§ Ann Winterton
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 30 March 2004,Official Report, column 1363W, on state aid, what definition she uses of the term block exemption; and how many applications from each region were turned down by the Department of Trade and Industry and not passed on to the European Commission. 
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
For state aid purposes a block exemption is a Commission Regulation which allows member states to implement state aid schemes complying with stipulated conditions without obtaining advance approval from the Commission. However, member states are obliged to inform the Commission of such schemes within 20 working days of their coming into force. Block Exemption Regulations exist covering aid to SMEs (recently extended to include research and development), aid for training and aid for employment.
DTI's role is to advise those contemplating introducing state aid schemes and to help them with the notification process. It forwards all notifications to the European Commission via the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Communities, sometimes after amendment in consultation with the aid scheme administrators. The Department does not turn down notifications, although on some occasions an aid scheme administrator may withdraw a notification on advice from DTI that the proposed aid scheme would not comply with the terms of the relevant state aid rules and would not therefore be approved by the Commission.