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31 Jan 2003 : Column 1059W—continued

Estate Agents

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will take measures to establish an independent regulator of estate agents; and if she will make a statement. [94055]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The conduct of estate agents is independently regulated by the Director General of Fair Trading, who has powers under the Estate Agents Act 1979 to ban persons he considers unfit to carry out estate agency work.

The Office of Fair Trading is currently investigating the market for estate agents in England and Wales, including the effectiveness of the Act. I will consider carefully any recommendations the Director General of Fair Trading makes about future regulation of this market.

Financial Advice

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she plans to take to improve the availability of independent, free financial advice to consumers. [91835]

Miss Melanie Johnson: There are currently a number of providers of independent, free financial advice to consumers including that provided by the Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), and the Federation of Information and Advice Centres (FIAC). In addition there is a large amount of information available on the internet, including through the Financial Services Authority's website.

There are also a number of organisations such as National Debtline, Consumer Credit Counselling Services and Payplan which, while primarily focused on

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providing independent, free debt advice, will offer consumers contacting them general financial advice where relevant.

We are reviewing Government policy on debt advice in response to recommendations in the PIU report "Lending Support: Improving Government's Use of Loans" published March 2002.

Fossil Fuel (Morecambe)

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on fossil fuel reserves near Morecambe. [94127]

Mr. Wilson: The sea adjacent to Morecambe includes a number of gas fields that have significant remaining reserves which continue to provide a major source of swing gas during times of high demand. A small onshore gas field is in production to the south of Morecambe, and there is some possibility of further small gas developments.

MOD Spectrum

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of whether the spectrum allocated to the Ministry of Defence is being used in a manner which best serves the public interest. [94932]

Ms Hewitt: There are effective mechanisms in place to ensure effective use of MOD spectrum, which will be further strengthened as a result of the recommendations of the independent Review of Radio Spectrum Management.

My Department's Radiocommunications Agency has a close working relationship with the Ministry of Defence and the use of the spectrum allocated to defence is kept under constant review, balancing the needs of national defence against the requirements of other spectrum users, this process is overseen by the United Kingdom Spectrum Strategy Committee, a Cabinet Office committee, jointly chaired by the Radiocommunications Agency and the Ministry of Defence.

Over the years, much defence spectrum has been made available for commercial services, either on a shared or exclusive basis. The Ministry of Defence also pays an annual charge to the RA for its spectrum use. This is calculated on a comparable basis to civil users and provides an important incentive to efficient spectrum use.

The independent Review of Radio Spectrum Management has made a number of recommendations designed to promote the optimal use of defence spectrum. These include an audit of defence spectrum, the continued application of spectrum pricing in parallel with non-military users on a comparable basis and the introduction of trading to provide incentives for effective spectrum use. The Government have accepted these recommendations and their implementation is now being taken forward by the Radiocommunications Agency with the Ministry of Defence.

Nuclear Industry

Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the reactors of origin were of the

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plutonium used in the MO" fuel sent to Japan and Switzerland from Sellafield; and what safeguards arrangements apply to this plutonium. [93904]

Mr. Wilson: It is not possible to identify definitively the individual reactors in which specific batches of plutonium allocated to the ownership of specific customers might originally have been produced. Reprocessing customers receive back separated plutonium based on that contained in the fuel they originally supplied. This is assessed before the fuel is reprocessed. The nature of commercial reprocessing in large-scale bulk chemical processing facilities means that the plutonium contained in the fuel becomes blended with that contained in fuel from other reactors.

International safeguards arrangements for MO" fuel assemblies include measurement of the nuclear material content of the fuel before its shipment from the fabrication plant and then the application of seals to the transport flasks into which the assemblies have been loaded. On receipt at a reactor facility seals are checked and removed before the fuel is placed in storage or loaded into the reactor. Such fuel storage and reactor loading is monitored by safeguards inspections combined with the use of containment and surveillance equipment (e.g. cameras and seals). Safeguards measures continue to be applied after MO" fuel has been loaded in a reactor.

Street Traders

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many pedlar's licences were issued in each month since 2000; and if she will make a statement. [94560]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 30 January 2003]: This information is not held centrally by the Department.

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the number of street traders who are operating illegally; and if she will make a statement. [94561]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 30 January 2003]: None.

Peru ( UK Investment)

Angus Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice her Department issues on UK investment into Peru; when and for what reason this advice was last updated; and if she will make a statement. [94256]

Nigel Griffiths: Advice on direct investment into Peru, including reference to the legal framework governing foreign investment in the country, is available on the Trade Partners UK website which is regularly updated.

For all markets, Trade Partners UK advises companies to base their decision on whether and where to invest on a sound knowledge and understanding of local conditions.

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Trade Partners UK, a joint DTI/FCO body, has the objective of enhancing the competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas sales and investments.


Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which international agreements cover the arrangements permitting the swapping of plutonium batches between that material owned by British Nuclear Fuels, British Energy or the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and that owned by foreign customers as held at Sellafield. [92305]

Mr. Wilson: In the European Union, the ownership of nuclear materials is governed by the Euratom provisions that deal with the supply of nuclear materials (essentially Chapter 6 of the Euratom Treaty). These provide that exchanges of material—which are basically a commercial matter for the companies concerned—require the approval of the Euratom Supply Agency on a case-by-case basis.

External obligations, for example limiting the use of such material to peaceful, non-explosive purposes are, however, a feature of some international nuclear co-operation agreements, such as those between, Euratom and the United States, Euratom and Australia and Euratom and Canada. In some cases where there are no Euratom agreements in place, there are bilateral agreements which contain comparable provisions. The owners of nuclear material can request that external obligations attached to one batch of material can be exchanged or swapped for different obligations on another equivalent batch of material. Each such request for a swap involving material that is subject to Euratom co-operation agreements must be approved by the Services of the European Commission, whose assessment takes account of the characteristics of the nuclear material concerned, (i.e. to ensure that the swap would not diminish the obligations involved) and the reasoning behind the request.

Service Delivery Agreements

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when (a) the Postal Services Commission's, (b) Ofgem's and (c) the Office of Telecommunications' service delivery agreements for 2003 to 2006 will be published. [94211]

Ms Hewitt: None of these bodies is required to produce a service delivery agreement for the period 2003 to 2006. However, they all publish information on their targets and objectives and how they will aim to achieve them, elsewhere.

The Postal Services Commission produces a yearly business plan, which is published on its website ( The plan for 2003–04 is due to be published by mid-February 2003.

Each year Ofgem publishes a three-year corporate plan. The plan for 2002–05 is currently available on its website ( and the plan for 2003–06 is due to be published by April 2003 and a copy will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

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The Office of Telecommunications produces an annual report and a management plan, both of which contain information on targets and delivery. The annual report for 2001 is currently available on its website (—oftel/index.htm) and the 2002 annual report is being drafted. The management plan for 2002–03 is published on the website and the management plan for 2003–04 is due to be published shortly.

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