§ Brian Cotter
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with colleagues in the European Union concerning the impact of regulation on small business; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Nigel Griffiths
[holding answer 12 May 2003]: Discussions on the impact of regulation have been held at every level, including the Competitiveness Council in March attended by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the SME EU ministerial conference in February, and on Tuesday 13 May with Commissioner Liikanen.
The UK has championed this cause in Europe through "Think Small First", and we have taken action to make the UK the least bureaucratic country in 533W Europe to establish a business in. We also urge our European counterparts to follow the UK's lead in lifting regulatory and other burdens by having the most favourable VAT threshold in Europe, 100 per cent, tax write-offs for SMEs who buy computer equipment and connect to the web, 40 per cent, tax allowances for plant and machinery and a zero starting rate for corporation tax.
We have also supported the setting up of an independent liaison office in Brussels (smallbusiness/ europe) to represent the concerns of UK SMEs to the EU.