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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 11 July 1994

CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Bicycle Routes

36. Mr. Steen : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress he has made in financing bicycle routes through Church Commissioners' land.

Mr. Alison : The Commissioners are always prepared to consider sympathetically proposals for cycle routes across their land, provided these create no conflict of interest with their duties to their primary beneficiaries, the serving and retired clergy. No such proposal has been received recently.

Rents

37. Mr. Flynn : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what changes have occurred in rents received in the past five years for church lands.

Mr. Alison : Gross agricultural rents per acre increased from £57.75 in 1989 to £62.62 in 1993, a rise of 8.43 per cent. against a retail prices index increase of 27.84 per cent. Over this period, the Commissioners' agricultural portfolio was reduced by 14,924 acres, producing net sales proceeds of £76.6 million.

PRIME MINISTER

European Commission

Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 30 June to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) Official Report, columns 660-61, regarding the presidency of the European Commission, if he will now set out the criteria he will apply to candidates for the appointment.

The Prime Minister : I shall consider candidates on their merits. I will need to be satisfied that the next President will run an efficient and accountable Commission, and act in the interests of the European Union as a whole.

Meetings with Members

Mr. McCartney : To ask the Prime Minister how many hon. Members and right hon. Members he has met at official meetings on constituency matters at No. 10 Downing street in 1993-94 ; what were their political parties ; and in which regions were their constituencies.

The Prime Minister : I regularly have meetings with right hon. and hon. Members, at both No. 10 and the House of Commons, to deal with specific and general matters which relate to their constituencies and interests.


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Lowe Bell Communications

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his reply of 26 April to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), Official Report, column 47, how much Sir Tim Bell has claimed in expenses in connection with the D-day public relations contract awarded to Lowe Bell Communications.

The Prime Minister : To date, Lowe Bell has claimed a total of £11, 346, net of VAT, for administrative costs and expenses. This is within the agreed upper limit of £12,500, net of VAT.

Government Information

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister what is the policy of the Government on the supply of information to the media on economic performance and distribution of earnings, where the information can be obtained directly or indirectly from the Central Office of Information data bank.

The Prime Minister : This is a matter for individual Government Departments.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister whether he will make it his policy that all Departments should provide substantive replies to hon. Members' questions rather than referring them to the Library.

The Prime Minister : No.

Child Care

Mr. Barnes : To ask the Prime Minister what provision his Department makes for child care facilities for staff ; what is the extent of subsidy to nursery places and holiday play schemes ; if his Department (a) subscribes to Childcare Solutions and (b) makes child care vouchers available ; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 7 July 1994] : For these purposes my office is part of the Cabinet Office. I therefore refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 7 July 1994, Official Report, columns 323-24.

Ecological Sustainability

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Prime Minister what steps he is taking to ensure that there is a full discussion of ecological sustainability at the Group of Seven summit in July.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 8 July 1994] : At my initiative the members of the Group of Seven industrialised countries have already adopted an action plan to give practical effect to the agreements reached at Rio. At the Naples Group of Seven summit the United Kingdom will continue to stress the importance of the environment as a priority for international co-operation.

Contracts

Mr. Byers : To ask the Prime Minister on what occasions in the last 10 years he has given a direction to civil servants to award a contract against the advice of the civil service ; what was the subject matter of the contract and its value ; and when it was awarded.


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The Prime Minister [holding answer 8 July 1994] : There have been no such occasions in respect of myself or my predecessor.

Ex-service Personnel

Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Prime Minister what steps he will be taking to give effect to the decision taken by the House on 1 July on the welfare of ex-service people.

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister what action he is taking to implement the resolution on welfare of ex-service people approved by the House on 1 July.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 8 July 1994] : We already have in place substantial administrative arrangements to meet the special needs of ex-service personnel, which involve close liaison between the relevant Departments ; we believe these arrangements most effectively serve the welfare needs of the ex-service community. The Government attach great importance to achieving high quality services, and will continue to keep areas of concern to veterans under review.

TREASURY

Asset Disposal

Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made in realising unwanted assets held by Government Departments.

Mr. Portillo : The disposal of unwanted assets is the responsibility of individual Departments. Information is not collected centrally.

Public Utility Regulators

Mr. Ainger : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what rules govern the use by public utility regulators of public money to hire Government relations consultants.

Mr. Portillo : The rules governing the use of public relations consultants are contained in the Cabinet Office document "Guidance on Government Publicity and Advertising", which is available in the Library of the House. General principles on the purchase of consultancy services are set out in section 31 of "Government Accounting".

EU Agricultural Spending

Sir Teddy Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 30 June, Official Report, column 931, what procedures are available to the European Union for paying sums of agricultural spending in 1995 exceeding the limits agreed at Edinburgh.

Sir John Cope : The agricultural guideline agreed at Edinburgh can be amended or breached only by the unanimous agreement of the Council of Ministers. The United Kingdom has made it clear that it can foresee no circumstances under which it would agree to this. The Commission will therefore be obliged to manage expenditure within the guideline.


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Manufactured Trade

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the current share of consumer goods in imported finished manufactures ; and by how much the unit value has increased since August 1992 to the latest available date.

Mr. Nelson : The information requested for the first part of the question is available on the Central Statistical Office database, which can be accessed through the Library of the House of Commons. The unit value for consumer goods increased by 13.3 per cent. between August 1992 and April 1994, the latest date for which data are available. The unit value for finished manufactures increased by 15.0 per cent. over the same period.

Rugby Players

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements are made for the collection of employers' contributions by rugby union clubs who are paying or financially rewarding players.

Mr. Dorrell : The Inland Revenue's arrangements for the collection of employers' national insurance contributions in respect of the remuneration of rugby players are the same as those for any other taxpayer.

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 20 January, Official Report, column 779, what arrangements are now made for the payment of income tax and national insurance by rugby union players.

Mr. Dorrell : The Inland Revenue's arrangements for the payment of income tax and national insurance contributions by rugby union players operate in the same way as for any other taxpayer.

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to receive a report from the Inland Revenue special investigation branch regarding the conclusion of its inquiry into the payment of income tax and national insurance by rugby union players ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Dorrell : The conduct of any inquiry by the Inland Revenue into payment of income tax and national insurance is an internal matter of the Department and I would not expect to receive a report. I do not propose to make a statement.

Mortgage Tax Relief

Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the most recent figures on the amount of mortgage tax relief allowed for home owners in Scotland.

Mr. Dorrell : The information is given in my reply to the hon. Member on 20 June 1994, Official Report, column 2.

Exchange Rates

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what are the reasons for supporting and participating in recent central bank intervention to support the United States dollar ; and what effect this has had on interest rates ;


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(2) to what extent the United Kingdom Exchequer is bearing the exchange rate risk of Bank of England intervention to stop the foreign exchange value of the United States dollar from falling ; (3) what consideration Her Majesty's Government give to the balance of payments in deciding whether to intervene in the foreign exchange market to support the United States dollar ;

(4) whether he will publish the evidence he has on whether (a) the yen is overvalued and (b) the United States dollar is undervalued ;

(5) what United Kingdom economic interest is served by the Bank of England's recent participation in central bank intervention to support the United States dollar at the current rate of exchange.

Mr. Nelson : The Bank of England participated in concerted intervention in support of the dollar on 4 May and 24 June 1994, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government. The concerted intervention reflected a concern shared with other Governments about recent developments in international financial markets. The Government consider greater exchange rate and capital market stability to be in the United Kingdom's interests. There are a large number of factors which may have influenced recent dollar and yen exchange rates. The intervention was undertaken to steady market conditions.

Developing Countries' Debt

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the current total of outstanding debt owed to the United Kingdom by developing countries.

Mr. Nelson : The total outstanding debt owed to ECGD and the ODA by developing countries, excluding eastern Europe, is £6.47 billion.

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the value to the United Kingdom of debt interest payments from developing countries in 1993-94 from (a) payments to the Export Credits Guarantee Department, (b) payments to the Overseas Development Administration, (c) payments to the Commonwealth Development Corporation and (d) in total.

Mr. Nelson : Debt interest payments from developing countries in 1993-94 were (a) £228 million, excluding eastern Europe, to ECGD (b) £4.2 million to ODA, (c) £81.9 million to the CDC, (d) totalling £314.1 million.

Disability (Consultation)

Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what involvement his Department will have in the Government's forthcoming consultation and consideration of issues relating to disability and discrimination and possible legislation.

Mr. Portillo My right hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People will be co-ordinating action and will involve other Departments as necessary.

Prices Policy

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is Government policy in respect of the price of (a) goods and (b) services.

Mr. Nelson : The Government aim to keep underlying inflation, as measured by the RPI excluding interest


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payments, in the range 1 to 4 per cent. and to bring it down to the lower half of this range by the end of the present Parliament.

Economic Growth

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the average annual rate of economic growth from 1964 to 1973 and from 1979 to the latest possible date, together with the reasons for any difference.

Mr. Nelson : Rates of economic growth can be calculated from the estimates for gross domestic product published in Economic Trends, which is available in the Members' Library. There are many influences on the rate of economic growth.

Full Employment

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the Government's definition of full employment ; and what part a return to full employment plays in formulating its fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies.

Mr. Nelson : The Government's economic policy aims to create the right conditions for a high and sustainable level of employment. This requires permanently low inflation, sound public finances and a continuing programme of reform designed to improve the efficiency of markets and strengthen the long-term supply performance of the economy.

Balance of Trade

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish figures for trade with EC countries on the same basis as tables 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the press notices on the monthly balance of trade with countries outside the EC.

Mr. Nelson : The information is available from the CSO database which may be accessed by the House of Commons Library.

Upper Limb Disorders

Dr. Marek : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many persons are taking actions for stress-related upper limb disorders against the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.

Mr. Dorrell : There are at present 106 cases relating to repetitive strain injuries and/or upper limb disorders being pursued by current and former employees of the Inland Revenue, and 15 by Customs and Excise.

EU Directives

Mr. Burns : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made in implementing the investment services directive and the capital adequacy directive.

Mr. Nelson : A consultation document on the implementation of the investment services directive and the capital adequacy directive is being issued today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House.


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Lotteries

Mr. Burns : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes he intends to make to the tax treatment of lotteries run by charities.

Sir John Cope : In the past the Inland Revenue has accepted that where a subsidiary company operates a lottery on behalf of a charity, the income from the lottery belonged to the subsidiary company for tax purposes. The company could relieve the income from tax by passing it to the charity under a deed of covenant.

The Inland Revenue has received legal advice that this treatment is incorrect where the lottery is a society lottery organised under section 5 of the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. Where a subsidiary company promotes a society lottery on behalf of the charity, but the charity itself is registered as the society under the Act, the view is that the income from the lottery belongs to the charity, not the subsidary company, and the charity is therefore taxable on the income.

In order to prevent charities from being disadvantaged by this change of view of the law the Government have decided to introduce legislation in the next Finance Bill to exempt charities from tax on income from society lotteries provided the income is applied solely to the purposes of the charity.

Income from small lotteries under section 3 of the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 will also be exempted.

Subject to approval by Parliament the exemption will apply, for income tax, for tax years after 1994-95 and, for companies, for accounting periods beginning after 31 March 1994. In anticipation of the proposed legislation the Inland Revenue will give charities relief from tax on a concessional basis for lottery income arising in earlier periods where the tax liability has not yet been settled.

Income Tax

Ms Harman : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the reduction in tax payable in 1995-96 resulting from full indexation of relief on the married couple's allowance for those aged over 65 years to pensioner couples paying tax at (a) the lower rate, (b) the basic rate and (c) the higher rate if they are (i) 65 to 74 years and (ii) 75 years and over taking account of the proposals announced in his Budget of November 1993.

Mr. Dorrell [holding answer 17 June 1994] : In 1995-96 the age-related married couples allowances will be increased by £330, as announced in the November 1993 Budget. This is significantly higher than the increase which would result from indexation of the allowances.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Institute of Chartered Accountants

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he last discussed the effectiveness of the disciplinary procedures of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales with the institute.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : My officials meet regularly with the Institute to discuss a wide range of matters, including particular aspects of its disciplinary procedures. The last such meeting was on 26 May.


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Ministerial Visits

Mr. Worthington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the purpose of his visit to Saudi Arabia on 28 June ; whom he met ; what trading matters he discussed ; and with what outcome.

Mr. Heseltine : The purpose of my visit to Saudi Arabia on 28 June was in response to a Saudi request for advice on future privatisations. I was accompanied by a delegation of British business men expert in privatisation. Meetings were held with the Saudi Ministers of Commerce, Finance, Industry and Electricity, Defence and Post and Telecommunications. The opportunity was also taken to further certain British bids for contracts ; the Saudi Government noted the interest of the United Kingdom Government in these potential contracts.

Insolvency Service

Mr. Kevin Hughes : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the level of funding of the Insolvency Service in each of the past five years ; and what is the extent of the new resources that have been made available to (a) the service and (b) the area of director disqualification.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The running cost outturn for the Insolvency Service for each of the last five years were :


£                       

Year    |Million        

------------------------

1989-90 |32.8           

1990-91 |35.6           

1991-92 |40.3           

1992-93 |<1>51.4        

1993-94 |<1>54.8        

<1>Includes amounts for 

superannuation and      

internal DTI services,  

for earlier years       

calculated as:          


£                       

Year    |Million        

------------------------

1989-90 |+4.2           

1990-91 |+4.7           

1991-92 |+6.2           

A total of £57.459 million has been allocated to the Insolvency Service from my Department's running costs for 1994-95. Included in this allocation is £1.831 million to fund the additional work required to meet the case closure target of 53,000, and £1 million additional in the area of investigation including director disqualification.

Mr. Kevin Hughes : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many Insolvency Service staff were employed in the area of director disqualification in each of the last five years.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : Staff in the Insolvency Service employed in the area of director disqualification comprise (a) those in the disqualification units in London and Edinburgh engaged directly on disqualification work and (b) specialist staff in official receivers whose duties include the investigatory process which may result in the submission of prosecution and disqualification reports. Their number were as follows :


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(a) Staff employed    

directly on           

disqualification work 

Year    |Number       

----------------------

1989-90 |45.00        

1990-91 |43.50        

1991-92 |50.50        

1992-93 |46.00        

1993-94 |47.00        




(b) Staff employed in 

the investigatory     

process               

Year    |Number       

----------------------

1989-90 |568.00       

1990-91 |587.50       

1991-92 |590.50       

1992-93 |587.50       

1993-94 |568.00       

In addition to (a) above, as at 30 June 1994 the disqualification unit employed 11 additional staff comprising three seconded from the private sector ; four on loan from other Government Departments and four sandwich students. For 1994-95 further resources have been provided to enable up to 14 extra staff, including 10 specialist staff from the private sector, to be added to the complement of the disqualification unit. Thirty specialist staff from the private sector will be added to the complement of official receivers.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade further to his answer of 27 June, Official Report, column 403-4, concerning tenders for the second stage review of the Insolvency Service, why he considered it appropriate to invite Stoy Hayward Consulting to bid in a single tender action ; what consideration he gave to offering others to bid in order to determine whether he was receiving value for money ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The decision was taken to invite Stoy Hayward to bid for the second stage review in a single tender action because :

(a) Stoy Hayward's bid for the initial stage work had been by some considerable margin the most keenly priced ; and

(b) in the course of their work on the first stage review they had shown that they provided excellent value for money.

These considerations together with the fact that it had become familiar with the work of official receivers and the structure of the Insolvency Service led to the decision that the costs involved in a competitive tendering exercise would not be justified.

Mr. Burden : To ask the President of the Board of Trade in how many cases referred to the Insolvency Services disqualification unit in each year since 1989-90 disqualification proceedings have been commenced.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The number of companies in relation to which reports under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 have been made and the number of disqualification proceedings commenced is as follows :


Year        |Cases      |Proceedings            

                        |Commenced              

------------------------------------------------

1989-90     |3,444      |462                    

1990-91     |4,508      |449                    

1991-92     |6,171      |700                    

1992-93     |6,710      |564                    

1993-94     |7,521      |464                    

<1>1994-95  |1,506      |170                    

<1> Up to 30 June.                              

Note: The figures quoted for the number of      

cases are those for the number of companies     

reported on. However, the figures quoted for    

proceedings commenced refer to individuals. It  

is estimated that on average proceedings are    

issued against 1.5 directors in any one         

company.                                        

Mr. Burden : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was (a) the budget and (b) the staffing levels of the Insolvency Service's disqualification unit for each year since 1989-90.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The budget for the Insolvency Service's disqualification unit was :


          |£ million          

------------------------------

1991-92   |1.17               

1992-93   |1.34               

1993-94   |1.85               

1994-95   |1.90               

Separate figures for disqualification running costs within Insolvency Service budgets were not kept prior to 1991-92. The staffing levels of disqualification unit were :


        |Number       

----------------------

1989-90 |45.00        

1991-91 |43.50        

1991-92 |50.50        

1992-93 |46.00        

1993-94 |47.00        

The unit currently employs an additional 11 staff comprising three seconded from the private sector ; four on loan from other Government Departments and four sandwich students. For 1994-95 further resources have been provided to enable up to 14 extra staff, including 10 specialist staff from the private sector, to be added to the complement of the disqualification unit.

Mr. Burden : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what criteria he uses to classify cases referred to the Insolvency Service into different priority classifications.


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