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Written Parliamentary Questions: 4th December 2006

Litigants in Person
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs why the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs has not risen since 1995; what estimate she has made of the additional costs to the Government were this rate to rise; and if she will raise the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs.(John Hemming)

A:holding answer 23 November 2006

The hourly rate payable to litigants in person was reviewed in 2003 by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, when it was decided that the rate should remain at the existing level. No estimate has been made of additional costs, should the rate be raised and there are no plans to raise the rate at present.

Civil Procedure Rule 48.6(2) provides that where the litigants in person can prove financial loss (greater than £9.25) has occurred due to time he has reasonably spent on doing the work, he is entitled to claim up to two thirds of the amount which would have been allowed if he had been legally represented.
(Vera Baird, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)

Gas Industry
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will assess the effects on UK gas prices of the storage practices of overseas gas companies which import gas into the UK; and if he will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:holding answer 23 November 2006

Subject to their regulatory obligations, it is up to gas suppliers how they balance their supply-demand position. The European Commission has undertaken a sectoral inquiry, which has identified access to long-term downstream contracts, capacity on pipelines and gas storage as priorities for individual competition investigations. The commission aims to reach conclusions by January 2007, and will then pursue infringement of EU competition law as appropriate.

It is not practical to provide the particular estimates that the hon. Member requests, because that would require detailed market assessments against a hypothetical model of how the continental and GB gas storage markets might operate. However, Ofgem recently estimated that around an extra £1 billion could have been added to the cost of GB wholesale gas in winter 2005-06 as a result of gas flows from the Bacton-Zeebrugge Interconnector failing to respond to the relative UK and Continental gas prices. This can be found at:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem/press/fact-sheets.jsp.
(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry)

Gas Industry
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of how much more gas would enter the UK were Europe's gas markets to be liberalised. (John Hemming)

A:holding answer 21 November 2006

It is not practical to make an assessment of the level of gas that would flow into the UK as a result of European liberalisation. A liberalised market would lead to increased imports and exports of gas between the UK and Europe in turn leading to more efficient allocation of resources and potential benefits to consumers in both UK and continental Europe. In particular improved liquidity of gas in European markets could provide incremental gas in times of demand peaks and lead to a reduction in price volatility in the longer term.

(Malcolm Wicks, Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry)

Service Personnel (Remuneration)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) the families of members of the Armed Forces killed and (b) members of the Armed Forces injured in (i) Iraq and (ii) Afghanistan before the completion of six months service in that country receive additional remuneration to offset their tax liability. (John Hemming)

A:Service personnel who are killed or injured in Iraq or Afghanistan do not receive additional remuneration to offset their liability for tax. However, as I announced on 10 October, service personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans now receive a tax-free operational allowance that is paid as a lump sum at the end of their operational tour. The allowance is worth around £2,240 to personnel completing a six month operational tour, paid on a pro rata basis for longer or shorter tours, to ensure that the more junior personnel are compensated for their tax bill whilst deployed.

If a service person who is eligible for the operational allowance is injured and/or hospitalised, either overseas or in the UK, they will continue to be paid the allowance for the planned length of their deployment. Also, if a service person in receipt of the allowance is declared dead, their pay account will be credited with the amount of operational allowance that would otherwise have been paid had they completed their planned deployment. This has been explained in the new regulations for the operational allowance that were finalised on 3 November and published to the armed forces on the same day. A copy of the regulations has been placed in the Library of the House. (Des Browne, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence)

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