Mr. J. G. Davis, CBE-- Chairman
Mr. J. M. Fetherston, OBE JP-- Vice Chairman
Mr. R. Walker, OBE-- Chief Executive
Mr. R. Dale-- Deputy Chief Executive
Mr. F. R. Mingay, CMG DTI-- Ex-Officio
Mr. M. Brown, HM Customs-- Ex-Officio
Dr. C. J. Bell
Mr. N. R. Boakes
Mr. B. J. Kelleher
Mr. T. B. C. McGuffog
Mr. M. J. Booth
Mr. C. J. Clark
Sir Julian Ridsdale, CBE
Mr. B. S. Wheble, CBE Hon FCIB
Mr. M. Williams
Mr. I. Harvey
Mr. R. Kathoke
Dr. J. Morton
Sir R. Riley
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what studies his energy technology support unit has conducted or commissioned into the inhibitive effects of oxidative phosphorylation of electric field exposure from power transmission lines.
Mr. Eggar : The energy technology support unit has not conducted or commissioned any research into this subject but we are aware of the reported findings of research in the United States which may be related to it.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : A small number of representations continue to be received about the price of compact discs. This is an issue currently being considered by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in its inquiry into the supply of recorded music in the United Kingdom.
(a) There is no paper shredder in my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade's private office.
(b) Excluding "next steps" agencies, my Department has approximately 50 paper shredders distributed among the various management units.
Mr. McLoughlin : The British Standards Institution's policy committee for small businesses, chaired by Mr. Roger Dunn, has prepared a report on the application of BS5750, the standard for quality management systems, to small firms. The report is published by BSI today and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House. BS5750 is a voluntary standard developed by industry. Many United Kingdom businesses have found it advantageous as a management tool. The report recognises this potential benefit and the overall contribution of the standard to higher and consistent quality in the provision of goods and services. It concludes that the underlying principles are equally applicable to large and small businesses, but that small businesses face particular problems in the course of preparing for and obtaining certification.
The committee notes that a number of research projects in this field have yet to be completed but goes on to make a number of provisional recommendations to Government, BSI and others. I have discussed these issues with BSI and my officials have consulted other interested parties.
I accept the recommendation addressed to my Department concerning consultant registration. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has already announced to the House on 7 December Official Report, column 154, a new consultancy brokerage service which will include computer listings of consultants offering advice on quality improvement. This service will itself operate under a quality assured system which will at least maintain, and where possible build upon, the high standards established under the enterprise initiative consultancy scheme. In particular, we shall ensure that the methods used in selecting consultants who apply to be listed will continue to be rigorous. The new service will actively promote BS5750 certification among management
Column 3consultants in general and ensure that potential clients are made aware of those listed consultants who have themselves already achieved certification to that standard.
We have also agreed to take the lead in a number of other areas. We shall take action as soon as possible, within the managing in the 90s programme, to publish guidance on BS5750 for small firms and for purchasers. We shall facilitate, through business links, the development by training and enterprise councils, chambers of commerce and others of local self-help schemes for small companies. We shall continue to contribute to the cost of research into the difficulties of small firms in this field and will seek a suitable forum for continued oversight of these issues. We shall also ensure that the European Commission is alert to the problem.
The report recommends action by certification bodies and the National Accreditation Council for Certification Bodies and urges them to adapt their assessment procedures and to consider how fees and charges for small firms can be modified. My Department has consulted these bodies, who have welcomed the report and its recommendations. The NACCB-Association of British Certification Bodies small firms working party and individual certification bodies are actively preparing positive responses on these aspects.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : On 22 July 1993, Official Report, column 363, I announced a review to consider the scope for improving the way the Insolvency Service performs its functions and, in particular, to look at ways in which official receivers could concentrate more on their investigatory role by involving the private sector more in the mechanical processing work in insolvencies. The review was carried out by Stoy Hayward Consulting.
I have considered Stoy Hayward's report--a summary of which has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses--and have decided that its findings provide a sufficient basis for further, more detailed work to be done to assess the costs and benefits of and mechanisms for involving the private sector more in those mechanical, processing tasks undertaken by the official receiver in relation to bankruptcy and compulsory liquidation cases. The specification for this further work has been drawn up and a letter of invitation issued. If this work reveals likely value for money gains in pursuing any of the options identified, I will consider whether there should be live trials in one or more regions.
Mr. Denham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimates he has received from life insurance companies of their liability for compensation payments to people wrongly advised to transfer into private pensions.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : The Department has written to life offices to ask them to indicate their likely exposure to compensation in respect of mis-selling of personal pensions, and to provide guidance on how the Department expects them to reserve for any such exposure in future Companies Act accounts and DTI returns. Individual responses must remain confidential as between the life
Column 4offices and the Department. However, where a life office considers that it is likely to have a liability or a contingent liability, in respect of mis-selling of pension business, the Department expects this to be recognised in the published accounts.
Mr. Eggar [holding answer 3 February 1994] : I have no plans for this purpose. The guidelines provided by BS7671--the IEE wiring regulations--are well estab-lished and well known in the electrical contracting and associated industries.
BS7671 applies to the design, selection, erection, inspection and testing of electrical installations. It also makes requirements for safety with the objective of protecting persons, property and livestock against electrical shock, fires, burns and various mechanical hazards. Persons who wish to certify that an installation satisfies the requirements of this standard must be competent for the work. The standard sets out the requirements for competence. The safety aspects of this standard are supported by legislation, for example the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
Mr. Eggar [holding answer 3 February 1994] : I have not issued any guidelines for this purpose. The guidelines provided by BS7671-- the IEE wiring regulations--are well established and well known in the electrical contracting and associated industries.
BS7671 applies to the design, selection, erection, inspection and testing of electrical installations. It also makes requirements for safety with the objective of protecting persons, property and livestock against electrical shock, fires burns and various mechanical hazards. Persons who wish to certify that an installation satisfies the requirements of this standard must be competent for the work. The standard sets out the requirements for competence. The safety aspects of this standard are supported by legislation, for example the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement clarifying the Government's strategy for industry ; and what assessment he has made of the implications for that strategy of the sale of Rover Group to the German Company BMW.
Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 4 February 1994] : The Government's strategy is to help British industry win. The sale to BMW by British Aerospace of its stake in Rover is consistent with that strategy as Rover, while remaining a separate entity with its own manufacturing design and development facilities in the United Kingdom, will also gain increased export opportunities and better access to much-needed funds for further capital reinvestment. BAe will be able to pursue plans for the turbo-prop and regional jet businesses in Prestwick and Manchester.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what information he has concerning the percentage change in sales in each of the last three years for which figures are available for (a) Rover Group and (b) BMW (i) in the United Kingdom, (ii) in Europe and (iii) in Germany.
Rover Group Percentage change in sales |United Kingdom|Germany |EC --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1990 |- |+16.3 |- 1991 |-18.5 |+59.0 |-9.3 1992 |-6.0 |+26.0 |-4.0 1993 |+10.5 |- |+8.9
BMW Percentage change in sales |United Kingdom|Germany |EC --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1990 |- |-0.03 |-2.3 1991 |-10.0 |+16.70 |+12.4 1992 |+5.0 |+9.90 |+10.7 1993 |+0.6 |- |-
Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 4 February 1994] : The long- held welcome which this Government and country have given to investment from Japan is as strong as ever. The advantages we offer have led to our securing 40 per cent. of all Japanese investment in the European Community : these remain in place. I am sure that Japanese industry will continue to recognise these benefits and the strength of our relationship and will make its investment decisions accordingly.
Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 4 February 1994] : The Government generally welcome foreign investment in United Kingdom companies. Only in exceptional cases would I consider using the powers I possess.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make it his policy to seek in future to encourage overseas business to invest in existing British companies without seeking to change their ownership.
Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total value of loans awarded by the European investment bank for investments in the European Community in each year since its establishment ; and what proportion of the loans were for the financing of projects in (i) the northern region and (ii) the United Kingdom as a whole.
Mr. Nelson : A detailed breakdown of the bank's lending is published in its annual report and accounts, copies of which are available in the Library. The figures sought for 1991 and 1992 can be found in the reports for these years. However, it is not possible to obtain the information requested for previous years, since the bank did not then prepare or publish a full breakdown of lending by region.
Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total value of European Community loans made at competitive rates to small and medium-sized enterprises in each year since its establishment ; and what proportion of these loans were granted to businesses in (a) the northern region and (b) the United Kingdom as a whole.
Mr. Nelson : Within the institutions of the European Community, there are two sources of loans for small and medium sized enterprises, the European investment bank and the European Coal and Steel Community. For the EIB, the information sought can be obtained from its annual report and accounts, copies of which are available in the Library. The ECSC, however, does not compile or publish statistics showing what proportion of its lending is directed to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the cost to public funds of his trip to Indonesia during the Christmas recess ; and how many hours of official business he conducted while he was there.
Mr. Nelson : The cost of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's visit to the far east during the Christmas recess, with accompanying Treasury officials, was about £31,500. The Indonesian part of the trip involved four and a half days. During this time, my right hon. and learned
Column 7Friend met the President of Indonesia, a number of senior Indonesian Ministers with responsibility for the economy, the Governor of the Bank of Indonesia and a range of Indonesian and expatriate business people. He also visited a British-funded railway project, together with BP's new polyethylene plant in western Java.
Mr. Heppell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which organisations were consulted by his Department on each of the recommendations of the business deregulation task forces before they were agreed and action proposed in the DTI document "Deregulation : Cutting the Red Tape".
Mr. Bayley : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of VAT repayments by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise were made within 30 days of receiving a claim in the last year for which figures are available.
Mr. McMaster : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the subjects on which his Department formerly answered parliamentary questions but which are now referred by him to an executive agency.
Mr. Nelson : The chief executives of the Central Statistical Office, the Office of Her Majesty's Paymaster General, the Valuation Office agency and the Royal Mint have delegated authority to reply to parliamentary questions on day-to-day operational matters within their responsibilities. Since the procedures for publishing chief executives' replies in the Official Report were introduced in October 1992, only three questions have been tabled concerning the operational responsibilities of the executive agencies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr. Dafis : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the fiscal return to the Exchequer during 1994-95 of implementation of the carbon dioxide energy tax as proposed by the European White Paper on employment.
competitiveness and employment" refers to the CO /energy tax proposed by the Commission in June 1992 but does not itself propose such a tax. The revenue which would be raised by implementing a tax as proposed in 1992 would depend on a number of factors, in particular : whether it took the place of other energy taxes, such as fuel duties ; and decisions on the nature and size of any of the proposed exemptions to the tax.
Sir John Cope : The latest available figures show that 90 per cent. of all written inquiries and 65 per cent. of all customer complaints to Her Majesty's Customs were replied to within 10 working days.
Mr. Miller : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he will take to protect the clinical work that relates to the research into inherited defects of connective tissue currently carried out by the dermatology research group at the clinical research centre at Harrow.
Mr. David Davis : The dermatology research group at the clinical research centre will be transferring to the department of pathology at the university of Cambridge in the course of the year. The Medical Research Council has funded the research group for a further five years and has funded new accommodation on the Addenbrooke's hospital site. The team will therefore be able to continue its clinical research programme into inherited defects of connective tissue. In addition, links are being formed with the East Anglia regional genetics centre.
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will list the individuals and firms who have ceased to advise the Church Commissioners on commercial property investments in the last three years.
Mr. Alison : No firms other than those listed in my answer on 24 January, Official Report, column 1, have advised the commissioners on commercial property investments in the last three years, although there have naturally been changes of personnel within these firms and in their terms of reference. The group advising the commissioners' assets committee on property matters is a new group and was established in response to one of the Lambeth report's recommendations.
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will list the current Church Commissioners' board of governors and the date of their appointment.