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Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to prevent imports of steel from Eastern European countries which are produced in inefficient plants with highly pollutant side effects. [74599]

Mr. Wilson: A number of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures are in force against several steel products from various Eastern European countries. In addition, definitive safeguard measures introduced by the EU to guard against trade diversion as a result of the US safeguard measure announced in March include products from Eastern Europe. The EU also has agreements with Russia and Ukraine applying quantitative restrictions to imports of certain steel products from these countries.

These measures have been taken to protect EU industry from unfair trade practices that harm EU industries or, in the case of the safeguard measure, to prevent a damaging surge of imports into the EU. Neither EU commercial policy instruments nor WTO agreements contain provisions providing for environmental factors to be taken into account when restricting imports.

Stone Imports

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she takes to ensure that the country of origin of stone imports is known. [74600]

Mr. Wilson: Stone, being a heavy product incurs high transportation costs and has little import penetration within the UK. Most stone used in the UK travels less than thirty miles from its point of extraction to its point of use and less than 2 per cent. is imported. Over half those imports are from within the EU, subject to EU regulation and freedom of movement within the economic area. Stone forms a very small part of the goods and products imported to the UK and it would not be cost effective to monitor their origins. We do, however keep close contact with stone industry trade associations and discuss issues including imports.

Rethinking Construction Demonstration Projects

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on each of the

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sponsored projects put forward by each Government department as rethinking construction demonstration projects. [74601]

Mr. Wilson: The following Rethinking Construction demonstration projects have substantially been funded and procured by Central Government departments and agencies. It excludes those being taken forward by the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Project 4: New Environment Agency Facility Building

Project 5: Kingston Hospital NHS Trust—New Ward Block

Project 24: North East Combined Capital Works

Project 26: Lincshore—sea defence

Project 29: Covered Ways 12 & 58—London Underground structural work

Project 28: M60 Manchester Outer Ring Road, Denton—Middleton

Project 33: Building Down Barriers

Project 52: Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Project 55: Earth Structure project—Work on London Underground structures

Project 83: Calderdale Healthcare PFI

Project 124: Princess Margaret Hospital Relocation

Project 126: Area 21 Highways Agency—Maintenance of network in North London

Project 147: RAF Kinloss Nimrod MRA4 Station

Project 167: 9 Dock Project—Trident submarine refuelling and refining facility.

Project 219: Greater London Authority Headquarters

Project 267: HMP Prefabrication and Pre-Assembly

Project 330: Lower Tone Flood Defence Improvements Scheme

Project 349: M62 Junction and Widening Jcts 8–9

Further information on any of the above demonstration projects is available from the Movement for Innovation section of the Rethinking Construction website at:

International Accounting Standards

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations she has received on the European Regulation on International Accounting Standards. [73771]

Miss Melanie Johnson: On 2 September I published a consultation document on the options for extending the application of the European Regulation on International Accounting Standards. The closing date for comments is 26 November 2002. After the consultation I will publish a summary of the responses to the consultation.

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Venture Capital

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on Government policies to encourage venture capital in the UK. [73832]

Nigel Griffiths: The Government recognises the importance of venture capital as a source of finance for business and we have aimed to create an economic climate in which the venture capital industry can flourish. As well as providing tax incentives to encourage more individuals to invest in venture capital, we have commissioned the Myners Study to examine how it might be possible to encourage more institutional investment.

We have worked closely with representatives of the venture capital industry to develop programmes like the UK High Technology Fund, Regional Venture Capital Funds and the Community Development Venture Fund. In each of these the Government, by making a core investment, has successfully levered in significant private sector finance. This is the first time that a Government of this country has directly invested in venture capital funds with the aim of improving small and medium-sized enterprises' (SMEs) access to finance.

Small Businesses

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on small business growth in the last 12 months. [73962]

Nigel Griffiths: The latest (National Statistics) 2001 SME Statistics shows the following differences from the 2000 estimates, for the UK as a whole.

There were nearly 24,000 more businesses in 2001.

Employment was nearly 0.5 million higher.

Turnover was about #78 billion higher in 2001 than 2000.

Over 99.5 per cent. of the increase in business numbers occurred in the SME category (0 to 249 employees). SMEs also accounted for 70 per cent. of the increase in employment and about 57 per cent. of the turnover increase.

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the rate of (a) small business and (b) venture capital growth has been over the past five years, broken down by region. [73833]

Nigel Griffiths: (a) Using SME Statistics and VAT Registrations and De-registrations data the following trends are apparent for the period 1997–2001.

For the UK as a whole there were about 3.71 million small businesses (0 to 49 employees) in 2001. This was an increase of about 36,000 on the 1997 estimates. A more detailed look at the figures shows that this has actually occurred despite a big decrease of about 50,000 from 1997 to 1998. There has been an annual increase of at least 20,000 businesses every year since 1998.

Regional SME statistics are not available for 2000 or 2001. In the period 1997–1999 only London saw an increase in the number of small businesses (approximately 98,500 more).

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In 2001 there were about 7,000 (4 per cent.) less VAT registrations than in 1997 (UK level). The number of VAT de-registrations in the UK also fell by about 1,700 (1 per cent.).

All regions except West Midlands region saw fewer registrations in 2001 than in 1997. All except Eastern and London regions had fewer de-registrations in 2001 than in 1997.

(b) For the UK as a whole 17 per cent. more companies received investment in 2001 than in 1997. The amount of investment in 2001 was 55 per cent. higher than in 1997. However, there was a 25 per cent. decrease in the amount invested from 2000 to 2001, but more companies received this money.

In the 1997–2001 period 5 English regions (Yorkshire & Humber, Eastern, London, South East and South West) have seen an increase in the number of companies receiving investment. Northern Ireland also saw this trend.

6 English regions (all except North West, Yorkshire & Humber and West Midlands) saw an increase in the amount of investment over the period. This was also the case in Scotland.

London saw the biggest changes over the period. From 1997 to 2001 there were 84 per cent. more companies invested in and a 160 per cent. increase in the amount invested.

Auditing and Accounting

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress the joint DTI-Treasury chaired group has made on the (a) analysis and (b) response to the auditing and accounting issues raised by recent corporate failures. [73737]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Co-ordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues published an Interim Report on 24 July. Copies of the Report were placed in the Libraries of the House.

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, welcomed the report in a Statement on the same day. In response to a recommendation in the Interim Report, she announced that there would be an immediate review of the regulation of the audit and accountancy professions in the UK. The Terms of Reference for that Review have now been published and are as set out below:

In particular, the review should look at:

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In considering these issues, the review should also have regard to:

The review should report by January 2003.

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