Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 23 February 2009

International Development

Afghanistan: Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much aid his Department provided to Afghanistan in 2008; what the projected figure is for 2009; and if he will make a statement. (255333)

Details on the Department for International Development’s (DFID) expenditure in 2008-09 are not yet available but will be published in the 2009 Annual Report in July. The most recent data can be found in ‘Statistics on International Development 2008’, which was published in November 2008 and is available online at:

www.dfid.gov.uk

Details of DFID’s annual allocation of resources are available in Annex 2 of DFID’s 2008 Annual Report. This publication is available online at:

www.dfid.gov.uk

or from the Library. The allocation for DFID’s programme in Afghanistan in 2009-10 is £115 million.

Agriculture: Research

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 9 February 2009, Official Report, column 1614W, on agriculture: research, which nations have received funding for agricultural research and development from his Department in the last five years. (258195)

The majority of DFID’s centrally funded expenditure on agricultural research is directed through international agricultural research organisations. These funds are used to benefit the lives of poor people in all developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia. DFID also supports regional programmes in the Andes, East Africa and West Africa. Regional programmes are planned for Southern Africa and South Asia. A table of organisations and programmes supported by DFID is attached with information on the countries/regions they cover.

DFID is contributing £5 million over five years through a strategic partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) under the programme on Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development to fund 12 research grants in crop science. These grants were announced in January 2008 and have been made to consortia which include one UK partner and at least one partner from a developing country. In 2008-09, partners from Bangladesh, China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, have directly benefited from this programme.

Name of institution/programme

Countries/regions covered

Andes Regional Programme

South America

Pro-Poor Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Risk Reduction

Africa and Asia

Project- Lead institutions - Food and Agriculture Organization,

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and

International Livestock Research Institute (ILR1)

Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development (SARID)

Bangladesh, China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda

Bioversity International (IPGRI)

Global

Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI)

Global

Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Central, West, Eastern and Southern Africa and Latin America

East African Regional Programme (Agriculture) (ASARECA)

Eastern and Central Africa

Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)

Africa

Generation Challenge Programme

Global

Global Alliance Livestock Vaccines and Medicines (GALVmed)

Africa and Asia

Harvest Plus Challenge Programme

Brazil, China and India

International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

North Africa, Nile Valley, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Asia, Arabian Peninsula, Highlands of North Africa & West Asia and Latin America

International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA)

Global

International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Africa, Asia and South America

International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Global

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

North Africa & Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South & Central Asia, East and South East Asia, Central, South and Caribbean

International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Africa

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Global

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)

Global

International Potato Centre (CIP)

Global

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Global

International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

Global

Research into Use

Africa and Asia

South Asia (planned)

South Asia

Southern Africa (planned with Southern African Development Community (SADC))

Southern Africa

West Africa Regional Programme (Agriculture) (CORAF)

West Africa

West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA)

Africa

World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF)

Eastern Africa, West & Central Africa, Southern Africa, Latin America, South Asia and South East Asia

World Vegetable Center (AVRDC)

Global

WorldFish Centre (ICLARM)

Global

Departmental Foreign Workers

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many (a) EU foreign nationals and (b) non-EU foreign nationals are employed by his Department. (256206)

Declaration of nationality by staff within the Department for International Development (DFID) is voluntary. Where details are known, the numbers of our Home Civil Service (HCS) staff who are:

(a) EU foreign nationals and;

(b) non-EU foreign nationals are shown in the following table.

Number of home civil service staff

EU foreign nationals

29

non-EU foreign nationals

6

DFID also employs 787 staff appointed in country (SAIC), engaged in our overseas offices on local terms and conditions. Most SAIC are non-EU nationals.

Islamic Development Bank

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Islamic Development Bank on development finance; and if he will make a statement. (256598)

I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Islamic Development Bank during my visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2009 with the aim of increasing co-operation in countries and sectors of mutual interest. This was the first agreement of its kind between the Department for International Development (DFID) and an Arab or Islamic development institution.

DFID has been increasing its engagement with the Islamic Development Bank over the last two years building a partnership around common aims. The Islamic Development Bank’s ‘Vision 1440H’ supports the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

In November 2008 DFID and the Bank launched a first joint project to deliver access to clean water and improved sanitation for 36,000 people in Al Howta City in Yemen. DFID and Bank officials are currently exploring new areas for co-operation.

Morphine: Developing Countries

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to provide morphine supplies to developing countries for medical purposes; and if he will make a statement. (255481)

The Department for International Development (DFID) is working with the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), to press for greater recognition of the importance of access to controlled medicines, including oral morphine, at the forthcoming Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2009. This is being supported through a DFID-funded post in the UK Mission in Vienna. We are also working with the US Government to identify pilot countries in which we can support greater access to oral opiates for pain relief and for use in harm reduction interventions for injecting drug users.

Major legal and regulatory barriers to access for strong analgesics, such as oral morphine, have been identified in many countries in DFID commissioned research studies. We have discussed these barriers with experts from multilateral agencies and national governments, and developed a programme of work aimed at overcoming them. Further information on DFID funded research is available on the DFID website:

http://www.dfid.gov.uk/

Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) how much aid his Department has provided to Zimbabwe in the last 12 months; (256648)

(2) how much aid his Department has provided to (a) Bangladesh, (b) Sri Lanka, (c) Lebanon and (d) Somalia in the last 12 months;

(3) how much aid his Department has provided to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last 12 months;

(4) how much aid his Department has provided to Somaliland in the last 12 months;

(5) how much aid his Department has provided to Gaza in the last 12 months.

Details on the Department for International Development (DFID) bilateral expenditure and imputed share of multilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) are contained in the DFID publication ‘Statistics on International Development’. This publication is available from in the Library and online at:

www.dfid.gov.uk

Relevant figures are produced in the following table.

It is difficult to give precise figures for Gaza, as some of our aid is earmarked for activities in both Gaza and the west bank. Figures for both Gaza and the west bank are presented below. Similarly, it is not possible to give separate figures for Somaliland, as it is part of the Somalia programme. Figures for Somalia are produced in the following table.

DFID expenditure in 2007-08

£000

Total DFID bilateral expenditure

DFID imputed multilateral shares

Zimbabwe

43,266

7,427

Bangladesh

129,392

42,027

Sri Lanka

1,817

6,290

Lebanon

169

7,111

Somalia

25,724

8,812

Democratic Republic of Congo

82,711

34,297

West Bank and Gaza

45,033

58,316

St. Helena: Economic Growth

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with businesses on the development of the economy of St Helena. (257951)

I met representatives of Impregilo on 10 February in regard to their tender for the St. Helena airport project. I intend to meet representatives of the St. Helena Leisure Corporation (Shelco) shortly.

Through our support to the St. Helena Development Agency, we maintain regular contact with the private sector in St. Helena, including the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Association and other local businesses. The Agency also maintains dialogue with inward investors and provides assistance to those seeking to invest in St. Helena.

Tax Havens: Developing Countries

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent estimate he has made of the level of tax revenue lost in developing countries from the use by multinational companies operating in those countries of tax havens. (255729)

I have been asked to reply.

There is no official estimate of the level of tax revenues lost in developing countries by these means. DFID, in consultation with HMT and HMRC, has commissioned research into this subject which it is hoped will be completed by the end of the year.

Tuberculosis

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of tuberculosis (TB) patients being cared for in programmes funded by his Department are tested for HIV; and what proportion of HIV patients in such programmes are tested for TB. (256131)

The Department for International Development (DFID) funds TB and HIV programmes through support to global partnerships; such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) and UNITAID, multilateral organisations such as the World Health Organisation, support to countries and support for research. Our funds are often pooled with that of other donors and partner countries. We also support the broader health sector plans of developing country governments through sector wide programming and poverty reduction budget support.

It is difficult to attribute the proportion of TB patients who are also tested for HIV and the proportion of HIV patients tested for TB. However, in a number of countries supported by DFID, the co-ordination of TB and HIV programmes is continuing to improve. The World Health Organisation reports that there has been a substantial improvement in TB-HIV collaboration activities. The provision of HIV testing for TB patients between 2002 and 2006 increased from 21,806 across nine countries in 2002 to 687,174 patients across 112 countries in 2006. Screening for TB among HIV positive people attending HIV care services grew from 194,718 in 2005 to 314,394 people in 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support his Department provides to organisations developing tuberculosis diagnostics for use in developing countries. (256133)

Between 2005 and 2008 the Department for International Development (DFID) provided £5.5 million for the Special Programme for Research and Training on Tropical Diseases (TDR; UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO) between 2005 and 2008. TDR focuses on accelerating the development of new diagnostics, including for tuberculosis, and identifying those which may be appropriate and useful for developing countries. We are in the first stage of a competition, inviting expressions of interest from organisations involved in product development, which will lead to bids for our research funding. We expect groups working on diagnostics to be among the applicants.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development with which organisations his Department is working to develop a new vaccine against tuberculosis for use in developing countries. (256134)

The Department for International Development (DFID), along with other donors, supports the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC). This is an innovative funding mechanism, which commits governments to fund an agreed volume of doses at an agreed price if a product is successfully developed. This AMC will be formally implemented in the first half of 2009 and accelerate the introduction and distribution in developing countries of pneumococcal vaccine.

There is significant expectation around the launch of a second AMC. This would potentially be targeted at developing a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB), but there are other critical diseases (such as malaria) that also need to be addressed.

The UK is focused on completing the implementation of the pneumococcal vaccine AMC. Following completion, we plan to reconvene the group of independent international experts (that recommended that the first AMC address pneumococcus) and request that they to make a recommendation for the next AMC.

We are in the first stage of a competition, inviting expressions of interest from organisations involved in product development, which will lead to bids for our research funding. We expect groups working on vaccines to be among the applicants.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to ensure that all tuberculosis (TB) patients in developing countries have access to quality TB diagnostic services and treatment. (256218)

The Department for International Development (DFID) supports access to quality TB diagnostic services and treatment through: international organisations and partnerships, countries' TB programmes, and health systems strengthening. We provide core funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and to the Stop TB Partnership. We pledged up to £1 billion for 2008-15 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and made a long-term commitment to the international drug purchase facility UNITAID starting with €20 million in 2007.

Examples of DFID support to countries' TB programmes include:

In China, funding from DFID and other donors has contributed to increasing detection rates from 30 per cent. in 2002 to over 70 per cent. in 2007; cure rates are now well above 85 per cent. and 1.5 million patients are being successfully treated.

In India, we support the national TB programme which has treated 6.3 million patients and saved 1.1 million lives since 1997.

DFID provides budget support to Pakistan, where case detection rates increased from 13 per cent. in 2002 to 51 per cent. in 2006 and to 69 per cent. in 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment his Department has made of the effect of extensively drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis in developing countries on the prospects of fulfilment of the Global Plan to Stop TB; (256219)

(2) what steps his Department is taking to prevent the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis globally.

The emergence of drug resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB) pose a serious threat to achieving the goals of the Global Plan to Stop TB. The response to drug resistant TB falls far short of what is needed. Much more needs to be done to ensure prompt quality diagnosis and effective treatment.

The Department for International Development (DFID) funds research into new TB drugs, through the Global Alliance for TB Drugs, and also operational research. In 2006 DFID provided an additional £1.6 million to the Stop TB Partnership to address extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) in South Africa. This was in response to an urgent request from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Prompt diagnosis and effective treatment is essential to prevent the emergence of drug resistance. DFID supports actions to strengthen TB programmes through international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, global partnerships such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNITAID, our support to countries' health systems and our funding for research. By 1 December 2008, global fund-supported programmes had detected and treated 4.6 million additional cases of infectious tuberculosis.

Written Questions: Government Responses

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when he plans to answer Question 246213, tabled by the hon. Member for Stroud on 17 December 2008, on UK National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and Afghanistan. (255640)

The parliamentary question referred to by my hon. Friend was transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and answered on 12 February 2009, Official Report, column 2308-09W.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Arms Trade

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the Government’s policy is on UK companies exhibiting at the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Karachi; what guidance his Department issues to companies on (a) exhibiting at overseas arms exhibitions and (b) exporting arms to (i) Sudan and (ii) Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. (253391)

UK companies’ attendance at overseas defence exhibitions is a matter for those companies and the exhibition organisers. Guidance on the impact of the UK’s trade controls’ on exhibitions is available on the BERR website. Further guidance may be given to companies as appropriate by export control advisers in BERR so that their attendance at an exhibition may comply with UK law on the export of defence goods, including in respect of embargoed destinations such as Zimbabwe, and Sudan. UKTI Defence and Security Organisation offers support and advice to defence and security companies to assist them succeed internationally. That organisation attended the recent defence exhibition and seminar in Karachi and displayed a range of equipment in accordance with UK law on exports.

Australia: Overseas Trade

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the monetary value of trade between the UK and (a) Queensland, (b) New South Wales and (c) Western Australia was in each of the last five years for which figures are available. (256590)

The United Kingdom does not produce statistics on trade with sub-national parts of other countries. The Australian Government publishes some data on trade between the UK and individual Australian states and territories, for example at:

http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/stats-pubs/trade_state_and_territory.html

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the monetary value of (a) exports from the UK to Australia and (b) imports from Australia to the UK was in each of the last five years for which figures are available. (256591)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 8 December 2008, Official Report, column 23W.

On 10 February 2009, the Office for National Statistics published its first estimates of trade in goods for 2008: UK exports of goods to Australia were worth £3,091 million and UK imports of goods were worth £2,378 million. Figures for UK trade in services with Australia in 2008 are due to be published in the late summer.

Bed and Breakfast Accommodation

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of bed and breakfast establishments in (a) rural areas and (b) urban areas in each year since 1997. (255743)

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 February 2009:

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question concerning what estimate has been made of the number of bed and breakfast establishments in (a) rural areas and (b) urban areas in each year since 1997 (255743).

The main source of business count estimates is the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR). The IDBR comprises of VAT and/or PAYE registered businesses, however most bed and breakfast establishments will fall below the threshold for VAT and PAYE registration and so will be excluded.

The table below covers those enterprises registered for VAT and/or PAYE held on the IDBR and classified, using the Standard Industrial Classification (2003), to subclass 5523/9 “other tourist or short stay accommodation”. This subclass includes guest houses, farmhouses, inns with letting rooms and other facilities not elsewhere classified. Statistics on urban and rural geography are only available for England and Wales and from 2005 onwards.

Count of VAT and/or PAYE based Enterprises in England and Wales by SIC2003 subclass 5523/9 and Urban/Rural split

Data as at March of the year specified

Rural

Urban

Total

2005

515

840

1,355

2006

560

870

1,430

2007

600

890

1,490

2008

665

950

1,615

Note:

All figures have been rounded to avoid disclosure.

Biotechnology

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to encourage investment in the biotechnology industry. (250423)

The Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015 was published on 22 January 2009 and its recommendations are currently being considered by the Government. A formal response will issue in the spring.

Businesses, including firms in the biotechnology sector, can find out about eligibility for a range of Government support schemes from the ‘Real help for businesses now’ web page hosted by Business Link at

http://www.businesslink.gov.uk

Borrowing: Elderly

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps he is taking to inform older people of the risks they incur through borrowing too much. (255764)

The Government fully recognise the risks for older people of borrowing too much, particularly for those on low incomes. The vast majority of older people have no debts and are able to manage their finances. However, we are aware that many older people struggle to meet the cost of day to day living, and that some have been borrowing to finance these costs.

The Government have invested considerable resource in debt advice over recent years. It has allocated £130 million to expand the provision of free debt advice for the financially excluded through the Financial Inclusion Fund. A further £15.85 million was allocated to support the National Debt Line and Citizen's Advice in the last Pre-Budget Report. These services are targeted at the financially excluded, including older people in financial difficulty.

The Government have also undertaken a number of measures to strengthen signposting to debt advice services, including a Direct.Gov campaign. The Direct.Gov website provides links to Help the Aged, Age Concern and other organisations able to provide financial information to this vulnerable group.

Business: Government Assistance

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assistance his Department provides to businesses to assist them with export activities. (253322)

UK Trade and Investment is the joint BERR/FCO organisation that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy and assists overseas companies to bring high quality investment to the UK.

UKTI's trade development services for UK-based companies help them to develop their international trade potential, and to access international markets. Further details on these services can be found in UKTI's Autumn Performance Report 2008 (Cm 7520) and on UKTI's website

www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment his Department has made of the proposal from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts for a fund to support early stage companies. (255645)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government are aware of the difficulties small companies are facing in raising venture capital funding and the risk that this poses to the UK's economic future. We are currently working with the venture capital sector, businesses and investors to discuss possible solutions. This includes discussions with NESTA about their proposal, but no decisions have yet been made.

Car Industry: Redundancy

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) how many redundancies from positions in the car manufacturing industries have been notified to his Department in the last 12 months; (254442)

(2) how many redundancies in the commercial vehicle manufacturing industry have been notified to his Department in the last 12 months.

Employers who propose to make 20 or more redundancies at one establishment are required to notify the Secretary of State of the proposal under provisions contained in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Records are held using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. In the period 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008 this Department was notified of the following proposed redundancies:

(SIC 29) Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers—6154

(SIC 30) Manufacture of other transport equipment—9098

Consumer Focus: Manpower

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many Consumer Focus staff work principally on postal services issues. (256082)

At the current time, 12 Consumer Focus staff work primarily on postal services issues, including postal and post office network activity. A further five staff work directly on postal services issues, as part of their wider responsibilities.

Of the 17 staff who work directly on postal services issues, 11 staff work on a Great Britain wide basis, there are three staff in Consumer Focus Northern Ireland post, two staff in Consumer Focus Scotland and a staff member in Consumer Focus Wales.

Consumer Focus formed on 1 October 2008 as a result of the merger between the National Consumer Council, Postwatch and energywatch.

Credit Cards: Interest Rates

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to ensure that credit card companies do not charge exorbitant interest rates. (256259)

The Government fully understand the recent concerns over high interest rates charged by some credit card lenders. We secured agreement from credit card lenders to develop fair principles for any interest rate increase they introduce on reviewing an individual’s account. These came into force in January 2009 and provide extra protections when a customer or group of customers’ interest rate is changed as a result of a perceived change in their ability to repay their debts.

Where a lender increases their rates, customers will be given the option to close down their account and repay their remaining balance at the existing rate of interest. Lenders also agreed not to increase rates for customers who have failed to make two or more consecutive minimum payments, where an agreed repayment plan is in place for the account, or where lenders have been notified by a not-for-profit debt advice agency that the customer is in serious discussion with it.

Credit card lenders will also give a breathing space of up to 60 days to borrowers in difficulty. During this time lenders will not commence debt collection proceedings, giving borrowers time to agree a repayment plan with the help of a not-for-profit debt advice agency.

We have also implemented a number of measures to provide vulnerable and low-income consumers with access to affordable credit and free debt advice. £80 million has been invested in the Growth Fund scheme to support loans to low-income families, and £130 million has been allocated to expand the provision of free debt advice for the financially excluded through the Financial Inclusion Fund. The Government will continue to monitor the credit market closely through the new Consumer Finance Forum, bringing together representatives from the financial services industry, consumer groups and Government. This Forum will meet regularly to address issues facing borrowers during the downturn.

Credit Reference Agencies: Regulation

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what statutory requirements there are on credit reference agencies to provide information to his Department and its agencies; and if he will make a statement. (255346)

[holding answer 10 February 2009]: Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, credit reference agencies must be licensed by the Office of Fair Trading. Certain essential information about the firm must be provided to OFT as part of the application process for a licence. Credit reference agencies may also be required or permitted to supply information to relevant investigating authorities for the purposes of criminal investigations under the Social Security Fraud Act and the Data Protection Act. There are no specific statutory requirements for the provision of information to BERR or its agencies by credit reference agencies.

The Government are in discussion with the credit industry with regard to agreeing the voluntary provision by lenders of data on the performance of credit markets. This may involve the release of data held by credit reference agencies on behalf of credit providers. Any such data sharing will be compliant with data protection principles.

Credit: EU Action

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent assessment he has made of whether personal reserves on bank accounts should be brought within regulations under the European Consumer Credit Directive. (252764)

[holding answer 29 January 2009]: Bank accounts that offer personal reserve facilities do fall within the scope of credit agreements covered by the consumer credit directive. The directive is due to be implemented by June 2010 and BERR will be consulting formally on implementation proposals in spring 2009.

Departmental Air Travel

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many official journeys (a) the Secretary of State and his predecessors and (b) his officials made by plane in each of the last five years. (247508)

The number of official journeys made by plane by (a) Minister of State for the Department for Business and Regulatory Reform and his predecessors and (b) his officials for the last five years was as follows:

January to December each year

(a)

(b)

2005

14

6,098

2006

33

4,912

2007

22

4,101

2008

15

4,029

Figures for 2004 are not available; to obtain these figures would entail disproportionate costs.

Travel by Ministers and civil servants is undertaken in accordance with the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Management Code respectively.

Departmental Consultants

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many expert advisers, excluding special advisers, have been commissioned by his Department since June 2007; and on which topics they have advised. (254740)

The Department does not define the term expert advisers (excluding special advisers) or hold a central list of such advisers. Details could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental ICT

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 16 December 2008, Official Report, column 599W, on departmental ICT, what the original expected (a) cost and (b) delivery date was of each project referred to; and if he will make a statement. (251245)

The original expected (a) cost and (b) delivery date for each of the BERR ICT projects referred to in the answer of 16 December 2008, Official Report, column 599W, were as follows:

HR Online

(a) £7.2 million for development and implementation; £1.1 million per annum for support.

(b) May 2008.

SPIRE 3

(a) £897,000 for development and implementation; £155,000 per annum for support,

(b) March 2009.

RITE

(a) £800,000 for development and implementation; £641,000 per annum for support.

(b) December 2008.

Point of Single Contact

(a) £1.6 million; support costs continue to be negotiated.

(b) March 2010.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which ICT projects his Department and its predecessors initiated and abandoned before completion in each year since 1997; what costs were incurred in each project; who the contractors for each were; on what date each was (a) commenced and (b) abandoned; and if he will make a statement. (251387)

Since 1997 the Department and its predecessors have not abandoned any ICT projects initiated during this period. The Department has a main information technology contract which is a private finance initiative (PFI) agreement with Fujitsu Services and this has been in place for more almost 10 years as well an alternative IT framework agreement with a number of other suppliers to enable competition.

The Department does not hold central information regarding ICT projects initiated by its agencies.

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what records his Department maintains of its expenditure on (a) official hospitality and (b) alcohol for official hospitality. (240479)

All expenditure on entertainment and hospitality is recorded on Mentor, the Department's financial accounting and management system. There is no separate record of expenditure on alcohol for official hospitality. All spending on official entertainment is made in accordance with the principles set out in ‘Managing Public Money’.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much his Department spent on Ministerial hospitality in (a) 2004-05, (b) 2005-06, (c) 2006-07 and (d) 2007-08, expressed in current prices. (241244)

The Department’s accounting system does not separately identify ministerial hospitality from other forms of hospitality. To provide the information could be achieved only at disproportionate cost.

All spending on official entertainment is made in accordance with the principles set out in “Managing Public Money”.

Departmental Pensions

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to advise staff of pension options available to them in relation to added years or additional voluntary contributions. (253269)

Members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme receive an annual benefit statement showing the pension built up to date, and also a projection of their pension on retirement if they continue in service to scheme pension age. The benefit statement prompts the member to consider boosting their pension and provides details of the civil service pensions website where staff can obtain further information, including options for making additional voluntary contributions and a calculator to work out costs for added pension (previously added years).

New entrants are informed of pension options in the employment offer and are provided with a pension information pack.

Cabinet Office provides leaflets that explain added pension and additional voluntary contributions for members. The information is also available in scheme booklets. These are available on the Civil Service Pensions website or on request from the member's pensions administrator.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) uses an internal HR Intranet to communicate with staff on a range of issues. This includes comprehensive information on how staff can boost their pension through added pension and additional voluntary contributions (AVCs).

Departmental Plants

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much his Department has spent on flowers in each of the last three years. (254870)

Over the last three financial years, this Department has spent the following on foliage via our contracted supplier, Plantforce, on its HQ Estate. It includes spend at Kingsgate House which is part occupied by DIUS.

Spend on foliage (£)

2006-07

23,865

2007-08

24,467

2008-09 (to date)

24,155

This spend includes all internal plant displays and maintenance, exterior maintenance and purchase of Christmas trees and Remembrance Day wreaths and flowers.

Departmental Public Expenditure

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the expenditure his Department will incur on UK Trade and Investment in each financial year from 2009-10 to 2014-15. (257651)

UK Trade & Investment is a joint department of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working also in close partnership with the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

UK Trade & Investment has three main funding streams. UKTI Programme for front line delivery, BERR administration, which is mainly for staff based in the UK, and FCO programme and administration, which pays for the operation of the overseas network.

UKTI's budgets are agreed as part of the spending review process with HM Treasury. The current spending review period covers the years 2008-09 to 2010-11. Our estimate of expenditure for 2009-10 and 2010-11 is:

£ million

2009-10

2010-11

UKTI Programme

91.4

91.2

BERR Admin

52.7

52.1

FCO Resource

166.4

165.4

Total

310.5

308.7

These figures are subject to UKTI's annual corporate planning and annual parliamentary approval. We have not been allocated any formal budgets beyond this time frame.

Departmental Redundancy

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 12 January 2009, Official Report, columns 462-3W, on redundancy, what estimate has he made of the annual payroll savings accruing to his Department as a result of staff exit schemes in (a) 2005-06, (b) 2006-07, (c) 2007-08 and (d) 2008-09 excluding the cost of severance packages; and what estimate he has made of the equivalent figures for 2009-10. (254471)

The estimate1 of the annual payroll savings resulting from staff exit schemes in each of the following financial years are:

£ million

2005-06

5.5

2006-07

6.4

2007-08

6.4

2008-09 (YTD)

0.7

With respect to an estimate for the year 2009-10, this will be dependant on the results of BERR's annual business planning process.

1 This estimate is based on median base pay at 2008 pay levels and represents the full year effect of any exits.

Economic Situation

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions his Department has had with outside organisations to discuss policy on reducing the effect of the recession on matters within his Department's responsibility. (254068)

As one would expect, the Department has regular engagements with outside organisations including relevant Government Departments on a range of issues relating to the economy.

Economic Situation: Pharmaceuticals

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make an assessment of the effect of the recession on the financial ability of pharmaceutical companies to undertake pre-market research and development work. (256606)

I have been asked to reply.

There are no plans to undertake an assessment. The Government recognise that in the current economic climate the bio-pharmaceutical industry is facing challenges. The Prime Minister held a summit with global leaders from the industry on 27 January 2009 to discuss the main issues facing the industry in the United Kingdom. He reinforced the message that the Government are committed to working with the industry to ensure that the UK maintains its position as a world leader in this sector, and to this end, he announced the creation of an Office for Life Sciences, to be led by Lord Drayson, the Science and Innovation Minister. The Office will be tasked with undertaking work in the short-term to address some of the issues facing the industry, and to develop a longer-term life sciences industrial strategy.

Environment Protection

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the international competitiveness of the UK's environmental industries. (256467)

According to data from a forthcoming, independent report by Innovas, commissioned by BERR, the global market value of the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) sector is £3,046 billion, the UK (LCEGS) market (combined home market and export) accounts for 3.5 per cent. of this at £107 billion. UK exports of (LCEGS) are currently at only £10.5 billion or just around 10 per cent. of the UK market value, and there is a real opportunity for the UK to increase its global market share.

The UK market is well positioned to develop and gain comparative advantage in key areas of the environmental supply chain, such as Water and Wastewater Treatment, through exporting to developing nations looking to upgrade their current infrastructure.

Analysis shows that there are significant opportunities for the UK to export its goods and services across all areas of the (LCEGS) sector.

An analysis of the competitive advantages of the UK environmental goods and services (EGS) industry is set out in the UKTI publication entitled “The UK—a world leader in environmental solutions” (URN 08/558). Examples of the advantages differentiating the UK from our main competitors in the international EGS sector include leading the way in environmental improvements through progress in the waste management and water sectors, setting standards in professional services such as world class environmental consultancies, and investing in innovative approaches.

EU Internal Trade

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions the Secretary of State has had with his EU counterparts on (a) the application of the EU Posted Workers Directive in respect of the rulings of the European Court of Justice on cases C-438/05, C-346/06 and C-319/06 and (b) proposals for new legislation related to EU Directive 96/71/EC and Article 49 of the EC Treaty. (255664)

[holding answer 9 February 2009]: My noble Friend, the Secretary of State is in regular discussions with his EU counterparts on a range of issues.

Fines

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what administrative financial penalties may be levied by his Department and its agencies. (253604)

The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 provides for penalties to be levied on an employer for non-compliance with an enforcement notice which requires them to pay the NMW and repay arrears to workers who have been underpaid the NMW. The enforcement is carried out by HM Revenue and Customs and by DEFRA in relation to the agricultural minimum wage. The Employment Act 2008 includes provisions to strengthen the enforcement regime of the NMW. These provisions, which will come into force on 6 April 2009, will replace the current enforcement and penalty notices with a single notice of underpayment imposing automatic penalties of between £100 and up to £5,000 for employers for non-compliance with the requirement to pay workers the NMW.

I have approached the chief executives of the Insolvency Service and Companies House agencies and they will respond to you directly.

Letter from Gareth Jones, dated 23 February 2009:

I am responding on behalf of Companies House to your recently tabled Parliamentary Question, reference 253604, to the Minister of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Since 1992 Companies House has levied penalties on companies registered that file their accounts late.

From 1 October 2009, the Companies Act 2006 introduces a new penalty of £200 where a company amends its articles of association and fails to send a copy of the amended articles to Companies House within 15 days. The penalty will only be triggered if a company receives notice from the Registrar requiring it to deliver a copy of its amended articles and it does not comply within 28 days.

Letter from Stephen Speed, dated 23 February 2009:

I refer to your question (2008/858), to ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what administrative financial penalties may be levied by his Department and its agencies.

I have been asked to reply for The Insolvency Service, which is an executive agency of that department.

I can confirm that we levy no such penalties.

Internet: Security

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many companies that produce internet filtering products have applied to the British Standards Institute for certification of their products. (253402)

I have been asked to reply.

BSI Group consists of three divisions: BSI British Standards, BSI Management Systems and BSI Product Services. It is the Management Systems division that provides independent third-party certification of management systems. These activities are conducted on a purely commercial basis and are outside of the scope of the relationship with the UK Government. As such we are unable to comment on private certification agreements. Queries of this nature should be directed to the certification body.

The Government have a relationship with the British Standards division as its designated national standards body and in that capacity, fulfils the UK Government's international obligations in the field of standardisation.

Iran: Overseas Investment

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what representation UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has in Iran; and what services UKTI offers in that country. (253950)

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) does not deliver services in support of British companies wishing to trade with or invest in Iran. UKTI shut down its representative office in the British embassy in Tehran in July 2008

Mobile Phones: Contracts

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions the Government has had with Ofcom on a reduction in mobile termination rates. (250685)

Ministers and officials have regular meetings with the Office of Communications (Ofcom) on a wide range of issues. Ofcom’s progress on regulating mobile termination rates has been discussed on several occasions.

Motor Vehicles: Government Assistance

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what steps the Government are taking to support the car industry: (251255)

(2) what recent steps the Government have taken to ensure confidence in the car market;

(3) what recent steps the Government have taken to ensure the availability of credit to businesses to enable the purchase of motor vehicles;

(4) what recent steps the Government have taken to ensure job security for those employed by the UK automotive industry;

(5) what recent steps the Government have taken to facilitate the sale of UK-manufactured cars abroad.

[holding answer 26 January 2009]: I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made in the House on 27 January 2009, Official Report, columns 165-67, on the automotive sector.

In addition, UK Trade and Investment supports the UK automotive sector in overseas markets and will continue to do so. For example, during his recent trip to India, the Business Secretary used his keynote address to the Symposium on International Automotive Technology to promote UK automotive excellence. UKTI senior staff, including our ambassadors, regularly promote UK automotive excellence by hosting high profile events around the overseas launch of UK-manufactured cars.

In March, UKTI will launch the UK Advanced Engineering Marketing Strategy, to promote the UK as international partner of choice in the automotive, aerospace and engineering sectors. This is in line with other UK marketing strategies, such as those for energy, ICT and life sciences.

Ofcom: Fines

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what arrangements Ofcom makes for payments from organisations it has fined; and within what period of time penalised parties are required to make payment; (254379)

(2) how many organisations Ofcom has fined in each year since its inception; how much it has imposed in fines in each such year; and how much it has imposed in fines in 2009 to date;

(3) what estimate Ofcom has made of the monetary value of fines it expects to (a) recoup and (b) remit in the next 12 months;

(4) within what period and upon what terms organisations fined by Ofcom are required to make payment.

The matters raised are the responsibility of the independent regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is accountable to Parliament rather than Ministers. Accordingly, I have asked the chief executive of Ofcom to reply directly to the hon. Member. Copies of the chief executive’s letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Post Offices: Public Houses

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many sub-post offices now operate, either full or part-time, from the premises of public houses. (257306)

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.

Public Houses: Closures

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of public house closures. (241808)

The Government are taking a range of steps to help businesses through the current economic downturn to boost capital and liquidity in the market. This is across all sectors of the economy. Key measures include the introduction of a new Enterprise Finance Guarantee to support up to £1.3 billion of bank lending, a separate £10 billion guarantee facility to support further working capital bank lending, a £75 million Capital for Enterprise Fund to convert businesses’ debt into equity, and £25 million of regional funds. Public houses are able to access the package of help on offer, including a Business Link “Health Check”, via:

www.businesslink.gov.uk/realhelp

Public Telephones

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many coin-operated telephone boxes in each parliamentary constituency have been converted to card operation in each of the last 10 years. (242170)

This information is not held by the Department. Neither BT nor Ofcom hold these data broken down by constituency of location. The cost of generating the data on this basis would incur disproportionate cost.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many (a) coin-operated and (b) card-operated public telephone boxes in each parliamentary constituency have been removed from operation in each of the last 10 years. (242171)

This information is not held by the department. However, after a review by Ofcom, BT consulted with the local authorities on its national rationalisation programme of removing up to 8,700 telephone boxes. That process has now ended and BT has taken steps to remove those telephone boxes that are cash operated or cashless only where there has been no objection from the local authority. These data are not available in each of the last 10 years at constituency level but BT could provide more recent data by geographic area on request subject to their discretion.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many (a) coin-operated and (b) card-operated public telephone boxes there were in each constituency in each of the last 10 years. (242206)

This information is not held by the Department. Neither BT nor Ofcom hold this data for each parliamentary constituency in the last 10 years. The cost of generating the data on this basis would incur disproportionate cost.

Regional Development Agencies: Empty Property

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much each regional development agency has budgeted to pay in empty property business rates in 2008-09. (253778)

The following table shows how much each regional development agency has budgeted to pay business rates on empty properties in 2008-09.

Budgeted business rates on empty properties in 2008-09

RDA

£000

AWM

35

EEDA

109

EMDA

24

LDA

164

NWDA

83

ONE

191

SEEDA

1309

SWERDA

146

YF

21,020

1 An assessment is currently being undertaken on an additional property following its purchase.

2 The economic regeneration of Yorkshire and Humber’s main urban centres is a Regional Economic Strategy Priority. To support delivery of this priority, YF has acquired strategic properties and sites. The economic downturn is lengthening the delivery of re-uses and new uses for these sites which impacts on rates and empty rates costs.

Renewable Energy

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps UK Trade and Investment is taking to support the renewable energy industry. (255209)

UK Trade & Investment has an ongoing and active programme of support for the UK renewable energy industries, in partnership with UK Renewables. This includes such activities as organising UK groups at overseas trade shows and bringing potential buyers and decision makers to the UK to see our renewables capability first-hand.

UKTI is implementing the delivery of a UK Energy Excellence Marketing Strategy, to promote the UK as international partner of choice across all the energy industries including renewables. This is a major Government campaign, operating alongside other UK marketing strategies, such as those for ICT and life sciences.

UKTI is also developing a UK Low-Carbon International Marketing Strategy, which will assist UK suppliers of renewable and other clean energy equipment and services.

Sri Lanka: Arms Trade

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the cash value of defence equipment sales to Sri Lanka was in each of the last two years; and if he will make a statement. (257299)

The Government publish detailed information on export licences issued, refused and revoked, by destination, 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 Government's annual reports, published since 1997, and quarterly reports, published since 2004, are available from the Libraries of the House and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website at

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-the-fco/publications/publications/annual-reports/export-controlsl.

The Government do not approve any defence related exports if it judges that there is a clear risk that they will be used in contravention of the Consolidated Criteria, including for external aggression or internal repression. We routinely refuse export licences where we believe there is a risk of this, and have refused a number of licences to Sri Lanka on this basis.

Telecommunications: Hearing Impaired

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will direct Ofcom to take steps to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing people have (a) equal access to mobile and internet telecommunication services and (b) access to modernised relay services. (254297)

[holding answer 9 February 2009]: Within its existing remit in this area, Ofcom has stated that it would like to see the introduction of additional relay services and have commissioned a study into the social and economic benefits of such services. It is important that the approach reflects current and emerging technology and this study is examining the gap between services that are currently available (including the existing relay service, SMS, instant messaging and email) and potential services. The study will consider the existing relay service Text direct (also known as Type Talk which allows two way telephone conversations between deaf or speech impaired people), captioned telephony (where the relay assistant re-voices one end of the call into captions using speech recognition technology), Video relay (which enables sign language users to communicate with hearing people in real time, using a sign language interpreter based remotely) and internet protocol access to text relay (which would enable people to have fixed and mobile access to text relay via a PC with an internet connection, removing the need for specialist terminal equipment).

The European legislation that establishes the objectives of member state regulation in this area is currently being reviewed. The Government have supported efforts to strengthen the obligations on member states in this area to achieve results that are practical use to disabled users. Our response to the public consultation on the review of the EU legislation noted

“There was universal recognition that disabled users should not be excluded from being able to enjoy the benefits of a modern telecommunications sector where economic technical solutions existed.”

Temporary Loans Fund

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform by what means businesses in Banbury constituency may access the Temporary Loans Fund. (240396)

The South East Development Agency has established a Loan Fund for companies in the south-east. The Agency will provide up to £3 million in transition loan funds, available through the Bridging Mezzanine Debt Fund Managed by Finance South East Ltd. The fund will help high-growth businesses having difficulty obtaining finance from the commercial sector. Unsecured loans of up to £150,000 will be available in the form of commercial loans to bridge the gap between the amount the banks are able to offer businesses and the amount these businesses need to survive and grow. Companies in the south-east can apply for funds by contacting Finance South East Ltd. through their website:

www.financesoutheast.com

Trade Promotion

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many overseas visits have been made by each of the business ambassadors since 3 October 2008; and what the cost of (a) flights, (b) accommodation, (c) gifts and (d) other expenses was for each such visit. (254631)

The following table sets out the overseas visits undertaken by business ambassadors since 3 October 2008, as at 6 February 2009, and also details related direct costs:

Name

Visit made

Flight cost (£)

Accommodation costs (£)

Gifts (£)

Other expenses (£)

Note/(£)

Sir John Bond

New York (November 2008). Meeting with Consul-General and UKTI Trade Team

0

0

0

0

All costs met by business ambassador

Paul Skinner

Australia (November 2008). Speeches in Melbourne and Sydney

0

0

0

0

All costs met by business ambassador

Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham

Dubai (November 2008). Led largest UK trade mission ever to the Gulf. Over 200 UK companies involved.

3,601.24

735.26

0

1646.53

Total: 4,983.03

Dick Olver

Oman (January 2009). Meeting/lunch with HMA and Young President’s Organisation of Oman

0

0

0

0

All costs met by business ambassador

Dick Olver

Abu Dhabi (January 2009). Meeting/lunch with HMA and Abu Dhabi UK business leaders

0

0

0

0

All costs met by business ambassador

Lord Richard Rogers

Mexico (February 2009). Meeting with HMA and UKTI representatives. Meeting with Mexican Secretary of Communications and Transport and HMA. Meeting with Coordinator of the infrastructure and Tourism Cabinet, Office of the President of Mexico and HMA

0

0

0

0

All costs met by business ambassador

1 Car hire

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the cost of running the business ambassadors’ secretariat within UK Trade and Investment has been since 3 October 2008; and what proportion of that cost has been for (a) secretariat staff salaries and (b) other expenses. (254632)

UKTI has resourced the business ambassador secretariat from within its overall internal resources. The estimated salary cost for the period since 3 October 2008 is approximately £24,000; this includes set-up costs. No other expenses have been incurred.

Energy and Climate Change

Biofuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the levels of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from producing electricity from used cooking oil as compared to (a) fossil fuels and (b) other biofuels. (253283)

I have been asked to reply.

I am not aware of any research that is focused specifically on deriving the levels of carbon emissions from producing electricity from used cooking oil specifically. However as part of our ongoing review of our ‘National Calculation Methodologies’, building performance assessment tools the standard assessment procedure for dwellings and the simplified buildings energy method for non-dwellings, Government are working with OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association) to establish the carbon emission factors for the bio-liquids that are being developed as a low carbon alternative for kerosene. While it is expected that these liquids, which are likely to include some used cooking oil as well as other liquids produced from biomass, will mainly be used in plant to produce space heating and hot water they could equally be used to generate electricity. Nonetheless, through this work we will be able to estimate the carbon impact of using such bio-liquids compared with other fuels.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into the generation of hydrogen from biomass. (255152)

None. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is responsible for funding research through the UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board.

British Energy: EDF Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change by what date he expects EDF’s purchase of British Energy to be completed. (255991)

Christmas

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much has been spent on (a) departmental Christmas parties and (b) staff entertainment since the formation of his Department. (243730)

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has made no expenditure on Christmas parties. The only expenditure on staff entertainment (that is, for a celebration, or where there is no clear and justifiable reason for expenditure) since the Department's formation on 3 October 2008 has been £1,733 on a cross-government event on 3 December 2008 as a celebration to mark the passing of the Climate Change and Energy Acts.

Climate Change

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment his Department has made of its capacity to adapt to climate change; and what plans he has to publish a climate change adaptation strategy. (241179)

In July 2008, the cross-Government adapting to climate change programme published adapting to climate change in England—a framework for action which set out the Government’s strategy for adaptation and the work-plan for the cross-Government programme for the next three years. This programme increases Government’s capacity to adapt by ensuring a coordinated approach across all Departments and the public sector, and overall responsibility for it rests with DEFRA. Information about the programme and its work can be found at:

www.defra.gov/adaptation

This includes taking forward work flowing from the Climate Change Act—including a national climate change risk assessment and cost benefit analysis which will inform future priorities for the statutory adaptation programme that will then begin in 2012.

The Government’s longer term strategy on adapting to a changing climate will be set out in this statutory national adaptation programme, which will be reviewed and updated on a five year rolling basis in response to updated risk assessments, and report to Parliament.

In addition, DECC has established governance structures to ensure that there is proper read-across from DEFRA’s adaptation strategy both into the policy areas for which DECC has responsibility, and into its corporate decision-making process.

Climate Change: Arctic

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into the scale of polar icepack melting in the Northwest Passage. (255188)

My Department funds the Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC), through its Integrated Climate Programme with joint funding from the MOD and DEFRA, to monitor, understand and predict climate change; this research includes incorporating sea ice into global climate models to ensure best possible predictions on melting of Arctic sea ice. We also liaise with other research groups in the U.K. and internationally on this topic.

The Northwest Passage temporarily became fully open and navigable in summer 2007, for first time in recorded history, due to the record low extent (September average area: 4.28 million sq km) of Arctic sea ice melt. The same situation occurred in summer 2008, when the sea ice area (4.67 million sq km) was at its second lowest on record. Satellite monitoring data since 1979, available from the US National Snow and ice Data Centre (NSIDC) shows there has been a long-term decline in the extent of summer Arctic sea ice and that this decline has accelerated over the last decade; the long-term downward trend of around 10 per cent. per decade can be linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. It is not yet clear if the much larger summer ice melt in the last two years is an acceleration of this long term trend or a short term variation around it. Recent analysis by the MOHC suggests that changes as large as the observed record low in 2007 can indeed result from natural year-to-year variability around the longer term downward trend; this provides confidence in the ability of the MOHC’s climate model to simulate changes in the area of Arctic sea ice and its continuing decline. However, it is evident that climate models show a wide range of future predicted rates of sea ice decline. Whilst the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report suggested the Arctic would be largely free of summer ice by 2100, many more recent models predict this will happen much sooner—by the middle of this century or even earlier; several experts suggest there may possibly be no summer sea ice by the mid 2010s.

Satellite and other records also show a long-term decline in the average thickness and age of Arctic sea ice over recent decades. For example, scientists from University College London recently reported that the thickness of the ice was significantly lower (by an average of 10 per cent.) during the winter of 2007-08 than during the previous five winters, indicating that the total volume of sea ice has decreased significantly. Though based only on satellite data (which are not ideal for measuring sea ice thickness), this result confirms previous evidence of decreasing sea ice thickness over the past three decades from US and UK submarine sonar measurements.

The retreat of Arctic sea ice has geo-political implications, with the Northwest Passage becoming increasingly ice free and fully open to shipping. There are other important implications; by reducing the reflectivity (albedo) of the Earth’s surface, it increases the amount of solar radiation that the surface absorbs, thereby accelerating warming. Temperatures have already risen almost twice as quickly in the Arctic as in the rest of the world over the past 100 years. Sea ice retreat also has significant impacts on Arctic ecosystems, as many organisms (including certain species of fish) depend on its presence for survival. DECC is continuing to seek updated assessments of Arctic sea ice conditions and impacts from UK and international experts.

Climate Change: EU Presidency

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent meetings Ministers and officials from his Department have had with their Czech counterparts to discuss the energy and climate change priorities of the Czech Presidency of the European Union. (255172)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met Martin Bursik, the Czech Environment Minister, on 7 November 2008 to discuss the 2020 Energy and Climate Package. He also plans to meet the Czech ambassador in London later this month to discuss the energy and climate change priorities of the Czech presidency.

On 18 December 2008 DECC officials visited Prague for meetings with officials from the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to discuss preparations and priorities for the Czech presidency. DECC officials also attended the first informal workshop on climate change of the Czech presidency in Prague on 18-20 January, which outlined the priorities of the Czech presidency.

The UK strongly supports the Czech presidency's focus on taking forward the Commission's Second Strategic Energy Review, in particular on energy security and on preparing the EU for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Coal: Pollution Control

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will make it his policy to allocate funds to the development of clean coal technology in order to reduce levels of coal imports; and if he will make a statement. (254398)

[holding answer 11 February 2009]: The Government's policy on clean coal technologies was set out in the “Strategy for Developing Carbon Abatement Technologies for Fossil Fuel Use” in 2005 and more recently in the Energy White Paper, 2007. Clean coal technologies include: higher efficiency conversion processes; fuel switching to lower carbon alternative such as biomass co-firing; and C02 capture and storage (CCS). Some of these approaches will result in increased efficiency of the operation of the generation plant, but some such as CCS will require additional energy to operate.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) supports demonstration of carbon abatement technologies through the Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF). To date DECC has committed £2.2 million to an oxy-fuel combustion CCS project.

In addition the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) support R & D on clean coal technologies via the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the research councils. The TSB has identified carbon abatement technologies as a priority area in its energy generation and supply strategy and currently supports around 11 projects with a total value of around £ 13.4 million.

The research councils also support a wide range of underpinning research and training in carbon abatement technologies through their research councils’ energy programme and through their individual programmes. In the last five years some 25 projects covering CCS totalling over £23 million have been funded.

Sourcing of coal is a matter for generators and other coal users, but the Government believe that making the best use of UK energy resources, including coal reserves, contributes to our security of supply goals, and that this reflects a value in maintaining access to economically viable reserves of coal.

Coal: Prices

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the effects of increases in energy prices on levels of fuel poverty among pensioners who use coal as their main source of domestic heating. (255599)

[holding answer 9 February 2009]: The Department does not carry out separate analysis to quantify the effect of rising energy prices on coal users. The total number of fuel poor households in England that rely on coal and other solid fuels as their primary source for central heating fell from 106,000 to 101,000 households between 2005 and 2006, however, the actual proportion of households reliant on solid fuels that were fuel poor rose slightly, from 45 per cent. in 2005 to around 46 per cent. in 2006.

Departmental Cost Effectiveness

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what cost savings his Department has made since its creation. (255206)

As for all Departments, the Department for Energy and Climate Change will be required by HM Treasury under the terms of its Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 settlement to deliver 5 per cent. per annum real savings in 2009-10 and 2010-11 compared to the baseline budget set for 2008-09. The administration budget for 2008-09 will be set in the upcoming spring supplementary estimate.

Departmental Data Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what percentage of the IT systems in his Department is fully accredited to the Government's security standards. (245375)

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was formed on 3 October 2008, bringing together policy responsibility for energy (formerly with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)) and climate change (formerly with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)). The Department does not at present have its own IT systems, but instead makes use of BERR’s and Defra’s existing IT systems. Given that, I refer the hon. Member to the answers given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 27 January 2009, Official Report, column 322W and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on 27 January 2009, Official Report, column 423W.

Departmental E-mail

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many people have a decc.gsi.gov.uk email account. (255167)

Departmental ICT

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what IT projects (a) his Department and (b) its agencies are undertaking; what his most recent estimate of the total cost of each project is; and what the projected completion date of each is. (255958)

The IT projects which are being undertaken within DECC are:

North Sea Licensing — establishing an offshore register equivalent to the onshore Land Registry. Cost is £250-300,000 and will be finished in summer 2009.

Electricity Portal for electricity consents. Cost approximately £350,000 and will be live by summer 2009.

Environmental emissions monitoring database, as joint project with oil industry, to capture data and report for Kyoto. The cost is expected to be £250,000 and will be complete by spring 2010.

DECC has no executive agencies.

Departmental Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will make it his policy that temporary and permanent employees of his Department employed at the same grade receive the same hourly rate of pay. (248410)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 21 January 2009, Official Report, column 1431W.

Departmental Plants

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much his Department has spent on (a) pot plants and (b) flowers since it was established. (254875)

There is no central record of this so it is not possible to answer this question without incurring disproportionate costs.

Departmental Public Relations

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what the cost has been of his Department's contracts with public relations consultancies since it was established. (251260)

According to the most recent records, DECC has spent £23,966.93 on contracts with public relations consultancies since its establishment on 3 October 2009.

Departmental Publications

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether his Department publishes a staff magazine. (255990)

Departmental Responsibilities

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when his Department will undertake a capability review. (255162)

As a newly formed Department, the first action in the capability review process for DECC will be to undertake a baseline assessment. DECC will discuss when might be appropriate to conduct this baseline assessment with the Capability Reviews Team in Cabinet Office.

District Heating

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what work his Department has undertaken on heat markets and district heating; and what further work is planned. (255146)

Heat markets and district heating were both considered in the Heat Call for Evidence published in January 2008

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file43609.pdf

127 organisations and individuals responded to the Call for Evidence. These responses have been analysed and have informed further policy development in this area. The Government are now consulting on their heat and energy saving strategy, which was published on 12 February and which contains further proposals on heat markets and district heating

http://hes.decc.gov.uk/

Electricity Generation

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into highly distributed power systems. (255159)

Research into distributed power systems has been carried out by the DECC funded Centre for Sustainable Electricity and Distributed Generation and the Electricity Networks Strategy Group. Copies of final reports can be found on their respective websites:

www.sedg.ac.uk

and

www.ensg.gov.uk

Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what work the (a) Energy Markets Unit, (b) Energy Development Unit, (c) Renewable Energy and Innovation Unit and (d) Cleaner Fossil Fuels Unit (i) has undertaken and (ii) plans to undertake. (255119)

These teams—formerly as part of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and now in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)—contribute to delivering the Government’s policy goals of reliable supplies of energy, lower carbon emissions, competitive energy prices, fewer people in fuel poverty and effective management of the coal health and nuclear liabilities from the past.

The teams have been subject to some restructuring as part of the creation of DECC. The detail of their forward work plans is subject to the Department’s current business planning for future years and to the further development of DECC’s overarching strategy to address energy and climate change challenges.

Energy Strategy Unit

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what work the Energy Strategy and International (a) 1 and (b) 2 Unit has undertaken; and what further work is planned for each. (255120)

These teams—formerly as part of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and now in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)—contribute to delivering the Government’s policy goals of reliable supplies of energy, lower carbon emissions and competitive energy prices.

The teams have been subject to some restructuring as part of the creation of DECC. The detail of their forward work plans is subject to the Department’s current business planning for future years and to the further development of DECC’s overarching strategy to address energy and climate change challenges.

Energy Supply

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent estimate he has made of the number of households in each (a) Government region, (b) local authority area and (c) Parliamentary constituency who have not switched their electricity supplier since taking up residence in their property in each of the last three years. (255981)

DECC holds information on customer switching relating to the total number of households which have switched supplier in each PES (public electricity supplier) area since the electricity market was deregulated.

Data on the total number of domestic electricity consumers who have switched supplier are available in section 2 of “Quarterly Energy Prices”, the latest edition of which was published in December 2008 and is available online at

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file49203.pdf.

Table 2.4.1 on page 23 shows the percentage of consumers who have switched supplier in each region, split by payment method.

However, the Department holds no information on customer switching relating to the length of residence in a property, and information is not available by Government region, local authority area or parliamentary constituency.

Energy: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent assessment he has made of the availability of debt finance for investment in energy infrastructure projects. (255192)

Large energy companies continue to be able to access both bond and commercial paper markets for investment purposes, with several utilities launching successful debt issues in recent months. The cost of new debt in relation to the risk-free rate has risen relative to the pre-credit crunch situation, but the risk-free rate itself has fallen in recent months. The Government and Ofgem continue to monitor levels of energy investment closely.

Smaller energy firms have found debt financing harder to come by due to the financial crisis, in common with firms in other sectors of the economy. However, many of these firms will be eligible for the Government’s recently-announced schemes to restore the flow of credit to businesses (Working Capital Scheme, Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme).

Energy: Hydrogen

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into new hydrogen storage materials. (255153)

None. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is responsible for funding research through the UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board.

Energy: Meters

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what progress his Department has made (1) in co-ordinating arrangements to oversee the roll-out of smart meters; (254806)

(2) in developing a model for the roll-out of smart meters;

(3) in determining a standard specification for smart meters.

The Government announced on 28 October last year that we will mandate the provision of smart meters to all households. We are currently considering a range of policy issues which need to be developed further in preparation for the roll out of smart meters, including the delivery model, meter functionality and programme management. We will make further announcements on such matters when we are able to do so.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his most recent estimate is of the number of smart meters installed in domestic properties. (255862)

Whilst definitions of “smart meters” vary, the Department's estimate is that less than one per cent. of meters installed in domestic properties could be described as “smart meters”.

Energy: Prices

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps his Department is taking to increase liquidity in wholesale gas and electricity markets. (255211)

The Government aim to maintain and where necessary to improve regulatory conditions to ensure effective wholesale energy markets, in the UK and the EU, with sufficient liquidity to send effective price signals to market participants. We welcome Ofgem’s current work on wholesale market liquidity, and look forward to its findings.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his most recent estimate is of the effect of changes in domestic energy prices in the last 12 months on the number of people in fuel poverty. (255857)

The most recent fuel poverty estimates are available for 2006 in the Sixth Annual Progress report on the Fuel Poverty Strategy:

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file48036.pdf

These show that in the UK, there were around 3.5 million households living in fuel poverty in 2006 and around 2.4 million in England. The statistical annex to this report gives indicative projections for fuel poverty in England. These show an estimated further 1.2 million households moving into fuel poverty between 2006 and 2008, largely due to fuel price increases. However, these estimates were based on information known at the time and therefore have clearly been overtaken by a more complex price increase and so should not be regarded as representing the Government’s view about what the current figures are.

Fuel Cells

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into enzymatic fuel cells. (255155)

None. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is responsible for funding research through the UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into microbial fuel cells. (255156)

None. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is responsible for funding research through the UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what research his Department has conducted into fuel cell integrity. (255158)

None. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is responsible for funding research through the UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board.

Fuel Poverty

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his most recent assessment is of the number of people in fuel poverty in (a) St Albans constituency, (b) Hertfordshire and (c) England and Wales. (254223)

The most recently available sub-regional split of fuel poverty relates to 2003, and shows that there were around 1,900 fuel-poor households in the St. Albans constituency and around 22,200 fuel-poor households in Hertfordshire.

More recent figures are available for England and Wales. These show that in 2006, there were around 2.7 million fuel-poor households in England and Wales.

Fuel poverty is not measured at an individual level.

Housing: Insulation

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much has been spent insulating the homes of pensioners in each of the last 10 years. (250665)

[holding answer 26 January 2009]: Figures for the amounts spent on insulating pensioners’ homes are set out in the following table:

Spend on insulation for the over 60s under the warm front scheme in England and the home energy efficiency scheme (HEES) in Wales

Number of households assisted

Spend (£ million)

Warm Front

2005-2006

21,291

8.6

2006-2007

59,104

23.9

2007-2008

57,142

23.0

2008-2009

38,416

15.9

HEES(Wales)

2005-2006

n/a

n/a

2006-2007

4,695

1.8

2007-2008

7,541

3.1

2008-2009

3,360

1.4

n/a = No figures available

The supplier obligation, which began in 2002, led to an estimated investment of almost £2 billion between 2002 and 2008 in household energy efficiency measures. We estimate that energy suppliers invested around £800 million of this in a priority group of vulnerable and low-income households, including pensioners. Under the current three year phase of the obligation to 2011, known as the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT), we estimate suppliers alone will need to invest over £3.2 billion in household energy efficiency measures, £1.8 billion of which will be delivered to the priority group. However, Government have not made specific estimates for what proportion of the priority group spend by suppliers might be attributed to pensioners.

Industrial Injuries: Compensation

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much his Department has spent on medical testing of miners under the coal health compensation scheme since the introduction of the scheme; and how much has been paid to each provider of such tests in that period. (252776)

The total medical costs for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is £404.64 million; and for Vibration White Finger is £34.95 million as at December 2008. In the time available we are unable to breakdown these figures by provider.

International Renewable Energy Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent assessment he has made of the UK’s contribution to the International Renewable Energy Agency. (255175)

We have been in close contact with the German government on the development of IRENA. We participated in the preparatory meetings last year and at both the Founding Conference on 26 January and the first session of the Preparatory Commission of IRENA on 27 January.

We have been talking to Germany about:

(i) how IRENA can make a stronger contribution to the roll-out and deployment of renewables;

(ii) how we can broaden the membership to include key Asia-Pacific countries (e.g. Canada, China, Japan, India and the US) to ensure that the Agency has true global reach; and

(iii) how we can make sure that IRENA works closely with, and avoids overlap and duplication with, other international bodies and organisations, such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), of which the UK is already a member.

We will continue to participate in the further preparatory meetings this year with a view to joining shortly. We plan to reach a final decision on UK membership of IRENA once we have satisfactorily concluded our discussions with the German government.

IRENA is expected to start full operations in 2010.

Low Carbon Buildings Programme

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what consideration his Department gave to extending the availability of Low Carbon Buildings Programme grants to commercial and public sector applicants to mid-2010. (254102)

The Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 2 has been open since January 2007 and has committed £27 million to public sector and not for profit organisations' projects. The programme is due to close to new applications in June 2009 but a significant amount of work will be ongoing for installers through to mid 2010. We would like to see as many eligible organisations such as public sector organisations making maximum use of the grants programme up to June 2009.

We are currently considering the transition from grant funding and other incentives to the proposed small scale electricity feed in tariff and renewable heat incentive support mechanisms.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much of the £50 million allocated to the Low Carbon Buildings Programme phase 2 has been committed to projects. (254103)

To date, £27.1million has been allocated to projects under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the effect on the renewables sector of the planned closure of phase 2 of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme in June 2009. (254104)

The Low Carbon Buildings programme Phase 2 has been open since January 2007 and has so far committed over £27 million to 1,433 projects. Although the money will be committed up to June 2009 a significant amount of work will be completed for the period through to mid 2010. We would like to see framework suppliers and eligible organisations making maximum use of the grants programme up to June 2009. We are considering the next steps post June 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps he plans to take to encourage community groups to install low-carbon energy and energy efficiency technologies in their buildings after the end of phase two of the Low Carbon Buildings programme; what steps he is taking to assist community groups to use such technologies; and if he will make a statement. (255456)

[holding answer 9 February 2009]: To date, we have committed £576,158 to 32 community groups under phase 2 of the Low Carbon Buildings programme.

We would like eligible organisations to make maximum use of the grants programme up to June 2009. Although the money will be committed up to June 2009 a significant amount of work will be completed for the period through to mid 2010.

We are currently considering the options open to us to ensure that as many of these organisations can benefit from installing their own energy generating equipment.

Low Carbon Buildings Programme: Hertfordshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many grant applications the low carbon buildings programme has received from households in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire since the programme was established. (253784)

To date, household applications received by the Low Carbon Buildings programme in (a) Hemel Hempstead and (b) Hertfordshire were as follows:

Hemel Hempstead

Technology

Householder grant applications received

Solar photovoltaic

4

Solar thermal hot water

8

Wind turbine

3

Total

15

Hertfordshire

Technology

Householder grant applications received

Air source heat pump

1

Ground source heat pump

7

Solar photovoltaic

36

Solar thermal hot water

103

Wind turbine

33

Wood fuelled boiler system

8

Total

188

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when he will reply to the hon. Member for Weston-Super-Mare's letters of 20 October 2008, 18 November 2008 and 5 January 2009 on behalf of his constituent, Ms Janette Dalbeith. (253161)

I replied to the hon. Member on 29 January and apologise for the delay, which was due to departmental reorganisation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when the Minister of State plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire of 2 December 2008 about an application for a Government grant. (254709)

[holding answer 9 February 2009]: I replied to the hon. Member on 23 January and apologise for the delay.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when the Minister of State plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire of 4 November 2008 on Flogas and the price of liquefied petroleum gas. (254711)

[holding answer 9 February 2009]: I am told that the Department has no record of receiving the letter from the hon. Member. Officials have requested a copy of the letter and I will respond in due course.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Chelmsford to the Prime Minister of 17 November 2008 on his constituent Mr T Woodcraft of Chelmer Village, Chelmsford, transferred to his Department for a response on 27 November 2008. (256518)

[holding answer 12 February 2009]: I replied to the hon. Member on 12 February. I apologise for the delay, which was due to departmental reorganisation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State plans to reply to the letters from the hon. Member for Cleethorpes regarding (a) Mr Daniel Stewart, dated 30 October 2008 and (b) Mr Stephen Turner, dated 6 November 2008. (256971)

I responded to my hon. Friend the member for Cleethorpes, letter on behalf of Mr. D. Stewart on 16 February and apologise for the delay, which was due to departmental reorganisation.

My hon. Friend’s letter on behalf of Mr. S. Turner has been transferred to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department will respond shortly.

Natural Gas: Prices

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what data his Department (a) collects and (b) compiles on (i) spot and (ii) future wholesale gas prices. (255863)

DECC collects and compiles data on wholesale gas spot and forward prices, as well as other relevant price indicators, from a range of sources, including proprietary information providers, media, and organisations in the sector for internal analysis. These data include the UK system average price and prices for gas for the day-ahead, working days next week, monthly, quarterly, half yearly and yearly. Similar data for trading hubs in Belgium, the Netherlands and the US are also collected.

DECC produces assumptions for future trends in fossil fuel wholesale prices (including gas) up to 2030 which are used for modelling and other analytical work. This information is available on the following website:

http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file46071.pdf.

Nuclear Power Stations: Construction

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many (a) project managers and (b) administration managers have been recruited to the generic design assessment (GDA) team for new nuclear build; and what the cost has been to date of conducting the nuclear GDA. (253965)

I have been asked to reply.

Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of potential new nuclear power stations is being undertaken by both the Nuclear Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and by the Environment Agency. From the start of this work in 2007 up to the end of 2008, the costs recovered from the companies requesting the assessment was £5.84 million for work undertaken by HSE and I am informed by the Environment Agency that their recovered costs for the same period were £1.72 million. Both regulators’ costs will continue to be fully recovered for work assessing the two designs which are being taken through the final stages of GDA.

To help with the management of the GDA project, HSE’s Nuclear Directorate employs four staff on project management activities. Three are on contract: two from an external agency, one from the Health and Safety Laboratory, and one was appointed from existing HSE resource. The head of the Environment Agency’s GDA team was appointed from within the Agency’s existing cadre, and acts as project manager for his team’s work. One administration manager has been seconded into the HSE GDA team from another Government Department.

Offenders

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many former prisoners are employed by his Department; and what his Department's policy is on employing former prisoners. (246347)

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has been formed by bringing together work previously covered by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The final details of staff transferring from these Departments are yet to be confirmed. Given that, I refer the hon. Member to the answers given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 27 January 2009, Official Report, column reference 332W and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Services for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on 13 January 2009, Official Report, column reference 565W.

Official Cars

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what cars are (a) owned, (b) leased, (c) hired and (d) otherwise regularly used by his Department, broken down by cubic capacity of engine. (250148)

DECC does not own, lease, hire or otherwise regularly use any cars, apart from those provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency. Given that, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 10W about cars provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency.

Plutonium

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent estimate he has made of the (a) asset and (b) liability value of the UK’s plutonium holdings. (255993)