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1 Mar 2004 : Column 654W—continued

VAT Registration

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many businesses have (a) registered and (b) de-registered for VAT since 1997 in each of the government regions. [156711]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 26 February 2004]: The number of VAT registrations and de-registrations for each Government Office Region and for each calendar year is as follows:

VAT registrations

United Kingdom187,690187,515181,370184,035174,620175,800
North East4,1954,2154,2554,3754,1104,200
North West18,46018,72017,83018,28517,44517,595
Yorkshire and the Humber12,16512,11011,98012,18011,67512,140
East Midlands12,03511,92511,48012,01011,42512,075
West Midlands14,74514,90514,53014,67514,05514,265
South East30,74030,12029,11529,28528,52028,480
South West16,18516,00515,70515,72514,58014,960
Northern Ireland4,0103,7703,6703,4703,6103,460


Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994–2002, Small Business Service

1 Mar 2004 : Column 655W

VAT de-registrations

United Kingdom151,900153,450160,410165,475167,185176,040
North East3,9703,9553,9953,9354,4054,120
North West16,23016,27016,29016,73516,55017,750
Yorkshire and the Humber11,13010,97511,43011,55012,02512,340
East Midlands10,12510,17010,46010,72010,82511,115
West Midlands12,61012,70513,18013,04013,44514,180
South East22,95522,14023,90025,13525,45527,355
South West13,28513,37514,08014,66514,19015,290
Northern Ireland3,2203,2103,6653,7253,5353,170


Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994–2002, Small Business Service

Working Hours

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what work the Government has undertaken (a) with the Confederation of British Industry and (b) in the EU to ensure that workers in the UK have flexible working hours; and if she will make a statement. [156177]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Work and Parents Taskforce, established by the Government in 2001, was responsible for the design of the flexible working law aimed at encouraging the take-up of flexible working patterns in the workplace. John Cridland, Deputy Director-General of the CBI, was a member of the 10 person taskforce.

To maintain flexible labour markets we are currently considering our response to the European Commission's Communication on working time so as to ensure that key decision makers in the EU understand the benefits of our approach, which provides protection to workers who do not wish to work long hours without restricting those who wish make a different choice.

The Government's Work-Life balance campaign also encourages employers to adopt best practice and provide flexible working practices right across the workforce.


Carbon Sinks

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to allow the carbon sink capacities of agricultural crops to be incorporated into emissions trading schemes. [155665]

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Mr. Morley: The Department recognises the important benefits of agricultural crops acting as carbon 'sinks', and removing a significant greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The inclusion of sinks in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme via Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism projects (Kyoto Protocol mechanisms) is currently under discussion at EU level where the UK supports their inclusion.

The UK Emissions Trading Scheme includes direct emissions of greenhouse gases from installations and indirect emissions associates with electricity use. There is no provision for carbon sinks projects in the Scheme. The Scheme will be reviewed once final agreement has been reached on the inclusion of credits from Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism in the EU Scheme.

Crop Spraying

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has to ban crop spraying within a set distance of residential properties; [156359]

Alun Michael: There has been a very large response to the formal consultation on no-spray buffer zones near residential properties and the responses are currently being evaluated. Once the evaluation has been completed Ministers will decide whether such zones should be required.

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Flood Defences

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment has been made of the Bauer-IBS demountable flood defences used in Shrewsbury in the latest floods; [154889]

Mr. Morley: The demountable flood defences form an integral part of the Shrewsbury Flood Alleviation Scheme. The February 2004 floods were the first time such barriers had been used in the UK and were a great success, holding back 1.9 metres of water at the peak. Seventy properties in Frankwell are now protected for the first time in their history. The performance of the barriers was assessed and recorded and operational matters are currently being reviewed by the Environment Agency and Bauer—IBS.

The Environment Agency and Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council jointly purchased 1400m of Danish Mobile Dam at a cost of £72,000 two years ago. A 90 metre length was used in Shrewsbury during the recent floods (pro rata cost of circa £5,000) and together with associated pumps helped protect approximately 40 properties and kept the main road into Shrewsbury open.

A comprehensive monitoring and survey programme of all the defences was carried out during the floods. Debrief meetings with professional partners are now scheduled to assess the overall response. However it is clear the defences and associated drainage pumping stations worked very successfully and Frankwell remained dry.

The Environment Agency has undertaken a thorough assessment of the remaining flood risk areas of Shrewsbury. Further permanent defences are difficult to justify but the Environment Agency will continue to keep the possibilities for further protection under review.

The Bellwin scheme is only operated in circumstances that are exceptional by local standards and unforeseeable. ODPM have not received any application from the relevant Councils.

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General advice about health hazards of flood waters was disseminated via local radio, leaflet circulation and on site manning. No specific signs were deployed.

Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the savings to households resulting from flood defences funded by her Department, for each year since 1997, broken down by constituency. [155090]

Mr. Morley: Defra grant aids capital projects and related studies that meet specified economic, technical and environmental criteria and achieve the threshold priority score for the year in which they start. Decisions regarding which flood and coastal defence projects to promote, their timing and appropriate solutions are matters for the operating authorities the Environment Agency (EA), local authorities and (in areas with special drainage needs) internal drainage boards.

No central record is kept of estimated savings from flood defences during actual flood events but appraisal of proposed defences includes assessment of estimated costs and benefits to the national economy. The Department estimates that total benefits of approximately £17 billion (in terms of flood damages avoided) were attributable to urban areas (at the time of project approval) for projects approved since 1997 over the lifetime of the defences.

While savings to households will contribute significantly to the overall benefit, centrally held records do not identify them separately from other benefit items nor by constituency or year. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to answer the specific question without incurring disproportionate cost.

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