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18 Dec 2003 : Column 1041W—continued

Companies (Annual Earnings)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many companies were required to restate their annual earnings in (a) 2002 and (b) 2003; [144183]

Jacqui Smith: The Financial Reporting Review Panel (FRRP) considers whether the annual accounts of UK public companies and large private companies comply with the requirements of the Companies Act 1985. To date it has acted in response to complaints or other concerns and has always been able to resolve issues without the need to use its formal powers, which are to apply to the courts for an order requiring a company to restate its accounts.

The FRRP would consider in the usual way any complaint made to it about a UK company which had restated its earnings in the US. The FRRP is also introducing a pro-active element into its work—that is it will select a number of accounts for review on the basis

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of a risk assessment. It would be a matter for the FRRP to consider whether to look at the accounts of any UK company which restates its earnings in the US.

Crown Estate

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the Energy Bill will change the role of the Crown Estate with regard to (a) seabed control, (b) taxation of marine renewables and (c) planning control of marine renewables. [144898]

Mr. Timms: The Energy Bill when enacted will enable The Crown Estate to licence areas of the seabed in the Renewable Energy Zone for the purpose of exploring and exploiting the UK's wind, wave and tidal resources for the production of energy. The Renewable Energy Zone will be established around the UK, adjacent to the territorial sea, in accordance with the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Any financial consideration which The Crown Estate may charge for the use of the seabed is a matter for that organisation, in accordance with the Crown Estate Act 1961.

Planning control of marine renewables is a matter for Government Departments.

Departmental Staff

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the levels of sick leave in her Department as reported in 'Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service 2002'. [143989]

Ms Hewitt: I welcome my Department's reduction in sick absence shown in the report. Reduction of sick absence continues to be a priority in the delivery of the DTI's Business Plan.


Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people (a) entered self-employment and (b) were considering going into business on the latest month for which figures are available, broken down by (i) region and (ii) local authority area. [143133]

Nigel Griffiths: The Office for National Statistics' Labour Force Survey estimates the stock of self-employed people in the UK, and in Summer 2003, there were 3.4 million self-employed people in the UK. Regional estimates are also available (see Table 1).

New VAT registrations are the best guide to new business activity (start-ups) in the UK and are available for regions and local/unitary authorities are set out in Table 3 which I have placed in the Libraries of the House.

In 2001, 12 per cent. of working age adults in England were considering going into business (or becoming self-employed). Data for the nine regions in England are shown in Table 2.

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Table 1: Self-employed people in the UK and regions, summer 2003

Region and countryTotal self-employed persons
North East89,000
North West321,000
Yorkshire and the Humber228,000
East Midlands224,000
West Midlands244,000
South East554,000
South West343,000
Northern Ireland93,000
United Kingdom total3,398,000


ONS Labour Force Survey, Summer 2003. Due to slight methodological differences between the way the national and regional LFS estimates have been interim adjusted for the 2001 Census, there may be slight differences between the UK total and the sum of the regional components

Table 2: Would-be entrepreneurs by region, England, 2001

RegionPercentage of 16 to 64-year-olds
East Midlands10
North East8
North West11
South East13
South West11
West Midlands12
Yorkshire and the Humber10


SBS Household Survey of Entrepreneurship, 2001

Environmental Liability Directive

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the impact that the proposed environmental liability directive will have on small businesses in the UK. [144208]

Nigel Griffiths: The proposed environmental liability Directive is still subject to the outcome of EU negotiations.

The UK is working together with other Member States to ensure that the final version of the Directive does not stipulate compulsory financial security as this measure would be extremely costly and place a disproportionate burden on small businesses.

European Legislation

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what grant assistance is available to trade associations to help them meet the costs of consultation and representation associated with European legislation; and if she will make a statement. [144872]

Jacqui Smith: DTI values the important input that trade associations make to the development of robust policy in the UK and in Europe. Trade associations in sectors covered by DTI work closely with DTI sector units, which will, from time to time, co-sponsor joint projects.

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Flexible Working

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment the Government have made of the demand for flexible working practices. [144513]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Evidence demonstrates that the demand for flexible working by employees is high.

The Spring 2003 Labour Force Survey indicates that 22 per cent. of employees (5.5 million) presently work some form of flexible working arrangement. The preliminary findings of the 2003 DTI Work-Life Balance survey of employees shows that there is substantial demand for flexible working patterns amongst those who do not work in each of these ways; 49 per cent. wanting to work flexitime, 34 per cent. a compressed working week, 32 per cent. work term time only and 29 per cent. expressing a desire to regularly work from home. The full report is to be published early in 2004.

This is supported by the findings of the CIPD/Lovells October 2003 research into the impact of the new flexible working law, which indicates that over a quarter (28 per cent.) of employers have seen an increase in the total number of requests for flexible working since the law was introduced in April 2003. The Government's Work-Life Balance Campaign continues to support demand by encouraging employers to follow best practice and providing flexible working opportunities across the workplace that meet the needs of the business.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what information she has collected on (a) the number of requests which have been received by businesses for flexible working and (b) the number of such requests which have been granted. [144514]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The DTI is collecting evidence from a number of sources to build up a clear picture of the demand for, and uptake of, flexible working:

The second Work-Life Balance study of employers (fieldwork Dec 02-Apr 03) showed that:

To provide a direct comparison over time, it is planned that the WLB survey will be repeated in 2005.

A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development and Lovells (fieldwork Sept 2003) on the use of the new right to request flexible working in the first six months showed that:

The Department have also commissioned questions on flexible working which currently appear in the Office of National Statistics Omnibus survey. The results of these will be available in Spring 2004.

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We continue to work with key intermediaries, such as Working Families and Maternity Alliance, who are collating data through member/supporter surveys.

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