Monday 17 October 1994
Mr. Anthony Nelson: In September 1993 the headline rate of inflation, as measured by the 12-month increase in the all items retail prices index, was 1.8 per cent.; and the underlying rate of inflation, as measured by the 12-month increase in the RPI excluding mortgage interest payments, was 3.3 per cent. In September 1994 the headline rate was 2.2 per cent. and the underlying rate was 2.0 per cent. -- the lowest rate since 1967.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library a statement on the matters discussed and decisions taken, along with any votes taken, at (a) the EC Budget Council on 25 July and (b) the Ecofin Council on 27 July.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I represented the United Kingdom at the Budget Council on 25 July. The Council considered the Commission's preliminary draft budget for 1995. The draft budget established by the Council totalled 75.7 billion ecu or £59.8 billion in commitment appropriations. The draft budget would require own resources totalling 1.999 per cent. of Community gross national product, compared with the existing own resources ceiling of 1.20 per cent. of Community GNP.
The Council took no formal votes, with the Presidency concluding that the necessary majority existed to establish the draft budget for 1995.
The summary table compares the outcome of the Budget Council to the proposals in the Commission's amended preliminary draft budget by reference to the financial perspective ceilings.
Further information is contained in explanatory memorandum 8782/94 on the draft budget, which was deposited in Parliament on 27 September.
The European Parliament will consider the draft budget for 1995 at its plenary in October. The Parliament's amendments and modifications will be considered at the
Column 2second Budget Council in November. The European Parliament's Second Reading is likely to be in mid-December.
The Budget Council also briefly discussed own resources shortfalls and agreed that the issue would be considered again in September after the Commission had provided more up-to-date figures. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer represented the United Kingdom at the Economic and Finance Council on 27 July. A copy of the press release, 8718/94, from the general secretariat of the Council has been placed in the Members' Library. The Council discussed the taxation of savings -- withholding tax. My right hon. and learned Friend resisted any agreement in principle to action at the Community level, on the grounds that it was unnecessary, likely to be ineffective, and would divert business away from financial centres in the European Union.
The Council reviewed progress on the new own resources decision. The Council discussed the definitive VAT regime. The Council agreed the following criteria which any definitive system should meet: fundamental simplification and fewer administrative obligations; no reduction in income for member states from VAT; no increased risk of tax fraud; and preservation of the neutral effect on competition of VAT. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor fully agreed with this list, and endorsed the Presidency's emphasis on simplification.
The Council took note of a progress report from a working group on the VAT simplification directive. The Council was then informed of progress on a long-standing Commission proposal for a Community system of taxation of interest and royalty payments made between parent companies and subsidiaries in different member states. The Council discussed the question of a carbon/energy tax. The Chancellor agreed that member states should implement measures to ensure that commitments agreed under the Rio convention were met, but doubted that Community-wide tax was necessary. My right hon. and learned Friend noted that the United Kingdom was already on target to meet its own commitments using national measures. A range of opinions was expressed; but there was general agreement that the alternative of building on existing minimum excise duty rates for oils should be explored, and that ECOFIN should continue to take the lead role in discussing this issue.
The other principal issue discussed was the possible case for the introduction of a reduced rate of excise duty on biofuels. There was a broad range of views. The Chancellor stated that he was sceptical about whether there were any benefits to be gained from such subsidies; and that it was wrong in principle to subsidise a product which was unlikely to become commercially viable in the near future. No formal votes were taken.
Financial perspective expenditure Preliminary draft Budget Council ceilings budget<2> draft budget |mecu |£ million<1>|mecu |£ million |mecu |£ million ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Commitment appropriations 1. Common Agricultural Policy |36,994 |29,219 |36,994 |29,219 |36,994 |29,219 2. Structural operations |25,264 |19,954 |25,264 |19,954 |25,264 |19,954 3. Internal policies |4,652 |3,674 |4,605 |3,637 |4,286 |3,385 4. External action |4,605 |3,637 |4,555 |3,597 |4,363 |3,446 5. Administrative expenditure |3,852 |3,042 |3,827 |3,023 |3,691 |2,915 6. Reserves |1,146 |905 |1,146 |905 |1,146 |905 |---- |---- |---- |---- |---- |---- Total Commitments |76,513 |60,432 |76,390 |60,335 |75,745 |59,825 |---- |---- |---- |---- |---- |---- Total payment appropriations |72,924 |57,597 |72,412 |57,193 |71,955 |56,832 <1> Throughout this reply the rate of £1=1.2661 ecu has been used. The rate notified in the Official Journal as prevailing on the last working day of last month-31 August. <2> As amended from the figure which appeared in the Commission's overview of the PDB for 1995, to take account of the higher bids of the small institutions on administration under category 5.
Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the amount per pound which would need to be added to income tax to raise a sum equivalent to the amount raised by prescription charges for the national health service.
Mr. Aitken: The expected income from prescription charges in 1994 95, including receipts from the sale of prepayment certificates, is approximately £350 million, for the United Kingdom as a whole. This is equivalent to about one fifth of the yield of 1p on the basic rate of income tax.
Mr Aitken: To the extent that resource accounting requirements can be incorporated in the normal cycle of replacement and upgrading of systems, there will be no additional cost to departments. The implementation target in the Green Paper, April 1998, has been set with this in mind. Departments are currently working up their detailed proposals for resource accounting on the basis of the Green Paper, but will need to be sure of the outcome of the current consultation process, which should be known early next year, before finalising their proposals.
(2) how and when parliamentary approval will be sought for the supplementary estimate for the Civil Superannuation Vote, referred to in the White Paper "Continuity and Change".
Mr. Aitken: As announced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) on 19 July, a winter supplementary estimate will be needed in 1994 95 for HM Treasury's civil superannuation vote. Parliamentary approval will be sought in the supply resolutions and winter Consolidated Fund Bill that will follow presentation of the winter supplementary estimates in mid-November. No requirements for supplementary estimates in 1995 96 and 1996 97 are foreseen at this time.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals on the control of clandestine trade in nuclear materials and equipment were put forward by the United Kingdom, and what proposals by other EU member states were agreed to by Her Majesty's Government at the Finance Council meeting in September.
Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to introduce measures to permit, without loss of exemption of the policy proceeds from taxation, extension of existing policies of endowment assurance to provide cover against critical illness.
Sir George Young: The Inland Revenue is currently conducting a review of life assurance taxation which includes consideration of the way in which policyholders are taxed. The Government will decide in due course in the light of that review whether or not changes to the present rules on policyholder taxation should be introduced and whether or not existing policies will be affected by any changes. However, under present legislation, it is already possible in certain circumstances for critical illness cover to be added to the cover provided by an existing endowment policy without affecting the exemption of the proceeds from taxation at the higher rate. There is also no bar to policyholders taking out separate critical illness cover.
Mr. Nelson: My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer met the Building Societies Association, whose members are also members of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, on 21 June this year.
Column 5The Council heard a summary from the President of the European Commission on current work on the White Paper follow-up. The Presidency outlined Ecofin's role in the run-up to the European Council at Essen in December. I emphasised the need to pull together the different strands of work effectively before Essen, and on trans-European networks, I stressed the importance of examining each priority project individually and reviewing the situation on the basis of results.
The Council examined the revised convergence programme for the Greek economy 1994 99. It urged the Greek Government to pursue vigorously all the policies necessary to achieve the targets of the programme. The Council agreed to review, in the context of the Union's multilateral surveillance procedures, including the excessive deficits procedure, the implementation of the convergence programme year for year over the period covered by the programme.
The Council welcomed Ireland's convergence programme 1994 96 and noted the strong performance of the Irish economy including the sound fiscal position and the continued reduction in Ireland's debt ratio. The Council encouraged the Irish Government to pursue the structural reforms and other policies necessary to improve the investment performance, sustain growth and achieve an enhanced employment performance.
The Council decided in accordance with article 104c.6 of the treaty on European Union that each member state, except Ireland and Luxembourg, has an excessive deficit.
The Council agreed a draft of the Presidency statement to the IMF/World bank meeting in Madrid.
The Council briefly discussed the Italian reserve on the own resources decision. It was agreed that this issue would be discussed again at the 10 October Ecofin.
No formal votes were taken at the Council meeting.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many occasions since 1 January 1993 the Inland Revenue has instructed sheriff officers to execute diligence on a defaulting taxpayer within 10 days of the sum falling due.
Sir George Young: The Inland Revenue has instructed sheriff officers to execute diligence on a defaulting taxpayer within 10 days of the sum falling due on 143 occasions since 1 January 1993. The figures cover the period from 1 January 1993 to 6 October 1994.
Ms. Estelle Morris: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many court cases involving drug smuggling have been initiated by HM Customs and Excise over the last year; how many of these have been thrown out of court due to lack of evidence; and what has been the cost incurred in investigating these rejected cases.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: HM Customs and Excise do not keep this type of record by case, but by reference to defendants: there may be several defendants in any case. In the year 1993 94 HM Customs and Excise prosecuted 1,457 defendants for drug offences; 16 of these were discharged on committal and a further 25, although
Column 6committed for trial, were the subject of successful defence submissions and did not go before a jury.
Information on costs in investigating the rejected cases is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
The Prime Minister: Those matters were not raised during my recent visit to South Africa. They are, however, frequently discussed by relevant experts from both our countries in the appropriate international forums.
Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the letter of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) of 28 July, what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of coppicing as an integral part in Her Majesty Government's on-going programmes in renewable energy; what engineering assessment he has made of the development of suitable machinery for the harvesting of short-rotation coppice by Loughry college in County Tyrone; and what action he is taking to support its commercialisation in the marketplace.
The Prime Minister: The environmental impact of coppicing was studied by the energy technology support unit in 1988, in its report, "Energy Forestry in Britain: Environmental issues"--ETSU B 1166. Its main conclusion was that such environmental impacts should be no more severe than those associated with other forms of arable farming. Nevertheless, further, more detailed, work continues, with advice from, among others, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Council for Rural Wales, English Nature, the Game Conservancy Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Forestry Authority.
An assessment of the original version of the Loughry college harvester was reported in ETSU B 1382. A new, simpler, version developed with funding from the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, is now being assessed. This newer machine is not yet at a stage where commercial development would be appropriate. Copies of the reports have been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he had with the Government of Saudi Arabia on their policy towards the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme during his visit to Jeddah on 19 September.
We support the United Nations' Special Commission's efforts to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability, as called for in United Nations Security Council resolution 687. Although United Nations weapons inspectors have noted improved Iraqi co-operation, gaps remain in accounting for Iraq's past weapons programmes. For that reason, and to avoid placing unhelpful pressure on UNSCOM, I believe that it is crucial that the length of the probationary period for monitoring Iraqi compliance remain open-ended.
Mr. McCartney: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer on 11 July, Official Report , column 375 , if he will now make it his policy to collect and publish statistics on the number of official meetings he holds with hon. and right hon. Members on constituency matters at 10 Downing street, broken down by political party and by regions in which their constituencies are situated.
Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the letter of 4 July from Baroness Cumberlege, Health Minister, to the hon. Member for Linlithgow, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of co-ordination between the Departments of Health, of the Environment, and of Transport, and the Treasury on the latest scientific understanding of the use of diesel fuel.
The Prime Minister: I am content with the existing arrangements. The Departments of Health and of the Environment are advised on health issues related to diesel and other fuels by expert committees. Officials from the Departments of Health, of the Environment and of Transport and the Treasury are in frequent consultation on those matters.
Mr. Baldry: I refer the hon. Lady to the answer that my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Sir M. Lennox-Boyd) gave to her on 23 March at columns 247 48. The amount and nature of our aid programme to Peru is likely to remain broadly similar during the coming year. Since March, two further projects, in contraceptive supplies--£1.36 million- -and support for animal health
laboratories--£0.67 million--have been agreed and are under way. In addition, during his visit to Peru in September, my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General announced the Government's agreement to a request from the
Column 8Government of Peru to apply retrospective terms adjustment to outstanding bilateral aid loans to Peru, representing forgiveness of some £5.09 million of debt. This was granted to Peru on an exceptional basis in recognition of its progress in economic reform and substantial indebtedness.
Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consideration was given to the pension arrangements for United Kingdom national staff of the university of Zimbabwe during the Lancaster house talks on independence for Rhodesia.
Mr. Baldry: There was no specific discussion of pensions for United Kingdom nationals on the staff of the university of Zimbabwe during the Lancaster house talks. The constitution agreed at Lancaster house did, however, guarantee the payment of public service pensions abroad, although not protecting them against inflation or depreciation.
.Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Zimbabwe concerning responsibility for the maintenance of pension levels for United Kingdom nationals who worked in the university of Zimbabwe and are now resident in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received concerning the level of pensions payable to former staff of the university of Zimbabwe recruited from the United Kingdom through the Inter University Council now resident in the United Kingdom; what action he has taken as a result; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry: We have received several representations from former employees of the university of Zimbabwe recruited through the Inter University Council about the level of their pensions. Those making representations have been advised that staff recruited through the IUC became locally appointed employees of the university of Zimbabwe, which also had responsibility for their terms and conditions of service, including pension provision. Her Majesty's Government have no responsibility in this matter, and there have been no discussions with the Government of Zimbabwe on the question of responsibility. However, we took the opportunity of this year's state visit by President Mugabe to draw the Zimbabwe Government's attention to the difficulties faced by United Kingdom citizens whose pensions have been undermined by inflation and depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initial priorities have been identified by the co -ordinator of non-governmental organisations activities in Hargeisa in north-west Somalia.
Mr. Baldry: The ODA NGO liaison and support officer has identified the rehabilitation of basic health and education services and capacity building for local NGOs as priorities for ODA assistance. Since April, we have committed £400,000 in support of those activities. Additional proposals are being developed.
Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the international response to the crisis in Rwanda and Zaire following the emergency session of the UN Security Council.
Mr. Baldry: Since the start of the crisis, the international community has committed nearly £382 million of humanitarian assistance for Rwandan displaced persons and refugees in neighbouring countries. This includes £60 million committed by the British Government.
Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of South Africa regarding the method of aerial delivery of relief supplies known as Operation Snowdrop.
Ms. Ruddock: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will publish a table showing the (a) number and (b) percentage of (i) men and (ii) women at each level of the judiciary in England and Wales at the latest available date.
|per cent. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lords of Appeal in Ordinary |Men |10 |100 |Women |- |- Lord Justices of Appeal |Men |28 |96.5 |Women |1 |3.5 Heads of divisions (excluding the Lord Chancellor) |Men |4 |100 |Women |- |- High Court judges |Men |89 |93.7 |Women |6 |6.3 Circuit judges |Men |483 |94.3 |Women |29 |5.7 Recorders |Men |832 |95.3 |Women |41 |4.7 Assistant recorders |Men |321 |84.0 |Women |61 |16.0 District judges |Men |266 |90.8 |Women |27 |9.2 Deputy district judges |Men |648 |88.5 |Women |84 |11.5 Stipendiary magistrates |Men |73 |88.0 |Women |10 |12.0 Acting stipendiary magistrates |Men |75 |78.9 |Women |20 |21.1 Lay magistrates |Men |16,151 |53.7 |Women |13,903 |46.3 as at 1 January 1994
Mr. John M. Taylor: Applications should be addressed to the Assistant Secretary of Commissions (Northern Ireland) at the Northern Ireland Court Service, Windsor house, Bedford street, Belfast BT2 7LT.
1. occasionally presiding in magistrates courts to remand accused persons in custody or bail following adjournment of criminal proceedings;
2. undertaking "out of court" duties such as hearing complaints, issuing summonses, warrants of arrest and search warrants as well as signing declarations, administering oaths or taking affidavits, affirmations or recognisances.
Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what criteria and qualifications are sought in respect of persons wishing to be considered for admission as lay justices of the peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr. John M. Taylor: Persons wishing to be considered for appointment as justice of the peace must be personally suitable in character, integrity and understanding for the functions which they have to perform. They must reside in, or within 15 miles of the boundary of the county court division for which they are proposed and should normally live or work within that division.
Mr. Stephen Byers: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the 10 highest contributions made out of the legal aid fund to assist individuals in the last five years, the individuals involved and the nature of the proceedings.
Mr. John M. Taylor [pursuant to his reply, 20 July 1994, c. 222]: The original answer listed a fraud case involving "Eagle Starr" (sic) as costing the legal aid fund £1.76 million. The reference should have been to "Eagle Trust".
Column 11provide for the recovery of some costs, as detailed in order 19, rule 4 of the county court rules. Under this rule, the costs stated on the summons and the costs of enforcing the award may be recovered. In addition, the court may award allowances to be paid in respect of the successful party's and witness's expenses, and expert's fees. There are no current plans to change this provision.
Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what research his Department has conducted into the average fees expert medical witnesses charge for preparing reports and giving evidence in court.
Mr. John M. Taylor: Many of the respondents to the Lord Chancellor's consultation paper, "Small Personal Injury Claims", published in October last year, gave examples of fees charged by medical experts, and indicated the level of fees that respondents considered realistic. Respondents came from a wide range of interested groups, including the medical profession. Additional consultation with the British Medical Association was also undertaken.
Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will instigate a survey of the average number of telephone calls which citizens require to make to the television licensing helpline before finding the number not engaged; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Dorrell: No. Under section 180 of the Broadcasting Act 1990, responsibility for the administration of the television licensing system, was transferred to the BBC with effect from 1 April 1991. The television licensing helplines are operated by TV Licensing under contract to the BBC; responsibility for ensuring that TV Licensing performs to an acceptable standard therefore rests on the BBC.
Ms. Mowlam: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what investigations were carried out by the Director-General of Oflot into the activities in the United States of America of G-Tech, a member of Camelot Group plc; how many Oflot staff were involved in the investigations; and what other Government Departments or agencies were involved.
Mr. Sproat [pursuant to his reply, 5 July 1994,c. 179]: I regret to inform the House that the answer given was incorrect. The correct reply is as follows: the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art publishes an annual report which includes any advice given by the Committee to Government on matters connected with the export of cultural goods. Reports from the Library and Information Services Council may also include details of their advice to Government.