Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 14 December 2006

Solicitor-General

Gender Equality

John Bercow: To ask the Solicitor-General when he expects to publish the Law Officers’ Departments’ gender equality schemes. [101485]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service published its Agenda Equality Scheme on 4 December. My other Departments will publish their Schemes by April 2007 in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act 2006.

John Bercow: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps he is taking to ensure that private organisations contracted to work in the Law Officers’ Departments are aware of their duties under gender equality legislation when they are exercising public functions on behalf of public bodies. [101520]

The Solicitor-General: From 6 April 2007, private sector organisations, when carrying out functions of a public nature on behalf of public authorities, will be required to comply with the general gender equality duty which is to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment and promote equality of opportunity between women and men.

My Departments already have in place some guidance on these issues and reference will be made to the Equal Opportunities Commission’s (EOC) Code of Practice of gender equality duty and any further EOC guidance when available.

In addition in drawing up gender equality schemes my Departments will ensure that these issues are fully covered. The CPS already has in place guidance on addressing equality issues in procurement, including issues of gender equality.

John Bercow: To ask the Solicitor-General what plans he has to carry out gender impact assessments of the Law Officers’ Departments’ major policy developments and new legislation. [101543]

The Solicitor-General: My Departments are all putting arrangements in place to ensure regular gender impact assessments of policy developments, legislation and office practices and procedures. This conforms to the requirements which will take effect from 6 April 2007, in line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Order 2006; and Departments will also refer to Equal Opportunities Commissions (EOC) Code of Practice on the gender equality duty and specific guidance when available.

Staff have been, or are being, trained to conduct such assessments.


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John Bercow: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps he is taking to ensure that the Law Officers’ Departments are taking steps to meet the requirements of the forthcoming duty on public bodies (a) to end unlawful discrimination and harassment and (b) to promote equality between women and men. [101561]

The Solicitor-General: My Departments are all taking the necessary steps to meet the statutory duties that will come into force in April 2007 to end unlawful discrimination and harassment and to promote equality between women and men.

The CPS has already published its single Equality Scheme and my other Departments will have published their Gender Equality Schemes by April 2007.

The necessary training of staff is also being undertaken.

Trade and Industry

Coal Extraction

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support for trial schemes his Department has given to extraction of national coal reserves through Underground Coal Gasification; and what assessment his Department has made of the merits of such extraction. [108934]

Malcolm Wicks: The DTI provided support for a study into the feasibility of using UCG to access the coal reserves under the Firth of Forth. This work was undertaken by Heriot-Watt University, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish and Southern Energy Ltd. A report was published earlier this year, entitled “Creating the Coal Mine of the 21(st )Century”.

In addition a report by DTI, titled “Review of the Feasibility of Underground Coal Gasification in the UK”, on the feasibility of UCG in the UK was published in June 2004.

Companies House

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many attempts to gain unauthorised access to the computer systems of Companies House have (a) been detected and (b) succeeded in each of the last five years. [108320]

Margaret Hodge: Over the last five years there have been no successful attempts to gain unauthorised access to Companies House computer systems.

It is difficult to put a figure against the number of unauthorised access attempts. On average 200,000 internet connections are rejected by our firewall per day.

Cramlington Land Partnership

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what support was provided to Cramlington Land Partnership by the Government in 2005-06; and what the nature was of the land that the partnership developed in relation to this funding. [108382]


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Margaret Hodge: Cramlington Land Partnership was offered an ERDF grant of £279,260 against eligible expenditure of £1,117,040 on 16 December 2003 under the North East Objective 2 Programme 2000-06 to refurbish an existing building to create a total of 12 units with improved parking and vehicle loading facilities. The offer was further increased to a total of £321,854 against total eligible costs of £1,287,416 and the creation of a further three units on 4 July 2005. The project was completed in September 2006.

The refurbished building was already located on brown field land (0.95 ha) but the project costs did not include any further development of the land.

Departmental Publications

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the cost was of commissioning the Ethnic Minority Business Finance Survey. [103319]

Margaret Hodge: The Ethnic Minority Survey of SME Finance was commissioned after the 2004 UK SME Finance survey at a cost of £162,000. It was commissioned because the UK SME survey did not provide reliable data on ethnic minority experience in raising finance.

The Survey required substantial resources and work in order to allow us to fully identify the different problems and experiences between the five key ethnic minority groups (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black African and Black Caribbean).

The results will be compared to the experiences of white owned businesses when accessing finance.

Electricity Supply

Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether each domestic dwelling has a right to be connected to an electrical supply. [108831]

Malcolm Wicks: Electricity distributors are under a duty, with a few exceptions, to connect premises when requested by either the owner, the occupier or an authorised supplier acting with the consent of the owner or occupier. Payment can be requested by distributors for this work. The vast majority of homes fall within the framework which provides for an electricity connection to be made.

Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in what circumstances a utilities company may impose a compulsory wayleave in order to provide an electrical supply to a resident who is not so connected. [108832]

Malcolm Wicks: As with other utilities performing a public service role, distribution network operators have access to compulsory powers to install and maintain their equipment. This enables them to fulfil their statutory duty to connect which is set out in sections 16 and 17 of the Electricity Act 1989, as amended by section 44 of the Utilities Act 2000. The exercise of compulsory powers is subject to a statutory process where ultimately confirmation or refusal of application
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is given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry or officials acting on his behalf.

Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on action to ensure each pensioner has access to an electrical supply. [108833]

Malcolm Wicks: No discussion has taken place. For those homes without a supply, electricity distributors are under a general duty, with a few exceptions, to connect premises when requested by either the owner, the occupier or an authorised supplier acting with the consent of the owner or occupier. Distributors can require payment for making connections.

Energy Prices

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact on small businesses of recent rises in energy prices; and if he will make a statement. [108928]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government are concerned that business customers, including small businesses, have been affected by the recent rises in energy prices, though small users still pay around the EU median, thanks to our competitive energy market.

A number of initiatives have been launched to help small businesses cope with rising energy prices, such as the joint Energywatch/Federation of Small Businesses “Make the Connection” campaign, and Ofgem’s non-domestic review group.

Energy Supply: Marketing

Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which codes of practice govern the information that (a) energy suppliers and (b) their agents are obliged to provide to small businesses in the course of marketing activities. [108981]

Malcolm Wicks: There are no codes of practice governing the information provided to the business sector as part of the process of marketing gas and electricity supply.

EU Gas Co-ordination Group

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the (a) function, (b) constitution and (c) budget of the EU Gas Co-ordination Group is for 2006-07. [108371]

Malcolm Wicks: The function of the EU Gas Co-ordination Group is to facilitate the co-ordination of security of supply measures in the case of a major gas supply disruption. This is defined as a situation where the EU risks losing more than 20 per cent. of its gas supply from third countries and the situation cannot be managed using national measures. It also has a role in collecting and providing information on the current and future security of supply situation in the EU and identifying and discussing problems affecting security of gas supply. It has no powers to direct member states or their companies to take any
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measures, e.g. release gas supplies, in an emergency. The group comprises representatives of member states, gas producers, gas suppliers, gas transporters, gas consumers and electricity generators. The group has no budget.

Local Government

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets his Department sets for local authorities. [108562]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The DTI does not set targets for local authorities.

Nanotechnology

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment he has made of the outcome of government spending on nanotechnology research in the last five years; [108403]

(2) how much money the Government plans to spend on nanotechnology in the next five years; and how this funding programme will be structured. [108404]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government intend to provide continued funding for nanotechnologies over the next five years. Funding will be directed towards a programme of research to address the potential risks posed by engineered nanoscale materials. Further funding will help industry to maximise the potential benefits of nanotechnologies by contributing to research, knowledge sharing and infrastructure development.

Decisions on the amounts of funding have yet to be taken. However, the Government's first research report, published in November 2005, and a progress report in October 2006 set out current and proposed work and indicate what further research is needed to address the potential risks posed by engineered nanoscale materials. The new Technology Strategy Board will have responsibility for “science to business” collaborative research and development, and Knowledge Transfer Networks (one of which will build on the work of the Micro and Nano Technology Network). We will also be promoting the substantial funding opportunities within the EU framework programmes which we co-fund with other member states. We are working internationally to ensure that the UK funds research that complements, and does not duplicate, other research around the world.

The outcomes of nanotechnology research to address the potential risks posed by engineered nanoscale materials are assessed by the relevant Departments and agencies, with coordination by the Nanotechnology Research Co-ordination Group. It is too early to draw conclusions from the outcomes as few projects have been completed.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to increase public engagement in the nanotechnology debate. [108405]

Malcolm Wicks: A substantial programme of public engagement on nanotechnologies has been initiated and will be largely completed in summer 2007. The
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outcomes of this work will be reviewed before decisions are taken on the need for further public engagement.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to commission further work on the regulation of nanotechnology. [108406]

Malcolm Wicks: This Department has commissioned an independent regulatory overview to identify any regulatory gaps. The overview report will be published before the end of 2006 and will complement the reviews already carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive. The report will inform Government work with those bodies which make or influence regulation, such as the OECD and the EU, and the British and international standard-setting organisations.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will set up a strategy group to supervise the implementation of the Government’s nanotechnology strategy; [108407]

(2) what UK Government policy is on nanotechnology; and what resources are available to implement the policy. [108408]

Malcolm Wicks: UK Government policy is to work in partnership with industry, civil society groups, the research community, the public and the international community to ensure that nanotechnologies are developed in a way that maximises the benefits to the UK while minimising potential risks throughout the life cycle of nanoscale materials, where possible within an internationally harmonised framework of controls.

Relevant Government Departments and agencies and research councils co-operate in the implementation of this policy and contribute funding for administrative resources and specific activities. Work to address the potential risks posed by engineered nanoscale materials is coordinated and given strategic direction by the Nanotechnology Issues Dialogue Group, which comprises representatives from those bodies, and supplemented by the Nanotechnology Research Co-ordination Group which sets the agenda for research work in this area. The Council for Science and Technology is currently carrying out an independent review of the Government’s delivery of their agenda for the responsible development of nanotechnologies and will report in spring 2007.

Nuclear Power Stations

Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what response the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has made to the assessment of British Energy that the reactors closed at (a) Hunterston B and (b) Hinkley Point B will be safe to operate by the end of January 2007. [107610]

Mr. Darling [holding answer 4 December 2006]: British Energy have put in safety submissions for the restart of reactor 3 at Hunterston B. NII is currently assessing these. NII will not allow restart of reactor 3 until a satisfactory safety case for further operation has been made.


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British Energy will need to apply to NII for the restart of reactor 3 at Hinkley Point B following its current periodic outage. If NII is not satisfied with the safety case for return to service of reactor 4 at Hinkley Point B, or reactor 4 at Hunterston B, it would use its regulatory powers. NII will not allow restart of these reactors until a satisfactory safety case for further operation has been made.


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