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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Utilities (Transport Schemes)

Mr. Battle: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultations his Department has had concerning the regulations making utilities liable for 18 per cent. of the costs of diversionary works for major transport schemes. [9294]

Mr. Page: My Department has been in discussions with the Department of Transport, which has the main responsibility for the regulations in question, and these continue. Consultations have also taken place with the national joint utilities group.

Information Technology (Euro)

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what tenders his Department has put out to convert its information technology systems to be euro compliant; what are the cost and person hours required to convert the systems to handle the euro; and when he expects his Department's systems to be fully economic and monetary union compliant. [9454]

Mr. John M. Taylor: My Department and agencies will need to assess the impact a single currency, assumed to be starting on 1 January 1999, would have on their information systems irrespective of whether the United Kingdom decides to participate in the third stage of economic and monetary union. The Department's finance and pay systems have been outsourced, and changes to them will be the responsibility of the service providers. Other systems for the most part use commercial packages, and vendors can be expected to offer appropriate enhancements when market requirements become clear.

Firearms

Mr. Cohen: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many applications he has received for export licences in respect of weapons which will be prohibited under the Firearms (Amendment) Bill; and if he will make a statement. [8017]

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Mr. Nelson: Firearms covered by the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill are included in headings ML1 and PL5018 of the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994. To disaggregate licences including firearms covered by the Bill from other export licences issued under these headings could be undertaken only at disproportionate cost. I can say, however, that 303 export licences rated under those headings were issued between 1 November and 6 December. Coincidentally, a further 303 export licence applications rated under those headings were under consideration at close of business on 6 December. There were no new open individual export licences covering such goods issued during the period. However, six dealer-to-dealer licences, valid for a period of three years, were issued to registered firearms dealers enabling them to trade with counterparts in EU countries.

Mr. Cohen: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list those categories of weapon which will be prohibited under the Firearms (Amendment) Bill which (a) may and (b) may not be exported without a licence. [8018]

Mr. Nelson: All categories of weapons covered by the Firearms (Amendment) Bill are controlled under the Export of Goods (Control) Order and may not be exported without a valid export licence.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many licences have been granted for the export of firearms since the Firearms (Amendment) Bill was published; how many licence applications are currently under consideration; and what is his policy in respect of issuing such export licences. [5583]

Mr. Nelson [holding answer 25 November 1996]: Firearms covered by the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill are included in headings ML1 and PL5018 of the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994; 303 export licences rated under those headings were issued between 1 November and 6 December. Coincidentally, a further 303 export licence applications rated under those headings were under consideration at close of business on 6 December. There were no new open individual export licences covering such goods issued during the period. However, six dealer-to-dealer licences, valid for a period of three years, were issued to registered firearms dealers enabling them to trade with counterparts in EU countries.

Firearms and most military equipment require an export licence before export, and all applications for such licences are considered case by case. Careful consideration is given to the political and military implications of allowing individual consignments overseas. The Government pay particular attention to proposed exports of military goods to countries with poor human rights record, where such goods might be used for internal repression, and to countries or regions where the export of arms might contribute to destabilisation of the area. In all, eight strict criteria for allowing arms sales were agreed by Ministers at Luxembourg and Lisbon European Councils in June 1991 and June 1992.

Defence Exports (Bahrain)

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list all export licences that have been (a) granted and (b) refused for defence-related equipment bound for Bahrain. [9735]

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Mr. Nelson: No. My Department has placed in the Library of the House statistics of export licences issued for military, security and paramilitary goods and arms, ammunition and related material to all destinations. These statistics cover 1993, 1994 1995 and the first half of 1996. Statistics for the second half of 1996 will be placed in the Library of the House as soon as they are prepared early in 1997.

Also placed in the Library of the House are similar statistics for such licences refused in the first half of 1996. Statistics for the second half of 1996 will be placed in the Library of the House early in 1997.

The annual reports of the Export Control Organisation for 1993 and 1994, copies of which are in the Library of the House, contain details of licences refused in those years.

Official Ministerial Visits

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list for each of the Ministers in his Department how many official ministerial visits they have undertaken since 1 January; and how many of these have been abroad. [9383]

Mr. Lang: Official ministerial visits undertaken by my Ministers and me since 1 January 1996 are shown in the table, which also shows the number undertaken abroad.

Total visitsVisits abroad
President of the Board of Trade378
Lord Fraser3812
Mr. Nelson2624
Mr. Knight140
Mr. Tim Eggar153
Mr. J. Taylor554
Mr. I. Taylor6717
Mr. Page542
Mr. Oppenheim63

Regional Selective Assistance

Mr. Jamieson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) pursuant to his answers of 10 December, Official Report, columns 87-89, on what occasions his Department used the services of Dellcourts Ltd. (Totnes); and in relation to which applications for RSA; [9121]

Mr. Greg Knight [holding answers 16 December 1996]: Dellcourts Ltd., a company owned and controlled by Mr. A, was contracted to provide accountancy advice to the Department's south-west regional office, later the Government Office for the south-west, from 1 February

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1993 to 15 April 1995. During that time, it assisted in the appraisal of 71 regional selective assistance cases, as well as advising on applications under SMART--small firms merit award for research and technology--and SPUR--support for products under research--technology services and on business links.

Mr. A also advised on a further 49 regional selective assistance cases between 5 February 1991 and 31 January 1993 under the terms of a contract made directly with him which included provision for all remuneration to be paid to Dellcourts Ltd.

Mr. Jamieson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answers of 10 December, Official Report, columns 87-89, if it was acceptable practice within the terms of his contract for Mr. A to make direct written contact with applicants for RSA while he was retained as an adviser to his Department. [9122]

Mr. Knight [holding answer 16 December 1996]: External advisers assisting in regional assistance cases are free to correspond or otherwise communicate with applicants to clarify aspects of their appraisal.

Business Links

Mr. Harvey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many business links have set up help desks and practice boards in each region, since October; and at what cost to his Department. [8936]

Mr. Page: Every business link partnership is required to provide an effective inquiry and information point as part of its service to its customers. The costs are met by contributions from a variety of sources, including local partners and the Department of Trade and Industry. Two business links have opened since October, bringing the total to 236.


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