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Column 249Mr. Redwood : I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 9 January at columns 517-18. My Department has primary responsibility for returning seven companies to the private sector.
Mr. Forth : The issue is being considered in the context of the private Member's Bill on consumer guarantees being put forward by the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones). The Government are considering their position on the Bill and will make a statement in due course. The Government's concerns about the implications of the Bill are already on record.
50. Mr. Hood : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which issues he will raise in relation to the international trade in textiles when he next meets his European Economic Community counterparts.
Mr. Redwood : The main issues for discussion with European Community colleagues will be the further development of the Community's position in the GATT Uruguay round negotiations on the return of trade in textiles and clothing to strengthened GATT rules. Discussion will be likely to focus on the method of phasing out the MFA after the current arrangements expire next year and the parallel strengthening of GATT rules and disciplines. These issues were fully debated in the House on 12 January 1990.
51. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from the hosiery and knitwear industry in Leicestershire concerning the United Kingdom's trading position in this sector.
Column 250They have also been the subject of correspondence and meetings between industry representations and my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Trade.
Mr. Redwood : My right hon. Friend and I meet the chairman of the Securities and Investments Board to discuss a range of topics concerning the regulation of financial services as frequently as is necessary. No date has been fixed for the next such meeting.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The Government attach considerable importance to British firms competing effectively for structural funds-related business. To that end, my Department has organised two major conferences. These have been supplemented by a number of regional events. The Department also offers an information service to United Kingdom business men interested in pursuing opportunities. The more recent conference on 23 November 1989 was timed to coincide with the publication of the approved spending plans for the less developed regions of the Community. I addressed the conference and referred to the need for industry, Government and our diplomatic staff overseas to work together in order to identify the opportunities available. It is the efforts and enterprise of those in the private sector which will then determine how much of this new business is won by Britain.
59. Mr. O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he intends to introduce any further measures to offer greater consumer protection to people who contract for package holidays and travel arrangements ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Forth : The Government have no imminent plans to introduce further measures in this area. However the common position reached by EC Ministers at the 21-22 December Council on the draft package travel directive portends that consideration will need to be given in due course to its implementation in the United Kingdom. The Asociation of British Travel Agents has already announced that its new codes of practice will take effect during this year.
Mr. Forth : We intend to improve the protection given to consumers in a number of ways including the introduction of an order under the Prices Act 1974, as amended, on price indications and unit pricing, and changes to other legislation affecting consumers' interests.
It is only a year since my Department announced a significant package of improvements to our export promotion effort to ensure that it meets United Kingdom exporters' needs more effectively. Response to the package has been encouraging and we continue to monitor the performance and relevance of our services to United Kingdom exporters' demands closely.
68. Mr. Sumberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has any plans to meet representatives of the Manchester chamber of commerce and industry to discuss the chamber's recent survey of industrial activity in the north-west.
Mr. Redwood : No. On 7 November 1989, a bankruptcy order was made in the Cheltenham county court against Mr. Christopher John How, financial consultant, of the Coach House, Winchcombe road, Sedgeberrow, near Evesham. His affairs are under investigation by the Official Receiver pursuant to section 289 of the Insolvency Act 1986.
Column 253Mr. Ridley : I am reviewing various aspects of the work of my Department but have no changes to announce at present.
87. Mr. Franks : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to reach a decision on the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the proposed acquisition of Kingfisher plc of Dixons Group plc.
Mr. Redwood : The Monopolies and Mergers Commission is due to submit its report on the proposed acquisition to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State by 27 April this year. The report will be published as soon as is practicable after that. It would be inappropriate to speculate about its possible findings.
representations specifically about the proposed acquisition of Dixons Group plc by Kingfisher plc which is currently under investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
108. Mr. Hind : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate his Department has made of the effects of a no- dividend policy upon British industry ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ridley : My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry visited Sunderland on 5 October 1989, when he met Tyne and Wear development corporation, Sunderland borough council, the Wearside Opportunity and the Sunderland shipyards campaign committee. My right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster visited Sunderland on three occasions in 1989. On these occasions discussion centred upon NESL and the package of remedial measures, following its closure. My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry was in Newcastle on 25 January and met representatives of Sunderland borough council to discuss these issues.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : An evaluation of regional selective assistance (RSA) by DTI and the Scottish and Welsh Offices was completed last year. Its main conclusions were that offers of RSA made in the evaluation period (1980-84) had assisted the creation or safeguarding of over 1.1 million net job years (or 56,000 permanent jobs) in assisted areas in Great Britain at a cost of some £580 per job year (or £11,600 per job), after taking account of jobs which were not additional and of displacement effects. The report on the evaluation is due to be published by HMSO in the near future.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : British Shipbuilders remains in discussion with the two parties interested in purchasing the assets of North East Shipbuilders Ltd. We are seeking to progress outstanding issues as quickly as possible. I hope these will be resolved soon.
Column 255companies had 0.22 per cent. of employment in manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom. The figures for gross output and net output respectively were 0.45 per cent. and 0.21 per cent.
The Monopolies and Mergers Commission has concluded that petrol wholesaling is a competitive industry at present. It has found that neither the structure, the practices nor the profits in the industry operate against the public interest. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission has accordingly made no recommendations for change. The supply of petrol is a key part of the nation's economy and a matter of considerable interest to individual consumers. Petrol alone accounts for 3 per cent. of consumer expenditure. Any defects in competition could have serious consequences for the public interest. It is right that issues that have caused public concern should have been subjected to close and careful scrutiny and I am grateful for the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's expert work in carrying out this investigation.
The main findings of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission are that :
the price of petrol is primarily governed by movements in the underlying price of crude oil and the international market price for petrol, and particularly by their prices on the Rotterdam market ; United Kingdom pump prices are not out of line with those in European countries or movements in consumer prices ;
price rises are not implemented more quickly than price falls ; there is no evidence of collusion between the companies ; petrol exchanges between wholesalers reduce costs to consumers and are pro-competitive ;
petrol company profits on wholesaling have been no more than moderate in recent years and on their downstream operations as a whole they have been low ;
there are no significant barriers to entry to the wholesale market ;
the hypermarkets and independent chains provide strong and growing competition in the retail market, and
most consumers can choose from a range of prices and standards of service.
The Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that a complex monopoly exists in favour of 69 oil companies that supply over 95 per cent. of the market. However, it concludes that the facts found do not operate against the public interest, that no steps are being taken by the monopolists to exploit the situation, and that the market is a competitive one. Since there are no adverse findings in the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report, the question of remedies does not arise.
I have received the Director General of Fair Trading's advice on the report. He endorses the overall conclusions the Monopolies and Mergers Commission has reached on the public interest. The director general agrees with the Monopolies and Mergers Commission that future changes could increase the scope for anti-competitive behaviour in the industry. Accordingly he believes that his office should, in three years' time subject to any developments in the meantime, carry out a review of company ownership in the
Column 256industry and an assessment of developments in competition. In the meantime, he will keep under review any major changes which affect conditions of competition in the industry, though without seeking all the further more detailed information suggested by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. I agree that the director general should proceed in this way and I shall keep the House informed of any developments. I accept the analysis in the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report and am grateful to the commission for having produced a substantial document reflecting the outcome of a wide-ranging and intensive investigation.
Mr. Gerald Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the European Commission is conducting, or proposes to conduct, an investigation into the proposed Toyota factory in Derbyshire.
Mr. Douglas Hogg [holding answer 12 February 1990] : When the Toyota project was announced in April 1989, the Government informed the European Commission that the company had decided to locate in the United Kingdom without seeking any financial assistance from the Government ; that discussions were in progress between the company and the local authorities in Derbyshire about a possible modest package of local measures ; and that, once the elements of the package had been defined, the Government would consider whether any of them required notification to the Commission under the terms of the Community's rules on state aids to the vehicle sector. My Department has recently told the Commission that in our view the package envisaged included nothing which could be regarded as an aid to Toyota. We have made clear our readiness to meet Commission officials to explain the content of the package and the reasons for our conclusion.
Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many complaints concerning abuse on the amateur bands have been received by his Department from the Radio Society of Great Britain ;
(2) how many complaints of abuse on GB 35L, GB 3BM and GB 3NA have been received by his Department ;
(3) what response he has made to the Radio Society of Great Britain with regard to its criticism of amateur radio repeaters in the categories GB 35L, GB 3BM and GB 3NA which are licensed by his Department.