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Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his Department's inquiring into CELTEC and its associated holding companies. [17929]

Copies of the letter which I sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) on 29 October pursuant to her question of 11 July, Official Report column 629, have been placed in the Library of the House. The letter encloses a note by my officials on the investigations made into the various allegations received. Subject to checking of the final accounts of Hightown Holdings and its subsidiary companies for the financial year 1996–97, these investigations have found no evidence of loss or impropriety in the handling of public funds.

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what safeguards he has put in place to ensure the debts of CELTEC's associated companies do not become a charge upon public funds. [17930]

CELTEC has associated undertakings with "The Careers Company" and "Careers Plus", the Careers Service Companies for North West Wales and North East Wales respectively. CELTEC's liability is limited to £ 1 in each case.CELTEC also has a trading relationship with the subsidiary companies of the Hightown Holdings Group— Alkemy and Business Advance. CELTEC is currently negotiating the integration of Alkemy and Business Advance Functions into the TEC by means of a Business Transfer Agreement. This will involve the acquisition by CELTEC of defined assets and liabilities of both companies. Welsh Office officials will not approve the transfer unless CELTEC acquires sufficient assets from those companies to cover any liabilities transferred. This should ensure that any liabilities do not become a charge upon public funds.

It is also intended that, following the planned transfer, the Hightown Holdings Group will then be wound up with any residual assets, after all liabilities have been met, being transferred to the TEC.