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1 July 2008 : Column 798W—continued

The Greater London Authority also has a directly elected Mayor.

Regeneration: Essex

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on (a) the respective responsibilities of the Thames Gateway and the East of England Regional Assembly in respect of regeneration in Essex and (b) overlap in these responsibilities; and if she will make a statement. [214422]

Caroline Flint: I have, to date, received no representations on the respective responsibilities of the East of England regional assembly and the Thames Gateway.

However, the Government have invited responses to the proposals set out in the Review of Sub National Economic Development and Regeneration to introduce integrated regional strategies and give the regional development agencies (RDAs) lead responsibility for developing them in partnership with local authorities and other regional stakeholders. This means regional assemblies, such as the East of England assembly, will not continue in their current form after 2010.

This consultation closed on 20 June 2008. Analysis of the responses received is still ongoing.

Social Rented Housing: Foreigners

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many households occupying social housing were headed by a foreign national in the most recent period for which figures are available; and what estimate she has made of the number of such households in each of the last 10 years. [211157]

Caroline Flint: I refer the hon. Member to section 2.1 of the Housing Report to the Migration Impacts Forum, published in January 2008, and available at:

Information prior to 2005-06 was not collected by the Department and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


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Welsh Language

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment she has made of the level of demand for the services provided by (a) her Department and (b) its agencies and non-departmental bodies to be provided in the Welsh language; and if she will make a statement. [210548]

Mr. Dhanda: I have deposited copies in English and Welsh of the Department's Welsh language scheme, and also our overall policy on translation, in the Library of the House. The Welsh language scheme was drawn up by our predecessor Department but remains in force in Communities and Local Government. Information on the level of demand for services in the Welsh language provided by the Department's agencies and non-departmental bodies is not held centrally, hence the costs of gathering this information would be disproportionate.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Arms Trade: Export Controls

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether military equipment export licences were granted to British companies for the sale of cryptography equipment and software to Zimbabwe in 2007. [214777]

Malcolm Wicks: There has been a military arms embargo against Zimbabwe since 2000. The Government did not therefore grant any licences for export to Zimbabwe of military cryptography equipment or software in 2007.

The Government publish detailed information on export and trade control licences issued, refused and revoked, including the overall value and a summary of the items covered by these licences, in its annual and quarterly reports on strategic export controls. The quarterly reports covering 2007 are available on the FCO website at:

The 2007 annual report is expected to be published shortly.

Previous annual reports, since 1997, are available from the House of Commons Library, and all the annual reports from 2003 onwards, plus the quarterly reports covering 2007, are available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website via the link above.

Carbon Sequestration: International Cooperation

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what funding his Department has provided for the construction of carbon capture and storage demonstration plants; what discussions he has had with his G8 counterparts on construction of such plants in other G8 countries; and if he will seek to include the subject on the agenda of the forthcoming G8 summit in Japan. [214120]


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Malcolm Wicks: The Government are providing £2.2 million to support the demonstration of a 40MW oxyfuel combustion system. The Government are also committed to supporting one of the world's first commercial-scale demonstrations of the full chain of carbon capture and storage technology. The competition to select the project was launched in November 2007 and is ongoing.

Carbon capture and storage was discussed at the G8 Energy Ministers meeting on 8 June. The Joint Statement issued by G8 Energy Ministers states in paragraph 6:

A copy of the Joint Statement, which contains the full text on carbon capture and storage, has already been deposited in the Libraries of the House.

At the G8 summit in July, discussions on carbon capture and storage will be held under the climate change agenda item.

Construction

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the economic prospects for the construction industry over the next 12 months. [211934]

Malcolm Wicks: Construction industry output in Great Britain increased by 2.4 per cent. in 2007 (Office for National Statistics), though levels of activity in the construction sector are currently falling, chiefly in the new housing sector.

Updated statistics released by the Office for National Statistics on 17 June indicate that the total volume of construction output for the 12 months to the first quarter of 2008 rose by 2 per cent. compared with the previous 12-month period. Output of new work rose by 4 per cent. over the same period, driven by increases in public housing, infrastructure and private commercial new work. However, new private housing work was down by 5 per cent. over the same period. Repair and maintenance work rose by 1 per cent. over the same period. Output in the first quarter of 2008 was unchanged compared with the fourth quarter of 2007 in volume terms.

As has been widely reported, a number of large house builders are experiencing difficulties, primarily a result of the slow down in the housing sector. Consequently, market commentators have revised their forecasts for the entire construction sector and now consider that output will fall by 1.3 per cent.(1) during 2008.

Although the housing sector appears likely to face difficult prospects for some time, the outlook for the wider sector is more promising, with work on-going in the infrastructure, health and education sectors. In addition, work is set to commence this year on various Olympic related projects and, looking a little further ahead, a number of large infrastructure and transport projects, such as Crossrail and Thameslink are at the planning stage.


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Crime: Computers

Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what advice his Department has issued to businesses to tackle and prevent online fraud. [212696]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government take this form of crime seriously and a variety of advice and information is available to businesses to help them protect themselves from online fraud.

BERR (alongside the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and the Serious Organised Crime Agency and a number of private sector organisations) is a sponsor of Get Safe Online (www.getsafeonline.org) the major public-private sector initiative designed to help consumers and small business protect themselves online. The website, which has a section dedicated to the steps businesses can take to protect themselves from online fraud, is seen as a key vehicle in promoting messages about this type of issue.

Primary responsibility for e-crime rests with the Home Office which has created, and maintains, the ‘e-tailing mini site’, which forms part of the crime reduction website (http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/). The mini site provides information to help both businesses and consumers protect themselves specifically when using the internet. Government are considering how we take an overall approach to issues such as electronic fraud, and will be discussing these with a number of law enforcement agencies.

Departmental Public Expenditure

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much his Department and its predecessor spent on (a) new furnishings, (b) art and (c) new vehicles in each of the last three years. [213679]

Mr. Thomas: On furnishings, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 25 June 2008, Official Report, column 327W, to the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban).

This Department has not procured any art or new vehicles in any of the last three years.

Electricity: Prices

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what factors determine the national price of electricity; and what estimate he has made of changes in the national price of electricity at times of peak demand in the latest period for which figures are available. [214594]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 30 June 2008]: Electricity suppliers and traders may buy their power from generators by signing bilateral contracts at prices agreed between themselves on a commercial basis, or through trading on power exchanges. At any one time the spot wholesale price of electricity has to settle at the level which is sufficient to balance supply and demand.

If the price is not high enough, the plant with the highest operating cost will be unable to cover its costs and so will not generate, leaving the market short of
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supply. If it is too high, more plant will want to provide electricity than is needed, leading to an excess of supply over demand.

Prices paid by retail consumers also include additional costs incurred by their suppliers and are smoothed out so that most consumers are not exposed to hourly fluctuations in the wholesale price.

The operating costs of the marginal plants tend to be determined primarily (but not exclusively) by their fuel costs (i.e., cost of the natural gas, coal or oil they burn to generate each kWh of electricity) and the cost of any EU ETS allowances they need to purchase in order to cover the cost of their carbon emissions.

Details of wholesale electricity prices are available at

Broadly, the wholesale price of electricity at peak periods this month has been about twice the average price for the day.

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of changes in the unit price of electricity during periods of peak demand across the UK. [214595]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 30 June 2008]: Details of historic wholesale electricity prices are available at:

Broadly, the wholesale price of electricity at peak periods in recent weeks has been about twice the average price for the day, reflecting the higher marginal costs of those electricity generating plants which tend to run only at peak times.

Most consumers, however, pay the same per unit of electricity regardless of when it is consumed.

Energy Supply

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what sources of energy supply which are normally on standby or low output are utilised during periods of peak national demand. [214454]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 30 June 2008]: This is a matter for generating plant owners, who take decisions as to which plant to operate on a day-to-day basis taking into account such factors as the prevailing supply-demand balance; prices for electricity, fuel and carbon allowances; the capability and state of repair of individual plants; and relevant environmental considerations, such as the limit on running hours imposed on some plants by the large combustion plants directive and local air quality restrictions.

As a general rule, however, oil-fired plants and open cycle gas turbines tend to run only at periods of peak demand or when the supply-demand balance is particularly tight, while pumped storage facilities, coal stations and closed cycle gas turbines are better suited to providing rapid adjustment to output in response to short-term increases in demand or reductions in supply. Because of their particular flexibility, open cycle gas turbines and some pumped storage facilities would usually be on standby until required.


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Energy Supply: Security

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will hold discussions with his counterparts in other EU member states on the security of energy supply. [214451]

Malcolm Wicks: The UK has taken, and will continue to take, a leading role in promoting an integrated energy security and climate change policy at European level. The spring European Council this year reaffirmed the European Union's commitment to enhancing energy security, in particular in the context of the European Commission's Second Strategic Energy Review later this year. France, which holds the EU presidency from 1 July, has also announced its intention to make energy security a priority. UK Ministers will continue to play an active role in these debates over coming months, including through bi-lateral contacts with other member states.

Energy: Grants

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the average funding per head in (a) the UK, (b) Scotland, (c) England, (d) Wales and (e) Northern Ireland was on grants made by his Department for (i) insulation, (ii) renewable micro-generation and (iii) other energy efficiency measures in the latest period for which figures are available. [212589]

Malcolm Wicks: The average grant paid to applicants through the Low Carbon Buildings Programme household stream is shown as follows:

Grants paid to end of May 2008

Total number Total value (£) Average value (£)

United Kingdom

4,544

7,061,194.67

1,553.96

Scotland

74

266,369.53

3,599.59

Wales

411

496,946.21

1,209.11

Northern Ireland

36

105,144.29

2,920.67

England

4,023

6,192,734.64

1,539.33


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