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4 Dec 2006 : Column 16W—continued

Departmental Staff

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many value for money exercises on the use of (a) management consultants and (b) professional advisers were conducted by his Department in each of the last five years for which information is available; and if he will make a statement. [103009]

Jim Fitzpatrick: A review of the engagement and management of consultancies (incorporating both (a) and (b)) was carried out from July to November of 2003. The review examined how value for money in the engagement and management of consultants could be
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optimised. The Department adopted the findings of the review. This has resulted in a reduction in consultancy costs in each subsequent financial year as follows:

£ million







Furthermore in the current financial year an enhanced internal approval process has been implemented for proposed consultancy engagements exceeding £50,000. This enables transparency of decision making, based on sound business case proposals for provision of best value for money in each case.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what his Department’s annual budget is for employing workers on a consultancy basis; and how much of this budget was used in each of the last five years for which records are available. [103031]

Jim Fitzpatrick: DTI does not have a specific annual budget for engaging workers on a consultancy basis. Consultancy requirements reflect specific and changing business needs within the Department. However our spend over the last five financial years has been as follows:

£ million











Energy Costs

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of people in arrears for electricity and gas bills. [106265]

Malcolm Wicks: In December 2005, one million gas customers and 1.2 million electricity customers were repaying a debt through their prepayment meter or by repayment arrangements. Around 60 per cent. of these customers owed less than £100 to their energy suppliers.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent (a) discussions he has had with and (b) representations he has received from steel manufacturers on energy costs. [106269]

Malcolm Wicks: On 13 July I met a delegation from the Metals Forum, including a representative of the trade association UK Steel, to discuss energy costs and a range of other issues affecting the metals sector. Since then several hon. Members have raised this matter in writing on behalf of steel operations in their constituencies. In addition, DTI officials have discussed the issue on a number of occasions in their day-to-day contacts with key companies in this sector.
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Furthermore, the Department has set up the Business Energy Forum which is jointly chaired by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Richard Lambert of the Confederation of British Industry to look at prices, supply and the winter outlook for all industries. This is an area the Department takes very seriously and we are grateful to the representatives of UK industry that work with us on these matters.

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes in expenditure his Department is making to the non-household sectors of the low carbon buildings programme to fund the additional expenditure on household grants announced by the Energy Minister on 27 October. [103118]

Malcolm Wicks: When the Low Carbon Buildings programme phase one was launched in April 2006, we allocated £6.5 million to the household stream. On 25 October, we announced that a further £6.2 million of the total £28.5 million funding was to be re-allocated to the household stream for allocation up to June 2008. This is being achieved by transferring the bulk of public sector projects to the Low Carbon Buildings programme phase two, where £50 million is being made available to support projects in the public and not for profit sectors.

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much of the £6.2 million funding for the household section of the Low Carbon Buildings programme (LCBP) announced on 27 October is (a) new funding and (b) the re-allocation of existing LCBP funds. [103119]

Malcolm Wicks: On 25 October 2006 we announced that £6.2 million of the total £28.5 million funding for the Low Carbon Buildings programme phase one was to be re-allocated to the household stream from all other streams. There has been no increase in funding.

European Union

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the financial cost of EU regulations to UK businesses. [100691]

Mr. McFadden: I have been asked to reply.

The Government have undertaken work to measure the administrative costs to business, charities and the voluntary sector arising from legislation—including European Union law—in force in England. The results of this exercise are due to be published before the end of this year in departmental simplification plans. These plans will include departments’ proposals to reduce administrative costs arising from EU law where it is appropriate to do so. The European Commission has also recently proposed a strategy to measure and reduce administrative burdens across the European Union.

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Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to ensure the administrator costs for Farepak are kept to a minimum. [102472]

Mr. McCartney: I do appreciate the concerns that people have regarding the costs of insolvency proceedings, but insolvency legislation attempts to leave the matter of the practitioner’s remuneration to the creditors, as they have most interest in the matter.

In my dealings with the Administrators—who have been most helpful in providing information and advice to the Family Fund and myself—I have noted how they have tried to keep their costs to a minimum so that as much money as possible can be returned to Farepak customers.

It is not possible for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to intervene in determining the amount of the administrator’s remuneration. The basis on which an administrator’s remuneration may be calculated is set out in the Insolvency Rules 1986.

It is also possible for the court to reduce the amount of remuneration where creditors claim that it is excessive.

Fuel Meters

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of consumers have a pay-as-you-go meter to supply (a) gas and (b) electricity. [106411]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 30 November 2006]: In 2005, 11 per cent. of gas customers—2.2 million—and 14 per cent. of electricity customers—3.6 million—used a prepayment meter.


Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which local authorities use microgeneration programmes to power council facilities (a) wholly and (b) partly. [104321]

Malcolm Wicks: We do not hold comprehensive data on which local authorities use microgeneration to power council facilities. The closest proxy we have is the data held in relation to capital grants we have awarded. Under our previous programmes (Clear Skies and the Major PV Demonstration Programme) and the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, we have awarded capital grants to the local authorities on microgeneration technologies on a variety of buildings. The document will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

North East Productivity Alliance

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many companies have received the assistance of the North East Productivity Alliance’s Best Practice Team (NEPA); in what (a) locations,
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(b) industries and (c) fields the companies assisted by NEPA were based; what assessment he has made of NEPA’s effectiveness; and if he will make a statement. [104226]

Margaret Hodge: The North East Productivity Alliance’s “Dissemination of Best Manufacturing Practice” project has helped 286 General Manufacturing companies in the region since its inception in 2003; of which:

Companies cover all manufacturing sectors in the region, including: Automotive, Aerospace, Food and Drink, Electronics, Plastics, Textiles, Shipbuilding and repair, Oil and gas, Pharmaceuticals, Construction, Marine, Rail, White Goods, Process industries, Printing, Furniture and General Engineering. The project has been evaluated in a number of ways during this time: including through the National Audit Office’s assessment of the performance of One NorthEast, and in studies by Tribal HCH (March 2005), KPMG (March 2005 and ERS (March 2006).

Nuclear Waste

Mr. David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many sites in the UK are being considered for the storage of nuclear waste. [104569]

Malcolm Wicks: Prior to final disposal, nuclear waste needs to be stored on an interim basis. Interim storage occurs on all NDA and British Energy sites. The search for a final disposal repository location has not yet begun and there are no sites currently under consideration.

On 25 October 2006 the UK Government and Devolved Administrations responded to the report published on 31 July 2006 by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). The Government accepted that geological disposal coupled with safe and secure interim storage is the best way forward for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes. The Government also confirmed they are supportive of exploring an approach based on voluntarism (that is, willingness to participate) and partnership with local communities.

Patent Office

Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the Patent Office; and if he will make a statement. [103223]

Malcolm Wicks: Intellectual Property is key to UK competitiveness in a global knowledge economy and the Patent Office is responsible for the IP regime which allows creators and inventors limited privileges, enabling them to lever economic success from their creativity.

The DTI Innovation Report, launched in December 2003 set out how the DTI needed to improve the way it
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helped UK businesses to successfully exploit their new ideas. The Patent Office’s role has been key in taking forward recommendations arising out of the report which included increased awareness and understanding of IP, improved confidence in IP protection by improving speed and costs of resolving disputes and working with others in tackling IP crime. Outcomes have included a range of tailored awareness raising for SMEs and an educational resource, the introduction of an Opinions service and publication of the first National Enforcement Report and IP Crime Strategy.

A recommendation of “Better Government Services—Executive Agencies in the 21(st) Century” published by the Prime Minister’s Office of Public Services Reform in July 2002 was that the central programme of quinquennial reviews of agencies such as the Patent Office (last reviewed in 2001) was abolished and replaced by business reviews of the end-to-end process in achieving specific outcomes. Each year the Patent Office agrees its Business Plan with the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure its objectives match departmental objectives and plans. Agency targets are reviewed on an annual basis and agreed in discussion with the Department and Minister. The Patent Office has a track record of continued improvement on timeliness of delivery of patents, trade marks and designs and has continued to reduce its backlogs (17 per cent. reduction in patents backlog for the financial year 2005-06). Agency targets for 2005-06 were met or exceeded and this trend continues into 2006-07.

Post Offices

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the social (a) role played and (b) value provided by post offices in disadvantaged communities; and if he will make a statement. [106956]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government have invested more than £2 billion since 1999 in the Post Office network because we recognise the important social value and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban areas. We also recognise that many such post offices can never be commercially viable and will need continued public funding. We will be announcing shortly our proposals for ensuring a long-term stable footing for a national Post Office network.

Public Appointments

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which public appointments have been made by his Department to former Ministers who have served in the Government since May 1997. [104579]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Information on the public appointments held by former Ministers is shown in the following table.

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Public body Former Minister Dates

National Consumer Council (NCC)

Lord Whitty of Camberwell

Appointed chair 6 March 2006

Renewable Energy

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what grants are available to (a) local authorities and (b) the private sector to establish wind turbines. [102535]

Malcolm Wicks: The Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 1 was launched on 1 April 2006, with a budget of £28.5 million available for allocation to successful applicants over three years. This budget was divided into streams 1 and 2 for £10.5 million and £18 million respectively.

Currently, local authorities can apply under streams 1 and 2 of the programme, depending on the scale of their project, while businesses can apply under stream 2 only. Wind turbines are eligible under both streams. Local authorities can also apply for grants under Phase 2 of the programme, where a further £50 million has been made available to the public and not for profit sector, including funding for wind turbines.

Further information on the scheme can be found at:

S Band Spectrum

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what his policy is on optimizing S band spectrum space; [104240]

(2) if the Government will review the process for allocating S band spectrum; [104241]

(3) what representations he has received on the allocation of S band spectrum space in the last 12 months; [104260]

(4) what recent discussions he has had with Ofcom on the allocation of S band spectrum space. [104261]

Margaret Hodge: The Office of Communications (Ofcom), the independent regulator of communications is responsible for managing civil radio spectrum in the UK including setting the policy for optimizing its use. “S Band” is used for mobile satellite communications and the arrangements for its future allocation, and assignment to specific services, is therefore subject to international discussions within the relevant EU Committees. There are a number of potentially competing demands for access to this spectrum for both two-way mobile communication and for mobile TV. Ofcom represents the UK at EU meetings dealing with spectrum issues and regularly consults interested parties. I have not received any representations within the last 12 months, nor have I had discussions with Ofcom, but my officials are in regular contact with both Ofcom and industry representatives.

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