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10 Dec 2003 : Column 486Wcontinued
Mr. Alan Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of average earnings the threshold for repayment of a student loan was at (a) the time it was introduced and (b) the latest date for which figures are available. 
Alan Johnson: The first point at which borrowers could be required to repay income contingent loans was April 2000. At that time the threshold of £10,000 was 44 per cent. of average earnings (£22,475 1 ). In April 2003 the threshold (£10,000) was 40 per cent. of average earnings (£25,134 1 ).
Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the Government's estimate is of the cost of defending the legal action that the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation and Amicus brought in relation to the implementation of Article 8 of the 1980 European Insolvency Directive. 
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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with (a) UK firms and (b) representatives of the accountancy profession on the decision to raise the audit exemption threshold to £5.6 million; and if she will publish the minutes of such meetings. 
Ms Hewitt: On 11 July 2003 the Government published a consultation document on the proposal to increase the audit exemption threshold. The consultation document was sent to some 870 organisations, businesses and individuals, including UK firms and representatives of the accountancy profession. There were 90 responses of which 35 were from UK firms and 11 from bodies representing the accountancy profession. A summary of the responses is available on the Department's website at http://www.dti.gov.uk/cld/published.htm
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the change in cost to UK businesses of the reduction in the timescale for rotation of audit partners from seven to five years. 
Ms Hewitt: The regular rotation of audit partners plays an important role in upholding auditor independence. The Government welcomed the recommendation by the Coordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues (CGAA) last January to reduce the timescale for the rotation of the lead audit partner from seven to five years. The professional audit bodies implemented the recommendation immediately through revised guidance. They pointed out that audit firms would incur some costs in terms of familiarisation and planning (which would vary according to size of firm) in moving to the new five year cycle, but agreed with the CGAA that, as the requirements only relate to firms that are auditing listed and public interest entities, the benefits in terms of safeguarding auditor independence from the client outweighed any such transitional costs.
Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the number of businesses employing more than (a) five people, (b) 50 people, (c) 100 people and (d) 250 people in St. Helens in each year since 1992. 
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|Employment size band|
Employment size bands not published prior to 2003.
Counts are of enterprises with main address in St. Helens.
Counts are rounded to the nearest five to avoid disclosure.
Size Analysis of UK Businesses (ONS)
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what targets her Department has set for creating more enterprise in disadvantaged communities; and what progress has been made towards these targets. 
|20 per cent. most deprived wards||20 per cent. least deprived wards|
ONS Inter Departmental Business Register (special analysis), the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2000, and population estimates from the Office for National Statistics
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Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate her Department has made of the (a) number of small businesses which are dependent on hunting for their survival and (b) number of jobs that would be lost in the event of a ban on hunting with hounds. 
There are many businesses providing goods and services for the whole range of rural activities. No reliable estimate is possible of how many such businesses are so dependent on hunting that they would fail if hunting is regulated or banned. The Burns Report (paragraph 3.8) said
|Direct employment by the hunts||710|
|Direct employment by the followers||1,497|
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had within the last year with representatives of the insurance industry on the limitations of insurability in respect of (a) nuclear issues and (b) climate change issues; and if she will make a statement. 
With regard to insurability in respect of nuclear issues, UK nuclear operators have a statutory obligation to cover their liability by insurance. DTI officials have maintained close contact with the insurance industry over the last 12 months and are satisfied that sufficient cover is available.
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