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1 July 2008 : Column 810W—continued

Fuel Poverty: Pensioners

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which six energy companies provided the largest number of social tariffs to pensioners in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [213322]

Malcolm Wicks: Ofgem published a review of suppliers’ voluntary initiatives in August 2007 and updated the figures in October 2007. Spending covered in these reports includes that on social tariffs, contributions to trust funds and charities and rebates.

Although the reports make some estimates of likely savings per customer receiving each of a range of benefits, they are not all split by pensioner or non-pensioner household.

Ofgem will continue to monitor supplier spending in this area and recently sought views on their proposed monitoring framework for 2008-11:

Fuels: Prices

Mr. Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will commission research into the reasons why costs for kerosene have risen more rapidly than those for gas and electricity over the last 12 months. [212852]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 June 2008]: Kerosene is an oil product which means the price of kerosene is directly linked to the cost of crude oil. Crude oil prices have increased by over 80 per cent. in the last 12 months (average May 2007—average May 2008) and these increases have fed through to the price of kerosene. Crude oil prices also impact on the wholesale costs of gas and therefore electricity but over a longer time period of around six months. There are even longer lead-times between changes in wholesale gas and electricity and domestic retail prices. These factors fully explain the recent trends in prices and I see no need for further research into the issue.

Mr. Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the effect of increases in fuel oil prices on the domestic heating bills of those with no access to mains gas supplies. [212853]

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Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 June 2008]: Fuel oil prices have been increasing due to increases in crude oil prices. According to the retail price index for heating oils, which includes bottled gas and domestic heating oils, prices have increased by around 70 per cent. between May 2007 and May 2008. However, the exact effect on households’ heating bills will depend on the levels of consumption of the individual household.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on what dates since 1 May 1997 his Department has re-evaluated its oil price projections for 2020; and what the projected figure was on each date. [213489]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 24 June 2008]: The following table shows assumptions published by BERR for the crude oil price in dollars per barrel, listed in terms of 2007 prices for consistency. Prior to 2000 fossil fuel prices were projected on a less frequent basis so a 1995 assumption is provided.

Projections of the oil price are made for the purpose of providing assumptions to be used in modelling work within the Department, with the focus on long-term sustainable prices and a range of plausible outcomes. The price assumptions are consistent with similar forecasts made at the time. The current projections are compiled following a Call for Evidence and reflect feedback from stakeholders. BERR has committed to updating these projections roughly twice a year.

Table—Oil price projections for 2020 ($/barrel) in low, central and high scenarios. For comparison all figures have been inflated to 2007prices using the ONS GDP deflator.

Publication and date assumption made Low Central High

Energy Paper 65 (March 1995)



Energy Paper 68 (November 2000)



EU Emissions Trading scheme—National allocation Plan (November 2004)


Updated Fossil Fuel




Price Assumptions (August 2005)

Energy Review (July 2006)




Energy White Paper (May 2007)




Updated Fossil Fuel Price Assumptions (March 2008)



95.0 (High Scenario) 150.0 (High-High scenario)

National Emergency Plan for Fuel

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform under what circumstances the National Emergency Plan for Fuel will be activated; and if he will make a statement. [213462]

Malcolm Wicks: The National Emergency Plan for Fuel (NEP-F) enables the Government to select and use appropriate emergency response tools to manage any significant disruption to fuel supplies in the UK market. These response tools may be used to alleviate disruptions in various parts of the downstream oil supply chain depending on the nature and scale of a specific incident. These tools range from demand calming measures, to
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the designation of selected filling stations for use by the emergency services and other essential users, and the invoking of a maximum purchase scheme for all purchases of fuel from garage forecourts.

Natural Gas: Disconnections

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of gas customers on pre-payment tariffs who have self-disconnected over the last 12 months. [215042]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department has no information about the behaviour of individual customers, and cannot, therefore, provide an estimate of levels of self-disconnection.

Nuclear Installations Inspectorate: Foreign Workers

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many new staff members recruited in 2008 by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to support additional work required to carry out the generic design assessment for new nuclear reactors are foreign nationals; what vetting and visa procedures apply to the recruits; and whether the NII is able to recover the costs of engaging them from the reactor vendors. [213083]

Malcolm Wicks: As a result of the recruitment campaign for Nuclear Inspectors that was launched in December 2007 and closed in February 2008, none of the recruits were foreign nationals.

Whether an applicant may require a visa to attend an interview for a job in the UK is unconnected with the specific job application and is a matter for decision by the UK Border Agency, or ultimately the Home Office. Only when a candidate has received a job offer are they subjected to vetting procedures appropriate for UK public bodies. NII inspectors will normally be required to obtain national security vetting clearance to the security check level.

Costs incurred in the recruitment process are recoverable from industry.

Oil: Reserves

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what recent estimate he has made of the size of the UK's North Sea oil reserves; [214528]

(2) what the UK's proven oil reserves were in each of the last 10 years, broken down by oil field; [214529]

(3) how frequently individual oil companies report their proven oil reserves to the Government; and what data they report. [214530]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department's latest published estimates show that as at the end of 2006 reserves of UK oil amounted to between 479 million tonnes (proven reserves) and 1,254 million tonnes (proven, probable and possible reserves), with a central estimate of around 776 million tonnes (proven and probable reserves). Full details including definitions of the proven, probable and possible reserve classification are on BERR's oil and gas website at:

Updated estimates for reserves as at the end of 2007 are due to be published shortly.

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We do not disclose reserves information for individual oil fields as this information is provided to the Department by the operators of each field on a basis of commercial confidentiality. However, overall proven UK oil reserves in each of the last 10 years were estimated as follows:

At year end Estimated proven( 1) oil reserves (million tonnes)





















(1) Reserves which on the available evidence are virtually certain to be technically and commercially producible, i.e. have a better than 90 per cent. chance of being produced.

Within the licensing arrangements, all operators in the UK report to the Department at least annually on a range of data including current field production rates and estimates of proven, probable and possible reserves in the fields they operate, as well as any changes to reservoir performance or field activities which are likely to have an effect on reserves.

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the likely effects on small local businesses have been considered in the event of Post Office Ltd. losing the bid for the Post Office card account. [212793]

Mr. McFadden: The Department for Work and Pensions is currently managing a competitive tender process for the successor product to the Post Office card account and an announcement is expected later in the year. In advance of the procurement decision being announced, it would not be appropriate for the Government to speculate on the consequences should any individual bidder fail to secure the contract.

The Government remain committed to allowing people to access their pension and benefit in cash at the post office if they choose to do so, and there are around 25 accounts which make that possible still generating income for Post Office Ltd. and sub-postmasters.

Post Offices: Robbery

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many robberies there were of (a) post offices and (b) post office vehicles in each of the last five years. [214599]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 30 June 2008]: I have asked the chief executive of Royal Mail, Adam Crozier, to provide a direct reply to the hon. Member.

A copy of the response will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

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Renewable Energy: Finance

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much the Government plan to spend on renewable energy over the next 10 years. [214200]

Malcolm Wicks: The evolving nature of the challenges of climate change and security of supply mean that it is not possible to predict how the detail of our policy response and its associated level of financial support might need to change in the future. However, as demonstrated by the comprehensive package of measures put forward in a consultation on the ‘UK Renewable Energy Strategy’, published on 26 June, the Government are fully committed to increasing the deployment of renewable energy as part of decarbonising our energy mix, and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The consultation seeks to build on a great deal of support already available to the renewables sector through programmes such as those to support new and emerging technologies; R&D projects; or, schemes aimed at removing barriers, such as those in planning or the supply chain.

Public sector funding for low carbon energy technology innovation is being delivered through the organisations listed as follows. These bodies all recognise low carbon energy technologies, including renewables, as a priority, and work closely together to ensure that funding activities are complementary and together effectively supports a portfolio of technologies. DIUS Science and Innovation Budget Investments through the Research Councils, Technology Strategy Board and, more recently with the establishment of the Energy Technologies Institute.

Research Council investments on energy related basic, strategic and applied research and postgraduate training will approach £300 million during this CSR period. The Technology Strategy Board currently has a portfolio of collaborative projects on emerging low carbon energy technologies worth £90 million and is expanding its portfolio in areas relating to the low carbon agenda through a range of initiatives including Innovation Platforms. The Energy Technologies Institute will invest up to £110 million per year in development of low carbon energy technologies and solutions over at least the next 10 years.

BERR and DEFRA provide capital grant and other funding for low carbon and renewable energy technologies under the Environmental Transformation Fund, which has a budget of £400 million for this CSR period. This includes support for the Carbon Trust innovation portfolio.

The Regional Development Agency, Devolved Administrations and European Union also provide support for research into low carbon energy activities among other activities.

The Government also provide support for renewables through market drivers such as the RO and this is estimated to be worth around a billion pounds a year by 2010.

Renewable Energy: International Cooperation

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Morley and
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Rothwell (Colin Challen) of 16 June 2008, Official Report, columns 641-2W, on renewable energy: international co-operation, if he will (a) make a place in the Library and (b) create a section on his departmental website for the agendas, minutes and documents discussed at the planned working group meetings on the International Renewable Energy Agency. [213019]

Malcolm Wicks: The Federal Government of Germany is leading the process to establish an international renewable energy agency (IRENA) and has set up a website,, which contains information on the preparatory conference in April 2008.

We expect the Federal Government of Germany to put information on the forthcoming working groups’ meetings on this website in due course.

We shall provide a link on the departmental website to the IRENA website.

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