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CBI

37. Mr. Lord : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last met the Confederation of British Industry ; and what matters were discussed.

50. Mr. Flannery : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last met the Confederation of British Industry ; and what was discussed.

Mr. Atkins : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster last met the CBI on 24 November 1988 when he spoke at its conference on "Business Opportunities in Urban Regeneration".

Imports

38. Mr. Squire : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the Government have any proposals to reduce imports by stimulating greater United Kingdom production in specific sectors.

Mr. Atkins : Is it not for government to tell industry what to produce or how much. The greatest encouragement to buy British is the availability of competitive British goods and services. My Department's policies are geared to helping businesses achieve this.

1992 Hotline

39. Mr. Curry : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many calls have been received to date by his Department's 1992 hotline.

Mr. Forth : Our 1992 hotline has received over 117,000 calls since it opened on 18 March 1988.

Alnwick and Amble

40. Mr. Beith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recent representations he has received about assistance from the United Kingdom or European funds for the Alnwick and Amble area.

Mr. Atkins : I have received representations in favour of the Alnwick and Amble travel-to-work-area's claims to assistance from the Community's reformed structural funds. I had already put a case on behalf of the area to the European Commission. The Commission announced on 8 March its intention of designating Alnwick and Amble travel-to-work-area for assistance under the funds' new objective 2.

EC Regional Development Fund

41. Mr. Knox : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the value of grants allocated to England from the European regional development fund since its inception.

Mr. Atkins : A total of £1,602 million.

Interest Rates

42. Mr. Kennedy : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is his estimate of the cost to manufacturing industry of the rise in base rates since April 1988 ; and if he will make a statement.


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Mr. Atkins : The information requested is not available for manufacturing industry separately. The hon. Member should bear in mind, however, that a one percentage point increase in interest rates, even if sustained for a full year, costs companies far less than a one percentage point increase in pay settlements.

61. Mr. McFall : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is his latest estimate of the annual cost to industry of recent rises in interest rates.

Mr. Atkins : The cost to industrial and commercial companies in the year to date of the changes in bank base rates, compared with the cost if they had remained the same as a year ago, is estimated to be about £0.8 billion. The hon. Member should bear in mind, however, that a one percentage point increase in interest rates, even if sustained for a full year, costs companies far less than a one percentage point increase in pay settlements.

62. Mr. Allen McKay : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations he has received on the effects of current interest rates on industry.

Mr. Atkins : I have received a number of representations from business about the effects of interest rates on cash flow and investment. Investment intentions remain strong, however, and the representations show overwhelming support for firm action to curb inflation.

Inward Investment

43. Mr. Wood : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is his estimate of how many jobs have been created by inward investment since 1983 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : According to the figures known to the Invest in Britain Bureau, since 1983 the following number of jobs have been created :




Year    |Number       

----------------------

1983    |15,546       

1984    |27,102       

1985    |26,331       

1986    |17,749       

1987    |21,301       

<1>1988 |18,307       

<1>For the first      

three quarters only.  

Industrial Research

44. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the current level of long-term industrial research being undertaken in the United Kingdom for which his Department has responsibility.

Mr. Forth : Statistics on expenditure on long term industrial research undertaken by United Kingdom industry are not available. However expenditure on basic research and applied research performed by United Kingdom industry was some £154 million and £1,100 million, respectively, in 1985. DTI expenditure on Frascati R and D for 1988-89, including support for industrial R and D, is estimated to be £274 million (excluding civil aviation launch aid). In line with the policy of moving away from support for near market industrial R and D, most of this expenditure will be on longer-term R and D.


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Overseas Companies

45. Mr. Franks : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many overseas companies set up operations in Britain in 1988.

Mr. Forth : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) on 15 February at columns 245- 46.

Liquidations

46. Mr. Ron Brown : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many companies went into liquidation during 1988 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Forth : There were 9,823 company insolvencies in Great Britain in 1988. This was about 17 per cent. lower than the corresponding figure of 11,895 in 1987.

Trade Surpluses

47. Mr. Jack Thompson : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in which sectors of manufacturing Britain had a trade surplus in 1979 ; and in which Britain had a surplus in 1988.

Mr. Atkins : In 1979 the United Kingdom had a crude trade surplus in manufacturing trade in the following classes of the standard industrial classification :

Class 24 Non-metallic mineral products

Class 25 Chemicals

Class 26 Man-made fibres

Class 31 Metal goods

Class 32 Mechanical engineering

Class 34 Electrical and electronic engineering

Class 36 Other transport equipment

Class 48 Processing of rubber and plastics

In 1987, the last year for which data is available, industries with a trade surplus were :

Class 24 Non-metallic mineral products

Class 25 Chemicals

Class 32 Mechanical engineering

Class 36 Other transport equipment

Company Liquidity

48. Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is his latest estimate of company liquidity ; and when it was last lower.

Mr. Forth : The liquidity ratio for all large industrial and commercial companies is estimated by the Department's survey to be 76 per cent. at the end of the fourth quarter of 1988 on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is the lowest figure since the end of the third quarter of 1982.

Consumers

51. Mrs. Clwyd : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he has any plans to increase the rights of consumers.

56. Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if his Department plans any new initiatives in consumer protection ; and if he will make a statement.

66. Mr. Dunnachie : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he has plans to bring forward legislation affecting consumer rights.


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Mr. Forth : We plan to introduce regulations under part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (which came into force on 1 March) governing price indications at bureaux de change and the resale of electricity and gas by landlords. Proposals will shortly be made to implement two EC directives which require the selling and, where appropriate, the unit prices of foodstuffs and non-food products to be displayed.

We intend to amend the law on the sale and supply of goods following the Law Commissions' report and plan to amend the Consumer Credit Act and related legislation as set out in the recent White Paper "Releasing Enterprise" (CM512). We shall also introduce revised regulations on pyramid selling.

55. Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last met representatives of the principal consumer bodies ; and what was the content of the discussions.

Mr. Forth : I visited the Welsh Consumer Council on 27 October 1988, the Consumers Association on 6 February 1989 and the National Consumer Council on 7 March 1989. On each occasion a number of current issues relevant to consumers were discussed. I also intend to visit the Scottish Consumer Council on 19 May.

Over the past six months I have also met the chairman of the National Industry Consumer/Consultative Councils to discuss matters within their areas of interest.

Regional Preferential Assistance

52. Mr. Win Griffiths : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what has been the percentage change in real terms in regional preferential assistance since 1978-79.

Mr. Atkins : Expenditure in real terms on regional preferential assistance in Great Britain in 1987-88 was 56 per cent. lower than in 1978- 79. Much of the reduction has arisen from steps taken to improve cost effectiveness in terms of creating jobs at a lower public expenditure cost.

Civil Research and Development

53. Mr. Clelland : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in which Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries the proportion of gross domestic product spent by Government on civil research and development has fallen since 1983.

Mr. Forth : Of the twenty OECD member countries showing figures for 1983 and 1986, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom recorded a fall in Government funding of civil research and development as a percentage of gross domestic product.

Consumer Affairs

54. Mr. McTaggart : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he next proposes to meet the European Commissioner with responsibility for consumer affairs ; and what matters he will raise.

Mr. Forth : I hope to meet Commissioner Van Miert again at the Council of Consumer Ministers which is provisionally planned for 1 June. The Spanish Presidency have yet to finalise the agenda for the Council.


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Consumer Protection

57. Mr. Graham : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last met his European Economic Community counterparts to discuss consumer protection ; and what was the content of the discussions.

Mr. Forth : Neither my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster nor I, has yet had occasion to meet EC Community counterparts to discuss consumer protection. However, I have had general discussions on consumer issues with Commissioner Van Miert, and I hope to meet my Community colleagues at the Council of Consumer Ministers which the Spanish Presidency have provisionally planned for 1 June. I also hope to meet my French counterpart, Madame Neiertz, later this year for bilateral discussions.

Trade Deficit

60. Mr. Sean Hughes : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries are running a smaller trade deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United Kingdom.

Mr. Newton : OECD estimates for 1988 suggest that 12 countries ran deficits on their visible trade. In relation to their GDP, the following countries' deficits were smaller than that of the United Kingdom.

Italy, France, Norway, Switzerland, the United States, Austria and Iceland.

Trade Statistics

63. Mr. Turner : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if any changes are planned in the collection of trade statistics in preparation for 1992.

Mr. Forth : I have nothing to add to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) on 21 February at column 546.

Manufacturing Productivity

65. Mr. McCartney : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in which position Britain lies in an Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development league table for manufacturing productivity.

Mr. Atkins : No reliable comparison exists for absolute levels of productivity between different countries. But available figures do show that in the 1980s the United Kingdom has had the fastest rate of growth of manufacturing productivity of all the major industrialised countries.

Information Technology

67. Mr. Ted Garrett : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects Britain to have a trade surplus in information technology.

Mr. Forth : I do not know what the pattern of trade in information technology will be in the years ahead. That is something which will be determined primarily by industry and commerce.

Regional Policy

68. Mr. Jim Marshall : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he plans to announce any new initiatives to benefit Britain's regions.


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Mr. Atkins : An effective range of measures designed to encourage enterprise and economic growth in all parts of the country is available from DTI under the enterprise initiative, with higher levels of assistance available to firms in the assisted areas and urban programme areas. Firms in assisted areas also benefit from assistance under the regional initiative.

Macdonald Report

69. Mr. Bell : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations he has received on the Macdonald report on communications infrastructure.

Mr. Atkins : My Department has received a number of formal and informal comments on the communications steering group report "The Infrastructure for Tomorrow", sometimes referred to as the Macdonald report. The report was published in December as a contribution to the discussions on the United Kingdom's communications infrastructure needs.

Competitiveness

70. Mr. McAvoy : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recent representations he has received from industry on matters affecting competitiveness.

Mr. Atkins : Most contacts which my Department has with industry and commerce involve matters having a bearing on United Kingdom competitiveness.

Hardwood Imports

Mrs. Wise : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he proposes to take to prohibit imports of hardwoods obtained from rain forests.

Mr. Alan Clark : The subject is one of considerable and growing concern and I have had valuable and constructive discussions with Dr. Freezdilah, executive director of the International Tropical Timber Organisation, and emphasised to him that further measures, on a Community- wide basis, can not be excluded indefinitely if no progress is evident in the general field of conservation.

Butane Gas Sales

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many retailers have been sent (a) his Department's guidance pack on the law in respect of the sale of butane gas canisters to minors and (b) his Department's warning notices on bulk packs of gas refills ; what proportion of retailers selling these items this represents ; and what response he has had on this matter.

Mr. Forth : The guidance packs for retailers, which give advice on how to recognise sniffers and refuse to sell solvent-based products to them, are funded by the Government and distributed by Re-Solv, the anti- solvent abuse charity, through trading standards departments of local authorities, and through the police. The intention is that all retailers should have a copy. There are some 290,000 retail establishments in the United Kingdom, and 300,000 guidance packs have been produced. Re-Solv has also devised a warning notice to retailers, for suppliers to put in bulk packs of butane lighter refills, and my Department has written to all known suppliers asking them to use them. The cost to suppliers is £9 per 1,000 notices.


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M.F.B. Russell and Co. Ltd.

Mr. Nicholas Baker : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, what documents relating to M. F. B. Russell and Co. Ltd. are currently in his safe-keeping.

Mr. Atkins : Following the making of a winding-up order against M. B. P. Russell and Co. Ltd. by the court the official receiver, who is an officer of my Department and of the court, recovered certain of the company's books and papers. Persons required under section 131 of the Insolvency Act 1986 to make out and submit a statement of the company's affairs may have access to these by arrangement and they may be inspected by creditors and contributories pursuant to a court order under section 155 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Bananas

Mrs. Wise : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the quantity of bananas imported in the most recent year for which figures are available into Britain from the Windward Isles ; and what information he has on the percentage this is of the total banana exports of the Windward Isles.

Mr. Forth : The United Kingdom imported 128.7 thousand tonnes of fresh bananas originating from the Windward Isles in 1987. Information is not available on the percentage of total banana exports from the Windward Isles which this represents.

Mrs. Wise : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from which countries bananas are imported into Britain ; and if he will make a statement about banana imports after 1992.

Mr. Forth : In 1987, imports of fresh bananas originating from Jamaica, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Belize and Surinam accounted for over 70 per cent. of United Kingdom total imports. A list showing all countries from which the United Kingdom imported bananas has been placed in the Library.

Projections of trade levels are not available.

Regional Development Organisation

Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what level of financial support he is offering to the Regional Development Organisation in England for 1989-90.

Mr. Newton : I have offered the five English regional development organisations £3.005 million in grant aid for their inward investment promotion activities for 1989-90, over £214,700 more than in 1988-89. I have allocated the grant aid as follows :


                                                 |Up to          

                                                 |£              

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Northern Development Company (in the North East) |981,750        

Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association |660,000        

INWARD Ltd. (in the North West)                  |541,000        

West Midlands Industrial Development Association |400,000        

Devon and Cornwall Development Bureau            |422,000        

In addition the Northern Development Company has also been offered grant aid of up to £200,000 for its wider activities aimed at the regeneration of the region.


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Rolls-Royce

Mr. Stern : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when his Department expects to make an announcement about Rolls-Royce's launch aid applications.

Mr. Atkins : After extensive discussions with my Department Rolls- Royce has decided to withdraw its application for launch aid for the development of the RB211-524J and 524L engines. The company considers that it will be able to finance the development from its own financial resources and from contributions from risk and revenue sharing partners. I wish the company every success with the launch of these engines.

Industry Council

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the Industry Council held on 6 March.

Mr. Newton : The Council, at which I represented the United Kingdom, agreed a common position on the financing of steel social measures and considered the use of the ECU in ECSC matters. The Commission made a statement on the restructuring of the Italian steel industry. The Council also agreed a new SPRINT programme for technology transfer, and discussed the further promotion of European standards for high definition television (HDTV). Informal discussion also took place on the Communities shipbuilding and textile industries, and on small and medium sized enterprises.

Self-Employed Commercial Agents

Dr. Blackburn : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement regarding the implementation of the European Community directive on self-employed commercial agents.

Mr. Atkins : Our present intention is that the directive should be implemented by regulations under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. The regulations do not need to come into force before 1 January 1994 and will not be made before 1992.

Where the directive allows member states discretion our present conclusions in the light of consultations are as follows : (

(a) Agents will be entitled to commission where they have an exclusive right to a specific geographical area or group of customers.


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