To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the effect of increased insurance premiums on the competitiveness of British businesses; and if she will make a statement. 
In a recent 'omnibus' survey of SMEs for the Small business Service, 28 per cent. of the sample said insurance was an issue for them, although only 3 per cent. said it was the greatest obstacle they faced (competition/sales was most frequently cited as the greatest obstacle, by 24 per cent. of firms). Difficulties with insurance were reported by 19 per cent. of firms surveyed based in England, 22 per cent. in Scotland, 17 per cent. in Wales and 32 per cent. in Northern Ireland. The most common difficulty encountered was high premiums (82 per cent.), followed by non-renewal of cover by an existing insurer (9 per cent.) and inability to obtain cover (5 per cent.). Problems with insurance were most common in the manufacturing (31 per cent. of firms surveyed) and construction (26 per cent.) sectors.The Government also announced on 12 December 2002 details of a review of the operation of the Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance system, one of the objectives which is to
"Assess the scale and nature of the current difficulties being experienced in relation to ELCI, in particular the extent to which these difficulties are likely to be short-term only, repeated in the future or permanent."
The review is due to report in spring 2003.