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Mr. Needham : There are no major restrictions on trade with Indonesia. Some products require licences for export to Indonesia, and there are quota restrictions on imports of textiles and clothing into the EU. However, as a result of the successful completion of the GATT Uruguay round textile and clothing quotas will be phased out over a 10-year period under the ending of the multi-fibre arrangement. Indonesia's high tariffs will also be reduced.
22. Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what recent initiatives he has taken to improve the standard of advice given to British business men via Her Majesty's embassies overseas.
Mr. Needham : I am in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs about commercial work undertaken by FCO posts abroad. They are an integral part of our overseas trade services network. Recent initiatives, including the establishment of business links, the recruitment of export promoters and the preparation of market plans for our top 80 markets share the common objective of enhancing the standards of every part of the overseas trade services.
Mr. Needham : The Department of Trade and Industry has been in regular contact with the United Kingdom aerospace industry, both with individual companies and through the Society of British Aerospace Companies, about the continuing negotiations on a new GATT agreement on trade in civil aircraft.
25. Mr. Gunnell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many companies have utilised the small firms loan guarantee scheme in the year following the changes made to the scheme in the 1993 March Budget ; and what is the total sum guaranteed under that scheme during that period.
Mr. McLoughlin : A total of 3,886 loans at a value of £155.01 million have been guaranteed under the small firms loan guarantee scheme in the year to 31 March 1994. This compares to 2,342 loans at a value of £52.01 million in the previous year.
Mr. Needham : To assist British companies to compete in world markets my right hon. Friend has created business links giving local access to a wide range of business advice and support services. In addition, numerous export-related events are sponsored by my Department across the country. The current language campaign, with more than 70 local events and initiatives from this week onwards throughout the United Kingdom and a special BBC television programme, is one example.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : My Department has received some 120 representations from individuals, local authorities, trade associations and businesses on the Government's proposals to deregulate market franchise rights, of which 16 express support. Many of those who oppose the proposal do so under the misapprehension that it will abolish the right of local authorities to continue to hold markets and collect rents. Clauses 21 to 23 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill would remove rights of local authorities with market franchises to object to proposals to set up competing markets within six and two thirds of a mile of their own. Other opponents believe that removing market franchise rights will remove controls over other markets which may cause a local nuisance. Market franchise rights can only be used against rival markets held on the same day as the franchise market or where, if not held on the same day, it can be demonstrated that the owner of the franchise has suffered actual loss. A range of powers is available to local authorities to control any undesirable consequences arising from other markets.
Mr. Heseltine : My Department's sponsorship divisions maintain close contact with our shipbuilding industry. We provide the industry with assistance from the shipbuilding intervention fund and the home credit guarantee scheme. We provide the maximum level of support permitted by the seventh directive on aid to shipbuilding.
I am particularly pleased that the Government secured designation of the whole of Cornwall. Newly eligible areas include large parts of Devon, parts of Somerset, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire, and large parts of Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Northumberland and Cumbria. New areas in Shropshire and Hereford and Worcester now complement those retained in rural Wales and a new area in Clwyd.
33. Mr. Denham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the level of provisions required by insurance companies to meet the compensation arising from the mis-selling of personal pensions ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : The Department has written to life offices asking for an indication of their likely exposure to compensation in respect of mis-selling of personal pensions, and providing 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 offices and the Department, but 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. The Securities and Investments Board is seeking to determine the extent of mis- selling and the position will not be clear until that review is completed later in the year. It would be wrong to conclude, therefore, at this stage that evidence of procedural defects necessarily implies that the advice given by financial advisers was bad.
Mr. McLoughlin : My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has continued to receive representations from a variety of organisations and individuals proposing responses to the problem of late payment.
On 30 November 1993, the Department of Trade and Industry published a consultation paper, "Late Payment of Commercial Debt", to seek the views of the business community on possible options to address the problem of late payment, including legislation for a statutory right to interest and a British Standard for prompt payment.
Responses to the paper were required by 31 March 1994. More than 340 responses have been received and are now under consideration.
Mr. McLoughlin : The utility regulators have sufficient powers to protect consumers' interests over a range of issues including prices. The remuneration of company directors is a matter for the company concerned and its shareholders.
37. Mr. Llwyd : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many representations he has received on the subject of the privatisation of postal services in the last year ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Heseltine : Around 280 letters have been received on the subject in my Department since 1 April 1993 from hon. Members, interested parties and members of the public. A wide range of views have been expressed.
|Registrations |De-registrations -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- North West (Standard Region) |19,262 |22,791 Pendle |254 |284 Figures are not available for 1993.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce proposals for legislation under which shareholders and creditors would be able to bring class actions against the recognised supervisory bodies.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : All registered auditors must provide their supervisory body each year with information relating to the following matters so that the bodies may discharge their statutory duties as set out in part II of schedule 11 to the Companies Act 1989 : --the holding of an appropriate qualification ;
--being a fit and proper person(s) ;
--professional integrity and independence ;
--the technical standards applied to company audit work ; --the maintenance of competence ;
--the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the supervisory body's rules ;
--eligibility for membership of the supervisory body ;
--the ability to meet claims arising out of company audit work ; --the maintenance of the public register for company auditors by the supervisory body.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many (a) individual auditors and (b) auditing firms are registered with each of the authorised bodies under the provisions of the Companies Act 1989.
Supervisory body |Individuals |Firms ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales |19,473 |9,218 Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland |1,273 |742 Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland |829 |463 Chartered Association of Certified Accountants |3,959 |507 Association of Authorised Public Accountants |460 |425
Mr. Neil Hamilton : I refer the hon. Member to the annual reports of the recognised supervisory bodies for company auditors for the years ended 30 September 1992 and 1993 respectively, copies of which are in the Library of the House.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has received representations from the hon. Member. In addition, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to a question raised by the former hon. Member for Bradford, South, Bob Cryer, on 24 March, Official Report , column 424. While the Director General of Fair Trading is still considering the proposed acquisition, all representations about it should be made direct to him.
Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he will estimate the number of newsagents who are expected to go out of business following the current deregulation proposals ; (2) if he will estimate the number of school children who will lose their delivery jobs following the current deregulation proposals.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : Statutory consultation on the provisions of an order under the Fair Trading Act 1973, in relation to the wholesale supply of national newspapers to retailers in England and Wales, ended on 31 March.
The proposed order, which follows a Monopolies and Mergers Commission report, would prohibit wholesalers from refusing to supply retailers on the grounds that an area is already adequately served ; placing restrictions on the point of sale ; preventing retailers from selling newspapers on to other retailers. I am prepared to consider as an alternative to an order any industry-led solutions that could lead to a substantial increase in competition comparable to that which would be achieved by an order. Until I have had a chance to consider fully the representations I have received I cannot say what precise form the changes I intend to introduce will take. Therefore, I would not wish to speculate about the potential impact of reform.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what guidance is given to (a) members of the Export Credit Advisory Council and (b) the British Overseas Projects Board on declarations of interest ; what such declarations have been made ; and in what form such declarations are recorded.
Mr. Needham : When members of the Export Credits Advisory Council are appointed, they are required to provide a list of their business interests and directorships to the Export Credits Guarantee Department on a confidential basis. These lists are updated from time to time as necessary and maintained by ECGD. Members are also required to declare where they have an interest when advising ECGD on particular issues.
As a condition of service, Overseas Projects Board members are asked to declare their financial interests, including their directorships, to the Department of Trade and Industry and to keep the Department informed of any changes. This information is retained on file by the DTI's Overseas Projects Board secretariat and held in strict confidence.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many investigators and inspectors appointed under the Companies Acts have declared an interest in the matters of companies under investigation in the years since 1989.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : My Department would not appoint a particular inspector or investigator if there was a known conflict of interest. If a possible conflict arose during the course of an investigation, officials would discuss with the appointee the appropriate course of action. Instances of this occurring are very infrequent.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what interests relevant to terms covered in the report on the affairs of Astra plc were declared by the inspectors investigating the affairs of the company.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions he or his officials have had with Lord Justice Scott regarding the ways in which the papers and documents submitted to his inquiry could be retained as a collection and made available to public scrutiny.
(2) what advice is given to small and medium-sized ice cream makers seeking to sell their products to high street retailers and corner shops ; and if he will make a statement ;
(3) what is his response to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report on the Wall's freezer monopoly in the ice cream industry.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : The Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report on the supply in the United Kingdom of ice cream for immediate consumption was published on 29 March. The MMC has concluded that, although scale
Column 230and complex monopoly situations exist in the industry, the practice of freezer exclusivity does not operate against the public interest. The Government have announced that, since the MMC have made no adverse findings, there is no action which can be taken on the report. Ice cream makers and retailers operate in a competitive environment and can choose how best to meet the needs of their customers.
Mr. Gale : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to ensure that the Thanet travel-to-work area obtains the maximum possible European regional development funding and objective 2 funding for investment in infrastructure for central area initiative sites ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Heseltine : The Council regulations allow the member states three months from the date of the decision on eligibility, 20 January, to draw up and present to the Commission plans describing the uses to which it is intended to put the fund's grants. For this purpose the British objective 2 areas will comprise 13 plan areas. The plans are being prepared by Government Departments, with appropriate local consultation.
The Government have divided the indicative allocation, for the purposes of their plans, as follows :
Plan area |Million ecu |(1994 prices) ------------------------------------------------------------------- North East England |308 West Cumbria |25 Yorkshire and Humberside |313 East Midlands |79 West Midlands |371 Greater Manchester/Lancashire/Cheshire |329 Greater London |74 Thanet |14 Plymouth |29 South Wales |188 Eastern Scotland |121 Strathclyde |286 Gibraltar |5 |--- |2,142
The regulations allow a further six months to negotiate, on the basis of the plans presented, a Community support framework for each plan area. The frameworks will then govern the allocation and use of the fund's grants.
Only after the Community support frameworks have been negotiated and adopted can detailed decisions be taken on projects to receive grant.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what reports he has received from (a) the Confederation of British Industry and (b) other business representatives regarding changes in business conditions in each quarter since April 1992.
Mr. Sainsbury : My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade regularly receives reports from the Confederation of British Industry and other business representatives regarding business conditions.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what reports he has received from companies on changes in the United Kingdom's share of (a) the European export market and (b) the Pacific rim countries.
Mr. Needham : The Department receives many reports from companies concerning their export successes. Examples of companies doing well in the export market are included in the "Overseas Trade Magazine", which is available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what reports he has received from companies in (a) the west midlands and (b) Coventry regarding their exports to (i) Europe and (ii) the Pacific rim.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what measures his Department is taking to make companies aware of the implications of the Maastricht treaty ; and what representations he has received from companies regarding the implications for business of the Maastricht treaty.
Mr. Needham : We have had a number of requests for information on Maastricht from industry. Up to now, we have responded on an individual basis. In early May, we shall issue a new DTI booklet entitled "The Single Market--Making it Work for You", which will include material on aspects of the Maastricht treaty.