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Mr. Straw: I have signed one public interest immunity certificate in relation to the appeal proceedings in the case of R v. Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh. My predecessor, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), signed two certificates in relation to the trial proceedings in that case.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next expects to receive a report on religious discrimination from the University of Derby; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 15 January 2001]: We received a draft report of the findings of the Derby empirical research into religious discrimination last month. All research commissioned by the Home Office is subject to external peer review before publication and this is in hand.
Dr. Howells: My colleagues and I meet with the Director General of Telecommunications from time to time to discuss ways of strengthening competition in the telecommunications market and promoting the interests of consumers.
Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff full-time equivalents were employed in the independent petrol retail industry in England and Wales in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will publish a White Paper on the regulation of financial management companies which advise the public on restructuring borrowing. 
16 Jan 2001 : Column: 216W
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what timescale he envisages for the review of the NPL/SERCO business plan for management of the National Weights and Measures Laboratory in Teddington; and what his plans are for consulting NWML's clients, customers and partners before a decision is made. 
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the conclusions were of the most recent review of the National Weights and Measures Laboratory as regards the appropriate role of (a) Government and (b) private contractors in the provision of trading standards and consumer protection work by the NWML. 
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he proposes to take to protect the interests of consumers in respect of the hostile takeover of Abbey National by Lloyds TSB. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 15 January 2001]: In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the Director of Fair Trading to assess the likely impact of a proposed merger. He is currently investigating the possible take-over of Abbey National by Lloyds TSB and will advise me in due course on whether or not he believes the proposed merger may be expected to operate against the public interest. When I have received the DGFT's advice, I will consider all issues that I believe to be relevant before deciding whether or not to refer the proposed merger to the Competition Commission for a detailed inquiry.
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what financial allocation has been made by his Department for research into the safety of mobile phones and telecommunication masts. 
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Marketing Survey (last published in March 2000) shows that the total number of petrol retail outlets in Scotland in 1997, 1998 and 1999 was as follows:
|Calendar year||Petrol retail outlets|
The transport and communication industry includes road transport, air transport, shipping, travel agents and other transport and communication--detailed figures solely for road haulage (which is only one category within road transport) are not available.
|2000 (to quarter 3)||13|
Dr. Howells: No figures are available from Companies House for the number of firms that have ceased trading over the period in question. However, their records confirm that 58,384 limited companies went into liquidation over the period from May 1997 to December 2000. Of these, 9,838 were voluntary members liquidations, 31,649 were voluntary creditors liquidations and 16,897 were compulsory liquidations. Almost 400,000 companies were dissolved over the same period, but many of these may never have traded.
Mr. Pearson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to update the limits set under section 247 and section 249(3) of the Companies Act 1985 relating to small and medium companies and groups. 
Dr. Howells: In his response to a Parliamentary Question on 4 April 2000, Official Report, column 405W, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that he had also decided that the current thresholds in the Companies Act which define small and medium companies for accounting purposes should be changed to the maxima allowed under EU law. However,
16 Jan 2001 : Column: 218W
this change will be made as part of the implementation of wide-ranging proposals on small companies which we expect to emerge from the Company Law Review.
The independent review of Company Law is expected to publish its final recommendations in May this year. The Government will then set out their response and proposed way forward in the light of the Review's recommendations.
Dr. Howells: Legislation governing the fire performance of consumer goods is vigorously enforced by local authority trading standards officers who test goods using the appropriate standards. Also my Department commissions research to monitor the fire performance of goods. I also closely monitor fire statistics that, for example, show that the stringent fire performance standards specified in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 have resulted in a considerable reduction in deaths in fires started in upholstered seating. These regulations are over 12 years old and so I am minded to undertake a review. I am currently discussing such a review with my officials and I will announce my decision shortly.
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