Column 518South African Government, with whom it hopes to negotiate an interim bilateral agreement in the next few weeks, based on the conclusions of the April FAC.
The Council discussed a Dutch-Danish proposal on revised procedures for the handling of requests for documents. The United Kingdom supported attempts to meet Dutch and Danish concerns and voted in favour, but the proposal was voted down.
The Commission presented a strategy paper on strengthening EU-Asia relations. The presidency asked COREPER and the Political Committee to examine ways of enhancing the relationship, and to report back to the Council.
The Council reached agreement on the legal base for the conclusion of the EC-India and EC-Sri Lanka co-operation agreements by qualified majority vote. Portugal and Greece opposed.
The Council agreed by qualified majority vote--with Spain, Portugal and Greece voting against--to an increase of just under 30 per cent in the quota for imports from China of stuffed toys, customs classification 9503 41, for the period March to December 1994. Proposals for similar increases in the quotas for non-stuffed toys representing animals or non-human creatures, 9503 49, and certain miscellaneous toys, 9503 90, were not agreed--Spain, Portugal, Greece and France voting against. The latter two proposals are to be considered further by COREPER.
The Commission reported on the progress of work on proposals to establish a common regime for the use of OPT--outward processing in the textile sector. It was agreed that, due to delays in agreeing the overall regime, the Commission would prepare a separate proposal to establish duty exemption for OPT conducted with the countries of central and eastern Europe.
The Council took note of a number of measures which will be introduced with the aim of improving the effectiveness of procedures in the common foreign and security policy intergovernmental pillar. Free trade agreements were signed with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Council agreed the conditions for the release of a35 mecu balance of payments grant for Albania.
The Council agreed in principle to provide food aid to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The Commission reported to the Council on the outcome of the OECD negotiations for an international shipbuilding agreement, which ended on 17 July. France indicated its opposition to the conclusion of the agreement in its present form and requested the Commission to continue negotiations. The Council will return to this issue at its meeting on 4 October.
Mr. Bates : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance is available to officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to assist them in considering export licence applications ; and whether this guidance is available to the public.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Departments in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office involved in considering export licence applications are given a guide on relevant procedures and criteria, which is regularly updated.
A copy of the latest issue will be placed in the Library in due course. Copies will also be available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Mr. Meacher : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what action he proposes to take regarding the Dell invoice, a copy of which his Department has recently received ; and if he will make a statement on the implications in the document for United Kingdom sovereignty.
Mr. Needham : We do not have sufficient information about the specific case raised to answer the question in full ; however, Her Majesty's Government reject claims by foreign Governments to exorbitant extraterritorial control over the re-export of foreign-origin goods and technology. We recognise, however, that we cannot prevent foreign Governments from making such claims or seeking to enforce them in their own territories.
Her Majesty's Government's judgment has therefore been that United Kingdom companies and individuals should generally be allowed to make a commercial decision on whether or not to comply with such requirements.
Any goods or technology exported from the United Kingdom which are controlled under the Export of Goods (Control) Order, as amended, must comply with the licensing requirements set out in that order. This requirement is not altered by the fact that the exporter of the goods has also elected to comply with a foreign nation's export regulations.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the achievements of (a) his policies and (b) his Department in helping small businesses over the last 12 months as against the previous 12 months ; if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results of such monitoring ; and if he will set out his targets to help small businesses in the next year.
Mr. Heseltine : The Government recognise the crucial role played by small firms in the United Kingdom economy. Government help small firms by keeping inflation and interest rates low and by reducing legislation and adminstrative burdens. They also provide direct assistance where appropriate and are currently establishing a network of business links to provide high-quality, business support across the country. The Department regularly reviews and monitors its policies in relation to small firms. Ministers and officials are in constant contact with small firms' representative organisations, professional bodies and other Government Departments, to ensure that policies reflect the need of the small business sector.
The report "Small Firms in Britain 1994" was published by this Department on 7 July. This report surveys developments in the sector, including key statistical indicators and sets out details of Government policy in relation to small firms. Although aimed at all sectors, the measures announced in the recently published White Paper on competitiveness have clear implications for small firms. The initiatives announced will encourage the growth of the small firms sector through well targeted tax relief, further deregulation, help with finance, help with
Column 520information and advice, help with consultancy and management best practice, and help with business and skills training.
Specific measures operated by my Department to assist small businesses include :
Business Link . The development of a network of Business Link outlets is a key element in the strategy to assist small firms. Each Business Link will provide advice, counselling, diagnostic work and information through Personal Business Advisers. They will provide a single point of access to a wide range of high quality business services. There are 34 Business Link outlets open and a total of 110 Business Link proposals have been approved through the quarterly Assessment Panel. By the end of 1994, there will be at least 50 Business Links operating. By the end of 1995 it is envisaged that every company within England will have access to a Business Link outlet.
Local Business Support Services . DTI funds Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) to encourage the growth and
competitiveness of local businesses through high quality, accessible and coherent services.
TECs contracts with local partners, especially Chambers of Commerce, Local Enterprise Agencies and Local Authorities, to meet local needs by delivering information and advice services ; business counselling for new and existing businesses, business diagnostic services and business skills training--including skills seminars, masterclass, action learning groups and open learning programmes, particularly for managers and owner managers of small firms. Late Payment . The Consultation Paper, "Late Payment of Commercial Debt", was issued on 1 November 1993 to seek the views of the business community on possible options to address late payment. The outcome of the consultation was announced in the White Paper on Competitiveness. A range of practical measures is to be introduced to improve court procedures, ensure government departments and their agencies pay promptly, improve the visibility of the payment policies of public companies, improve credit management and debt collection skills and develop proposals for a British Standard for prompt payment.
There are continuing indications that payment times in the United Kingdom are reducing and are below the European average. The new measures will build upon this improvement.
Loan Guarantee Scheme . The Loan Guarantee Scheme facilitates access to finance for small firms.
The enhancements announced in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Spring Budget Statement were implemented on 1 July 1993. These changes have led to a sharp increase in Scheme usage and the highest levels of lending since 1984. In the 12 months to June 1993, 4,752 loans were guaranteed to a value of £200.613 million.
We are introducing a pilot scheme in September to offer support and counselling to small firms using the Loan Guarantee Scheme. This will help small firms identify their strengths and weaknesses, and offer advice. The service will be delivered through Training and Enterprise Councils, Business Links and Enterprise Agencies and will cover approximately 10-15 per cent. of Scheme applications. The pilot will run for three years.
Innovation . This Department continues to be active in assisting small firms to improve their access to technology and to exploit new ideas. Initiatives include :
Small Firms Merit Award for Research and Technology (SMART) . Last year 180 new projects were supported with grants and I expect the same number to be successful in this year's competition.
Support for Products Under Research (SPUR) . In the 12 months to March 1994 grants totalling almost £12 million were awarded to 139 projects. There will be a similar level of support this year. EUREKA . Last year the United Kingdom participated in 49 announced EUREKA projects, involving 76 organisations, including 28 small to medium sized enterprises. This year the United Kingdom participated in 36 announced projects, involving 62 organisations, 23 of which were smaller companies.
Teaching Company Scheme (TCS) . This facilitates techno-logy transfer and provides industry-based training for high quality graduates through partnerships between academia and business. A target of TCS programmes supported by DTI is that 80 per cent. should involve small and medium-sized enterprises.
Column 521Senior Academics in Industry Scheme (SAIS) enables senior and experienced academic staff to work in companies for up to six months on strategic transfer projects. Preference is given to smaller firms and costs are shared by the companies and DTI.
Shell Technology Enterprise Programme (STEP) . This is a national placement scheme for undergraduates. STEP aims to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to consider employing graduates and to provide undergraduates with experience in industry. DTI support of STEP since 1992 has enabled expansion of the scheme so that there is now a target of 1,000 placements in the summer of 1994.
Export Promotion . This Department together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide, through the Overseas Trade Services, advice, information, and financial support to help UK exporters win overseas business. This work is particularly aimed at smaller and less experienced exporters. An independent monthly survey of the delivery of the services shows a consistently high level of customer satisfaction and some 90 per cent. of respondents regularly say that they will use the services again. Details of the services and their take up are set out in the "British Overseas Trade Board's Annual Report 1993-94 and Forward Plan", as are details of the Overseas Trade Services priorities and main activities for the year to come. A copy is in the Library of the House.
Enterprise Initiative Consultancy Scheme . In the year ending March 1994, 17,995 applications for the Scheme were received and 10, 423 were completed. This brought the total number of applications to 135,700 with 65,300 completions.
The Consultancy Scheme did not end as scheduled in March 1994 ; the President of the Board of Trade announced on9 December 1993 that the scheme will stay open until a further 10,000 applications have been received. Beyond that, a new package of support will be introduced, including a Diagnostic and Consultancy Service which will be available exclusively through Business Links from the summer ; a new Consultancy Brokerage Service which is currently undergoing trials with Business Links and TECs will be launched nationally by the end of the year, and technology-related advice in a number of forms, including innovation and technology counsellors who are being funded on a pilot basis in the first Business Links.
Deregulation . Under the Deregulation Initiative over 870 regulations have now been identified for repeal or amendment. Many of these reforms will be of particular benefit to small firms. Following the recommendation of the original business task forces that, when formulating new regulations the interests of small firms should be the first consideration, a small firms litmus test was introduced on 19 January 1994, as part of the compliance cost assessment for the new regulatory proposals.
The new Deregulation Task force, chaired by Francis Maude, which was announced on 6 July will be looking particularly at the burden of regulation on small firms.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the outstanding exposure of Export Credits Guarantee Department cover on exports to Iraq in August 1990 ; and what claims were paid or offsetting revenue achieved, by the end of March in 1991 and by the same date in each succeeding year.
Year |Unrecovered |Estimate of |claims |claims to be |Total exposure |£ million |£ million |£ million --------------------------------------------------------------------------- March 1991 |205 |543 |748 March 1992 |392 |296 |688 March 1993 |492 |160 |652 March 1994 |555 |97 |652
The figures as at March 1994 remain provisional pending publication of ECGD's trading accounts for the 1993-94 financial year. Comparative data are not available for the position at August 1990 but exposure then was estimated at £1.1 billion, including £103 million of unrecovered claims.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what information has been received by his Department from British Nuclear Fuels plc in regard to its plans to import radioactively contaminated nitric acid from the United States Department of Energy nuclear complex at Hanford, Washington state ; and what licensing arrangements cover the import of contaminated acids for recycling at Sellafield.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what capacity exists in United Kingdom industry to manufacture nitric acid; and whether the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations apply to all nitric acid manufacturing plant.
Mr. Heseltine : A figure for production capacity for nitric acid is not available but the chemical is made by a number of companies in the United Kingdom. Responsibility for administering the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1984 rests with the Health and Safety Executive. I understand that some, but no all, sites manufacturing nitric acid are subject to the requirements of CIMAH.
N. M. Rothschild
John T. Boyd
R. P. S. Consultants
Brodies W. S.
Mason Land Survey Ltd.
The total expenditure on coal privatisation consultants in 1993-94 was approximately £10.2 million, including VAT. Payments to individual consultants are commercial, in confidence.
Ms Walley : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions he has had with the Department of the Environment in respect of planning and environmental considerations relating to opencast coal mining sites to be offered for sale.
Mr. Eggar : My Department has had regular discussions with the Department of the Environment about planning and opencast issues relating to opencast mining. The preliminary memorandum issued in April by N. M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd. made it clear that the grant of planning consents necessary for the extraction of coal would remain a matter for the planning authorities.
Mr. Tipping : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions he has had with British Coal to ensure that potential purchasers of Coal Products also have the opportunity of acquiring its Hyload joint venture.
Mr Eggar : The sale of Coal Products Ltd. and of Hyload are matters for British Coal. I understand that the corporation is carefully considering all the relevant factors in reaching decisions on the future of Hyload.
Mr. Eggar : It is my aim to set up the coal authority as soon as practicable. I have already announced the initial accommodation arrangements for the authority and its chairman and chief executive designates. The process of recruiting staff is under way.
Mr Alison : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what diversion of coal movements by rail to road from Gascoigne Wood drift mine near Selby have been occasioned by the current series of one-day rail strikes; what planning conditions are breached by these road movements; and what planning authorisation has been sought to give effect to these road movements.
Mr. Tipping : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made over the disposal of British Coal's non-operational land and property interest ; by what mechanisms such ownerships will be disposed of ; over what time scale ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Tipping : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions he has had with British Coal to ensure that the management and employees of Coal Products Ltd. have an opportunity of securing that company.
Column 524management employee buy-out and that British Coal has made financial support available to assist with the preparation of a MEBO bid.
Ms Walley : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will place in the Library a copy of the advice he has received from N. M. Rothschild in respect of opencast coal mining sites to be offered for sale to private mining companies.
Mr. Eggar : N. M. Rothschild continues to provide advice on a range of matters on a day-to-day basis. Operating opencast sites included in the regional coal companies are listed in the preliminary memorandum issued by N. M. Rothschild on 13 April. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. The preliminary memorandum also explains that the regional coal companies will include portfolios of prospective opencast sites where potentially recoverable reserves have been identified by British Coal.
Mr. Eggar : British Coal operates one opencast site in Staffordshire, Bleak House near Cannock. The preliminary memorandum issued by N. M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd. in April explains that it is proposed to offer the site as part of the central south regional coal company.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 15 June, Official Report , column 603 , what was the average annual increase in output per head in manufacturing in the United Kingdom, the USA, Germany and Japan from 1990 to the latest available date ; and what effect the relative changes have had on competitiveness.
Mr. Heseltine : Between 1990 and 1993 the estimated annual growth in manufacturing output per head was 3.2per cent. in the United Kingdom, 3.7per cent. in the United States of America, 2.6per cent. in Germany and 3.8per cent. in Japan. Improvements in productivity are key to increased competitiveness.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 15 June, Official Report , column 603 , if he will publish the average annual increase in output per person in 1980-89 and 1964-73 for the United Kingdom and the United States of America, Germany and Japan together with the percentage change in each country's share and the value of volume of exports of manufactures by the main manufacturing countries, the percentage change between 1980 and 1989 in each country's share of the import market for manufactures in the national markets for which he has held or holds such records.
Information on percentage changes in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Japan's shares by value of exports of manufactures by the main manufacturing countries can be readily derived from
Column 525information available on the Central Statistical Office database, which can be accessed via the Library of the House. Corresponding information for the shares by volume is not readily available and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.
Growth in manufacturing output per head Percentage pa |United |USA |Germany|Japan |Kingdom ------------------------------------------------ 1964-73 |3.9 |3.4 |3.9 |9.8 1980-89 |4.9 |3.9 |2.3 |3.4 Sources: OECD, CSO.
Percentage changes in United Kingdom, USA, German, Japanese shares by value of import markets of manufactures<1> Percentage change in share 1980-89 |United |USA |Germany|Japan |Kingdom ------------------------------------------------------------ Import market Belgium-Luxembourg |-6.4 |-35.6 |-10.5 |1.0 Canada |-28.3 |-12.4 |17.7 |53.1 France |12.1 |-14.9 |-5.5 |50.4 Germany (Fed. Rep.) |7.2 |-2.0 |- |58.3 Italy |-11.6 |-28.2 |1.8 |34.9 Japan |-27.1 |-20.3 |9.8 |- Netherlands |-10.6 |-5.4 |-9.6 |24.0 Sweden |-24.2 |-1.0 |-4.1 |69.0 Switzerland |-42.6 |-10.2 |10.1 |25.4 United Kingdom |- |-12.0 |26.6 |44.2 United States |-22.7 |- |-27.8 |3.3 <1> Manufactures are defined as Standard International Trade Classification Sections5 to 8. Source: OECD Series C.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish a table showing (a) the change in import penetration by manufacturing industry between 1980 and the year ending June 1989 together with the corresponding change in United Kingdom output per person, (b) the percentage change between 1980 and 1989 in the United Kingdom share of the value and volume of exports of manufactures by the main manufacturing countries, (c) the percentage change between 1980 and 1989 in the United Kingdom share of the import market for manufactures in the EEC and in the national markets for which he holds records and (d) the relative volume of exports to imports of manufactures in 1980 and 1989 and the corresponding surplus or deficit on trade in manufactures.
Mr. Needham : The information on changes in import penetration can be readily derived from information regularly published in table 12.2 of the Central Statistical Office's "Annual Abstract of Statistics", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. The corresponding information on United Kingdom output per person, the changes in United Kingdom shares by value and volume of exports of manufactures by the main manufacturing countries, and the changes in the surplus/deficit in trade in manufactures in 1980 and 1989, can be readily derived from information available on the Central Statistical Office database, which can be accessed via the Library of the House. The changes 1980-1989 in the United Kingdom's share of the import market for manufactures in the EC, and the United Kingdom's relative volume of exports to imports of manufactures for 1980 and 1989 are given in the table.
Percentage change 1980-1989 in United Kingdom share by value of EC countries imports of manufactures<1> Import market |Percentage |change --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- EC12 |-6.6 Belgium-Luxembourg |-6.4 Denmark |-17.9 France |12.1 Germany (Fed. Rep.) |7.2 Greece |-3.9 Ireland |-26.8 Italy |-11.6 Netherlands |-10.6 Portugal |-37.5 Spain |0.6 Source: OECD Series C United Kingdom relative volume<2> of manufactures<1> 1980 |127.2 1989 |86.4 Source: CSO Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics Annual Supplement 1992 Tables A10 and A11. <1> Manufactures are defined as Standard International Trade Classification Sections 5 to 8. <2> Export volume of manufactures index as a percentage of the import volume of manufactures index.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on whether the System X telecommunications system exported since 1989 to the United States of America, Russia, China, Colombia, Gibraltar, Kenya, India, Kuwait, the Falklands and the Philippines have fully conformed to the ISDN protocol as defined by the CC1IITT 7 committee.
Column 527output, (b) output per hour and (c) unit labour costs in Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the European Community as a whole.