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Public Information

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he will indicate which departmental publications are currently available (a) in Braille, (b) in large print and (c) on tape; and if he will indicate what


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efforts have been made by his Department to inform visually impaired people about the availability of publications in alternative formats to normal print; (2) how much has been spent by his Department in each of the last three years to (a) produce public information in alternative formats for visually impaired people and (b) publicise the availability of accessible information amongst visually impaired people.

Mr. Ian Taylor: The Green Paper on the Future of Postal Services is available on audio tape; Braille copies of the press notice and summary version issued when the Green Paper was published are also available. The cost to the Department of producing these alternative formats was £963.

Publicity has been given to the availability of these alternative formats through a press notice and Talking Newspaper Enterprises Ltd., which arranged publicity through a number of publications directed at the visually impaired.

Construction Industry

Mr. Allen: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what response he has made to the Latham report on the construction industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Eggar: I have welcomed the Latham report as making an important contribution to improving the competitiveness of the British construction industry.

Jordan

Mr. Cousins: To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clark) of 18 July, Official Report, column 22 , what is the total sum now outstanding in the ECGD's accounts together with rolled-up interest in respect of defence sales to Jordan.

Mr. Needham: The amount of £255 million given in the reply to the hon. Member for Monklands, West is the estimated sum due to ECGD in respect of defence sales under the three rescheduling agreements. This figure comprises the rescheduled amounts of principal and contractual interest, plus an estimated amount of rolled up interest, accruing under the first two agreements, which is capitalised and will be payable on deferred terms under the third agreement.

Astra

Mr. Meacher: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will now reconsider his decision to exclude Mr. Stephan Adolph Kock from the disqualification proceedings concerning the directors of Astra board between 1986 to 1991.

Mr. Neil Hamilton: Under section 8 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 the Secretary of State may apply for the disqualification of directors if it appears from a report made by inspectors that it is in the public interest to do so. I have been advised that the report justifies proceedings only against those directors against who summons have been issued.

Overseas Investment

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the value of British investment overseas over the past 15 years; and what has been the


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value of inward investment into the United Kingdom over the same period.

Mr. Eggar: The figures refer to flows of direct investment into, and out of, the United Kingdom. This information is for the years 1978 to 1992, the latest available. Data for total cross-border investment transactions are available from the publication "The Pink Book--United Kingdom Balance of Payments", CSO, 1990 and 1994.


                     |<1>Flows of inward  |<1>Flows of outward                      

                     |direct net          |direct net                               

Year                 |investment to United|investment from                          

                     |Kingdom             |United Kingdom                           

                     |£ million           |£ million                                

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1978                 |1,261               |2,710                                    

1979                 |1,740               |3,035                                    

1980                 |2,541               |3,391                                    

1981                 |980                 |4,671                                    

1982                 |1,137               |2,122                                    

1983                 |2,063               |3,498                                    

1984                 |-246                |5,813                                    

1985                 |4,416               |8,625                                    

1986                 |5,645               |11,798                                   

1987                 |8,986               |19,159                                   

1988                 |11,562              |20,915                                   

1989                 |17,405              |21,491                                   

1990                 |17,155              |10,108                                   

1991                 |8,418               |9,304                                    

1992                 |9,231               |10,139                                   

Notes                                                                               

<1> Direct investment refers to investment that adds to, or deducts from or         

acquires, a lasting interest in an enterprise operating in an economy other than    

that of the investor, the investor's purpose being to have an effective voice in    

the management of the enterprise (taken here to be equivalent to a 20 per cent.     

holding or more in the foreign enterprise). Direct net investment is net of         

disinvestment and includes unremitted profits.  Other investments in which the      

investor does not have an effective voice in the management of the enterprise are   

mainly portfolio investments and these are not covered here. Cross-border           

investment in property (which is regarded as direct investment in national          

accounts) is not covered here, but is shown in the balance of payments.             

<2> Prior to 1984 transactions of oil companies were excluded.                      

<3> A minus sign indicates net disinvestment (ie decrease in amount due to overseas 

countries)                                                                          

Source:                                                                             

CSO Business Monitor MA4 Overseas Transactions, 1987 and 1992.                      

Trunk Telephone System

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultation he has had with the Director General of Office of Telecommunications concerning the disturbance to the national trunk telephone system on 4 July, covered by telephone calls made to the tele- sales facility for the sale of M prefix personalised number plates; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ian Taylor: Issues relating to telecommunications services of this kind in the United Kingdom are a matter for the Director General of Telecommunications. I am aware that the hon. Member has raised his concerns with the Director General who has written to him in reply. I understand that safeguards put in place by BT to deal with the tele-sales facility in question prevented any threat of network failure.


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Companies House

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultation he has had with (a) trade and commercial organisations and (b) relevant trade unions in relation to the status and future functions and integrity of Companies House.

Mr. Neil Hamilton: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade announced on 19 July, Official Report, column 179 , that as part of the latest stage of the current review of Companies House's agency status, consultants are exploring the views of a range of trade and commercial organisations on the possibility of contracting out most of the services of Companies House.

I met relevant trade unions on 21 September and have invited them to meet me again before a final decision is taken.

Data Protection

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultations he has had with the Director-General of the Office of Electricity Supply and the data protection registrar in relation to the disclosure by public electricity suppliers of consumer information to third parties, including debt collection companies; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Charles Wardle: In his 10th annual report earlier this year, the data protection registrar highlighted the issue of the use of customer information collected by regional electricity companies. I understand that the Office of Electricity Regulation is presently in discussion with the registrar on this issue.

Filing Fees

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultation he has had with (a) the Registrar of Companies and (b) the Association of British Chambers of Commerce in relation to prospective cuts in the level of statutory filing fees at Companies House.

Mr. Neil Hamilton: The fees are based on costs incurred by Companies House, and their level on


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recommendations made to me by the Registrar of Companies.

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade on what date statutory filing fees at Companies House were reduced; what consultation he has had with his opposite number in the Commission of the European Union in relation to the level of charges for statutory filing; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Neil Hamilton: The new lower fees apply with effect from 1 October 1994. The details and transitional arrangements are set out in the Companies (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 2217), and the European Economic Interest Grouping (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 2327). No consultations have taken place with the European Commission.

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will give the gross percentage year-on-year change in the level of statutory filing fees at Companies House and its net change after deduction of retail price index inflation for each of the past 10 years.

Mr. Neil Hamilton: The main filing fees are for the registration of a new company, the change of name of an existing company, and a company's annual return. There were no changes in these fees in the years between 1975 and 1990, or between 1991 and 1994. Comparisons for each year separately are not therefore appropriate. Fee levels and date changes were introduced as follows.


Date of change |Incorporation |Name Change   |Annual Return                

               |£             |£             |£                            

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

October 1994   |20            |20            |18                           

July 1991      |50            |50            |32                           

July 1990      |50            |40            |25                           

June 1975      |50            |40            |20                           

The RPI increase in the ten years to September 1994, the latest month for which data is available, was 61 per cent. This compares with fee changes as follows.


                                 |Incorporation|Name Change  |Annual Return              

                                 |Per cent.    |Per cent.    |Per cent.                  

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nominal change October 1994/1984 |-60          |-50          |-10                        

RPI adjusted change              |-75          |-69          |-44                        

Patent Office

Mr. Morgan: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received in relation to the public sector guaranteed status of the Patent Office; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ian Taylor: I have received and am reviewing representations from a range of interested parties on the current status of the Patent Office. No decision has yet been taken on the future of the Patent Office.

National Consumer Council

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much grant was given to the National Consumer council for each year since 1987.


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Mr. Ian Taylor: The following table gives the grant-in-aid paid in each year since 1987 to the National Consumer Council:


Year      |Grant (£)          

------------------------------

1987-88   |1,800,651          

1988-89   |1,843,097          

1989-90   |1,991,334          

1990-91   |2,225,599          

1991-92   |2,559,129          

1992-93   |2,929,827          

1993-94   |3,138,741          

Note: Figures include DTI     

contribution to NCC staff     

pension fund.                 

Source                        

National Consumer Council     

Annual Reports                

1987/88-1993/94.              


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Citizens Advice Bureaux

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what were the grants given to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux for each year since 1987.

Mr. Ian Taylor: The following table gives the grant-in-aid paid in each year since 1987 to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux:


Year        |Grant (£)              

------------------------------------

1987-88     |8,028,000              

1988-89     |8,405,962              

1989-90     |8,999,971              

1990-91     |10,346,000             

1991-92     | 11,085,000            

1992-93     |11,699,000             

1993-94     |12,252,700             

Source:                             

National Association of Citizens'   

Advice Bureaux Annual Reports       

1987-88-1993-94                     

London Underground

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure that a company which both assembles in the United Kingdom and sources most of its components from the United Kingdom is given favourable consideration as the supplier of new rolling stock for London Underground's Northern Line.

Mr. Eggar: A "buy British regardless" policy would not serve the long-term competitiveness of firms in the United Kingdom and would be contrary to Community purchasing rules. I am pleased to note, however, that there is a strong United Kingdom presence amongst the bidders.

Atomic Energy Division

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the success rate of the Atomic Energy division in achieving project milestones on or ahead of time in (a) 1992 93 and (b) 1993 94; and if he will make a statement on the factors underlying this.

Mr. Charles Wardle: The proportion of project milestones in Atomic Energy Division's decommissioning and waste management

programmes--DRAWMOPS and DRAWMS--which were achieved on or ahead of time was 56 per cent. in 1992 93 and 66 per cent. in 1993 94. The target for 1994 95 is 76 per cent.

The figures show a steady improvement in performance resulting from management improvements by the UKAEA's DRAWMOPS directorate and by Atomic Energy Division, including improved programme definition and more effective programme monitoring.

Nuclear Emergencies

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of the relevant staff of (a) the Electricity and Nuclear Fuels division and (b) the Atomic Energy division have been trained to enable them to respond to an emergency at a civil nuclear site; and if he will set out the factors underlying this.

Mr. Charles Wardle: By the close of 1993 94, 95 per cent. of new staff of Atomic Energy Division had been trained, during their first nine months in post, to enable


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them to respond to an emergency at a civil nuclear site. This was achieved through participation in exercises. In addition, 90 per cent. of the staff of this division had, again by close of 1993 94, received further training by participating in more than one exercise. Due to organisational changes, training now covers relevant staff of both Electricity and Nuclear Fuels Division and Atomic Energy Division. Future statistics will be on the basis of both these divisions. The training is intended to ensure that the relevant Department of Trade and Industry staff are trained and able to respond in the most unlikely event of a civil nuclear emergency.

Biological Weapons Convention

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representation his Department had at the meeting held in Geneva on 19 to 30 September on the implementation of the biological weapons convention.

Mr. Heseltine: A special conference of the bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons convention was held in Geneva on 19 30 September to consider a possible verification regime for the convention. Because of the potential importance of this question for the biotechnology industry, an official of my Department formed part of the United Kingdom delegation which was led by the head of the Untied Kingdom disarmament delegation in Geneva.

Trade and Development Report

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what evaluation he has made of the Trade and Development report 1994 produced by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in September; and whether he plans to make any response to the UNCTAD secretariat in respect of criticisms made of European Union trade policies in the report.

Mr. Ian Taylor: UNCTAD's 1994 trade and development report did not specifically address European trade policies. It did assert that industrialised countries should adopt more expansionist economic policies in order to stimulate global demand. In general we agree, but this approach needs to be in the context of consistent policies to reduce inflationary pressures in industrialised economies. This point was made during a recent meeting of the UNCTAD Trade Development Board in Geneva.

International Atomic Energy Agency

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how his Department was represented at the annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency held in Vienna on 19 to 23 September; what proposals were put forward to the conference by the United Kingdom delegation; what proposals from other nations' delegations were accepted by the United Kingdom; and if he will put copies of documents submitted in the Library.

Mr. Charles Wardle: The United Kingdom delegation was led by the new United Kingdom governor to the IAEA, Mr Meadway, head of the DTI's Export Control and Non-Proliferation Division. In his statement on behalf of the United Kingdom, Mr Meadway reiterated Her Majesty's Government's full support for the objectives and principal activities of the agency, in particular in the areas of safeguards and nuclear safety. To this end the


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United Kingdom was among the first to sign the nuclear safety convention which opened for signature during the conference. The United Kingdom delegation took a full and active part during the conference making statements in support of measures to strengthen the agency's main activities and assisting the German delegation, on behalf of the European Community, in putting forward a resolution on the recent seizures of smuggled fissionable material.

A copy of the document produced by the IAEA containing resolutions and other decisions of the General Conference will be placed in the Library of the House when it becomes available.

Environmental Software

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what initiatives his Department has taken to promote environmental software to industry.

Mr. Ian Taylor: The Department has provided grant support to the following projects relating to environmental software:


Project                                            |Scheme                                                       

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(i) The development of a software system           |EUREKA - EUROENVIRON                                         

for real-time monitoring and evaluation                                                                          

of discharges and emissions from industrial plant.                                                               

(ii) The development of software to assist         |EUREKA - EUROENVIRON                                         

in the development, forward planning and                                                                         

management of river basins.                                                                                      

(iii) The development of software to assist        |EUREKA - EUROENVIRON                                         

in the day-to-day management of river systems.                                                                   

(iv) The development of a software system          |DTI's Environmental Management                               

to provide training for industrial                 |Options Scheme (DEMOS)                                       

management on environmental issues.                                                                              

The project includes a conference and                                                                            

exhibition with demonstrations in London                                                                         

on 25 October 1994 of environmental software.                                                                    

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade announced the joint DTI/DoE environmental technology best practice programme on 7 December 1993, Official Report, column 149. The programme was launched on 29 June 1994. The programme will, where appropriate, promote environmental software as part of its function of disseminating information on best practice in environmental technology and techniques.

EU Industry Council

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what matters were discussed, what decisions taken, and which were decided by vote, at the EU Industry Council in Brussels on 28 September.

Mr. Eggar: I attended the Industry Council in the morning of 28 September. This Council was followed in the afternoon by a joint Industry and Telecommunications Council which was attended by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology.


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The Industry Council heard a report from the Commission on progress towards restructuring the Community's steel industry. The Commission said that although the market for steel had improved, capacity reductions were still essential and hoped that the final total would be close to the target of 19 million tonnes of reductions. The Commission proposed that if the steel industry failed to make progress on capacity reductions then the flanking measures aimed at alleviating the effects of restructuring should be ended. The Council agreed that a decision would be reached at the November Industry Council on this issue. The Commission also gave an oral monitoring report on the article 95 state aid decisions agreed in December 1993. I stressed that strict control of state aids is the key to successful restructuring of the industry.

The Council adopted a resolution calling on the Commission to follow up its integrated programme for small and medium-sized enterprised --SMEs-- and stressing the need to improve the administrative and legal environment for SMEs. The resolution calls on the Commission to establish fora in which member states can share experience of national measures in favour of SMEs and to set up a committee to identify administrative and legal provisions which hamper the competitiveness of small firms.

On biotechnology, most member states agreed on the need for a regulatory framework more favourable to industrial investment and competitiveness, while at the same time maintaining appropriate safeguards. The Council welcomed the Commission's proposal for amending directive 90/219 and its intention to review directive 90/220 and encouraged the Commission to bring forward for discussion proposals for action in other areas.

The Council took note of the Commission's communication on an industrial competitiveness policy for the EU. A draft resolution is currently under discussion with a view to adoption at the November Industry Council.

The afternoon's joint Industry and Telecommunications Council was convened specifically to discuss the report of the Bangemann group on development of the Information Society in Europe and the Commission Communications issued in response to that report.

The joint Council adopted conclusions on the Commission Communication and noted the Commission's intention to submit proposals for the development of the Information Society. In particular, the Council noted the Commission's undertaking to present, by 1 November 1994, the first part of the Green Paper on liberalisation of the EU telecommunications infrastructure and the second part by 1 January 1995. The Council also noted that the Commission was taking account of social and cultural activities and invited the Commission to assess the economic and social implications of its proposals.

The Commission reported briefly on preparations for the G7 conference on information super-highways, to be held in February 1995, and informed the Council of progress in following up the November 1991 Council


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resolution on electronics, information and communications technologies.

There were no votes taken at either Council.

Nuclear Safety

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when the United Kingdom signed the convention on nuclear safety opened for signature in Vienna on 20 September; what estimate he has made of the likely cost to the United Kingdom each year to implement the convention; and if he will make a statement on how he intends to keep Parliament informed of the United Kingdom compliance with the reporting rules contained in the convention.

Mr. Charles Wardle: The United Kingdom signed the convention on Nuclear Safety at the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on 20 September. The convention will enter into force once it has been both signed and ratified by 22 states, including 17 states with at least one civil nuclear power plant. Arrangements for the reporting and reviewing process outlined in the convention will be decided by the contracting parties at a preparatory conference to be held within six months of the convention's entry into force. Until then, no firm estimate can be made of the likely annual costs to the United Kingdom of implementation of the convention. Nevertheless, the Government do not expect that they will be substantial; most are likely to be administrative costs associated with the peer review process. Once the mechanisms for reporting and reviewing are in place, I shall ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for keeping Parliament informed.

Non-Fossil Fuel Levy

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what proportion of the non-fossil fuel levy paid by regional electricity companies on supplies in the year ended March was paid to (a) the nuclear industry, (b) the non-fossil fuel obligation-I, (c) the non-fossil fuel obligation-II, and (d) any other recipients; what was the


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total size of the non-fossil fuel levy in 1993 94; and what it is expected to be in 1994 95.

Mr. Eggar: Payments from the fossil fuel levy to nuclear and renewable generators in 1993 94 were as follows:


                                  |£ million |Percentage           

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Nuclear generators                |1,166     |94.5                 

Renewable generators (1990 Order) |30        |2.4                  

Renewable generators (1991 Order) |38        |3.1                  

Total levy payments               |1,234     |100                  

Source:                                                            

Non-Fossil Purchasing Agency Ltd.                                  

It is too early to know the level of receipts form the fossil fuel levy in respect of 1994 95, or the allocation of those receipts between nuclear and renewable generators.

Plug and Socket Harmonisation

Mr. Spellar: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is his estimate of the effect on UK manufacturing and future of trade of proposed electrical plug and socket harmonisation.

Mr. Eggar: No formal proposal has been made. To be prepared for such a proposal, however, the Government commissioned a report by the Building Services Research and Information Association on the "Cost and Benefits in the UK of Plug and Socket Harmonisation in Europe". Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Scuttled Barge (Hall Sands)

Mr. Steen: To ask the President of the Board of Trade which company owned the barge which was scuttled off Hall Sands in 1993; and what is its current status.

Mr. Norris [holding answer 19 July 1994]: I have been asked to reply.

The Department understands that the barge had been acquired by Mr. G. A. Lawrence before it arrived off Hallsands and that the salvage of its remains has been undertaken on his behalf.


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