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15 May 2008 : Column 1754W—continued

Departmental Translation Services

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much was spent by his Department on translation and interpretation services in 2007-08, broken down by language. [205189]

Mr. Thomas: Expenditure by the Department on translation services in 2007-08 was £321,666. Of this total, £56,613 was for translations into English and £265,053 for translation into other languages. Information is not held centrally in a format to provide a detailed breakdown by individual languages and this could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Individual directorates make their own arrangements for purchase of interpretation services. Information on expenditure for such services is not available centrally and could be collected only at disproportionate cost.

Energy: EU Law

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on how many occasions officials in his Department discussed the proposed labelling of heating systems in the energy-using products directive with representatives of the European Commission in each of the last two years. [205441]

Malcolm Wicks: BERR and DEFRA officials have been in regular contact with the Commission concerning the boilers and water heater proposals under the energy-using products directive. The latest engagement with the Commission includes:

In addition to the discussions with the Commission, BERR and DEFRA have continued to work closely with the relevant industry sectors and recently BERR hosted a full day workshop (chaired by DEFRA) with industry representatives in February.


15 May 2008 : Column 1755W

Energy: Fees and Charges

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the average price of (a) gas and (b) electricity for UK households has been in each year since 1996. [205548]

Malcolm Wicks: Domestic retail prices for gas and electricity are published quarterly in section 2 of “Quarterly Energy Prices”, the latest edition of which was published in March 2008 and is available online at http://www.berr.gov.uk.files/file45393.pdf. Table 2.2.1. on page 17 holds average electricity bills and table 2.3.1 on page 20 holds average gas bills. Both tables hold average bills back to 1990 and split by payment method.

Energy: Prices

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the expenditure made by each energy company on its social tariff in each of the last five years. [205207]

Malcolm Wicks: Detailed reporting of energy company social tariffs has been led by OFGEM in recent years with BERR reporting at an aggregate level. In August and October 2007, OFGEM reported on the range of voluntary social initiatives each of the six largest energy suppliers provide to assist their vulnerable customers.

Etimated figures for combined social spending on all voluntary initiatives (including social tariffs, rebates, trust funds, partnerships etc. but excluding differences in company fuel price levels) in 2006 by company are displayed in the following table:

£ million
Company Amount

British Gas

19.0

EDF Energy

5.6

nPower

4.0

Powergen

6.7

Scottish Power

2.8

Scottish and Southern Energy

3.2


Further detail on the six largest energy suppliers' expenditure on their social initiatives is available here:

Accurate figures prior to 2006 at individual supplier level are not available. OFGEM published a report of supplier activity in June 2005 but no assessments were made at aggregate supplier level.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representations his Department has received on the time taken for changes in the wholesale price of energy to be reflected in the prices paid by domestic customers; and if he will make a statement. [205208]

Malcolm Wicks: Timing of retail price increases or decreases are commercial decisions by the energy supply companies. The Government do not interfere in commercial pricing decisions in the energy supply markets, which are competitive markets.


15 May 2008 : Column 1756W

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions he has had with energy companies on the practice of differential charging for payments made electronically, by direct debit and by cash; and if he will make a statement. [205211]

Malcolm Wicks: Ofgem is currently conducting a probe into the energy markets, which includes looking at tariff differentials to make sure that the different payment methods are fair and justified. It released initial findings at the Fuel Poverty summit in April, and is already taking action to ensure that energy suppliers provide clear information on their websites to ensure that customers can make informed choices about the different payment methods. Ofgem will report on its probe in September and consider then whether further action is required.

In respect of customers using pre-payment meters, the Government announced in the Budget that it is prepared to legislate with a view to reducing the differential between pre-payment and other forms of payment should Ofgem's probe reveal that pre-payment customers are suffering any disadvantage. However, in the first instance the Government will look to Ofgem and the energy suppliers to provide the solution.

Farepak: Compensation

Ms Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what plans the Government has to provide compensation to those who lost savings as a result of the collapse of the Farepak Christmas savings club in 2006. [200373]

Mr. Thomas: The Government are entirely sympathetic to the plight of those who lost money in the Farepak collapse, and were strongly supportive of the commendable efforts of the Farepak Response Fund appeal, which raised £8 million from business and members of the public to help those affected.

For the future, the Government have taken steps to provide better protection and information for consumers. We have worked with the other hamper companies to put in place effective protection for customers’ prepayments. The companies have responded by introducing new safeguards for consumers’ money in the form of independently-controlled, ring-fenced trust accounts. These arrangements will be monitored by a new trade body, the Christmas Prepayments Association, under the terms of a new code of practice. We understand that the Association will be seeking approval of the code by the OFT under the terms of its consumer codes approval scheme. The Government have also given the Office of Fair Trading £1 million for a new awareness campaign so that consumers are better aware of their options for Christmas savings and are empowered to make decisions that are right for their own circumstances. However, the Government have no plans to provide any compensation in this case.

Fuel Poverty

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of (a) pensioner households and (b) other households which were living in fuel poverty in each year since 1996. [205547]


15 May 2008 : Column 1757W

Malcolm Wicks: The most recent year for which numbers of households in fuel poverty are available is 2005. Various splits of the headline fuel poverty numbers for England are published in “Fuel Poverty 2005: detailed tables” available online at

The following table shows the number of pensioner households living in fuel poverty since 2003, the first year for which estimates for pensioners were made.

Estimated number of fuel poor households (1,000s)
2003 2004 2005

Pensioners

634

604

794

Non-pensioners

588

632

735

Total

1,222

1,236

1,529


Figures for 2006 will be available later this year.

Fuels: Prices

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the effect of increases in fuel prices on the cost of domestic heating. [204228]

Malcolm Wicks: Rising fuel costs put pressure on suppliers to raise prices to consumers. The average wholesale price for gas to be delivered in the next four quarters has doubled since early May 2007.

About 85 per cent. of English households use gas as their main heating fuel. Internal BERR analysis estimates that the wholesale cost of gas currently makes up about 70 to 75 per cent. of an average household gas bill. Therefore a permanent rise of 20 per cent. (for instance) in wholesale gas costs could be expected to result in an average increase of about 15 per cent. in charges to the consumer.

Rises in global fossil fuel costs will also impact households using heating oil, or electric heating.

Actual charges to consumers will vary depending on the purchasing and pricing strategies of an individual supplier over time.

Gambling: Internet

Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representations he has made to the US administration in respect of its decision to withdraw from a World Trade Organisation commitment to provide access to the US online gambling market to non-US companies. [205375]

Mr. Thomas: The UK remained in close contact with the US Administration, the European Commission, and UK gambling interests throughout the negotiation of an agreed compensation package with the US.

A final compensation package was agreed, between the EC and the US, in December 2007.

Heating: Fuel Oil

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of households that use heating oil as the main means of heating their homes in (a) the UK and (b) each nation and region of the UK. [200269]


15 May 2008 : Column 1758W

Mr. Watson: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated April 2008:

Average number of households using heating oil for central heating—United Kingdom, 2003-04 to 2005-06
Thousands
Region( 1) Heating oil only Solid fuel and heating oil Total( 2)

North East

21

0

21

North West and Merseyside

58

2

61

Yorkshire and The Humber

39

4

43

East Midlands

78

3

81

West Midlands

49

1

50

Eastern

199

4

203

London

12

1

13

South East

139

2

141

South West

187

11

198

England

781

29

810

Wales

90

8

97

Scotland

111

2

113

Northern Ireland

483

4

487

United Kingdom

1,465

43

1,508

(1) Government office region. (2) Figures may not add due to rounding. Source: Office for National Statistics.

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