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Mr. Atkins : Both my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I meet the Director of Telecommunications from time to time. At those meetings many significant telecommunications topics, including chatline services, have been covered.
Mr. Maude : My right hon. and noble Friend and I will be meeting the chairman of the Securities and Investments Board today. A range of topics concerning the regulation of financial services will be discussed.
Mr. Maude : Information for 1989 is not yet available. Statistics of acquisitions and mergers by industrial and commercial companies within the United Kingdom in 1988 were published in British Business on Friday 10 February.
35. Mr. Key : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will seek to ensure that public purchasing from abroad should be on terms which do not unfairly or illegally disadvantage home producers.
Mr. Newton : Ten states originally submitted bids to host the Community trade mark office. London was included in a shortlist of four drawn up by the European Commission in 1987. The final choice, which requires unanimity, will be made by the Council of Ministers. It is not possible to predict when it is likely to reach a decision.
Mr. Atkins : The publication of this document on 26 January has stimulated much interest. More than 700 copies have been distributed on request. Recipients have until 28 April in which to return comments.
Mr. Atkins : According to the latest figures known to the Invest in Britain Bureau, during the first three quarters of 1988, 263 inward investment decisions were made to locate in the United Kingdom. These include the establishment of a new business, expansion or acquisition of an existing business and involvement in joint venture.
Column 242the past year employed (a) up to 10 people, (b) up to 100 people and (c) more than 100 people ; what are the comparable figures for the year up to 3 May 1979 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : In 1987, the latest year for which estimates were published, the number of new businesses registering for VAT in the United Kingdom was 205,000. In 1980, the earliest available year, the comparable figure is 158,000. Although information on the numbers of people employed is not recorded at registration, the estimates of turnover suggest that most employed less than 100.
Mr. Maude : The Companies Bill contains provisions that will make it easier for investors to compare the performance of different companies. The Bill will implement the European Community's 7th directive on company law, thereby harmonising disclosure requirements for consolidated accounts, helping to tackle the problem of off-balance sheet financing, and improving the presentation of the effects of mergers and acquisitions in some company accounts. The Government will also continue to support the efforts of the accountancy profession to make it easier to compare financial statements by the development of accounting standard.
44. Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries are running a larger trade deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United Kingdom.
Mr. Alan Clark : In 1987 Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Spain, Austria and the United States had larger visible trade deficits than the United Kingdom in relation to their gross domestic product. The OECD figures for 1988 are not yet complete, but we already know that at least four countries will have deficits larger than the United Kingdom when measured on this basis.
Mr. Alan Clark : We have completed the export services review foreshadowed in the White Paper "dti--the department for Enterprise". Its constituent parts are detailed in the written reply given on 17 January by myself to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) at columns 106 -8.
Mr. Atkins : My Department uses paper having recycled content where this is consistent with operational efficiency and offers good value for money. Recycled paper can be more expensive than other types of paper of comparable quality, but I am reviewing the scope for making increased use of recycled material in the light of recent market developments.
Mr. Maude : The Insolvency Act 1986, which came into operation on 29 December 1986, requires all persons to be suitably qualified and authorised before acting as insolvency practitioners. This includes being appointed to the office of liquidator.
There are no plans to regulate further their activities.
Mr. Forth : My Department has a keen interest in promoting partnership between business and schools. Last year we launched the enterprise and education initiative, which is an ambitious programme that will extend the benefits of partnership activity to all schools. Working with organisations already active in the partnership area, DTI's 145 local advisers on enterprise and education will approach employers to ensure that there are places for all pupils to have at least two weeks work experience before leaving school. In addition, we are setting up a programme under which 10 per cent. of teachers will each year be given the opportunity to gain first hand experience of the world of business. My Department also supports much other partnership activity, including initial teacher training, both on a national basis and through our regional office network.
Mr. Alan Clark : The Community's common commercial policy is determined by the Council of Ministers on the basis of proposals from the Commission. The United Kingdom plays a full and vigorous part in this process in the light of our experience of the beneficial economic effects of competition and deregulation. The Community is negotiating in the Uruguay round of GATT negotiations for a substantial liberalisation of trade worldwide.
55. Mr. Amos : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on what directions he has given to the Post Office on the future level of provision of post offices in rural areas.
Mr. Forth : None ; decisions on the appropriate level of service provision in particular areas are an operational matter for the Post Office chairman and board. As far as the general extent of the network is concerned, we have made it clear on a number of occasions that the Government remain committed to a network of offices adequate to enable the Post Office to fulfil its statutory duty to have regard to economy and efficiency and to the social, industrial and commercial needs of the United Kingdom.
Column 245Co-operation and Development countries have shown a greater increase in manufacturing output since 1979 than the United Kingdom.
Canada, USA, Japan, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia.
Mr. Atkins : Manufacturing output in the fourth quarter of 1988 was at a level of 117.0, based on 1985 equal to 100. This was the highest ever quarterly level, over 10 per cent. above its 1979 average level and nearly 6 per cent. above the previous all-time peak of 1973.
57. Mr. Graham : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many standards set under the development of the internal market are based on British standards ; and how many are based on (a) German standards, (b) French standards and (c) those of other European Community countries.
Mr. Maude : The European standards bodies, CEN and CENELEC, adopt, wherever appropriate, agreed international (ISO and IEC) standards. Very few European standards are based on an existing standard of any one Community country.
58. Mr. Moss : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, what is the latest evidence he has of awareness in the business community about the opportunities presented by the completion of the single European market in 1992.
Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the current percentage of United Kingdom businesses exporting to European Economic Community countries ; and what effect he expects the 1992 European single market campaign to have on that figure.
Mr. Alan Clark [holding answer 14 February 1989] : It is not possible directly to answer the hon. Member's question in percentage terms. In 1988 European Community countries accounted for 50 per cent. of total United Kingdom exports. The effects of the 1992 single European market campaign on that figure depend on the extent to which United Kingdom businesses take full advantage of the opportunities opening up to them.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Environment, is at present consulting in the European Commission on the proposals for an enterprise zone. In the meantime discussions are taking place with local bodies in Sunderland on boundaries.
English Estates North has drawn up plans for building the first phase of a new business park on the Hylton riverside site in conjunction with the Tyne and Wear development corporation. Work will start in early summer and be completed by the end of the year. A new company has been formed to undertake counselling, placement and training of employees affected by the NESL closure. A total of £5 million has been set aside for this. To date, over 1,000 people have received counselling and out of those more than 200 have been successfully placed. A further £5 million of the fund is to be administered via a recently launched initiative led by the private sector, with the participation of the Sunderland borough council and Tyne and Wear development corporation. This body, the Wearside Opportunity, will concentrate on local initiatives to help regenerate industry by encouraging local enterprise through project support and business leadership. An experienced official from my Department has been seconded to the Wearside Opportunity to provide administrative back-up. Progress is being made in identifying projects requiring support.
In addition to these measures, I have made available, via the city action team, a further £1.5 million during the current financial year for 13 enterprise and training projects in Sunderland.
Mr. Maude : Some 700 trade, industry, local authority and consumer organisations were consulted last autumn on proposals to phase out the remaining imperial units of measurement for most trade purposes by the end of 1994 subject to certain exemptions, including the pint for sales of draught beer and cider and milk in returnable bottles ; the troy ounce for bullion dealing ; and the mile for speed and distance measurement. Only two organisations responded opposing the general principle of further metrication. However, 22 requests were received to continue the use of imperial units for certain other specific purposes.
Mr. Atkins : While I recognise the difficulties facing many firms in this sector, the hosiery and knitwear industries have made a major contribution to Leicester's economic and industrial development. I am confident that they will continue to adapt to technological and other changes to the further benefit of the local and national economies.
Mr. Atkins : As I announced on 26 January we are extending the availability to the cellular radio operators of 400 radio channels, until now reserved for MOD use except in the area of central London, out to the area embraced by the M25 and five miles beyond. The use of these channels will be on a pre-emptible basis.
69. Mr. Worthington : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development countries spend a greater proportion of gross domestic product on civil research and development than the United Kingdom.
Mr. Forth : The available information is for 1985 and relates to gross expenditure on research and development (R&D), excluding R&D for defence purposes funded by national defence ministries as a percentage of gross domestic product. This showed that the following countries spent a greater proportion than the United Kingdom in 1985.
Federal Republic of Germany
Thirteen other OECD member countries spent a smaller proportion than the United Kingdom.