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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.