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2 Dec 2003 : Column 18W—continued

Scotland Act

10. Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, what plans the Government has to amend the Scotland Act 1998. [140752]

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Mr. Darling: The Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Bill will amend the Scotland Act by breaking the link between the number of MSPs and the number of MPs from Scottish constituencies. The proposal to transfer to the Supreme Court the function of hearing devolution disputes currently held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would also require an amendment to the Scotland Act.

There are no other plans for substantive amendments to the Scotland Act in primary legislation.

Scottish Economy

11. Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he last met the chairman of Scottish Enterprise to discuss trends in the Scottish economy. [140753]

Mr. Darling: Scottish Enterprise is formally responsible to Scottish Executive ministers, though I and my predecessors have had continuing contact in a variety of different contexts with the Chairman and past chairmen of Scottish Enterprise since devolution.

Scottish Regiments

13. Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Scretary of State for Scotland, what recent representations he has received from the First Minister about the future of the Scottish regiments. [140755]

Mrs. McGuire: My right hon. Friend and the First Minister discuss a wide range of matters. They met most recently on 1 December.


14. Mr. Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he next intends to discuss the regeneration plans for the Ravenscraig site with the First Minister. [140756]

Mrs. McGuire: My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of issues, including economic regeneration.

I am delighted that the Scottish Executive have approved plans for the redevelopment of the Ravenscraig site and I am sure that the project will bring long term benefits across Lanarkshire and the West of Scotland.

Pension Credit

15. Mr. Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he will make a statement on the take-up of (a) pension credit and (b) minimum income guarantee in Scotland. [140757]

Mrs. McGuire: Minimum income guarantee was replaced by pension credit on 6 October 2003. The Pension Service are writing to all pensioner households to give them information and to invite them to apply. Those who apply within the first 12 months will have their awards backdated to the first date of entitlement.

Two hundred and two thousand pensioner households in Scotland are already receiving pension credit.

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John Barrett : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, how many pensioners in Scotland are in receipt of the pension credit. [140754]

Mrs. McGuire: As at the end of October, 202,000 pensioner households in Scotland were already receiving pension credit.

Scottish Parliament (Elections)

Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the proposed bill to retain the current number of Members in the Scottish Parliament will be drafted to allow consideration of the method of election used for the Scottish Parliament. [140737]

Mrs. McGuire: The scope of the bill, which was introduced on 27 November, is a matter for the House Authorities. However, as the bill deals only with the determination of the number of constituencies and regions of the Scottish Parliament, the number of regional members per region and the arrangements for reviewing the boundaries of constituencies and regions, my understanding is that consideration of the method of election to the Scottish Parliament will be outside its scope.

Voting Systems

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans the Government has to change the voting system for elections to the Scottish Parliament. [140729]

Mrs. McGuire: There are no plans to change the voting system for elections to the Scottish Parliament.



Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the value of imports into the United Kingdom from Burma was in each of the past five years. [141635]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The value of UK imports of goods from Burma was as follows:

£ million
January-September 200344.2


Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom, HM Customs and Excise.

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the current value is of the United Kingdom investment in Burma. [141637]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: According to statistics compiled by the Office for National Statistics, at the end of 2001 foreign direct investment by UK companies in Burma was worth less than £0.5 million.

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Business Start-ups

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the start-up rate was for small businesses in (a) each London borough, (b) London and (c) England in each year since 1997. [140854]

Nigel Griffiths: Value added tax (VAT) registrations and de-registrations are the best official guide to the pattern of start-ups and closures. These cover businesses of all sizes.

The rates of businesses registering for VAT in each calendar year from 1997 to 2002 in each London borough, London, and England, are as follows:

Number of VAT Registrations per 10,000 Resident Adults(1)

Barking and Dagenham252530312926
City of London2,2122,2282,2002,3451,6531,428
Hammersmith and Fulham779684948575
Kensington and Chelsea981021061057478
Kingston upon Thames606355534846
Richmond upon Thames727570726571
Tower Hamlets737978756562
Waltham Forest394241393637

(1) Mid-year resident adult (16 and over) population estimates


Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994–2002 from the Small Business Service; population data from The Office for National Statistics

For further information on the VAT statistics please see:

Competitiveness Council

Mr. Jim Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Competitiveness Council on 27 November; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [141490]

Jacqui Smith: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I represented the UK at the Competitiveness Council on 26–27 November 2003.

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Member States agreed to support France as the EU's candidate for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). It was also agreed that the legal entity for the project would be incorporated in Spain with an office in a city near the French border, and Spain would have one of the two EU directors.

Commissioner Busquin introduced the White Paper on Space emphasising the three main axes: citizens needs, exemplified by satellite projects such as Galileo and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES); consolidating Europe's space Science and Technology expertise important for growth; and a framework for better use of existing resources.

The Presidency emphasised the importance of the latest approach on the Growth Initiative. R&D projects were included for the first time, and innovative financing instruments would be used, combining FP6, PPPs and EIB funding.

The Commission introduced its new Communication on an Integrated Competitiveness Strategy. Amongst other things it outlines ways to facilitate the work of the Competitiveness Council, and emphasises the three elements of rigorous analysis of challenges; better regulation; and innovation and entrepreneurship.

We welcomed this strategy and the other Reports and Scoreboards presented at the Council. These help us understand the scale of the task we face in delivering economic reform in the EU. The Council adopted wide-ranging conclusions on competitiveness based on these.

Unanimous agreement was reached on the adoption of the proposed review of the Mergers Regulation. The new Regulation introduces some flexibility into the investigation timeframes although their predictability is unaffected, reinforces the "one-stop shop" concept so that it benefits firms, and clarifies that the substantive test contained in the regulation covers all types of harmful scenarios, whether dominance by a single firm or effects stemming from a situation of oligopoly that might harm the interests of European consumers.

Ministers at the Council also reached an agreement on the Takeovers Directive. The agreement makes key articles optional for Member States. It allows them to decide either to impose the defensive measures allowed for in articles 9 and/or 11 on all their listed companies or, if they did not do so, allow companies to voluntarily "opt-in" to the provisions of those articles). Companies will be required to disclose their status as opted-in or out.

Discussion on the final outstanding points on the Regulation to establish a Community Patent continued on and off throughout the Council. Discussion hinged on the issues of languages, in particular, the legal effect of translations on a patent claim and the length of time allowed to file such translations. On the issue of legal effect, the Council managed to find compromise wording. Agreement, however, was not reached on the deadline for filing translations.

A UK compromise text was adopted on the Fifth Motor Insurance Directive, which improves insurance cover for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the EU, whilerespecting national liability and compensation law.

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Agreement was also reached on a revision to the Community Trademark.

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