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Mr. McCartney: Senior officials have regular contact with the Russians on investment questions, including the importance of legal and administrative arrangements which secure and promote British investment in Russia. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not yet had the opportunity personally to meet his Russian counterparts but investment issues will form part of the discussion when he does.
Margaret Hodge: Estimates of the total number of small businesses are only available at a regional level. However, figures for the number of VAT registered businesses are available at the local level. Latest data on the stock of VAT registered businesses at the end of each year since 1997 are shown in the following table for (a) Brent, East constituency and (b) the London borough of Brent.
|End year stock of VAT registered businesses, 1997-2004( 1)|
|(1 )VAT registration and de-registration data are not available by size of business. However, in Brent borough 98 per cent. of the total stock of VAT registered businesses are small (0-49 employees).|
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
Office for National Statistics, UK Business: Activity, Size and Location2005, available from http://www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/Product.asp?vlnk=933
In Brent borough the stock of VAT registered businesses increased each year from 1997 to 2004, rising by 10 per cent. overall. In Brent, East the VAT registered stock rose by 9 per cent. between 1997 and 2004.
Figures based on VAT registered businesses only 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. Only 1.8 million out of 4.3 million businesses (42 per cent.) were registered for VAT at the start of 2004.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many working days were lost to his Department and its executive agencies in each
year since 1997 due to staff absenteeism, expressed as the average annual number of absent days per employee; and what the estimated total cost to the Department and its agencies of absenteeism was in each year. 
Using the figure of £1098 pa per person absent used in the Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service 2004 report, the estimated total cost of sick absence to DTI HQ in each year 2000 to 2005 is:
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Competition Commission, (b) the Office of Fair Trading and (c) the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the supermarket code of practice. 
Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Ministers meet with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Competition Commission (CC) and colleagues at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a regular basis to discuss topics of mutual interest.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussion took place between his Department and the BBC about the decision not to renew the contract for renewal and purchase of television licences supplied at post offices. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: None. The decision was a commercial one made by the BBC as the television licensing authority looking to the interests of licence fee payers and seeking to ensure the best deal for the public in this capacity.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many households have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS); and how many householders live in premises that are protected by TPS regulations by virtue of a previous occupant having registered with the service. 
(a) The Direct Marketing Association runs the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) scheme under the terms of contract on behalf of the Office of Communications and the Information Commissioners Office has responsibility for enforcement. The TPS estimates that there are currently 12.7 million numbers registered with them. It should be noted that the TPS enables consumers to register individual telephone numbers including mobile numbers, rather than households. At the time of registration the TPS records the consumers name, address and telephone number, but this does not give an accurate assessment of how many households are registered with the TPS.
(b) In view of the fact that the TPS registers individual numbers rather than households it is not possible to assess how many householders live in premises protected by the previous occupants TPS registration. However, within the next 12 months the TPS intends to identify any TPS registered numbers, which were not registered by the current consumer and will contact them to confirm if they still wish to remain registered.
Margaret Hodge: The Direct Marketing Association runs the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) scheme on behalf of the Office of Communications and the Information Commissioners Office has responsibility for enforcement. The TPS estimates that currently 833,825 consumers have registered the same number on more than one occasion with them. It should be noted that duplicate numbers are not present on the TPS register as they are removed when the TPS carries out their checks to update their records.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many complaints have been made against the 10 companies breaching Telephone Preference Service regulations most frequently in the last 12 months. 
The Direct Marketing Association runs the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) scheme on behalf of the Office of Communications and the Information Commissioner's Office has responsibility for enforcement. The TPS records indicate that the total number of complaints made against the top 10
companies for 2005 was 7,701. It should be noted that this figure includes complaints where consumers may not have been registered with the TPS or had not allowed the necessary 28 days to elapse before their registration took effect.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the operation of the Trade Descriptions (Place of Production) (Marking) Order 1988; how many (a) individuals and (b) companies have been prosecuted under this Order and the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 in each year since 1989; and what recent representations he has received on the operation of this Order. 
Mr. McCartney: According to information obtained from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the number of prosecutions notified to them by Trading Standards Services under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 in each year since 1989 are:
OFT confirm that they received no details of any prosecutions made under the Trade Descriptions (Place of Production) (Marking) Order 1988, which was repealed in 1996 by the Trade Descriptions (Place of Production) (Marking) (Revocation) Order 1996.
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