Mr. Lamont : The pilot study, which took place during 1987 and 1988, was designed to test the Keith committee's suggestion that issuing personal tax returns to every employee known to the Inland Revenue would be effective in bringing to light previously unreported sources of income.
The findings suggest that a general issue of personal tax returns would not be an effective way of uncovering income which would not otherwise be taxed. In a very large majority of cases it would not bring to light any information affecting the taxpayer's liability and about 20 million taxpayers would be troubled unnecessarily. About 0.7 million--some half of them in the black economy--might be expected to disclose income which would not otherwise be taxed ; the amounts disclosed would generally be small and the total tax yield from the issue of the returns might not be much more than the cost of issuing them and handling them when completed. The findings also suggest that about 0.7 million taxpayers might be expected to claim additional reliefs ; the amounts claimed would generally be small and in some, or possibly most, cases no relief would be found to be due after the claim had been examined.
The Inland Revenue will continue to issue returns to all taxpayers who it thinks might pay too much or too little tax in the absence of a return. But whether or not a return has been issued, it is the obligation of all taxpayers to report any income they receive which has not been taxed, and the Inland Revenue will be taking steps to remind taxpayers of this obligation. In the light of the pilot study, however, it does not propose to send returns to employees more widely.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, following Royal Assent to the European Communities (Finance) Bill on 15 November, the United Kingdom has yet made available its contribution under the 1988 intergovernmental agreement ; and if he will make a statement about the granting of any further advance payments or overdraft facilities to the Community.
Mr. Brooke : The Government have today made a payment of £561,813, 967.41 (851,644,560.25 ecu), representing eleven twelfths of the amount due from the United Kingdom under the 1988 intergovernmental agreement (IGA). The remaining instalment of £50,884,368.87 (77,422, 232.75 ecu) will be paid on 1 December.
Column 2The Government have also made an advance payment of the non-VAT own resources which would otherwise have been made in December. The advance, under article 10(2) of regulation 2891/77, amounted to £158.4 million and it extinguished the Commission's outstanding overdraft with the United Kingdom under article 12(2) of the same regulation. The overdraft totalled £80.1 million. The balance of the advance was paid in the normal way from the Consolidated Fund under section 2(3) of the European Communities Act 1972.
The Commission requested the advance payment of December's non-VAT own resources because it is still experiencing cash flow problems. These will continue until all member states have paid their IGA contributions. Meanwhile, the Commission is asking non-payers to make available overdraft facilities under article 12(2) of regulation 2891/77 ; and is restricting its drawings from those who have paid the IGA to the amount which would otherwise have been available under article 12(2).
Article 10(2) and 12(2) facilities do not affect the total amount which the Community is authorised to spend during the year. Commission requests for advances or overdrafts do not, therefore, involve any addition to public expenditure.
Mr. Thornton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in the light of the recommendations of the Woodfield report, he will make an announcement on the future of the official custodian for charities ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hurd : The role of the official custodian was reviewed by Sir Philip Woodfield as part of his efficiency scrutiny of the supervision of charities. Sir Philip questioned whether the official custodian's investment services were still needed. He recognised, however, that divesting the official custodian might be a complex and difficult job and that it might not be possible to dispense with his services altogether. He therefore recommended that the possibilities be studied in more detail by a firm of outside consultants. The consultants' report set out a number of options including full divestment. I have carefully considered these options with the chief charity commissioner in the light of the continuing need to protect charity property and of the value of the official custodian's services, especially to small charities. My conclusion is that in line with the Woodfield report's emphasis on the need for trustees to take greater responsibility and consistent with the more active supervisory role which is envisaged for the commission, the continuance of the official custodian's investment services is no longer justified. The office of the official custodian will, however, be retained, and we have no plans to abolish his function in relation to charity land.
The Government will put forward more detailed proposals for divesting the official custodian in the White Paper due to be published early next year. In the meantime the Charity Commission will be considering, with interested parties, how divestment can best be achieved and how long it will take.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has received the annual report of the Agricultural and Food Research Council for 1987-88 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : The annual report of the Agricultural and Food Research Council for 1987-88 has been submitted to me under the requirements of the Science and Technology Act 1965, and a copy was laid before the House on 16 November.
I was most interested to study the report and, in a year of managerial and organisational change for the council, I was particularly encouraged to note :
i. the major advances in studying the control of genes and the behaviour and requirements of living plant and animal cells ; ii. research that could eventually lead to the development of new vaccines to protect animals against several diseases at once ; iii. the new developments that are emerging in the use of biological control systems against pests and the improvement of nitrogen usage ;
iv. the novel findings that could indicate improved ways of improving food quality and stability.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has received the annual report of the Economic and Social Research Council for 1987-88 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : The annual report of the Economic and Social Research Council for 1987-88 has been submitted to me under the requirements of the Science and Technology Act 1965, and a copy is being laid before the House today.
I was most interested to study the report and, in an eventful and difficult year for the council, I was particularly encouraged to note :
(i) the publication of the Report on Horizons and Opportunities in the Social Sciences, setting new directions for Social Science research into the 1990s and confirming that British Social Science is outstandingly good in international terms over a range of disciplines ;
(ii) the continued improvement in PhD thesis submission rates for students supported by the Council, in response to the firm application of sanctions and the encouragement given by the Council to improvements in doctoral research training ;
(iii) the launch of important new research programmes on Countryside Change, Risk and Pollution ; AIDS ; New Technologies and the Firm ; and Transport ;
(iv) The streamlining of ESRC's organisational structure to provide a clearer framework for the setting of priorities, improved management of research, protection of curiosity-driven research funded through the Research Grants Scheme, and increased emphasis on the evaluation and dissemination of research output.
I congratulate the council on its achievements and look forward to further progress under the guidance of the new ESRC chairman.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the additional consultation paper on waste disposal law amendments as announced on 29 June. Official Report, column 254.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the follow-up consultation paper which contains proposals from the Department and the Welsh Office to complement and strengthen those already announced on 29 June.
First, we propose to take powers to control imports and exports of waste. It remains our view that international trade in waste disposal services can be economically and environmentally desirable, provided that it is properly controlled and monitored. To ensure that this is so, we propose to take direct powers in primary legislation to prohibit, restrict or control the import or export of wastes. The powers, which would be exercised by regulations, would be desirable for example if trade in particular wastes were to risk damage to humans, animals, plants or the environment generally, were to affect the availability of disposal facilities or were to lead to improper disposal. Existing powers are contained in a range of primary legislation and regulations which the Government believe could usefully be clarified.
We propose to make certain additional changes to the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, so that the Secretary of State might add, through regulations, criteria which are relevant to the consideration of a licence application ; so that an application may be considered if the applicant has obtained an established use certificate ; and so that the Secretary of State might, through regulation, require licences to carry specified conditions. We propose also to reduce the uncertainty at law about responsibility for the safety of closed landfill sites by giving clear responsibility for record keeping and monitoring of closed landfills to waste disposal authorities, where the expertise on waste disposal lies.
We propose to close the loophole under which scavenging at private sector sites is not an offence.
Finally, we propose additional measures to combat the growing problem of fly-tipping. We propose to make the registered keeper of a vehicle used in fly-tipping liable to prosecution unless he can demonstrate that he has taken reasonable steps to satisfy himself that the vehicle would not be used for such purposes.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : It remains our view that international trade in waste disposal services can be economically and environmentally desirable, provided that it is properly controlled and monitored. We have, however, included in a consultation paper issued today, a proposal to take direct powers in primary legislation to prohibit, restrict or control the import or export of wastes. The powers, which would be exercised by regulations, would be desirable for example if trade in particular wastes were to risk damage to humans, animals, plants or the
Column 5environment generally, were to affect the availability of disposal facilities or were to lead to improper disposal. Existing powers are contained in a range of primary legislation and regulations which the Government believe could usefully be clarified.
We have concluded that movement of waste for disposal across national frontiers should in general be restricted to wastes which are to go directly to specialist treatment plants or incinerators. Shipments of waste to go directly to landfill should be exceptional and permitted only with the agreement of the importing country. We also consider that all transfrontier movements of waste should be subject to the pre-notification procedures set out in the EC directive on transfrontier shipment of hazardous waste. We intend to put these proposals to our European colleagues at the forthcoming EC Environment Council with the aim of strengthening the existing directives.
Mr. Trippier : As announced on 20 April, the Department carried out consultancy studies into the scope for housing development on five large areas of east London. The consultants have now reported. We are considering in the light of their findings what action the Government might take to facilitate housing development in the study areas. Copies of the consultants' report have been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Ridley : My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I propose to call a major international conference on the protection of the ozone layer early next year. It will be in London in March. The Prime Minister will participate. It will be held in association with the United Nations environment programme (UNEP) under whose auspices the Montreal protocol was successfully developed.
I shall be inviting Ministers from developed and developing countries, world industry and international organisations. I want the conference to demonstrate that industry has already developed, or soon will, new products and processess that will enable all countries quickly to reduce the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and move to a CFC free world.
The House is already aware that we are calling for worldwide emissions of CFCs to be reduced by at least 85 per cent., and as soon as possible. I was convinced of this urgent need by the latest scientific evidence. My noble Friend the Minister for Housing, Environment and Countryside will at the Environment Council this week be urging our European colleagues to make these reductions by the turn of the century and to agree that the Montreal protocol must be strengthened to this effect. This further action is essential not only to protect the ozone layer but because CFCs are powerful greenhouse gases which contribute to the risk of global warming and consequent climate change. The Montreal protocol will come into
Column 6force on new year's day. Our conference in March will give a political boost to the important first meeting of the parties in Finland the following month with will begin the formal process of reviewing the protocol. I have told the executive director of UNEP that the United Kingdom would like to host the second meeting of the parties when we hope the reductions we are demanding will be agreed. This will be in April 1990.
It is not enough for the United Kingdom or even the European Community to take action on its own. A clear commitment is needed from all world governments, including those who have not yet signed the protocol, if we are to have any chance of preventing further damage to the ozone layer. It is not enough to set objectives. Our London conference must show how they will be achieved in practice.
Mr. Peter Walker : Following the autumn review of public expenditure I have decided to increase total gross provision for local authority spending in 1989-90 in Wales to £450 million. This is an increase of £34 million (8 per cent.) over 1988-89.
The increased provision allows for £10.3 million of allocations specifically to assist district councils to meet the capital costs of preparing for and implementing the community charge.
The largest percentage increase in provision goes to personal social services. This reflects the rising number of the elderly as well as the shift in the burden of care in the mental health services from the NHS to local authorities.
In further increasing the provision for education, I am recognising the need to improve the fabric of school buildings and also to invest in schools rationalisation projects which will release revenue resources for use elsewhere in the education service.
Local authorities are being notified today of their individual allocations on both housing and non-housing services including major road schemes (£39 million) and projects of regional or national importance and special projects (£12.5 million). The overall total for allocations is £337 million.
Details of the allocations for individual authorities have been placed in the Library. Allocations for schemes under the urban programme including urban development grant totalling £27 million will be announced shortly.
Sir Raymond Gower : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he intends to make any arrangements to ensure that social work professionals in Wales receive appropriate training to deal effectively with cases of child abuse.
Mr. Peter Walker : I have given consideration to the implications for training following the Government's response to the Cleveland inquiry report, and in consultation with the Welsh Counties Committee. I have concluded that the best way forward for the financial year
Column 71989-90 will be by means of a specific grant. Broadly in line with the position in England, a grant of 70 per cent. in support of expenditure of £588,000 will be made available to Welsh counties for use in training social work professionals and others in handling cases of child abuse. The money will be apportioned appropriately for each county, and will be allocated against detailed operational plans submitted to my Department for approval. The objectives and criteria for evaluation will be subject to discussion with local authority representatives, as will the arrangements for funding the scheme for the following financial year taking account of the need for continuity. Overall, this initiative will build on the steps that I have already taken for 1988-89. These involve a special initial allocation of over £60,000 for training in this field. Subject to parliamentary approval, this funding will continue for the financial year 1989-90.
The information of a single, non-bulk freight business will improve BR's performance by building on the strengths of the two organisations. It will also enable BR to make the best possible use of the opportunities presented by the opening of the Channel tunnel in 1993.
Although the new business will be a part of the railway and not a separate subsidiary, its performance will be clearly and separately identifiable in BR's report and accounts.