|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Redwood : Mergers and proposed mergers involving building societies come within the scope of the normal competition legislation. Under the Fair Trading Act 1973, the Director General of Fair Trading has a duty to keep himself informed of merger activity and to advise the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on whether or not particular mergers should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission for investigation. I have powers under the Fair Trading Act to prevent a merger only if I have referred it to the commission and the commission has concluded that the merger would operate against the public interest.
In addition, the Director General of Fair Trading has powers under the Fair Trading Act and the Competition Act 1980 to initiate investigations into complaints about abuses of monopolies and anti-competitive practices. If the hon. Member has any evidence to suggest that tied insurance arrangements involving building societies are an abuse of a monopoly or an anti-competitive practice he should bring it to the attention of the director general.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The Government's policies are designed to assist industry in all parts of the country. Specific measures of support to industry in rural areas are the responsibility of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Column 310under approved general aid schemes and, if located in assisted areas, regional aid schemes. A wide range of practical help is also available from my Department under the enterprise initiative. The European Commission has operated a ban on sectoral aid schemes for the industry since 1985.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The industry makes a significant contribution to the prosperity of the region. Since the early 1980s the United Kingdom wool textile industry as a whole has made a good recovery, recording significant gains in productivity and achieving an excellent exports performance. United Kingdom exports reached a record £613 million in 1988, with a new record likely in 1989 ; the industry also enjoys a favourable balance of trade.
Mr. Redwood : Imports from West Germany into the United Kingdom between January to September 1989, when compared with the same period in 1988, rose from £12.9 billion to £14.8 billion, an increase of 14.7 per cent. Total United Kingdom exports to the Federal Republic increased in the same period from £7 billion to £7.9 billion, an increase of 12.9 per cent. United Kingdom non-oil exports rose from £6.3 billion to £7.2 billion, an increase of 14.3 per cent.
Column 311Mr. Forth : Such committees are made up of representatives of the national standards bodies of Europe, not interest groupings. In the case of the United Kingdom, it is therefore for the British Standards Institution (BSI) to determine the composition of the delegation, which acts in accordance with a brief previously agreed by the relevant BSI committee.
My Department provides a measure of financial support to help consumer representatives take part in BSI committee work and in European standards work, should they be selected to form part of the delegation.
Mr. Forth : Ministers and officials continue to encourage the economic recycling of a wide range of materials, including plastics, metals and paper, through participation in conferences, seminars and exhibitions, and by the preparation and publication of information brochures and education packs. The recycling advisory group, set up late last year, is currently deliberating upon the best means of securing significant increases in the amounts of domestic and industrial waste being recycled in the United Kingdom, and the Environmental Protection Bill now before the House also contains measures to encourage recycling.
Mr. Forth : My Department works closely with the trading standards departments of local authorities, which have the statutory duty to enforce consumer safety legislation, notably in the development of modern, computer -based information systems that enable the details of hazardous products to be made available urgently throughout the country. My Department also monitors the accident statistics obtained through the home accident surveillance system (HASS).
Mr. Ridley : I have received a number of representations from, or on behalf of, Barlow Clowes investors since my statement on 19 December. The majority of investors have expressed their complete satisfaction with the decision that I announced.
Mr. Forth : The funding of individual citizens advice bureaux is a matter for local decision, and my Department is not involved in those discussions. I have, however, met representatives of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and of Citizens Advice Scotland in recent months and among the topics discussed was their funding requirements.
67. Mr. Robert Hicks : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken to ensure that the south-west is benefiting from regional policies ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : My Department has opened satellite offices in Dorset and Wiltshire, in addition to the offices in Avon, Cornwall and Devon, to ensure a greater and more local delivery of DTI services to the business community. In addition, the Department, in conjunction with others, has sought to maximise aid from the European Community to eligible areas in the south-west and continued to provide regional grants to businesses operating in or setting up in the assisted areas. Within Devon and Cornwall we have, with financial support, helped establish a South West Export Federation and in Avon, Devon and Dorset are providing funding for export development advisers. Both those initiatives are designed to increase the volume of exporting by south-west companies. My Department is the largest contributor to the Devon and Cornwall development bureau, supports the activities of English Estates in the south-west and,
Column 313through my regional office, promotes and supports numerous other initiatives aimed at improving the economic performance of businesses in the south-west.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Complete information for 1989 is not yet available. According to departmental records, 27 new orders for merchant vessels were placed with United Kingdom shipyards in the first 10 months of 1989.
In 1988 the value of United Kingdom exports to the Republic of Ireland was £4,057 million. In the first 11 months of 1989, the figure was £4,316 million.
The value of Irish exports to the United Kingdom in 1988 was £3,879 million. The figure for the first 11 months of 1989 was £3,941 million.
Over the past four years exports to Ireland have risen at a slower rate than imports, therefore the balance has contracted. Figures available for 1989, however, suggest a reversal in this trend. Britain maintains a significant share of the Irish market--over 42 per cent. in 1988--double that of our main competitor and Ireland's second largest supplier, the United States of America. Ireland meanwhile has a 3.6 per cent. share of the United Kingdom market.
Trade with the Republic of Ireland £ |Imports from |Exports from |Balance |Ireland to the|the United | United |Kingdom to | Kingdom |Ireland --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1985 |2,817 |3,631 |814 1986 |3,054 |3,558 |504 1987 |3,488 |3,832 |344 1988 |3,879 |4,057 |178 <1>1988 |3,560 |3,697 |137 <1>1989 |3,941 |4,316 |375 <1> January to November.
79. Mr. Geraint Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to ensure that businesses in the regions of England and in Scotland and Wales benefit from the increased trade expected to result from the completion of the Channel tunnel.
Mr. Redwood : The DTI regularly receives representations from business about the importance of adequate road and rail links to the Channel tunnel if the United Kingdom is to derive full benefit from the tunnel and the single market. These are matters on which I and my colleagues make our views known to our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Science parks grew very rapidly in the 1980s. Regional development agencies and local authorities helped finance this growth, but increasingly private sector funding is being channelled into the continuing expansion and development of science parks, and I see no need for a central Government initiative.
84. Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he last met representatives of Britain's mining engineering companies to discuss assistance with their export performance.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : I believe that it is widely accepted that a next generation supersonic transport (SST) would involve a major international collaborative effort because of the very substantial investment which would be needed. It is for industry to decide whether a new SST could be a sound commercial, environmental and technological project--and to initiate the necessary research in collaboration with international partners.
My Department has limited funds available to promote collaborative civil aeronautical research projects, and consideration could be given to their use to help United Kingdom industry take advantage of opportunities in this area. Research into the environmental implications would be of particular importance.
Mr. Redwood : I have received a number of recent representations on industrial performance and the Government's policies towards industry. Investment is one of the main subjects covered in most of these representations.
The council reached a unanimous agreement on a new framework programme for 1990-94. The total level of funding agreed was 5.7 becu (£4.2 billion), comprising 2.5 becu (£1.8 billion) for 1990-92 and 3.2 becu (£2.3 billion) for 1993-94. The programme will cover CommunityR and D activities in the following six main areas : 1. Information and communications technologies
2. Industrial and materials technologies
4. Life sciences and technologies
6. Human capital and mobility
Specific proposals will now be put forward by the Commission under the 15 separate programme lines that were established by the Council.
Her Majesty's Government regard this as a very satisfactory outcome of the negotiation on the new framework programme, both as regards the overall level of resources and the technical contents, for which there are clear priorities and objectives. We have also ensured that the decision will not prejudice the review of the current inter-institutional agreement on budgetary discipline.
The Council agreed that it would be logical to conduct future R and D at the Community level on the basis of interlocking rolling programmes. These would have the advantage of allowing additional flexibility in the management of specific programmes in the light of full and effective evaluation carried out as part of a mid-term review.
In addition, the Council adopted a research and technical development programme, under the current 1987-91 framework programme, in the field of management and storage of radioactive waste covering the period 1990-94. This programme has a budget of 79.6 mecu (£58 million) : the objective being to develop systems for radioactive waste management which ensure the safety of the public and the protection of the environment.
Also under the 1987-91 framework programme, the Council agreed a common position on the human genome analysis programme.