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Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what the reasons are for the delay in publication of the Broadband Stakeholders Group's independent rates review, and if he will make a statement; 
To review the effects of the business rating system on the providers of communication apparatus and their possible affect on competition within the communications industry.
To consider whether or not the assessment methodology is having a detrimental effect on the roll out of broadband, with special emphasis on the provision of broadband in rural areas and to isolated communities.
To consider the methods of assessment as between leased and owned fibre and any possible double payment as between fibre lessees and the owners of the ducts in which the fibre is carried and any material differences between business rates payable on owned or leased fibre.
To determine the scope of the works for Phase II of the project, subject to budget approval.
The BSG published an interim status report in late 2004. While the interim report proposed options for a way forward, the working group driving the report felt that there were insufficient hard data (as opposed to anecdotal material) to draw firm conclusions at that stage. It was planned that the review could be concluded by March 31 2005, three months on from the interim report.
However, the review could not be taken forward from that point as, at the start of 2005, the European Commission launched a state aids investigation, which directly involved two BSG members. A decision on this case is expected imminently, at which point the review can progress as planned.
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many businesses in (a) England and (b) Beverley and Holderness have (i) started up and (ii) ceased trading in each of the last nine years; and if he will make a statement. 
Margaret Hodge: Value-added tax (VAT) registrations and deregistrations are the best official guide to the pattern of business start-ups and closures. DTI data on the number of VAT registrations and de-registrations in (a) England and (b) the Beverley and Holderness constituency in each year from 1997 to 2004 are shown in the table. Data for 2005 will be available in autumn 2006. For comparison, the start of year stock of VAT-registered businesses is also given.
VAT registration and deregistration data do not capture all business activity. Businesses are unlikely to be registered if their turnover falls below the compulsory VAT threshold, which has risen in each year since 1997. Similarly, businesses that deregister will not necessarily have closed. Only 1.8 million out of 4.3 million businesses (42 per cent.) were registered for VAT at the start of 2004.
|VAT deregistrations and registrations1997-2004|
| Note: Owing to rounding, the stock at the end of the previous year, plus registrations during the year, minus de-registrations during the year, may not exactly match the stock at the end of the year. Source: Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994-2004, Small Business Service, available from the Library of the House and also at http://www.sbs.gov.uk/vats.|
In both England and Beverley and Holderness the stock of VAT registered businesses has increased or stayed constant each year since 1997, as registrations have matched or exceeded deregistrations in every year.
The number of VAT deregistrations in England has increased since 1997. However, business closures are part of the functioning of a dynamic economy and represent willingness among the business population to take risks or the displacement of less productive and innovative firms by more productive ones. Research indicates that improvements in productivity and economic growth are more likely to come from higher levels of both business entry and business exit.
Regional disparities in start-up and closure rates can have their root in the different economic histories and different opportunities available in each region. The Governments aim is for every region to achieve success and good economic growth, which is why increasing resources have been put at the disposal of each Regional Development Agency.
Margaret Hodge: Value-added tax (VAT) registrations are the best official guide to the pattern of business start-ups. The latest available figures for VAT registrations in individual London boroughs from 1994-2004 are shown as follows. Data for 2005 will be available autumn 2006.
However VAT registrations do not capture all start-up activity. Businesses are unlikely to be registered if their turnover falls below the compulsory VAT threshold. Only 1.8 million out of 4.3 million enterprises (42 per cent.) in the UK were registered for VAT at the start of 2004.
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