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3 Dec 2007 : Column 907W—continued

Renewable Energy: National Grid

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he is taking to increase the National Grid's infrastructure capacity to facilitate offshore energy projects; and if he will make a statement. [166972]

Malcolm Wicks: Since taking powers in the Energy Act 2004 for the Secretary of State to make changes for purposes connected with offshore electricity transmission to codes, licences and agreements, BERR has been working jointly with Ofgem to establish the details of the new regulatory framework that will deliver the grid connections for offshore energy projects.

We have already concluded that allowing companies to compete for the right to build the offshore grid infrastructure should lead to the most economic and efficient solution for both consumers and generators. We are continuing to develop the details of the new regime in consultation with industry, and aim to issue final proposals for consultation in June 2008.

In terms of investment in the onshore grid over the next few years, Ofgem have agreed £560 million of investment in the transmission network specifically to connect new renewable generation in Scotland and the North of England. In the Transmission Price Control, which covers the five year period from 1st April 2007, a further £3.8 billion of investment in the transmission network was agreed. This figure includes both refurbishment and the costs of connecting new generators of all types and may increase if warranted by generator demand.

Retail Trade: Mobile Phones

Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of former customers of retail mobile phone companies now in administration who have (a) been given notice of legal action and (b) been taken to court by the network providers. [169294]

Mr. McFadden: The information requested is not held centrally in a readily available format. Any attempt to estimate such numbers would incur disproportionate cost, as it would require information to be sought from a variety of sources and the details of each administration case identified then scrutinised individually.


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Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of former customers of retail mobile phone companies now in administration who have been given a negative credit reference as a result of action taken by the network providers. [169295]

Mr. McFadden: The information requested is not held centrally in a readily available format. Any attempt to estimate such numbers would incur disproportionate cost, as it would require information to be sought from a variety of sources and the details of each administration case identified then scrutinised individually.

Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of former customers of retail mobile phone companies now in administration who have been referred to debt collection agencies by the network providers. [169296]

Mr. McFadden: The information requested is not held centrally in a readily available format. Any attempt to estimate such numbers would incur disproportionate cost, as it would require information to be sought from a variety of sources and the details of each administration case identified then scrutinised individually.

Severn Barrage

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the terms of reference are for the feasibility study on the prospects for a Severn Barrage; and if he will make a statement. [167518]

Malcolm Wicks: The detailed remit and cost of the feasibility study is now being scoped. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make a statement on this early in the new year.

Small Businesses: Greater London

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many registered small businesses in London there were in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [169273]

Mr. Timms: The stock of VAT-registered businesses in London at the start of each year between 1998 and 2007 is shown in the following table. Although only data for businesses of all sizes registered for VAT is published by BERR, it is estimated that the majority (98 per cent.) of these will have fewer than 50 employees.


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VAT-registered businesses in London, at the start of year, 1998-2007
Number

1998

251,585

1999

262,280

2000

270,875

2001

277,595

2002

281,225

2003

282,920

2004

289,130

2005

294,815

2006

301,975

2007

309,225


At the start of 1998, there were 252,000 VAT-registered businesses in London. This rose each year to reach 309,000 at the start of 2007, an increase of 23 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 (43 per cent.) were registered for VAT at the start of 2006.

Small Businesses: Non-Domestic Rates

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the average value of unmade claims for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme was in (a) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency, (b) Teesside and (c) the North East in the last period for which figures are available. [166602]

John Healey: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the take-up of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme was in (a) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency, (b) Teesside and (c) the North East in the most recent period for which figures are available. [166603]

John Healey: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is not held centrally. However, as at 31 December 2006, the number of businesses in the areas in question that were in receipt of small business rate relief are shown as follows.

Number of businesses

Middlesbrough

709

Redcar and Cleveland

778

Teesside(1)

3,156

North East

18,344

(1) Teesside consists of the unitary authorities of Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on Tees.

South West Regional Development Agency: Public Appointments

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the decision to appoint Christine Channon to the South West Regional Development Agency in November 2004 was made following open competition in accordance with the guidelines set down in the Commissioner for Public Appointments' code of practice. [169189]


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Mr. Timms: Ministers make appointments to RDA bards following procedures in the code of practice issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments and also with all relevant legislation.

This particular case followed normal practice of an open competition. The selection panel advised Ministers that several candidates fully satisfied the criteria and made a specific recommendation as to which of these candidates should be appointed.

On the basis of a key paragraph in the code of practice 3.36, however, departmental officials advised Ministers that it was open to them to appoint one of the other candidates judged by the panel as having fully satisfied established criteria if they so chose. On the basis of that advice Ministers appointed the other candidate.

The Department subsequently found that the advice given to Ministers (that they had freedom to choose among the candidates) was wrong. That advice was based on a misunderstanding of a key paragraph in the Code of Practice on Public Appointments, which at that time explicitly stated that

The Commissioner for Public Appointments subsequently revised the relevant paragraph in the code of practice to clarify this issue, it was changed to

The Department subsequently revised its processes accordingly to minimise the risk of any further breaches happening of this kind.

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what processes were put in place in his Department following the appointment of Christine Channon in 2004 to prevent future such cases arising. [169190]

Mr. Timms: As a result of this case, the relevant paragraph in the code of practice 3.36 was changed by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. At the time of the decision, it read

In August 2005 this was changed to read

The Department subsequently revised its processes accordingly to minimise the risk of any further breaches happening of this kind.

Water: Meters

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will
3 Dec 2007 : Column 911W
take steps to improve the ability of customers to make an informed choice on the merits of installing a water meter. [169478]

Mr. Woolas: I have been asked to reply.

Ofwat requires companies to publicise the options available to household customers for the installation of a free water meter.

The recently announced Green Homes Service will give practical advice to customers on water efficiency, which could include information on the benefits of installing a water meter.

Wind Power

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether his Department plans to revise ETSU R-97 as it relates to existing and planned wind turbine installations. [169212]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government have published two independent studies on noise from wind turbines in 2006 and in 2007, both available on the BERR website at

and

Based on the findings of these studies, the Government will not carry out any further research into noise from wind turbines at this time, however we will continue to keep the issue under review. We continue to support the approach set out in Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 22—Renewable Energy. This approach is for local planning authorities to “ensure that renewable energy developments have been located and designed in such a way to minimise increases in ambient noise levels”, through the use of the 1997 report by ETSU to assess and rate noise from wind energy developments.

International Development

Actis

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will publish (a) the equity holdings in Actis of those members of staff who purchased a 60 per cent. stake from his Department and (b) any subsequent changes in equity holdings. [168725]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The equity ownership of the individual members is a matter protected by individual confidentiality.

Actis: Africa

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of Actis funds investment capital is invested in the poorest quartile of African countries; and if he will list such investments. [168782]


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Mr. Douglas Alexander: Actis has approximately US$3.5 billion of funds under management across the emerging markets of which it manages US$1.3 billion in Africa. The proportion of this invested in the poorest quartile(1) is 9 per cent. and includes the following investments:

Actis: Pay

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much Actis's Paul Fletcher earned in the last 12 months including expenses, bonuses and pension entitlement. [168783]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Remuneration Committee of Actis's Supervisory Board is responsible for determining the firm's policy on remuneration. Information about remuneration (salaries and bonus payment) for the partners is detailed in the Report of the Members and Consolidated Financial Statements published with Companies House.


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