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Small Businesses

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had regarding small business growth; and what the outcomes of those meetings were. [72459]

Nigel Griffiths: I meet small business representative organisations on a regular basis to discuss small business growth, including the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Business, the Small Business Council, and the Ethnic Minority Business Forum.

In addition, I regularly visit all the Business Link Operators and I visit small businesses regularly to discuss the issues affecting their future development and growth.

The outcomes of these discussions inform SME policy development and the strategy of the Small Business Service, the new Strategy Board of which I am the chair.

In May I launched a consultation on a Comprehensive Strategy for Business Start-Ups in a drive to boost the enterprise culture and encourage more people to set up their own business. The strategy includes proposals for a new package of measures to support first-time entrepreneurs and growing businesses—particularly those from under-represented groups and disadvantaged parts of

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the country—and proposals to reduce the barriers facing start-ups. The consultation period will run until the end of July 2002.

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how the Government defines a small business; and what (a) guidance has been given and (b) legislation is in place regarding the encouragement of small business growth. [72454]

Nigel Griffiths: For statistical purposes the DTI uses the following definitions:

Section 249 of the Companies Act, 1985 states that a company is 'small' if it satisfies at least two of the following criteria:

A medium-sized company must satisfy at least two of the following criteria:

(a) The Small Business Service provides, through 45 local Business Operators, guidance, advice or access to experts, on just about everything needed to start or grow a business. Services include: business planning, finance, regulation, exporting, innovation, management, quality, employment issues, training and development, design, and E-commerce.
(b) The Government's aim is to make Britain one of the most competitive environments for business in the world—since 1997 the Government have cut the corporate tax bills of small companies by around 30 per cent. rewarding entrepreneurial spirit and promoting growth.

The Government have introduced numerous measures to help small enterprises since 1997, including:

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many small businesses have (a) started up and (b) closed down in the past five years by region. [72453]

Nigel Griffiths: The number of VAT registrations and de-registrations is the best official measure of business start-ups and closures. VAT data do not capture much of the activity of the very smallest firms that operate under the VAT registration threshold (turnover of £52,000 at 1 April 2000). The latest data available are those for 2000.


Start-ups: VAT registrations 1996–2000
United Kingdom168,200182,570186,250178,460183,325
North East4,0854,1704,2154,2304,280
North West16,47518,12018,59518,08518,535
Yorkshire and the Humber11,31511,82511,82011,63511,975
East Midlands10,84511,74511,89511,25512,030
West Midlands13,29513,63515,03014,40514,485
East of England16,14018,27017,92017,08018,420
South East27,05529,95529,91528,32529,185
South West13,84015,31515,54515,14015,440
Northern Ireland3,7153,8503,6853,5653,460
Closures: VAT De-registrations 1996–2000
United Kingdom165,065164,455155,930171,970177,080
North East4,5054,3904,0354,2954,220
North West17,24517,12016,11517,21517,690
Yorkshire and the Humber12,00012,25011,35012,29512,755
East Midlands11,36511,23510,69511,48011,880
West Midlands13,67013,88513,33514,20014,220
East of England15,60015,75015,20016,51517,455
South East25,68025,66522,98525,90027,255
South West14,31514,40013,84515,04015,475
Northern Ireland3,0803,6052,8253,6253,130


Business Starts and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations

1980–2000, Small Business Service

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Energy Supply

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the powers Ministers have with regards to securing the supply of energy. [72559]

Mr. Wilson: Responsibility for energy security under the law is shared by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Ofgem. My right hon. Friend is responsible for setting the overall regulatory framework for the supply of gas and electricity. A key part of that framework is set out in the Electricity Act 1989 and the Gas Act 1986. These provide that in carrying out their functions the Secretary of State and Ofgem shall have regard to the need to secure that all reasonable demands in Great Britain for electricity and (so far as it is economical to do so) for gas are met.

Under this legislation, the powers of the Secretary of State and Ofgem relating to security of supply are mainly exercised through their licensing functions. My right hon. Friend has laid down Standard Licence Conditions which apply to all classes of licensees. Power to modify these rests with Ofgem, with reference to the Competition Commission if a company and Ofgem cannot agree. My right hon. Friend has a power to veto agreed modifications. Enforcement of licence conditions is for Ofgem.

My right hon. Friend has statutory responsibility for regulation of the offshore and onshore oil and gas industries, including the authorisation of pipeline

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construction and settlement of disputes about access to pipelines. She also has general responsibility for gas regulation and for strategic international issues including European policy, and hence for security of supply issues falling within these areas. There are also provisions under HSE's Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996 and under the Electricity Supply Regulations 1988 which provide for maintaining security of supply.

The Electricity Act 1989 gives my right hon. Friend powers to require particular measures to be taken by licence holders in the event of an electricity supply emergency. The Government may also use the powers contained in the Energy Act 1976 and the more general powers in the Emergency Powers Act 1920, which is the responsibility of the Home Office.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) for what reasons her Department has engaged Andersens as a consultant to advise on the restructuring of BNFL; [72430]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has not engaged Andersens. Following a competitive tender, the Department is in the process of appointing Deloitte and Touche as its accountancy adviser on BNFL and the

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proposed Liabilities Management Authority. Deloitte and Touche has invited partners and staff at Andersens in the UK to join Deloitte and I understand that arrangement is currently being implemented. The Deloitte's team will be led by David Wadsworth, a long-standing partner at Deloitte.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the financial position of BNFL. [72548]

Mr. Wilson: BNFL announced its results for 2001–02 on 16 July 2002. The company reported a loss after tax and exceptional items of £2,090 million, caused primarily by exceptional charges of £1.9 billion relating to a review of strategy for historic waste management and £375 million for the early closure of the Magnox nuclear power stations Calder Hall and Chapelcross. Before tax and exceptional items, the company made a profit of £22 million.

BNFL also announced a net asset deficit of some £1.85 billion. However, the Company has a strong cash position. Further, in November 2001 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced proposals to establish a Liabilities Management Authority (LMA) which will take on financial responsibility for the nuclear legacy liabilities. The Government are committed to pushing ahead with the proposed LMA at the earliest opportunity and published on 4 July 2002 a White Paper "Managing the Nuclear Legacy" which, among other things, sets out in more detail the plans for the LMA.

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