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20 May 2008 : Column 253Wcontinued
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps the Government has taken to reduce businesses dependency on fossil fuels. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 1 May 2008]: UK energy policy is based on a market approach. With rising fossil fuel (oil, gas and coal) prices, which also feed into the price of electricity, there is every incentive for businesses to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels themselves without Government intervention. However, in the context of our climate change policy, the Government are taking a large number of actions that will reduce the UKs dependence on fossil fuel-based energy. These include:
De-carbonising the electricity mix through EU emissions trading system (ETS);
Renewables obligation, carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration, and the nuclear policy framework;
Providing funding and support to emerging non-fossil-fuel technologies in the transport, electricity and heat sectors, for example, via the Environmental Transformation Fund;
Reducing use of fossil-based transport fuels through the renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO);
Installation of smart meters in businesses thereby allowing them to have more direct control over the energy spending and therefore dependency on fossil fuels; and
Carbon reduction commitments (CRC)starting in January 2010which commit large business not in the EU ETS to reduce their carbon emissions and thereby their use of fossil fuels.
Climate change levy acts to encourage use of renewablesas businesses can be exempted from the levy (levy exemption certificates) if they install renewables. The Carbon Trust was set up to encourage business to reduce their carbon footprint.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what plans he has to review the business principles of the Export Credits Guarantee Department; and what progress has been made in developing proposals for a review. 
Malcolm Wicks: There is no plan to review ECGDs business principles in the immediate future.
Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform when the Companies Investigation Branch expects to receive independent legal advice on its report into Farepak. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 19 May 2008]: Companies Investigations Branch will be receiving independent legal advice during the course of the next few weeks.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many times his Department discussed the proposed labelling of heating systems in the energy-using products directive with representatives from the European Commission in 2007-08; and what plans he has for such discussions in 2008-09. 
Malcolm Wicks: Both BERR and DEFRA officials have been in regular contact with the European Commission concerning the boilers and water heater proposals under the energy-using products directive in 2007-08. The latest engagement includes:
EuP Consultation Forum on 18 December 2007;
A bilateral meeting with the Commission on 31 January 2008;
EuP Consultation Forum on 29 February 2008;
Conference call with Commission on 24 April 2008; and
An informal meeting with Commission and other member states is planned for 22 May 2008.
In addition to the discussions with the Commission, BERR and DEFRA have continued to work closely with the relevant industry sectors and BERR hosted a full day workshop (chaired by DEFRA) with industry representatives at BERR in February this year.
A similar level of engagement is expected over the coming 12 months.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent representations he has received on the efficacy of the Low Carbon Buildings programme; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Low Carbon Buildings programme Phase 1 was set up with a key objective to demonstrate the potential of combining microgeneration technologies with energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions in buildings. Phase 2 of the LCBP had aims to achieve reductions in the costs of microgeneration products; to see microgeneration products demonstrated on a wider scale; and to achieve greater visibility and understanding of microgeneration technologies by the general public as a result of their installation on a wide range of public buildings. We monitor progress against these objectives and periodically review overall effectiveness.
As part of the normal course of business we have ongoing discussions with a wide range of stakeholders about the Low Carbon Buildings programme.
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform when he expects the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to grant consent to operate the MOX plant at Sellafield. 
The nuclear installations inspectorate (NII) has not yet identified a date for granting a consent to operate the Sellafield MOX plant (SMP) facility.
Sellafield Ltd., as holder of the site licence and responsibility for safety on the site, will formally request a consent to operate the MOX plant from the NII when it believes that a satisfactory demonstration of successful commissioning has been achieved and an appropriate safety case submitted in support of the application.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what information he holds on the assumptions and predictions made by (a) each EU country and (b) each G8 country about the price of oil in (i) 2010 and (ii) 2020 for benchmarking purposes. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 19 May 2008]: The Department is currently in the process of updating its oil price assumptions for the period till 2020, which are used in the Department's analytical work. The last set of future oil price assumptions were published alongside the Energy White Paper in May 2007 and can be found in Annex B of the document titled 'Updated energy and carbon emissions projections: the energy white paper' at the following link:
However, the Department does not hold information on the oil price assumptions and predictions made by the other EU and G8 countries.
The US Department of Energy publishes oil price related information on its EIA website. More information can be found at the following links:
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many post offices which were not closed as part of the Post Office closure programme have closed since October 2007. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 13 May 2008]: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, Managing Director, of POL to reply direct to the hon. Member.
Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which local authorities in Gloucestershire made submissions to the recent restructuring review for post offices. 
Mr. McFadden: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, Managing Director, of POL to reply direct to the hon. Member.
Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the value of the investment fund established to support the Royal Mail Pension Plan was at the end of 2007-08. 
Mr. McFadden [holding answer 13 May 2008]: Royal Mail's preliminary results published on 8 May indicate that the value of the escrow account put in place to support the pension fund is £1.07 billion.
Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what sources of advice and financial support are available to small and medium enterprises seeking to employ solar power generation for their factories. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Renewables Obligation is the Government's main mechanism for encouraging new renewable electricity generation with all eligible renewable electricity generation installations able to receive Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). We have proposed that all electricity generated by solar photovoltaic panels will be eligible to claim 2 ROCs for every IMWh of renewable electricity generated from April 2009. This should benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) wishing to install solar photovoltaic panels.
Under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP), with an £86 million budget, around £30 million has been allocated to 6,300 projects, including £6.5 million to 152 projects in the private sector. Although all funding streams for SMEs have now closed to new applicants, we are working closely with the Carbon Trust on a number of private sector projects to raise awareness of the potential for combining microgeneration with energy efficiency to develop low carbon buildings. Further details are available at:
Advice is available from a number of sources, including the Carbon Trust who provides site surveys to organisations, including SMEs, looking to reduce their energy demand, save money and manage their carbon emissions more efficiently. Further details are available at:
Further assistance is available through Business Link at www.businesslink.gov.uk and Regional Development Agencies at:
We are currently reviewing our support for renewable energy and will be consulting on this in the summer.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the potential of space-based installations to harness solar power as an energy source. 
Malcolm Wicks: We understand that there are developments taking place on space-based solar photovoltaic arrays with the potential to beam electricity back to earth. Although there are potential advantages over land-based installations, we understand that there remain questions related to technical feasibility, maintenance, costs and commercial application.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on which occasions, and related to which matters, his Department has asked regulators of utilities to undertake specific investigations in the last five years; and which investigations were undertaken as a consequence. 
Malcolm Wicks: In February 2007, following the issuing of a merger intervention notice under the Enterprise Act 2002 in the matter of BSkyB's acquisition of a 17.9 per cent. stake in ITV plc the Secretary of State also instructed Ofcom to investigate and report on the public interest considerations involving the need for a sufficient plurality of persons with control of media enterprises, as a result of BSkyB's acquisition.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will meet representatives from Dorset Scouts to discuss the effect on scouting of the location of wind turbines close to residential scouting activity centres. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 19 May 2008]: Due to heavily committed diaries, I regret that it would not be possible for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or other Ministers from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to meet representatives from Dorset Scouts to discuss the effect on scouting of the location of wind turbines close to residential scouting activity centres.
Whether an application for consent for a particular wind farm is dealt with by BERR under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 or by the relevant local planning authority under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Dorset Scouts can put forward their views during the consultation period. Those views would then be taken into account before the decision is made.
11. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment she has made of the performance of the East Lancashire housing market renewal pathfinder, Elevate. 
Mr. Iain Wright:
All nine housing market renewal pathfinders are assessed for the Department by the Audit Commission on a regular basis. The most recent assessment of Elevates performance was made as part of the latest business planning round and published
in February this year. This found that Elevate is performing well and continues to be in strong need of investment. As a result, we have announced funding of £150 million for the three-year period 2008-11.
12. Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to provide infrastructure for the proposed Cranbrook development in East Devon. 
Caroline Flint: Government are working in partnership with local authorities and homebuilders on the delivery of this new community at Exeter. We have contributed £1 million in 2007-08, and £5.5 million has been allocated for 2008-11 for infrastructure, which will continue to support substantial further investment from the private sector.
14. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions she has had with the mortgage industry on the cost of mortgages and likely trends in the number of repossessions. 
Caroline Flint: The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I met with the mortgage and lending industry on 22 April to discuss what the industry can do to support borrowers in difficulty during the current period of turbulence in global financial markets.
Appropriate meetings are happening and will be arranged, to continue the useful exchange of information and agree action to be taken.
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