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Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade in which EU countries (a) the national law or (b) shareholder restrictions prohibit the takeover or buyout of major manufacturing companies by foreign firms ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : The treaty of Rome prohibits any member state from discriminating against bidders from other EU countries, except in very limited circumstances, for example where there are national security considerations.
Other restrictions, in the form, for example, of differential voting rights and cross-shareholdings, are a common feature of continental corporate structures, although they tend to operate against all hostile takeover approaches, not just those from foreign companies.
Mr. Needham : We shall continue to maintain our successful open and liberal policies towards both inward and outward investment and will not seek to impose arbitrary restrictions which only serve to distort the market.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he will use his powers under the Electricity Act 1989 to amend the Electricity Supply Regulations 1988 in order to effect the standardisation of electricity supplies.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : The information in the form requested is not readily available. However, the Central Statistical Office, CSO, bulletin on "Acquisitions and Mergers within the UK", available in the Library of the House, provides some details on, inter alia, expenditure of acquisitions and mergers within the United Kingdom. A summary of table 4 of the latest bulletin, dated 16 November 1993, is as follows :
Size distribution of acquisitions and mergers within the United Kingdom Total acquisitions and mergers Year |Expenditure over |Expenditure over |to £100 million |number acquired |number acquired ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1986 |21 |119 1987 |30 |192 1988 |44 |172 1989 |40 |181 1990 |18 |89 1991 |17 |63 1992 |7 |64 1993 Q1 |4 |15 Q2 |1 |25 Q3 |2 |22 Source: Table 4, CSO bulletin, "Acquisitions and Mergers within the UK".
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 28 January, Official Report, column 406, what is the perceived barrier to trade which will be removed by the standardisation of electricity supplies.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of (a) the competitive advantage which will accrue to countries within the European Community whose electricity equipment already uses the nominal voltage of 230/400 volts by the standardisation of electrical supplies, and (b) the competitive disadvantage which will occur to those manufacturers which do not.
Mr. Eggar : A number of EC countries now use 230/400 volts as the nominal voltage and the rest are changing or are in the process of doing so by 1995. Consultations with manufacturers in this country and their
Column 230representative trade associations have clearly indicated that considerable advantages will be realised through rationalised product ranges and thus reduced production costs together with uniform safety standards and harmonised certifying procedures throughout the European Community as a whole. Manufacturers outside the EC who do not adopt similar standards will be at a disadvantage when trading within the EC.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessments he has made as to the costs of the standardisation of electrical supplies to manufacturers of electrical equipment ; and what consultations he held with the manufacturers before he accepted the new standards.
Mr. Eggar : The assessment of costs to manufacturers of electrical equipment of the proposed standardisation of supply voltage was made through a formal exercise. Consultations were carried out during 1992 with electrical equipment manufacturers in this country and through the major trade associations. Cost reductions of up to 5 per cent. were predicted in the event of the new standard being adopted.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 28 January, Official Report, column 408, what proportion of the organisations representing (a) the United Kingdom electricity companies, (b) equipment manufacturers and (c) consumers consulted were opposed to changes in the reduction of voltage supplies.
(a) Electricity supply companies--none
(b) Equipment manufacturers--less than 10 per cent.
(c) Consumer organisations--no firm views.
Mr. Wiggin : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will specify the amounts received by the National Weights and Measures Laboratory from outside work during the financial year 1992-93 and the first six months of the current period, broken down by industrial sector.
|1992-93|<1>1993 |£ |£ ------------------------------------------------------------------ Income from local authorities |93,887 |10,501 Income from manufacturers of weighing and measuring equipment |394,901|257,015 Total income |488,788|267,516 <1> 1 April 1993 to 30 September 1993
Most income from local authorities comes in the second half of the financial year.
Mr. Eggar : I have informed British Coal that the Government are prepared to provide funding for the current redundancy terms for industrial workers where redundancies are proposed before 30 April 1994, and for so long as the consultations with the unions on any such proposal continue.
Dr. Wright : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, which appointments since 1979 to public bodies or posts for which he is responsible have included candidates nominated by the Chief Whip's Office ; if any nominees by this source have been appointed ; and if he will give details.
Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 7 February 1994] : The consultants' work on this review, which I announced on 30 June 1993, has been completed. I am now considering both the findings in their report and the various points which have been raised by interested parties during the course of the review. I hope to announce our conclusions in the light of the review in the fairly near future.
Mr. Rifkind : The United Kingdom continues to play a major role in providing personnel and equipment as part of UNPROFOR in Bosnia. The Army battalion group--currently 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards and its support units--is deployed on humanitarian aid and refugee escort duties. In spite of considerable difficulties from fighting and obstruction on the ground, it is carrying out a very successful operation, with great skill and courage, which has helped to save many thousands of lives, and of which we can all be justly proud.
Mr. Hanley : Fighting continues among the different factions in Bosnia, although the winter weather has occasioned some decrease in hostilities. British forces continue to face considerable risks in carrying out their important humanitarian tasks, which they are discharging with courage and distinction. We keep the situation on the ground under regular review.
Mr. Hanley : The United Kingdom's military presence in Cyprus comprises about 4,500 service and civilian personnel in two sovereign base areas and a separate contribution of over 400 troops to the United Nations Force in Cyprus--UNFICYP. We have no plans to withdraw from either commitment in the foreseeable future, although we keep all our commitments under review.
13. Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has provided to defence industrialists about his plans to help the defence industries adapt to reduce defence expenditure levels.
Mr. Aitken : The Brazilian Government have recently announced their decision to place a £150 million order with Westland for nine Super Lynx helicopters and extensive Lynx upgrade work. This is an important success for the United Kingdom in a market where we have a long tradition of supplying defence equipment.
17. Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much of his development and procurement budget will be directed to using the results of the technology foresight exercise when they become available.
Mr. Hanley : We believe that all former Soviet sub-strategic nuclear weapons have been withdrawn to Russia. Between 11,000 and 12, 000 may currently remain, but many of these are unlikely to be fully operational.
Mr. Aitken : Since 1988, when our efficiency programme began, improvements have been made which are now worth some £1.8 billion a year. The "Front Line First" study is currently looking for ways to make substantial further efficiency savings and reductions in support and administrative costs.
Mr. Hanley : My Department plans to withdraw from the Queen Elizabeth military hospital, Woolwich by March 1998 and discussions are well under way as to procedures and price for the sale of the hospital to the Greenwich Healthcare trust.
Mr. Aitken : It is not Government policy to release details of the value of defence contracts placed by specific countries. However, in 1993 the Government of Kuwait placed a significant order for Warrior armoured fighting vehicles manufactured by GKN Defence.
22. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current number of troops deployed in Germany ; at what cost ; what were the comparable figures for five and 15 years ago in real terms ; and if he will make a statement.
The strength of the Army in Germany on 1 April 1988 was 55,700 and on 1 April 1979 was 55,000. We are unable to provide comparable costs for these years as they were compiled on a different basis.
Mr. Aitken : My Department is playing a full part in the deregulation initiative. As a non-regulatory Department the Ministry of Defence has focused its efforts on relieving unnecessary administrative burdens on its suppliers ; streamlining contract procedures, and improving communications with industry.
Mr. Aitken : The United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding on defence procurement with Kuwait on 2 December 1992. In August 1993 an order for Warrior armoured fighting vehicles from GKN Defence was secured and we look forward to further orders for United Kingdom manufactured defence equipment in due course.
Mr. Hanley : For security reasons it is not our practice to disclose the complement of any regiment in the British Army. However, as at 31 December 1993 the strength of the part-time element of the Royal Irish Regiment--Home Service--was 110 officers and 2,400 soldiers. A recruitment campaign for the part-time element of the regiment is currently under way.
Mr. Aitken : The C 130J is one of several options being considered as part of a programme to refurbish or replace up to half the RAF fleet of Hercules aircraft. We hope to be in a position to decide on the way ahead later this year.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will seek to obtain from his United States counterpart a copy of the report "Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium", prepared for the United States Department of Defence by the committee on international security and arms council of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mrs. Currie : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he has made since his statement of 17 June 1992, Official Report, column 990, in deciding whether he will introduce legislation this year to decriminalise homosexuality in the armed forces.
Mr. Jim Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the development of future relations between the Visegrad countries and the WEU following the adoption by NATO of the partnership for peace policy.
Mr. Hanley : Discussions have taken place between the Western European Union Permanent Council and representatives from central and eastern Europe, including the Visegrad countries, following the agreement reached at the 22 November WEU ministerial meeting on the possibility of an enhanced relationship with WEU for these countries. Any such relationship would be complementary and compatible with the links developed through NATO's "Partnership for Peace".
Column 236maintain appropriate forces there. The objective of these forces is to deter possible aggression against the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands and, if necessary, permit reinforcement through Mount Pleasant airfield.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 26 November, Official Report, column 239, on the accident involving a civil helicopter and an RAF Tornado, when he now expects to be able to publish the military aircraft accident summary ; and if he will make a statement.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 3 February, Official Report , column 901 , what were the terms of the gift of the Russian T80U tank and by whom it was donated ; and if the evaluation took place with a view to possible procurement for use in the British Army.
Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his estimate of the savings to the defence budget of (a) a total withdrawal of the Royal Air Force and (b) a withdrawal of Tornado squadrons from Germany.
Mr. Hanley : There are no current plans for a total withdrawal of the Royal Air Force from Germany or for the withdrawal of the Germany-based Tornado squadrons. It would not, in any case, be the practice to publish assessments of the costs or savings which might arise from speculative changes in the Defence forward programme.
Mr. Hanley : The RAF in Germany makes an important contribution to the collective defence of the North Atlantic Alliance. By contributing highly capable air forces to each category of NATO's new multinational force structure, the United Kingdom collaborates with other allies to assure the security of Allied Command Europe, providing forces for the full range of the alliance's missions.
Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with the German Defence Minister on a total or partial withdrawal of the Royal Air Force from Germany.