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Since 1997 the Government have built a platform of economic stability which allows all businesses, small and large, to thrive. Businesses in Edinburgh North and Leith, and throughout the UK generally, are benefiting from low inflation, low interest rates and sound public finances. Furthermore, the UK now has the lowest ever corporation tax rates for small businesses and the lowest starting rate among major industrialised countries. Other initiatives introduced since 1997 have included the introduction and improvement of R and D tax credits, the reform of capital gains tax and steps to reduce the regulatory burden for business. Further support is delivered through the Scottish Executive and its various agencies.
The precise information requested is not available. However, data from the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers (CSCB) show that there have been 1,767 new business accounts opened in Edinburgh North and Leith since 2002.
Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate she has made of the total revenue from tariffs imposed on clothing exports from developing countries in the last year for which figures are available, broken down by country. 
The data required to make an accurate estimate of tariff revenues collected by the European Community are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
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John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues regarding provision of freepost by the Royal Mail during the proposed referendum on the Constitutional Treaty for the European Union. 
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions her Department has had with the European Commission on the supporting, co-ordinating and complementary action which may be taken by the EU with regard to industry under article I-17 of the proposed EU constitution. 
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many times during the (a) Italian, (b) Irish and (c) Dutch presidency of the EU the Advisory Committee for co-ordination in the internal market field met; when and where these meetings took place; what UK Government expert was present; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Alexander: The Internal Market Advisory Committee has had three meetings of member states' internal market directors general and the Commission over the period of the Italian, Irish and Dutch presidencies of the EU. The UK was represented at these meetings by Ms Jo Durning, Director of Europe, Europe and World Trade Directorate in DTI. The following table outlines when and where the Internal Market Advisory Committee meetings took place.
|18 November 2003||Brussels|
|7 May 2004||Brussels|
|19 November 2004||Brussels|
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what role the Support for Exhibitions and Seminars Abroad scheme plays in providing (a) practical and (b) financial assistance for developing global sales. 
Mr. Alexander: The Support for Exhibitions and Seminars Abroad scheme (SESA) provides grants to SMEs seeking to participate in overseas trade fairs or sectoral missions. The key purpose of SESA support is to help less experienced businesses to identify opportunities and deal with low-level commercial risk in investigating export markets. The scheme also supports seminars which promote UK sectoral capabilities to overseas business people and opinion formers.
Gas safety legislation places duties on those installing gas appliances, whether new or used, to ensure that they can be used without risk. Anyone installing a gas appliance must be competent to do so and all gas installation businesses must be registered with the Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI).
Additionally, most landlords have duties to ensure that gas appliances they provide are installed by a CORGI registered business, that they are maintained in a safe condition and receive annual gas safety checks.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance she has issued to the gas supply industry on steps to reduce the level of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning in the home. 
HSE has issued guidance to gas suppliers on their duties under gas safety legislation. HSE also regularly meets with gas suppliers in their capacity as key stakeholders in securing continuing consumer safety through publicity and advice about the risks from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Nigel Griffiths [holding answer 23 March 2005]: The Government, via the local Business Link and Advantage West Midlands have provided significant support to small businesses in both Newcastle-under-Lyme and the whole of Staffordshire.
Wide-ranging support has been delivered via the local Business Link operator and the Regional Development Agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM). Core funding from the Small Business Service (SBS) to Business Link Staffordshire has totalled approximately £2.8 million per annum for each operational year since April 2001. Additional funding at least equal to that amount has been sourced from local and regional partners and ERDF as a direct result of that core funding. Whilst that funding covers the whole of the
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county of Staffordshire, Business Link has been pro-active in its work with companies based in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
There are a total of 3,170 businesses based in the Newcastle-under-Lyme district. These businesses are able to access a wide range of business support services. These range from basic business information through to long-term, in-depth support project that assist companies to diversify into new product areas or to capitalise on new market opportunities.
Businesses are able to benefit from a range of Workforce Development services to help them achieve the Investor's in People (IIP) standard and develop their workforce. Subsidised workshops are available to assist businesses to become IIP accredited, and to maintain that accreditation once they have secured it. In total, companies are able to access up to £1,000 financial support to assist them along their journey to Investors in People recognition.
The new Director Development Programme is also able to assist businesses that are seeking to grow and develop by enhancing and developing the skills of the directors within the business. Individual training plans are agreed with directors to encourage them to develop their business skills in order to enhance the profitability and long-term success of the businesses they are responsible for.
Business Link Staffordshire has worked with over 1,650 businesses in Newcastle-under-Lyme since April 2001, a total of 52 per cent. of the overall business population. Some of those companies have been assisted to diversify into new products and markets to secure their ongoing viability. Other businesses in the area have been assisted with the implementation of e-commerce to ensure that in today's modern society they are able to respond to customer demand for online ordering.
4 per cent. of the total number of businesses the Business Link have worked with (140) have received intensive assistance to enable those SME's to implement improvements to specific business practices.
With support from the DTI and AWM the Rover Task Force has supported more than 160 Staffordshire companies in the automotive supply chain to diversify and to help start ups with high growth potential to establish themselves, 16 of which are based in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The regional Accelerate programme which helps manufacturing companies modernise themselves has also provided specific assistance to three companies in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) a DTI and AWM funded initiative has supported 150 companies in the Newcastle-under-Lyme and immediately surrounding area. With 65 companies having received in depth support.
A key area of concern in Newcastle-under-Lyme is the rate of new business formation. Business Link Staffordshire has assisted over 150 entrepreneurs to establish new businesses within the constituency. Those businesses are assisted for a period of two years to ensure they are capable of surviving in the long term. Our business start up survival rate after 12 months is 92 per cent. which reflects the depth and quality of business advice those start up businesses receive. Each
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start up business must produce a comprehensive business plan that is then reviewed by an experienced business advisor. Having reviewed the plan, goals are established with the entrepreneur which are then reviewed at regular intervals. Any variation from those goals is then explored in detail with the entrepreneur and where appropriate, action plans are developed to help them get back on track.
The availability of suitable premises has also been an issue in Newcastle-under-Lyme and through working closely with partners, including the Business Innovation Centre, a range of specific support has been made available. First, a number of incubator and business starter units, managed by the Business Innovation Centre, have been developed by Staffordshire county council, bringing brownfield sites back into effective use. Those businesses have often qualified for grant assistance of up to £3,000 to develop innovative products.
Business Link Staffordshire has worked closely with the north Staffordshire regeneration zone and other relevant local bodies, including Keele and Staffordshire university to ensure that businesses have been able to benefit from other services, including STEP and knowledge transfer placements. The emerging science park at Keele university has benefited from a dedicated medical technologies adviser to assist businesses within that cluster to establish themselves on the park and become successful.
Since 1997 Advantage West Midlands and it's predecessors responsible for delivery have offered Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) and Selective Finance for Investment (SFI) grants to 10 companies in Newcastle-Under-Lyme totalling £7.8 million. Take up of the grants offered has been £560,000 to two companies. It is expected that over the coming months a further five companies will receive grant support totalling £850,000. The discrepancy between grant offered and take up is largely due to the £5 million project with S and A Food not proceeding.
The SBS via it's SMART and Grant for Research and Development product has provided offers of grant totalling £611,000 to support 14 companies in Staffordshire (one of which is based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Faraday Technology £114,000 to develop new products and bring them to market.
The North Staffordshire Risk Capital Fund is available to businesses in the Newcastle-under-Lyme area, encouraging businesses to consider appropriate long-term finance rather than short term overdrafts. This is a relatively new initiative that will be on benefit to companies in the long-term.
Business Link Staffordshire has also provided funding for the Minority Business Association in north Staffordshire to ensure that businesses operated by people from ethnic minority backgrounds are not disadvantaged in any way. The MBA has been proactive in its work in Newcastleunder-Lyme.
Mr. Alexander [holding answer 23 March 2005]: I have asked the Chief Executive of Advantage West Midlands to write to my hon. Friend: a copy of that letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
Barclays bank's survey of business creation includes non-VAT registered firms and shows that there were 5,500 business start-ups in Staffordshire county (which contains the local authority of Newcastle-under-Lyme) in 2003 and a further 5,000 in the first nine months of 2004. This represents an increase of 16 per cent. on the first nine months of 2003.
Barclays data show that there were 445,000 (revised) business start-ups in England and Wales in 2003, a 16 per cent. increase on the year before. A further 396,000 businesses started up in England and Wales in the first nine months of 2004. This represents an increase of 14 per cent. on the first nine months of 2003. Barclays do not publish data on the number of businesses that have relocated.
VAT registrations do not capture all start-up activity. Businesses are unlikely to be registered if they fall below the compulsory VAT threshold, which has risen in each year since 1997. Only 1.8 million out of 4 million enterprises were registered for VAT at the start of 2003.
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