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Written Parliamentary Questions: 25th January 2006

Predictive Diallers (DTI)

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres.(John Hemming)
A:The Department of Trade and Industry does not use predictive dialling in any of its call centres. (Alun Michael, Minister of State, Industry and the Regions, Department of Trade and Industry)

Predictive Diallers (NI)

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 2004–05 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres. (John Hemming)
A:No call centres were run by the Northern Ireland Office. (David Hanson, Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office)

Gas Prices

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of energy companies choosing to use their coal fired power stations rather than their gas fired power stations because of high gas prices.(John Hemming)
A:Any increase in overall annual CO 2 emissions from coal fired power stations running at a higher rate than usual will need to be covered by allowances under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. There is a fixed number of allowances which are allocated directly to installations, such as power stations. If an installation wants to increase emissions above its allowance, it will need to buy extra allowances from other holders of allowances who are able to abate emissions and therefore have allowances to sell. Allowances can also be bought through Kyoto protocol mechanisms whereby credits can be bought for emissions reductions in mainly developing countries. The Emissions Trading Scheme therefore works to ensure that those responsible for increased CO 2 emissions on an annual basis have to pay for offsetting reductions in emissions elsewhere.

Other environmental impacts from coal fired electricity generation are subject to controls which are monitored and enforced by the Environment Agency. These controls are designed to offer sufficient flexibility to respond to changing commercial circumstances without compromising overall environmental objectives. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry)

Gas Prices
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the economic impact of the level of gas prices in the UK since November 2005. (John Hemming)
A:The Government takes the recent increases in gas prices very seriously, and particularly their impact on the competitiveness of UK industry. We understand that this creates tough trading conditions, especially for energy intensive users, and we are aware of a few companies having reduced production in response to the very high prices since November. This will, of course, have a negative impact on UK industrial output, but in terms of overall GDP this will be relatively minor.

I have visited a number of major industrial gas users and am continuing to meet with companies, business representatives and gas suppliers to discuss gas prices and security of supply. Energywatch and DTI held a seminar with smaller gas users and the public sector on 30 November 2005 to discuss energy purchasing strategies. We are also undertaking some research into the capability of UK industry to reduce their gas demand.

The impact on UK businesses of increases in gas prices will depend on a variety of factors, including how much gas a particular company uses, the degree of their exposure to spot and forward prices and the duration of high prices. It will also be affected by the energy prices paid by their competitors. A further sector-specific issue is whether they are in a competitive market where international trade sets the price or in a sector where prices are determined more locally and rising energy costs could be passed

Provisional data for October 2005 shows that UK retail gas prices for small, medium and large industrial users were below the EU15 median. However, individual companies will have agreed commercially confidential contract terms and prices that might differ from these averages. I am also aware, from my industry visits and meetings, that, there is some evidence that gas prices in the UK for some of our very large industrial users is above those on the continent, and I recognise the risk that this presents to UK competitiveness. Officials are working closely with industry and OFGEM, with a view to help, wherever possible, to mitigate the situation and reduce these impacts.(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry)


Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 9 January 2006, Official Report, column 378W, on passports, when his Department will revise published guidelines on photograph standards.(John Hemming)
A:The photo guidance leaflet contained in the passport application pack is being updated to take account of the revised guidelines published on the UKPS website in November, and will be available in passport application packs distributed in late February or early March 2006. The UKPS website also displays the current photo guidance leaflet and this will be replaced as soon as the design for its successor is confirmed, within the next fortnight. The website has updated information on photographs on other pages, and this newer information is signposted from the main page. (Andy Burnham, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office)

Private Finance Initiative Scheme

Q: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what calculations are performed to compare the costs of a private finance initiative scheme with traditional funding schemes from public sector borrowing. (John Hemming)
A:The required analysis for comparing whether a given project would be value for money using PFI compared with conventional funding is laid out in the Value for Money Guidance and the accompanying Quantitative User Guide, published in August 2004. These can be found on the HM Treasury website at: partnerships/key_documents/ppp_keydocs_vfm.cfm
(John Healey, Financial Secretary, HM Treasury)

Predictive Dialling (DfT)

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2005, Official Report, column 2315W, on predictive diallers, whether his Department makes calls using predictive dialling technology to groups other than members of the public.(John Hemming)
A:The Department for Transport does not use predictive dialling technology. (Karen Buck, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport)


Tristan said…
Something on passports for you:

The government is trying to say that we need biometric passports so the National Identity Register is needed for that or justified by it.

As far as I am aware the only requirement for the 'biometric' passport is a digitally signed digital photograph contained on a chip in the passport, nothing about iris scans of fingerprints has been mentioned by anyone other than government ministers.

In Germany they are bringing out the relevent passports for 59 euros, so they can't be that expensive.

And can you imagine trying to get an iris scan of a baby?

It would be interesting to see what the government says on this.

Just a thought.
TonyF said…

Never mind a baby, what about a blind person?
john said…
You do not have to be blind for an iris scan not to work - I have tested out a system on various people and quite a few fail.

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