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Business Insolvencies

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list each (a) corporate administration, (b) receivership and (c) liquidation that started over 20 years ago but has not yet been completed. [49718]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Details of these records from over 20 years ago are not available in this form and obtaining the data would incur disproportionate cost.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the trend in the number of business insolvencies. [49730]

Mr. Sutcliffe: Business insolvencies include company liquidations and the self-employed subset of individual bankruptcy orders. It is not currently possible from centrally collated information to identify or quantify the element of business-related individual voluntary arrangements (IVA's). Figures quoted in the following table relate to England and Wales.
Company liquidations and self-employed bankruptcies in England and Wales 1992–2005: Number and percentage change

Company liquidationsPercentage change year on year

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Self-employed bankruptciesPercentage change year on year
January-September 20047,192
January-September 20058,13113.1

The trend in both company liquidations and self-employed bankruptcies has been decreasing, with some fluctuation, since the last recession in the early 1990's. The 2005 figure of 12,893 company liquidations is just over half of the level reached in 1992 (24,425); self-employed bankruptcies in 2004 (the latest full year available) at 9,564 are less than half the level in 1992 (19,525). The latest available data for self-employed bankruptcies are for January-September 2005, where the 8,131 bankruptcy orders compare with 14,531 during the same period of 1992.

Since 1997, company liquidations have shown modest increases year-on-year until 2002 after which the figures fell in 2003 and again in 2004. The 2005 figure, while up slightly on 2004, is about the same as for 1997. Self-employed bankruptcies decreased year-on-year from 1997 to 2002, after which 2003 and 2004 saw small increases; the 2004 figure (at 9,564) remains, however, lower than in 1997 (11,269).

When compared with numbers of companies on the Companies House active register, the rate of company insolvencies has been falling from Q3 1992 to Q4 2005; the latest figure of 0.7 has remained the same for the last six quarters and compares to that of 2.6 for Q3 1992. The equivalent rate during the second half of 1997 was 1.2.

Company Law

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation requiring companies to file a copy of their audit contract with the Registrar of Companies. [49719]

Alun Michael: Clause 480 of the Company Law Reform Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 1 November, will create a power for my right hon. Friend
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the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring companies to disclose the terms on which their auditors are appointed.

Credit Cards

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation to ban credit card companies from issuing credit cards to anyone below the age of 18 years. [49731]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Government do not see the need to introduce such legislation. Under section 50 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 it is already an offence to send a document to a minor inviting them to borrow money and therefore no-one under the age of 18 should be offered a credit card. If, however, a minor were to enter into a credit agreement, that agreement would not be binding under the general law.

Departmental Conferences

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2006, Official Report, column 1245 on departmental conferences, what is his Department's definition of the marketing mix; and how much his Department spent on marketing in each year since 1997. [45827]

Alan Johnson: The communication specialists at DTI adopt an industry accepted definition of the marketing mix which can include direct mail, paid-for advertising, use of non-news media and promotional items. When marketing strategies are developed, a strong emphasis is placed on the desired outcomes and this influences what parts of the marketing mix are used.

The then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry provided the following responses:

Information on publicity expenditure from centrally held budgets is contained in the Government's Expenditure Plans and, more recently, the DTI's annual Departmental Report, which are available in the Libraries of the House. Figures relating to other information campaigns, and information on publicity and advertising by NDPBs, are not held centrally and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.

Dyfed Postal Area

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received since 1999 about changing the name of the Dyfed postal area to take account of new local authority areas since 1999. [49228]

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Barry Gardiner: This is an operational matter for Royal Mail plc. The chief executive has been asked to reply to the hon. Member.

Energy Consumption (Wales)

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average annual energy consumption per household in Wales was in 2004–05; and if he will make a statement. [49746]

Malcolm Wicks: Total energy consumption figures at regional and local authority level for 2003 were published as experimental statistics in the December 2005 edition of Energy Trends, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House. These show that household energy consumption in Wales (excluding transport use) totalled 29,554.7GWh (2,541.3 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent) during 2003. This equates to an annual household consumption of around 24,300kWh.

Energy Pricing

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he (a) last discussed and (b) next plans to discuss energy prices for industry with Ofgem. [29389]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 17 November 2005]: Ministers and senior officials in DTI meet regularly with their counterparts in Ofgem to discuss a broad range of energy market issues, including energy prices. The next meeting between Ministers and Ofgem is scheduled for the very near future. DTI established the Gas Prices Working Group, which includes Ofgem and industry representatives, to consider ways of mitigating the impact of high energy prices on industrial users.

Equitable Life

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations his Department has made to the EU in response to its proposed investigation into Equitable Life. [49725]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I have been asked to reply.

The European Parliament set up a Committee of Inquiry into Equitable Life on 12 January. The Treasury has received no approach from the Committee in relation to this inquiry. The Government will carefully consider any approach it receives and what representations it might make.

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