Previous Section Index Home Page

19 July 2006 : Column 445W—continued

National Grid

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Scottish Executive, (b) Ofgem and (c) the National Grid company regarding undersea connector cables linking Orkney and Shetland to the National Grid; and when he anticipates these connections being in place. [86410]

19 July 2006 : Column 446W

Malcolm Wicks: None.

The provision of a cable connection to the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands is a matter for the transmission licensee for the relevant area—in this case Scottish and Southern (SHETL). It is the responsibility of Ofgem to ensure that any expenditure incurred in constructing the cable is economically and efficiently incurred.

Officials from this Department have held discussions with the Scottish Executive and Ofgem on the most appropriate way of facilitating those connections.

Nuclear Power

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations his Department has received from commercial energy companies regarding (a) whether Government subsidies would be required to make the construction and operation of new nuclear generating stations viable and (b) the level of subsidy which would be required per nuclear generating station. [85593]

Malcolm Wicks: All responses to the energy review consultation exercise, which closed on 14 April 2006, have been posted on the DTI website at

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to discuss with directors of (a) the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and (b) the Office for Civil Nuclear Security the adequacy of safety and security inspectors in the event that private operators come forward with proposals to build new nuclear power plants. [86088]

Malcolm Wicks: Issues relating to the allocation of existing regulatory staff, or the recruitment of additional staff to deal with proposals for new nuclear power plants, will be a matter for the directors of the respective independent regulators.

The availability of regulatory resources is one issue amongst many that would feature in any future discussions that the Department held on such proposals.

Postal Services

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the future of the Post Office network. [86227]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The DTI is backing the efforts of the management of Post Office Ltd. to turn the business around and create a network appropriate for the 21st century. We have invested over £2 billion in total since 1999 to help them to do so.

We want to see a Post Office network that meets the needs of today and the future and not those of 20 or 30 years ago. The DTI are discussing with other Government Departments and Post Office Ltd. how we can best achieve this.

19 July 2006 : Column 447W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact on employment in (a) Blaenau Gwent and (b) other local economies of the closure of local post offices. [84952]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government are committed to a viable Post Office network and have invested more than £2 billion to help maintain it. We continue to support the rural post office network with annual Social Network Payments of £150 million until 2008 and the policy of preventing avoidable closures of rural post offices remains in place. The Department is in discussion with Post Office Ltd. and other Government Departments about the future of the network. Decisions will be taken after proper consideration of all the issues.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions have taken place between (a) Ministers and (b) officials from his Department and Royal Mail on the new pricing system due to be introduced on 21 August; and if he will make a statement. [85769]

Jim Fitzpatrick: None. This is a matter for Postcomm, the independent regulator for postal services.

Postcomm's decision to introduce pricing in proportion followed extensive consultations and detailed discussions with Royal Mail.

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with the Post Office on the accuracy of post box collection times; and how many (a) early and (b) late collections were recorded in the latest period for which figures are available. [85914]

Jim Fitzpatrick: None. This is an operational matter for Royal Mail. Adam Crozier, the Chief Executive of Royal Mail has been asked to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Royal Mail

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions have taken place between Royal Mail and officials from his Department about the percentage of shares to be retained by the Government after the proposed employee share scheme. [86225]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Royal Mail has submitted proposals on an employee share ownership scheme and these proposals are currently under consideration by the Department. Ministers and officials meet Royal Mail representatives on a regular basis and have discussed these proposals with them. No decisions have been made on whether to introduce a share scheme.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions have taken place between his Department and Royal Mail on possible job losses in the Royal Mail group. [86226]

19 July 2006 : Column 448W

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government have given the Royal Mail group greater commercial freedom and have established an arm’s length relationship so that the board can operate the business as it decides best to meet the challenges of market development and changing customer needs.

The Department has held discussions with Royal Mail about its plans to modernise the business through the introduction of new technology and equipment. It is for the Royal Mail management to decide on the appropriate size of the Royal Mail work force as a result of this modernisation.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much Government funding has been provided to the Royal Mail in each of the last five years; and how it has been allocated. [86228]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Government support has been provided by permitting Royal Mail and POL to utilise accumulated profits held in reserves on the Royal Mail balance sheet and direct funding from Government. These amount to £2 billion since 1998. The direct funding related to the urban reinvention programme and Your Guide were provided as follows:

Urban Reinvention Your Guide











In 2003, loan facilities amounting to £1,044,000 were put in place but Royal Mail has not drawn down on these.

Small Arms Trade

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will bring forward legislation to control the overseas brokering of small arms by UK citizens and UK registered companies. [86375]

Malcolm Wicks: Controls on the trafficking and brokering of military goods were introduced in 2004. Trafficking and brokering of small arms done overseas by UK persons already requires a UK trade licence when the goods are being transferred to an embargoed destination (and a licence would normally be refused).

I am planning next year to review the effectiveness of the controls introduced in 2004 and would be happy at that stage to consider the scope of their application.

South East England Development Agency

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the annual expenditure of the South East England Development Agency in each (a) county and (b) unitary authority in the south-east of England was in each year since its inception. [86258]

Margaret Hodge: I refer the hon. Member to the question answered on 17 July 2006, Official Report, Columns 43-44W.

19 July 2006 : Column 449W

Culture, Media and Sport

Slave Trade

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions she has had on establishing a national slavery memorial day. [86345]

Mr. Lammy: There is already a UN International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23 August. Some cities in the UK, such as Liverpool, already mark this with a significant range of events and activities. With the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade approaching in 2007, some members of the Deputy Prime Minister's Advisory Group, and others, have asked for a memorial day specific to Britain. There are differences of opinion about which date is most appropriate, and whether the focus should be on a day or other commemorative activities. Our aim is to ensure that all communities are able to mark this important event in ways that they feel are most appropriate.

Tourism (South West)

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many tourists have visited the South West region in each year since 1997. [86096]

Mr. Woodward [holding answer 18 July 2006]: The following tables set out the number of visits to the South West region from (i) overseas and (ii) the UK where this included an overnight stay. Information is provided between 2000 and 2005; equivalent data prior to this period are not available.

Inbound visits to the South West by year
Visit (all)













(1 )2005 data are provisional. Source: International Passenger Survey (ONS).

Domestic overnight trips to the South West by year
Visit (all)













(1 )VisitBritain believes the old UKTS methodology significantly underreported 2004. (2) In 2005 an improved methodology was introduced for UKTS so direct comparison with previous years is not appropriate. Source: UK Tourism Survey (National Tourist Boards)

In addition, the South West region receives a substantial number of day visitors; the last Leisure Day Visitors Survey in 2002-03 recorded a total of 48 million day visitors to the region.

19 July 2006 : Column 450W

International Development


Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what humanitarian aid his Department is providing to people displaced from eastern Burma; and if he will make a statement. [86016]

Mr. Thomas: There are three types of internally displaced people (IDPs) in eastern Burma. These are (with the latest available numbers, from October 2005): (i) people in temporary settlements in ceasefire areas administered by ethnic nationalities (340,000); (ii) villagers who have been evicted by the Burmese Government and moved into designated relocation sites (108,000); and (iii) civilians hiding from the Burmese Army in areas most affected by armed conflict (92,000).

The recent military offensive against the Karen people has swelled the number of civilians hiding in conflict areas by at least 15,000. DFID's approach to providing emergency assistance to these IDPs has been to work through local community groups inside Burma. This is a complementary approach to the use of relief teams operating cross-border from Thailand, and it enables access to IDPs who would not be reached by any other means, and through a mechanism which is much less-well supported by other donors. The development of civil society within the country is also a fundamental step in a successful transition to democracy.

The number of IDPs that we can reach from inside the country is limited. Access is difficult, and the small local groups with whom we are working do not currently have the capacity to deliver greater volumes of emergency relief—although we are working to strengthen their ability to do more. Those delivering assistance to IDPs cross-border from Thailand face similar challenges. Therefore, we recognise the importance of maintaining co-ordination with all donors (both those delivering assistance cross border, and those working inside the country) to ensure that together we manage to reach as many IDPs as possible.

DFID also provides support to IDPs in temporary settlements in ceasefire areas in eastern Burma through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to which we provide £500,000 a year, of which approximately 75 per cent. is attributable to work with displaced people in this area.

In addition, our health, education and rural livelihood projects provide assistance in eastern Burma, and support internally displaced people in temporary settlements and designated relocation sites there, as well as other vulnerable people.

DFID is also providing support to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working among displaced Burmese people in the refugee camps on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border—as a grant to the Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) of £1.8 million over three years. In addition, the UK contributes approximately the same amount again as its share of the EC's support to the TBBC. The British Embassy in Bangkok advocates on behalf of Burmese refugees living in Thailand through the United Nations
19 July 2006 : Column 451W
High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to improve the situation in the refugee camps in Thailand and to bring about a relaxation of the regulations prohibiting freedom of movement and employment outside the camps.

In parallel, the Government fully support international efforts, particularly through the UN, to bring about tangible progress in restoring democratic freedoms and full respect for human rights. The UK has co-sponsored successive highly critical UN resolutions on Burma and played a leading role in drafting the resolution most recently adopted at the UN General Assembly in December 2005. This expressed grave concern at the attacks by military forces in violation of cease-fire agreements and called on the regime to end the systematic violations of human rights, including enforced displacement.

UN Security Council members last discussed the situation in Burma on 16 December under ‘Any Other Business'. In this discussion, the UK highlighted the on-going human rights abuses, the detention of political prisoners, internal conflicts and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Though there was no consensus to issue a presidential statement or other formal report, the discussions reflected the concern felt in many parts of the international community over the regime's failure to make progress towards democracy and to respect international human rights norms. At present there is no agreement within the Security Council, including among the permanent members, to add Burma to the Council's formal agenda, but the UK, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will continue to co-ordinate closely with the UN and partners in the Security Council and the region in considering how best to maintain pressure for positive change in Burma.

Next Section Index Home Page