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8 Dec 2004 : Column 584W—continued

British Summer Time

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will bring forward legislation to make British summer time permanent and end the biannual time change. [201793]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government have no plans to alter the present summer time arrangements, but we shall continue to listen to the arguments for and against change.

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the (a) economic and (b) safety impact of the biannual time change. [201794]

Mr. Sutcliffe: A European Directive harmonises the dates when summer time begins and ends across EC member states as the last Sundays in March and October respectively, and each member state is obliged to move their clocks by one hour at 1.00 am GMT on that date. The purpose of the Directive is to assist planning by ensuring uniformity in summer time dates across the community, thus removing uncertainty for industry and the public in general about Summer Time dates across EC member states.

Given these arrangements, the Government have not undertaken any research specifically addressing the economic or safety impacts of the biannual time change, other than as part of the consultation document published in June 1989 ("Summer Time—A Consultation Document" (Cm 722), which set out the more important arguments and facts about existing summer time arrangements and proposals for change in terms of their economic and social effects, and which concluded that the issues revolved around the basis of opinion and judgment rather than any balance sheet of gains and losses.

In addition, the Department for Transport has previously commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory to update and refine earlier research on the possible impact of the adoption of Central European time on the number of road accident casualties. The results were published on 14 October 1998.

Business Support

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list spending on (a) business support products and (b) administration by (i) the Small Business Service, (ii) other departmental support for small business and (iii) innovation within the departmental activity of Commercial Best Practice and Enterprise for each year since 1997. [201180]

Nigel Griffiths: The following tables show (a) the total spend on business support products, (b) the total spending on administration by the Small Business Service on all activities, and (c) spending on administration for other departmental support for small
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business and innovation within the departmental activity of Commercial Best Practice and Enterprise. A detailed analysis of Small Business Service spend by specific products or areas of expenditure cannot be identified other than at disproportionate cost.
Business support

£ million
Financial yearNet spending

Small Business Service administration costs (all activities)

£ million
Financial yearNet spending

Other administration costs in support of small business and innovation within the departmental activity of commercial best practice and enterprise

£ million
Financial yearNet spending

Butane Fuel

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the proportion of cigarette lighters being used in the UK which have been imported. [203160]

Jacqui Smith: The Office for National Statistics' Prodcom Report PRA 36639 (Product Sales and Trade(Other Manufacturing) identifies no sales of cigarette lighters from UK manufacturers' own production from 2000 to 2003, though some very small scale production may not be covered. The UK market is essentially met by imports.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of butane lighter fuel used in the UK in the last period for which figures are available was produced in the UK. [203161]

Jacqui Smith: Consumption of butane in the UK was 915,000 tonnes in 2003, of which 714,000 tonnes was consumed for non-energy use. About 20 per cent. of
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these amounts were imported. It is not possible to disaggregate how much butane was used in lighters and what proportion of that was UK produced.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the size of the UK market for butane lighter fuel. [203162]

Jacqui Smith: This information is not available

Competitiveness Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Competitiveness Council held 25 and 26 November; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [201338]

Ms Hewitt: I attended the Competitiveness Council on 25 November and my noble Friend Lord Sainsbury of Turville attended on 26 November. Lord Sainsbury also attended the first ever Space Council, a joint meeting of the Council of the European Union and Council of the European Space Agency, on 25 November.

The Council took note of a report from the presidency on the current EU economic situation and welcomed the Commission's Competitiveness Package, consisting of the Commission's Competitiveness Report 2004, the Innovation Scoreboard and the Enterprise Policy Scoreboard. In discussion, Ministers emphasised the need to progress the regulatory reform agenda, particularly in developing more robust competitiveness impact assessment.

Ministers discussed the Council's approach to the Lisbon Mid Term Review and their views on the recent report of the High Level Group chaired by Wim Kok. The Council broadly welcomed this report as a helpful basis for the Mid Term Review and agreed with the recommendation that stressed the need to focus on growth, employment and productivity as preconditions for social cohesion and sustainable development. Ministers also recognised that the Competitiveness Council had a lead role to play in three out of the five priority areas identified in the Kok report (the knowledge society, the business climate, and the internal market) and co-responsibility for the other two (an inclusive labour market and an environmentally sustainable future). Member states agreed the need to take steps at all levels, particularly at member state level, to ensure the Lisbon goals are realised.

The Council adopted conclusions on Better Regulation and simplification of legislation. The UK welcomed the recent Commission progress report on improving impact assessment procedures, including boosting assessment of competitiveness impacts, and stressed again the importance of regulatory reform, with support from a number of member states. The Council also approved a list of 15 simplification priorities, which will now be sent to the Commission for further consideration.

The Council had a policy debate on the draft REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), based around a presidency report of discussions so far in the ad hoc
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Working Group on Chemicals. A number of issues were discussed, including REACH impact assessment, data requirements for low-volume substances and the joint submission of data (including cost sharing). On the latter, the UK presented a paper jointly with Hungary promoting the One Substance, One Registration (OSOR) principle. In conclusion, the Council instructed its preparatory bodies to consider these key issues in greater detail, taking account of competitiveness issues (particularly for SMEs) human health and environmental issues, simplification of administrative processes and efficient use of resources.

The Council had its first discussion on the draft directive establishing a general legal framework for services in the internal market designed to eliminate obstacles to freedom of establishment for service providers and free movement of services between member states. In discussion, Council underlined the political and economic significance of the proposed directive in the context of the Lisbon Strategy and the realisation of an internal market in services. Member states also discussed the country of origin principle, administrative simplification and administrative cooperation. I reiterated the UK's support for the market opening objectives of this proposed directive and our support in principle for the country of origin principle, subject to certain assurances on health and safety issues. The Council will return to this dossier at future meetings.

The Council agreed on a general approach to a directive on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies governed by the laws of different member states. UK voted in favour.

The Council unanimously agreed a proposed regulation on the monitoring of trade in drug precursors between the Community and third countries. UK supported this measure, which regulates trade in chemicals that can be used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The Council had an exchange of views on the textiles and clothing industry, taking into account the Commission's communication of the recommendations of the High Level Group for this sector, which looked at improving the industry's competitiveness. Council conclusions were adopted.

The Council discussed developments in international negotiations on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and approved a modification to the Commission's negotiating mandate. This revised mandate should enable the Commission to finalise negotiations with international partners. The modified negotiating directives also confirm European support for Cadarache in France as the preferred site for ITER. The UK agreed with these modifications.

Ministers held a policy debate on future European research policy. The presidency's conclusions emphasised the importance of research policy in the context of the Lisbon Strategy. There was broad agreement on the principles for the next Framework Programme (FP7) and a high degree of support for funding of basic research as part of this programme. Lord Sainsbury emphasised the need for a formal Commission proposal on FP7 as early as possible in
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2005 and outlined the UK's vision for FP7, stressing the need to create world-class centres of excellence in Europe to attract the best young researchers. The Commission said that they hoped to present formal proposals on FP7 by April 2005.

Five items were taken under Any Other Business. Commissioner Verheugen gave a progress report on the shipbuilding-related LeaderSHIP 2015 initiative. The presidency gave Council information on the fifth Euro-med Conference on Industry, held at Caserta in October, at which the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Enterprise and "Caserta declaration" were adopted. Further to discussion at the last Competitiveness Council, the presidency provided information regarding efforts by member states to improve their records on timely transposition of internal market legislation. The presidency provided information on conferences held during the Dutch presidency relating to competitiveness. The Council took note of a UK paper reminding the Commission of March 2004 Council Conclusions that invited the Commission to consider establishing a European Centres of Enterprise award scheme, with a view to the scheme's introduction during 2005. Commissioner Verheugen expressed support for taking the scheme forward.

The first ever Space Council took place (a joint and concomitant meeting of the Council of the European Union and European Space Agency (ESA) at ministerial level). Ministers discussed the development of a European Space Policy and a set of orientations were agreed that set out the general approach and some next steps. These highlighted the strategic importance of space activities to a broad spectrum of European policies and stated that the European Space Programme (ESP) would provide a flexible, common and inclusive framework for EU, ESA and other stakeholders to operate within. UK supported the orientations and the development of a realistic and affordable ESP as a way of coordinating European space activities. Further meetings of the Space Council may take place during 2005.

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