Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment his Department has made of the likely effects of difficulties in obtaining credit on the commercial construction industry in the next three years; and what steps he plans to take to support the industry over that period. 
Malcolm Wicks: We continue to keep the availability of credit to business under review in all sectors, including construction, and have regular dialogue with the banks. Lending to the UK construction sector has increased throughout the first quarter of 2008. However, we have concerns about the potential impact of the credit crunch on property markets and the consequences for construction activity. House builders, in particular, are experiencing a slow-down in activity, with lower site visits and forward reservations.
The Enterprise Strategy, published alongside the Budget, announced extended eligibility criteria for the small firms loan guarantee and a £60 million uplift in lending allocations designed to encourage greater usage of the scheme by the banks. Advice to businesses on managing their financial position in the current economic climate has been made available on businesslink.gov.uk Our proposed reforms to the Construction Act published in the recent draft legislative programme 2008-09 will help promote better cash flow and greater certainty of payment in construction contracts.
In addition, the Government recently announced that the Housing Corporation will provide up to £200 million for RSLs to purchase newly built properties from developers, where these are of an appropriate quality and represent value for money. These will be made available for first-time buyers to purchase through the existing homebuy scheme or for social rented tenancies.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies spent on training courses for staff in the last (i) 12 months and (ii) five years. 
|(1) For 2006-07 and earlier years, figures represent spend by the former Department of Trade and Industry, including functions transferred in 2007-08 to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
(2) For 2005-06 and earlier years, agency figures include expenditure by the Employment Tribunals Service, which transferred to the Ministry of Justice on 1 April 2006.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many households he estimates will be removed from fuel poverty by the measures recently announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 
Malcolm Wicks: My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Darling) announced in the Budget that the Government would work with energy suppliers to increase their spend on social programmes designed to help those vulnerable to fuel poverty. The Government reached individual agreements with each of the six largest suppliers in April to increase their collective spend to at least £150 million a year by 2010-11.
The impact of this additional funding on the fuel poverty numbers will depend on how it is directed. If it is purely used to offset bills and equally distributed among the poorest households, then it could help to remove up to 100,000 of these from fuel poverty. Other scenarios may bring different benefitsfor example, energy efficiency measures may benefit fewer but will be permanent. Energy suppliers will be free to determine how they target the additional spend within certain parameters currently being developed by Ofgem.
In addition, the Chancellor announced a one-off additional supplement to the winter fuel payment of £50 for the over-60s and £100 for the over-80s. This will benefit around eight million pensioner households.
The Government also announced action to investigate and tackle the high differential between the cost of energy to customers using prepayment meters and those paying by direct debit. Around 11 per cent. of the fuel poor pay for their gas via prepayment meters and around 20 per cent. of the fuel poor use prepayment meters for their electricity. Ofgem is currently investigating and is due to report in September. Subsequent action will depend on the outcome of Ofgems investigation.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he has taken to publicise the Low Carbon Buildings Programme to (a) homeowners and (b) local authorities. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Government are working with the Energy Saving Trust to promote the Low Carbon Buildings Programme household funding stream. To date, we have used both their advice network and market segmentation models to target those that are most likely to install microgeneration technologies and apply for grants. Further details are available at:
BERR is currently working with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 2 programme manager, to deliver a national awareness raising campaign at a series of regional events. They have been promoting the scheme through combination of articles, advertorials and advertising in media serving all target sectors. 50,000 promotional flyers have been produced and distributed to journals and potential applicants. We expect around 700 people from eligible organisations and local authorities to participate in the events.
We also continue to investigate and pursue other avenues for promotion of the scheme. For example, working with colleagues from other Government Departments, BERR officials speak regularly at events and conferences to promote the programme. Promotional activities have also been undertaken by the framework suppliers of phase II of the LCBP.
We have also published an energy measures report for local authorities compiling information they can use to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the levels of microgeneration in their communities.
Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many people in Houghton and Washington East constituency have had coal health claims settled since the scheme was introduced; and how much was paid out in relation to such claims. 
Malcolm Wicks: The number of claimants in Houghton and Washington East constituency who have had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease claims (COPD) and Vibration White Finger claims settled are shown in the following table as at 1 June 2008.
|Total claims settled( 1)
|Total damages paid on settled claims (£ million)
|(1) Total claims settled includes claims settled by payment, denial, withdrawal or strike out.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many barrels of oil were produced from the North Sea in each of the last 30 years; and what estimate he has made of the number of barrels to be produced in each of the next 10 years. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 9 June 2008]: The information requested is in the following table. Historical and projected data on UK crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) in tonnes have been converted into barrels assuming there are 7.5 barrels per tonne. Historical data are from http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/statistics/source/oil/page18470.html while projections through to 2013 are from https://www.og.berr.gov.uk/information/bb_updates/chapters/Section4_17.htm; a compound annual decline of 5.5 per cent. has been assumed thereafter.
|UK production of oil and NGLs
Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps have been taken (a) by the UK and (b) with other countries to protect (i) marine trade routes and (ii) critical parts of marine trade routes to and from the UK from (A) piracy, (B) accidents and (C) other forms of disruption; what assessment has been made of the levels of such risks on each route; and if he will make a statement. 
The UK Government take a proactive role in working with our international partners, such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and foreign governments and the shipping industry to develop international legislation and guidance for shipping transiting trade routes. At both Government and operational levels this includes collaborating with other navies and coastguards through a series of combined operations and strategic alliances to ensure that the vital sea lanes and choke points are safe to navigate. Also, the Government monitor and assess the risk of terrorism to sea lanes and, as appropriate, set the security level for UK and Red Ensign Group registered ships operating in these areas and advise industry accordingly.
Recently, the UK co-sponsored the UNSC resolution addressing the problem of piracy off Somalia. Under the terms of resolution 1816 (2008), which was adopted unanimously, the Security Council decided that states co-operating with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) would be allowed, for a period of six months, to enter the country's territorial waters and use all necessary means to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with relevant provisions of international law.
Furthermore, the Government are committed to ratifying into UK law the 2005 protocols to the convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation, by way of the proposed Transport Security Bill. Notably, this Bill will provide powers to board ships that are suspected of being involved in acts of piracy.
The UK plays an active role in the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee and Subcommittee on the Safety of Navigation to prevent accidents at sea. In this forum we seek consensus on ships' routeing measures to reduce the risk of groundings or collisions.