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Pensions

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many couples getting divorced have applied to the courts to share their pension rights between them since December 2000. [44089]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I have been asked to reply.

Information on applications for pension sharing is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. My Department has, however, been monitoring pension sharing orders made by the courts and our records show that 217 such orders have been made in England and Wales since December 2000.

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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Small Businesses

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the exclusion of retail businesses from the small firms loan guarantee scheme. [39813]

Ms Hewitt: Retailing was originally included in the small firms loan guarantee scheme. Along with a number of other local service sectors it was excluded in April 1993. This followed an external evaluation report on the scheme that showed support for firms in these sectors was largely at the expense of displacing business from other local firms.

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Small Business Service's pilot scheme. [43125]

Nigel Griffiths: The Government does not want to see viable companies with good long-term potential being wound up because of temporary financial difficulties.

The pilot project is about determining the most effective means of rescuing such companies. Business survival rates for companies in the scheme will be monitored. Assessment of the impact of the pilot will take place and a full analysis in September 2002.

Trade Partners UK

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the (a) functions, (b) staffing and (c) funding at Trade Partners UK . [44472]

Ms Hewitt: Trade Partners UK brings together the joint work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry in support of British trade and investment overseas. Details of its functions, staffing and funding are set out in "British Trade International, The Government's Expenditure Plans 2001–02 to 2003–04 and Main Estimates 2001–02", Cm 5123, a copy of which has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many requests for assistance were received by Trade Partners UK in the first six months of 2001; how many were refused; and what the grounds were for refusal. [44475]

Ms Hewitt: Trade Partners UK provides advice, information and support to over 20,000 businesses each year through a variety of schemes and through a network of offices which spans the English regions, overseas diplomatic posts and a range of partner organisations. Information on requests for assistance which are refused is not available.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria must be satisfied for an individual or company to receive assistance from Trade Partners UK . [44471]

Ms Hewitt: Trade Partners UK provides a range of information, advice and support to business. Detailed eligibility criteria vary according to the nature of specific

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schemes. The general factors to be taken into account were set out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his reply to the hon. Member on 14 February 2002, Official Report, column 611W.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the functions of Trade Partners UK include (a) assistance to individuals or companies attempting to make acquisitions overseas and (b) scrutiny to ensure that the acquisition is in the interests of the UK. [44474]

Ms Hewitt: Trade Partners UK's public service agreement performance target is 'enhanced competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas sales and investments'. It therefore supports overseas investment by companies in the UK where there is a benefit to the UK in doing so. Each case is considered on its own merits and Trade Partners UK has access to a range of information and advice through the DTI, FCO and other Departments, as appropriate, in doing so.

Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and

Tourism Council (Scottish representation)

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what reason no devolved Administration Minister attended the Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism European Union Council of Ministers meeting on 1 March; which particular matters of concern from the Scottish Executive were raised in their absence by the UK Government delegation; and what information is being provided by her Department to guarantee effective post-council scrutiny by the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament. [42689]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 12 March 2002]: The composition of the UK delegation to specific Council of Ministers meetings is decided in accordance with the Concordat on the Co-ordination of EU Policy Issues.

A report on the Council and matters on which I spoke is set out in my answer, of 13 March 2002, Official Report, columns 1075–76W. Post-council scrutiny by the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament is a matter for that Parliament and for the Scottish Executive. Reports of Council meetings are available to Scottish Executive officials and my officials stand ready to provide other information in line with the provisions of the Concordat.

Patent Office

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what powers she has to ensure that the Patent Office acts in a fair and impartial way. [42753]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Patent Office is an Executive Agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. The Agency Framework Document sets out the functions, aims and objectives of the Patent Office. It also lists the legislation under which the Patent Office has specific responsibility for the administration of domestic and international law on intellectual property. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry determines the policy framework within which the Patent Office operates, sets out key financial and performance targets and approves the Agency's Corporate Plan. Day to

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day management of the Patent Office is delegated to the Chief Executive of the Agency. The decisions of the Patent Office are subject to statutory routes of appeal.

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions her Department has had with Patent Office officials regarding a campaign by the charity ActionAid. [42752]

Miss Melanie Johnson: DTI officials were contacted by the Patent Office at the beginning of February, about the campaign by the charity ActionAid. Patent Office staff dealt with subsequent media inquiries regarding the campaign.

Insolvency

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) small and medium enterprises and (b) other companies were declared insolvent in (i) 1997, (ii) 1998, (iii) 1999, (iv) 2000 and (v) 2001, in (A) north-west England, (B) north-east England, (C) the west midlands, (D) London, (E) south-east England, (F) Scotland and (G) Wales. [43372]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Official insolvency statistics are not able to identify the size of the company involved.

Company compulsory liquidations can be identified by location and are recorded under the official receiver's office and not by Government office regions. For example, insolvencies in Wales will be recorded under official receiver's offices in Cardiff and Swansea (South West) and Chester (North West).

The table gives the company compulsory liquidations by region in each of the years 1997 to 2001.

Region19971998199920002001
Anglia591704719672708
London1,0601,4871,161951911
Midlands602589605664553
North East608531599546504
North West556537714597586
Public Interest Unit003794150
South East770781768769715
South West548587606632548
Scotland254338364344378
Total (England & Wales)4,7355,2165,2094,9254,675
Total for GB4,9895,5545,5735,2695,053

Stop Now Orders

Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many stop now orders were obtained up to 28 February; and what the subject matters were of those orders. [43026]

Miss Melanie Johnson: No stop now orders have been made to date. Three cases have reached the courts.

These cases involve infringements under various regulations including the Sale of Goods Act 1979, Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, and the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

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In addition two local authorities have secured written undertakings under the Regulations, and other cases are under consideration.


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