracts agreed with outside suppliers over the last five years. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department has a main Information Technology contract which is a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) Agreement with Fujitsu Services and has been in place for more than five years. The Department has also recently awarded a Competed Services Framework Arrangement to six other suppliers and this will enable an element of competition for future IT projects. To date no significant contracts have been awarded to these suppliers.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the likely impact of the House of Lords judgment in the case of Barker v. Corus UK Ltd. on future spending plans of his Department in respect of expenditure on compensation payments for those suffering from mesothelioma. 
Malcolm Wicks: The ruling should enable the Department, in respect of claims against British shipbuilders, to pay our part of any compensation more quickly as we would not have to wait until all insurers had been found and agreed to their share of liability. The wider implications of this judgment are currently under review.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions his Department has agreed to make compensation payments as an employer through negotiation with a claims handler. 
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