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Mr. Thomas: The European Commission has put forward a proposal for a council regulation for the compulsory indication of the country of origin of certain products imported into the EU from third countries. This proposal has been subject to detailed technical level analysis and has yet to be formally adopted for negotiation.
Mr. Thomas: The Business Link website provides details of, and links to, consultations of particular interest to small businesses; Directgov provides information about, and links to, consultations of broad interest to citizens; and www.info41ocal.gov.uk provides information about, and links to, consultations of particular interest to local authorities, although registered users represent all sectors. Departmental websites also routinely list all ongoing consultations.
Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the operation of e-consultation across Government to date; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: Online consultation is one channel through which the Government consult during policy development. The Government have recently carried out a review of Government consultation policy, asking those who regularly participate in Government consultation exercises how consultation could be improved. One message from this review is that the Government should design consultation exercises to be accessible, which means making better use of the full range of channels, including electronic channels.
Mr. Thomas: Consultation exercises, electronic or otherwise, are usually financed from the budget line for the policy area rather than from any central resource within Departments or across Government.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what consideration he has given to the future use of alternative, non-renewable energy sources; and if he will make a statement; 
Malcolm Wicks: The UK needs a diverse mix of low-carbon energy sources to contribute to our energy and climate change goals. The Energy White Paper set out the Governments policy to tackling our key challenges and the guiding principle of market access to all the options available so we can have a diverse and increasingly low carbon energy mix, enabling us to respond to the rapidly changing challenges we will face in the future.
The challenge of moving towards a lower carbon economy requires us to develop a portfolio of low carbon energy technologies such as carbon abatement technologies, including carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and fuel cells, nuclear power and renewables. On 19 November 2007, the Prime Minister announced the launch of the Government competition for a full- scale demonstration of carbon capture and storage technologies on a coal-fired power plant and on 10 January my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State invited companies to present proposals to build new nuclear power stations.
Public-sector funding for low carbon technology innovation is being delivered through the Research Councils, the Technology Strategy Board, the Energy Technologies Institute and from April the Environmental Transformation Fund. These bodies work closely together to ensure that funding activities are complementary and together effectively support a portfolio of technologies, including alternatives such as hydrogen and nuclear power.
BERR engages with external stakeholders such as the Energy Research Partnership (ERP), the Advisory Committee on Carbon Abatement Technologies (ACCAT), the Renewables Advisory Board (RAB), and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (UKBCSE) which include scientific and industry representatives, on the delivery of these activities. The Secretary of State, in the course of his official engagements, regularly meets representatives from energy companies as well as other stakeholders.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he plans to take to (a) encourage the development of wind farms and other renewable energy plants and (b) assist energy companies to reduce electricity losses arising from transmission to population centres. 
(a) The Renewables Obligation (RO) is the Governments main mechanism for supporting renewable generation. We believe that it is for the market to bring forward projects which, with support from the RO, are financially viable.
Since the RO was introduced in 2002 we have seen renewable generation more than double from 1.8 per cent. in 2002 to 4.4 per cent. in 2006. Year on year we are seeing increasing amounts of capacity coming through. The first gigawatt of wind took around 14 years to become operational; the second only 20 months.
The May 2007 Energy White Paper contains proposals to band the RO to better match the level of support provided to the costs of various technologies. This will bring on a more diverse range of renewable technologies. A Government response to consultation
on reform of the RO was published alongside the Energy Bill on 10 January and this is currently before the House. We are aiming to implement these changes through secondary legislation in April 2009.
On 10 December 2007 the Secretary of State announced the launch of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on a draft plan for up to 25 gigawatts of new offshore wind development rights in UK waters.
We also published a Scoping Report on 10 December for our draft plan for offshore energy. This is the first formal step in the consultation process. Following our consultation on this scoping stage, we will undertake a full assessment this year of our Plan for Offshore development. Following the results of the SEA, the Secretary of State expects to make decisions on whether to proceed with our plan in early 2009.
We are aware that there are barriers to the deployment of renewables in the UKsuch as planning, grid and aviation/radar issuesand we are taking steps to address these. This includes taking the Planning Bill through Parliament in order to reform the planning system for renewables. We are also working with Ofgem, national grid, the Ministry of Defence and others to reduce other barriers to renewables deployment.
Later this year the Government will launch a consultation on what more we should do to increase renewable energy use in the UK to meet our share of the EU 2020 renewable energy target. This will consider a range of issues, including how to remove the barriers to development of renewable energy generation. Once the EU Renewables Directive is agreed and the UKs contribution to the EU 2020 target is finalised, we will publish our full UK Renewable Energy Strategy in 2009.
(b) Transmission and distribution companies both have a financial incentive to reduce energy losses. In terms of the distribution companies, Ofgem is intending to review this as part of the Distribution Price Control Review which is now getting under way.
In addition, Ofgem is currently considering mechanisms for charging for transmission energy losses, in order to ensure that locational signals are taken into account in the siting and operation of generating stations.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much cover the Export Credits Guarantee Department has extended for military exports to Indonesia in each year since 2000. 
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Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what (a) initiatives and (b) incentives his Department has in place to encourage reductions in the amount of packaging used for food; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 26 February 2008]: The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 oblige companies above a threshold to pay for a certain proportion of the UK obligation to recycle packaging. Different companies in the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers pick up a different sized proportion of the obligation and must pay according to the amount of packaging used. The less packaging they use, the less they will pay in fees. This has, over time, resulted in lightweighting across a range of products. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) continues to work with businesses to help them minimise their packaging. The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) require packaging volume and weight to be the minimum amount.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what guidelines his Department issues to (a) supermarkets and (b) food manufacturers on the amount of packaging used for (i) foodstuffs and (ii) confectionery; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 26 February 2008]: Supermarkets and food manufacturers are required under the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) to ensure that packaging volume and weight constitute the minimum amount that is adequate to maintain necessary levels of safety, hygiene and acceptance for the packed product and for the consumer. Government Guidance Notes explaining these requirements are available to download from the BERR website. Practical help for business to understand its obligations is provided by the Government-funded Envirowise service.
Mr. Ingram: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 19 February 2008, Official Report, column 651W, on the fossil fuel levy: Scotland, whether a transfer of funds from the fossil fuel levy to the Scottish Consolidated Fund would be ring-fenced for renewable energy purposes. 
Malcolm Wicks: Yes. Any funds from the fossil fuel levy which are transferred to the Scottish Consolidated Fund following a direction made by Scottish Ministers made under section 187 of the Energy Act 2004 would have to be used for the purpose of promoting the use of energy from renewable sources.
Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the designation of Pen Llyn and Pembrokeshire marine areas as special areas of conservation is compatible with oil and gas development; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 27 February 2008]: Proposed licensing and any subsequent offshore activities in or near to these areas will be subject to the provisions of the habitats and wild birds directives. Wherever oil and gas development is likely to have a significant effect upon special areas of conservation such as Pen Llyn and Pembrokeshire, an environmental assessment under the habitats and wild birds directives will be carried out before any licences are awarded under the 25th licensing round; where relevant, an environmental assessment will also be carried out before oil and gas activities are consented to. I will have regard to the results of any such environmental assessment.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what research he has recently (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated by his Department on the effect of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 on fuel poverty; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: In accordance with the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, in February 2001 the Government launched a consultation draft of the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy and later that year, the finalised strategy (http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file16495.pdf).
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps the Government plan to take to ensure that UK manufacturers of heating controls are not economically disadvantaged as a result of the implementation of the Energy-using Products Directive. 
Malcolm Wicks: The European Commission is bringing forward measures under this directive, including one for heating and hot water systems that includes consideration of how control systems can be used to improve the energy efficiency of those appliances. A wide range of stakeholders have been consulted throughout the process, and also have a formal opportunity to comment on the Commissions initial proposal at the EU Consultation Forum Meeting scheduled for 29 February or in writing up to three weeks after that meeting. My officials are also currently consulting the UK industry on the Commissions proposal. As this is a single market directive, any measures made under the EuP framework would apply to all member states, ensuring free movement of compliant goods across the Community.
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