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Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the impact on the rural post office network of the decision to share the Network Subsidy Scheme with the urban post office network. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 17 September 2007]: The proposed Network Subsidy Payments will be sufficient to underpin the whole of the non-commercial network without adverse impact on the support available for the rural part of the network. In particular, Post Office Ltd. will be making further significant savings through reductions in central costs and overheads, combined with more cost effective delivery of services and the strategically planned closure of up to 2,500 offices.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how he plans to recover from the private sector the full costs of managing any new nuclear waste resulting from the operation of any new nuclear power stations. 
Malcolm Wicks: If, as a result of the current consultation, the Government decide that nuclear should be one of the low carbon options available to investors, they will put in place a robust financing framework through statute to ensure owners or operators of new nuclear power stations set aside funds in a secure way to cover their full decommissioning costs and their full share of waste management costs.
Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make an assessment of the likely effect on economic growth of an improved modernised rail network that serves Tees Valley from Darlington. 
Mr. Timms: We understand that Network Rail is discussing a number of possible improvements to the rail network in Tees Valley. It will be for scheme promoters to develop business cases with any assessments of economic impact that may be necessary.
Mr. Timms: The RDA National Secretariat does not employ a full-time press officer. The Senior Communications Officer is responsible for press and media handling, which takes up around one third of that persons time.
Mr. Timms [holding answer 17 September 2007]: Projections indicate that by 2020, on the basis of existing policies, renewables would contribute around 5 per cent. of the UKs energy consumption. (The proportion of electricity generated renewably would be much greater.)
The European Council agreed in March 2007 to a target for 20 per cent. of the EUs primary energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020. The Commission has been asked to bring forward detailed proposalsincluding for each member states contribution to this targetby the end of this year. The proposal will then need to be agreed by member states and the European Parliament. After a decision has been reached, we will bring forward the appropriate measures to make our contribution.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representations he has received from non-governmental organisations on changes to the Merton rule; what discussions he held with ministerial colleagues ahead of the announcement of those changes; and what impact he expects the changes to have on the Governments microgeneration strategy. 
Mr. Thomas [holding answer 17 September 2007]: We are aware of the concerns that have been raised around proposed changes to the planning system. We are working closely with colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government developing policy in this area, to ensure that issues related to microgeneration are considered. No announcements have yet been made.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the obstacles to fulfilling targets for the proportion of energy to be produced from renewable sources. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 17 September 2007]: The Energy White Paper identified the need both to create the right financial framework, and to lower practical barriers relating to planning and grid connection, in the light of our target of 10 per cent. electricity from renewables by 2010 and aspiration to double this by 2020. It also outlined proposals to band the Renewables Obligation, reform the planning regime and improve renewables grid connection in order to address these barriers. In the context of renewable energy use in transport, the White Paper referred to issues of sustainability, mechanical impact and costs.
The 2007 spring European Council agreed an overall target for 20 per cent. of the EUs energy to be from renewables by 2020. Decisions have not yet been taken on individual member states contribution to the target, but we are already giving initial consideration to potential obstacles to further renewable deploymentsuch as cost, technical feasibility, planning constraints, grid infrastructure, sustainability, and impact on wider energy policy goalsand how these might be overcome. We will be consulting on these issues in more detail once the European Commission has issued proposals on how the EU 20 per cent. renewable energy target should be implemented.
Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many private cars or other non-liveried or dedicated vehicles are used by the Royal Mail in the dispatch of mail. 
Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the level of usage of private cars or other non-liveried or dedicated vehicles by the Royal Mail to relay mailbags to postmen and women in the course of their rounds; and what guidance applies to the Royal Mail in terms of the security of such vehicles. 
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether he intends to send an observer from his Department to the disciplinary tribunal misconduct hearings against (a) Wake Smith and Beresfords and (b) Raleys solicitors. 
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what role his Department will play in ensuring the incorporation of sustainable energy and heat distribution in the development of the eco-town at Northstowe; and what plans he has to establish monitoring arrangements to assist other eco-towns to learn from the Northstowe experience. 
Northstowe predates the eco-towns programme and its planning is already progressing, but we see it as a green exemplar and it will be an advanced prototype for eco-towns. The Northstowe Masterplan is currently being reviewed ahead of submitting the planning application shortly, and the review includes consideration of sustainable energy and high energy efficiency.
In the Eco-towns Prospectus, published on 23 July which mentions the development of the eco-town at Northstowe, we have set out the outcomes we expect to see from eco-towns. These include incorporating renewable energy systems, not just for homes, but schools, shops, offices and community facilities. We have also asked the Town and Country Planning Association to undertake a study into the practical application of the key sustainability and development criteria for eco-towns, which will draw on case studies, such as Northstowe, and this will help us to learn from the experience of others and so inform the development of eco-towns.
Televisions have been identified as a priority for European action under the Energy Using Products Framework Directive (EuP) which provides a forum for considering options and priorities for establishing energy efficiency standards for energy using products. The Commission expects to bring forward proposals later this year.
The Government are already working with business to promote and improve energy efficiency in televisions,
recognising the need to respond to consumer demands in the global market, and to improve information for consumers to help them identify energy efficient products.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what rights of access trading standards officers have to (a) planning, (b) building control and (c) council tax data held by the departments of local authorities. 
The rights of trading standards officers to have access to personal data from local authority planning, building and council tax databases are determined by section 29 of the Data Protection Act 1998 and section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Section 29 of the Data Protection Act provides that disclosure of personal data may take place where such disclosure is for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime, or apprehending or prosecuting offenders. Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act provides that any person who would not otherwise have the power to disclose information to a police authority or a local authority has power to do so where the disclosure is necessary or expedient for the purposes of any provision of that Act.
Mr. Philip Hammond:
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how
many press officers are employed by the (a) UK Atomic Energy Authority, (b) North West Regional Development Agency, (c) Ofgem and (d) Small Business Service. 
Mr. Thomas: The UK Atomic Energy Authority employ 4.5 press officers; North West Regional Development Agency five press officers; Ofgem four, and the Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Department Communications Directorate provides support for its Enterprise Directorate (previously the Small Business Service). It is not possible to give a specific figure for the Enterprise Directorate since it is an integral part of the Department and Communications Directorate allocates resource based on level of demand.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) how many new VAT registrations there were in the city of Peterborough in each year since 1997; 
Mr. Timms: The number of new VAT registrations and VAT registered businesses in the Peterborough unitary authority are shown in the following table for 1997 to 2005. Data for registrations and de-registrations in 2006 will be published autumn 2007.
|Number of VAT registrations and start of year stock, Peterborough UA, 1997 to 2005|
Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994-2005. Available at: http://stats.berr.gov.uk/ed/vat
Although the number of new registrations has fluctuated over the period, the total number of VAT registered businesses in Peterborough unitary authority has increased from 3,580 in 1997 to 4,475 at the start of 2006, an increase of 895 (25 per cent.).
However, VAT registrations do not capture all business activity. Businesses are unlikely to be registered if they fall below the compulsory VAT threshold, which was £60,000 at the start of 2006. Only 1.9 million out of 4.5 million UK enterprises (41 per cent.) were registered for VAT at the start of 2006.
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