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9 Dec 2003 : Column 439W—continued

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Anti-retroviral Drugs (Illegal Trade)

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what action her Department is taking to combat the illegal trade in anti-retroviral drugs; [142145]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: No specific estimate has been made of the value of anti-retroviral drugs traded illegally in the last five years.

However, with the increased emphasis on trade in differentially priced drugs—including anti-retroviral drugs—to developing countries, it is likely that there will be an increase in the number of attempts made by unscrupulous traders to divert differentially priced drugs from their intended markets in developing countries to markets in developed countries in order to take advantage of the higher prices (and therefore higher profit margins) which can be obtained in markets in developed countries.

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It is important that we address this issue, both in order to ensure that such drugs reach the people in developing countries who need them most and to ensure that diverted drugs do not undermine the market in developed countries which is necessary to allow for further research and development into new drugs.

The Government have consistently supported suitable measures to combat the diversion of differentially priced drugs. We have supported the introduction of a new EU Regulation intended to combat the diversion of differentially priced drugs; worked with our G8 colleagues to secure commitments to action on this issue at the G8 summit in Evian; and ensured there were suitable provisions addressing the issue of diversion in the recent agreement in the WTO on how countries with insufficient manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector can make effective use of the compulsory licensing provisions in the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

Art Acquisition

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much her Department has spent on the acquisition of works of art in each year since 1997, broken down by amounts spent on (a) paintings and (b) sculpture; what the single most expensive piece of art purchased by her Department since 1997 has been; how much it cost; and what the total revenue raised by her Department through sales of its works of art has been since 1997. [142354]

Ms Hewitt: There has been no significant expenditure on works of art by the Department since 1997 nor any sales.

Auditing

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what assessment she has made of the effects of raising the audit exemption threshold to £5.6 million; and if she will make a statement; [140887]

Ms Hewitt: The Government estimate that raising the audit exemption threshold has the potential to save small companies around £94 million a year. There are inevitably risks as well as benefits associated with raising the threshold. The Government concluded, following consultation, that these risks are small and are outweighed by the benefits in terms of costs savings and greater flexibility for small businesses. The Government's consultation document on the proposal contained a draft impact assessment discussing the risks and benefits. The consultation document "Raising the Thresholds", which was published on 11 July 2003, is available on the Department's website at http://www.dti.gov.uk/cld/published.htm. A final version of the impact assessment will also be available there in due course.

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Big Conversation

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what visits (a) she and (b) Ministers in her Department (i) have made and (ii) plan to make using public funds in connection with the Big Conversation; how many civil servants accompanied each Minister in respect of such visits; what the cost to public funds was of visits by (A) each Minister and (B) civil servants in connection with the Big Conversation; and if she will make a statement. [143156]

Ms Hewitt: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House today.

Biotechnology

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the availability of long-term sources of finance in the biotechnology industry. [140517]

Ms Hewitt: The Government has taken a number of steps to improve the financial environment for the biotechnology industry. The R&D Tax Credit system, has benefited many bioscience companies. UK-based companies can also take advantage of the DTI's business support products. Four products have been launched to date, all of which may be of use to biotechnology companies:


The Higher Education Innovation Fund (£187 million over 2004–05 and 2005–06) and Public Sector Research Exploitation Fund (£15 million over 2004–05 and 2005–06) are examples of Government's support for commercialisation of research.

Commercial funding of the industry through financial markets is essential, however, for its long-term success. Government will normally intervene only in financial markets where it can identify a clear market failure, but where such failures are identified, the track record of intervention is strong. For example the UK High Technology Fund (UKHTF), an element of the £180 million Enterprise Fund was announced in 1998. Other initiatives include the Regional Venture Capital Funds launched on a national basis for England through the Small Business Service in 2002, and funds set up by the Regional Development Agencies and Devolved Administrations to tackle localised market failures.

The UK has the most liquid capital markets in Europe and the most developed venture capital sector in the world after the USA. Optimism about the long-term prospects for bioscience is starting to return to public markets after a global downturn and good UK biotechnology companies are still receiving venture capital investment. The UK is also home to some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, providing long-term finance for biotechnology companies through deals to purchase or license technology.

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The Government is not complacent, however. The DTI and Department of Health prompted the establishment of the Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team, to identify and clarify the issues that are critical to the future competitiveness of the UK biosciences sector. The BIGT report was published in November 2003 and includes recommendations on the flow of seed capital, improvement of public sector technology transfer activity, and the provision of a favourable regulatory and fiscal environment. The Government will examine these recommendations carefully and respond to them all in due course.

Business Start-ups

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many Government schemes, and how much state funding, have assisted business start-ups in 2001 to 2003 (a) in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, (b) in Teesside and (c) in the United Kingdom. [141863]

Jacqui Smith: Advice and support to business start-ups are provided by a range of organisations in the region. This includes DTI's Small Business Service and Business Link Organisations (and the Small Firms Loan Guarantee), ONE NorthEast (the regional development agency), local authorities, universities, community organisations, and Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise. Support for investment projects can be accessed by start-up businesses through DTI's Regional Selective Assistance (administered by ONE NorthEast—the regional development agency) and the Small Business Service's Enterprise Grant. Training and skills support is provided through Business Link Organisations and Local Learning and Skills Councils. Funding comes from a range of sources including central Government, European Structural Funds, and local authorities. It is not possible to identify easily the value of assistance accessed by start-up businesses within the overall totals of advice and support.

The available statistics for the value of assistance to start-up businesses in the areas requested are as set out.

The value of Business Link Organisation for Tees Valley's "Start Right in Business" scheme is shown in the following table. This is the closest available match to the geographic analysis requested. There is no national equivalent.

Assistance to start-up businesses
£

PeriodTees ValleyMiddlesbroughRedcar and Cleveland
2001 to date388,188113,65272,324

The Small Business Service's Enterprise Grants (EG) for small and medium sized enterprises, including start-up business give support to capital investment for manufacturing and service to manufacturing companies. The following table shows the values of assistance for all businesses. While a number are known to be start-ups specific information for start-up businesses is not readily available.

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Values of assistance for all businesses
£

Tees ValleyMiddlesbrough Southand East Cleveland
2001 to date1,635,260114,250

European Structural Funds are available through the North East of England Objective 2 Programme 2000–06.

Specific measures within the programme are designed to assist business start-ups.


Funding

£ million
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)26.904
Public Sector Funds (includes other Government funding)28.783
Private Sector Funding1.479

The target number of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to be assisted is 9,973. From 2001 to date grant offered regionally totals £16.476 million and 1,628 SMEs have been assisted, of which 184 (Grant Value £3.968 million) are in Teesside.


Funding

£ million
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)14.121
Public Sector Funds (includes other Government funding)8.796
Private Sector Funding8.553

The target number of SMEs to be assisted is 2,065.

From 2001 to date grant offered regionally totals £1.616 million and 554 SMEs have been assisted, of which 32 are in Teesside.

European Social Fund (ESF) funding is also available to assist with the training needs of beneficiaries associated with new SMEs.


Funding

£ million
European Social Fund (ESF)9.866
Public Sector Funds (includes other Government funding)9.866
Private Sector Funding2.192

From 2001 to date offers worth £1.941 million have been made regionally, with 4,355 people trained, of which 1,611 (Grant Value £0.650 million) are in Teesside.

Arts Council England North East operates the Cultural Business Venture, providing support to the cultural sector for business expansions including start-ups. Additional funding is provided by ONE NorthEast and European Structural Funds Objective 2 programme. The following figures show the value of assistance offered. There is no national equivalent.

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Assistance to start-up businesses

£
Period2001 to date
Tees Valley388,188
Middlesbrough113,652
Redcar and Cleveland72,324


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