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Alan Johnson [holding answer 27 June 2002]: I am not aware of any such general rules. However, there are certain schemes of assistance which are only open to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). This would exclude a firm which was more than 25 per cent. owned by a non SME, whether that was a UK or overseas undertaking. Whether it is appropriate to extend schemes of assistance to larger companies is a matter to be addressed on a scheme by scheme basis. In some circumstances, though, EC state aid rules would preclude such extensions.
Alan Johnson: During the three years after the RDAs were created on 1 April 1999 up to the introduction of their Single Programme funding on 1 April 2002, the RDAs reported to each funding Department individually on the outcome of their separate programmes. Brownfield land redevelopment was funded by what is now the Office of my right hon. Friend, the Deputy Prime Minister. Accordingly DTI does not hold any figures for these years.
Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will introduce measures to reform the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to ensure that time orders can be used to the advantage of debtors in Scotland. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: As part of the Government's review of consumer credit legislation, we will be looking at how we can make the consumer protection measures in the 1974 Act more effective. The Scottish Executive have also recently consulted on the Enforcement of Civil Obligations in Scotland and this consultation mentions time orders under the 1974 Act while recognising that any changes to the 1974 Act would be a reserved matter. The Government will take account of any comments made about time orders under the 1974 Act in our review of consumer credit legislation.
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Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has for reform of (a) company law and (b) corporate governance as a result of the WorldCom fraud; and if she will make a statement. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: In February a group was set up to coordinate the response of key regulators to the issues for accounting, auditing and aspects of corporate governance raised in the aftermath of Enron. It will produce an interim report by the end of July. The Government will also publish in July its first formal response to the recommendations of the Company Law Review.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she has reviewed the rules relating to company auditors in light of the situation at WorldCom; and if she will make a statement. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Co-ordinating group set up in February to co-ordinate the responses of the key regulators to issues for audit and accounting raised in the aftermath of Enron, and now WorldCom, will produce an interim report by the end of July. The Government have made clear that it is important to restore confidence in the independence of auditors.
Miss Melanie Johnson: Multi-disciplinary professional practices can be beneficial for both the parties concerned and consumers. Any restrictions on such practices should be no more than is necessary to ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided, standards of ethical and professional conduct are maintained and consumers are properly protected.
Ms Hewitt: With my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, I am pleased to inform the House that the UK is still Europe's top inward investment location, despite a fall from last year's record totals in the number of investment projects and jobs created.
Invest.UK has announced in its annual review published today, that for the period between 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2002, the number of direct investment projects by foreign owned companies into the UK reported to Invest.UK by its partner agencies in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English Regional Development Agencies totalled 764.
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in 1977 as the Invest In Britain Bureau. Indeed we continue to be the top inward investment location in Europe.
Today's Invest.UK figures show that the UK is not immune from the global economic downturn. New inward investment projects in to the UK have fallen 12 per cent. from last year's record figures. This reflects international investment falls across the world, caused particularly by reduced activity in the technology sectors. In the UK the sharpest fall is in US investment in the technology sectors.
In the current economic climate international business is more cautious. Many investors will have postponed decisions until confidence returns and we must be ready to secure these opportunities as recovery comes.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she will take to encourage employers in the offshore sector to implement the terms of the European Working Time Directive in advance of the date when the directive must be enforced. 
Alan Johnson: The Government have had regular contacts with both employers and employee representatives in the offshore sector about the implementation of the directive, which is due in August 2003. The Government will carry out a full public consultation on its proposals for implementation. It is for the industry to decide whether to take steps to implement the directive ahead of the August deadline.
Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of the board members of each regional development agency were (a) living and (b) working in their respective region in (i) 1999, (ii) 2000, (iii) 2001 and (iv) 2002. 
Alan Johnson: The information requested can be provided only at disproportionate cost as records containing this information are not held regionally or centrally. However, in each appointment round for board members, an understanding of the issues affecting the region has been a core selection criterion. For example, the current appointment process for board members includes the criterion "Applicants must have a good knowledge of the region, with a good operational network of regional contacts and in-depth experience in at least one area of the RDA's work".
Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on her powers to settle disputes over access between oil and gas infrastructure owners and potential third party users. 
Mr. Wilson: Following extensive consultation through the Department's consultation 'Oil and Gas Infrastructure: Guidance on Applications for resolution of Disputes over Third Party Access', the Department has, today, issued guidance to clarify how the Secretary of State would
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use long standing powers in the Petroleum Act 1998, Pipe-lines Act 1962 and the Gas Act 1995. This Guidance sets out how the Department would handle applications and the principles that would be applied in making a determination.
Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average number of working hours per week is for full-time UK workers; what information she collates on the EU average for full-time workers; and what plans she has to move the UK average closer to the EU average. 
Alan Johnson: The average number of working hours per week for all full-time workers in the UK was 44.2 in 2000. This data was collected from the EU Labour Force Survey, which is also used to determine the EU average for full-time workers.
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