HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 cc535-6W
Mr. Jim Murphy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of possible job losses as a result of the World of Leather chain going into receivership. [118897]

Dr. Howells

I am deeply concerned about any job losses that may arise as a consequence of the present difficulties of Uno Plc ("World of Leather"). My officials have been in contact with the administrators of Uno Plc and trade associations in both the furniture manufacturing and leather tanning sectors.

It is hoped that other furniture retailers will acquire the majority of the stores from which Uno Plc traded, although the number of staff who will be offered continued employment by the businesses acquiring those stores is presently not known.

The furniture manufacturing industry has indicated that the short term effects on employment are likely to be limited, although I understand that there have already been closures of two furniture manufacturers as a direct result of the administration of Uno Plc. Concerns have been expressed about employment in the medium term in the sector, not least arising from the effect any adverse publicity will have on consumer confidence.

The leather tanning industry has indicated that there is unlikely to be an impact upon employment in that sector.

Mr. Jim Murphy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the extent to which the actions of the World of Leather chain towards its customers in the month prior to its going into receivership complied with consumer protection legislation. [118896]

Dr. Howells

Under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, the joint administrators of the company are obliged to report to me within six months of the administration order on the conduct of the directors of Uno Plc ("World of Leather"). In particular, schedule 1 to that Act requires the administrators, in making their report, to have regard to certain matters including the extent of the directors' responsibility for any failure by the company to supply any goods or services which have been paid for (in whole or in part). The contents of the administrators' report will be given careful consideration by my officials in the Disqualification Unit of the Insolvency Service.

Additionally, my officials continue to be in contact with the joint administrators of Uno Plc in response to specific concerns raised about the affairs leading to the administration of the company.

If there is any evidence that more general consumer protection legislation has been breached it will be for the appropriate authorities to consider whether to undertake an investigation.

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