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Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of Ofgem's conclusion in its factsheet number 67, Prepayment Meters and Fuel Poverty, that a premium of £106 per year for pre-payment meter customers is more desirable than a premium of £14 for all energy customers. 
Malcolm Wicks: Government believe that independently regulated competitive markets are the most cost-effective and efficient way to deliver our energy policy goals. It is for energy suppliers to determine their pricing structure, taking into account the different cost to serve for different customers.
Prepayment meter rates are often higher because of the higher costs of the meters and the payment infrastructure that supports them. Some companies have equalised their prepayment and standard credit tariffs, but others have not. It is true that the differences between the rates paid by direct debit customers and those paid by others (both standard credit and prepayment meter customers) have widened. I am concerned about these increases, and am working with Ofgem to consider ways to encourage further protection of the most vulnerable consumers from the large differences in bills because of the payment method they use and to spread best practice across suppliers.
Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform by what date he expects the registration of private sector audiologists to transfer from the Hearing Aid Council to the Health Professions Council. 
We intend to repeal the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968 as part of the transfer process and officials are considering whether the new Legislative Reform Orders (LROs) are sufficient for this purpose. If it is determined that wholesale repeal of the Act is beyond the scope of LRO then we will pursue the matter using primary legislation, which would of course be subject to pressure on the parliamentary timetable.
Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what arrangements will be made for consumer protection for people purchasing private hearing aids following the abolition of the Hearing Aid Council. 
Mr. Thomas: My officials have worked with the Hearing Aid Council (HAC) executive to ensure that repealing the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968 and regulating private audiology under the Health Professions Council (HPC) will not reduce consumer protection.
This exercise has concluded that typical issues raised by complainants to the HAC would be covered adequately by existing and upcoming consumer protection legislation. Indeed, consumer protection is likely to be increased upon transposition of the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive next year.
For instance, sales visits in the home, high pressure sales practices, misleading advice or sales information would be covered by the doorstep selling regulations and the forthcoming Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which implement the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
The new regulations will strengthen consumer protection by introducing a general prohibition on unfair commercial (mainly marketing and selling) practices. The regulations, which will come into force in April 2008, are intended to ensure that consumers have the information necessary to make free and informed choices, and are not treated aggressively, including by means of high pressure selling techniques. They include rules prohibiting conduct which misleads the average consumer by what is said or omitted to be said, and thereby causes or is likely to cause him to take a decision he would not have taken otherwise. The regulations also prohibit aggressive practice which impairs the average consumers freedom of choice with regard to the product and thereby causes, or is likely to cause him to take a different decision.
Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will list his Department's and its predecessors' (a) executive agencies, (b) executive non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), (c) advisory NDPBs, (d) tribunal NDPBs, (e) trading funds and (f) public corporations in each financial year since 2005-06. 
Mr. Thomas: All the information requested is set out in section 3.3.of the Department's annual report and accounts for 2006-07 (pages 125 to 130). This includes all the changes from 2005-06. The report can be accessed on the BERR website at http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file40578.pdf and in the House of Commons Library.
On 28 June 2007, with the creation of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and of the Department for Innovation, Universities, and Skills, the transfer of the following bodies was announced:
National Weights and Measures Laboratory
UK Intellectual Property Office.
British Hallmarking Council
Arts and Humanities Research Council
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Council for Central Laboratory Research Council (CCLRC) and Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC): merged into the Science and Technology Facilities Council on 1 April 2007.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council
Medical Research Council
Technology Strategy Board.
Council for Science and Technology.
Insolvency Practitioners Tribunal.
Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform when he plans to make an announcement on the 24th round of oil and gas licensing in Cardigan Bay and the Moray Firth. 
Malcolm Wicks: My officials are carrying out an appropriate assessment of the potential impacts of licensing in Cardigan Bay. When that assessment has been concluded I will be in a position to take a decision on whether or not to license the blocks. I have no firm date for the conclusion of the appropriate assessment.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 17 September 2007, Official Report, column 2259W, on seals: animal products, what assessment he made of the action by other EU states before providing his reply. 
Mr. Thomas: The Government take note of the actions of other member states on this issue. The UK position remains that it is seeking an EU-wide ban on the import of harp and hooded sealskins and sealskin products.
Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether a feasibility study of a proposed Severn Barrage will include a cost benefit analysis of similar levels of public investment in energy efficiency and other renewable options. 
Malcolm Wicks: The feasibility study, for which the detailed remit and budget are now being scoped, will consider all key aspects of a tidal barrage in the Severn estuary, including environmental, social and economic issues.
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