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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 1 November 1994

TREASURY

Back-to-work Bonus

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will explain the tax treatment of a back-to-work bonus of up to £1,000 claimed by a part-time worker who has entered into full-time employment under the scheme announced by the Secretary of State for Social Security on 24 October.

Mr. Bradley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the back-to- work lump sum cash bonus of the new job seeker's allowance will be treated for tax purposes; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young [holding answer 28 October 1994]: The tax treatment of the back-to-work bonus will be announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget.

Tax Exemptions (MEPs)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament are exempt from United Kingdom taxation.

Sir George Young: United Kingdom members of the European Parliament are exempt from United Kingdom taxation in only one respect. A ruling of the European Court of Justice in 1981 said that expense allowances intended to defray costs, paid by the European Parliament to its Members, are not liable to United Kingdom tax.

Royal British Legion

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will review the proposed imposition of value added tax on membership subscription to the Royal British Legion; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: There is no VAT on membership subscriptions to the Royal British Legion where the subscription confers no facility or advantage for the subscriber other than the right to participate in its management or receive reports of its activities. Customs and Excise officials are discussing with the legion its existing arrangements for accounting for VAT on the elements of subscriptions which provide entitlement to use of the social facilities of its clubs.

Tiger Products

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 27 October, Official Report , column 754 what happened to the tiger products seized by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise in the period 1989 to 1994.


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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: There are no disposal records for 1989, but the 1990 seizure was loaned to a zoological establishment to feature in an endangered species exhibition. The remaining items, from 1991 up to the present time, have either been destroyed or retained by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise for display or training purposes and to form the nucleus of a reference collection of tiger derivatives.

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 27 October, if he will give details of the country of origin of tiger products seized between 1989 and 1994.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Customs records for 1989 and 1990 seizures do not contain details of the country of either export or origin. Further to my answer of 27 October, Official Report, column 754 , four musk and tiger bone plasters were mistakenly described as tiger bones, and according to recently received scientific advice the 13 claws derived from lion only. For convenience, therefore, the following list reproduces the corrected information on seizures from 1991 to date, together with available details of countries of origin where known--COO--or, when not, the countries whence consigned--CWC:


Year                    |Seizure                |COO                    |CWC                                            

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

1991                    |Handbag                                        |Australia                                      

                                                                                                                        

1992                    |-                                                                                              

                                                                                                                        

1993                    |Skin, 1 whole & 1 piece                        |India                                          

                        |1 pair of shoes                                |Saudi Arabia                                   

                        |Tincture of                                                                                    

                        |tigerbone-2 bottles    |China                                                                  

                                                                                                                        

                        |Tiger bone                                                                                     

                        |plaster:                                                                                       

                        |-20 packets                                    |USA                                            

                        |-12 packets                                    |Hong Kong                                      

                        |-11 packets            |China                                                                  

                                                                                                                        

                        |Tiger bone pills:                                                                              

                        |-50 boxes                                      |Hong Kong                                      

                        |-1 box                 |China                                                                  

                        |-420 tablets           |China                                                                  

                                                                                                                        

                        |Tiger bone                                                                                     

                        |medicine:                                                                                      

                        |-1 packet & 3 sachets  |China                                                                  

                        |Tiger claws                                    |India                                          

                                                                                                                        

1994                    |Tiger bone plasters:                                                                           

                        |-20                                            |Tanzania                                       

                        |-4                     |China                                                                  

                        |-2                     |N/k                    |N/k                                            

                                                                                                                        

                        |Tincture of tiger bone-                                                                        

                        |20 x 70 cl bottles     |China                  |USA                                            

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 27 October, how many prosecutions followed the seizures of tiger products in the period since 1989.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: None.

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 27 October, Official Report , column 754 , what information he has of the


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intended destination of the tiger products seized between 1989 and 1994.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: With one exception, customs' action was confined to seizure of the goods and there is no information on the intended destinations apart from the importers' addresses. In the one case which was investigated for deliberate evasion, customs was satisfied that a medicinal product had been imported to treat a genuine medical complaint and that there were no grounds to support legal proceedings.

Vehicle Licensing System

Mr. Burden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what representations he has received about the proposed changes to the vehicle licensing system;

(2) what plans he has for concessions for the classic car sector from the proposed changes to the vehicle licensing system; (3) what assessment he has made of the extent to which the proposed changes to the vehicle licensing system will encourage registration among those who formerly avoided road tax;

(4) what assessment he has made of the effect of (a) use-based charges and (b) flat-rate registration fees on car use;

(5) what assessment he has made of the effect of the changes to the vehicle licensing system on small businesses concerned with classic car restoration.

Sir George Young: My right hon. learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has received a number of representations about the proposed changes to the vehicle licensing system which will introduce a system of continuous licensing based on possession rather than use for all cars and motorcycles. The aim of the change, together with the measure to improve the quality of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's vehicle register, is to counter vehicle excise duty evasion, which costs the taxpayer £145 million or more in lost revenue each year, and assist police efforts against car-related crime. Details of how the new system will operate have yet to be decided. A consultation document, to be issued later this year, will seek views from interested parties.

Cash and Running Costs Limits

Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes are proposed to the Treasury's cash and running costs limits in 1994 95.

Mr. Nelson: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XVII, vote 1 will be increased by a token £1,000 from £77,363,000 to £77,364,000. The net increase is mainly to meet the cost of the grant in aid to the private finance panel executive as announced on 21 July, Official Report , column 426 and will be fully offset by savings from within the vote.

The running costs limit will be reduced by £885,000 from £80,969, 000 to £80,084,000 mainly reflecting the transfer of the cost of security guards--£830,000--to the Cabinet Office, class XIX, vote 1.


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Central Statistical Office

Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes are proposed to the Central Statistical Office's cash and running costs limits in 1994 95.

Mr. Nelson: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XVII, vote 13 will be increased by £3,221,000 from £44,781,000 to £48,002,000 and the running costs limit by £3,261,000 to £48,463,000. These increases reflect:

(a) A transfer from the Department of National Heritage (Class XI, Vote 7) (£3,080,000), in respect of funding for the International Passenger Survey.

(b) A transfer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Class III, vote 5) (£36,000), in respect of the collection of producer prices information.

(c) The take up of entitlement under the end year flexibility scheme for running costs (£105,000).

(d) Additional running costs in respect of increased sales of publications, offset by a corresponding increase in Appropriations in aid (£40,000).

(e) Expenditure required to fund a capital project, offset by a corresponding increase in Appropriations in aid (£100,000). The increase are offset by inter departmental transfers and additional receipts or are charged to the reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Parliamentary Running Costs

Mr. Grocott: To ask the Lord President of the Council what is the current annual cost of maintaining and running the House of Lords.

Mr. Newton: The information requested can be obtained from the House of Lords "Annual Report and Accounts", HL 86, a copy of which is held in the Library.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Disabled People

Mr. Alan W. Williams: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if the resultant additional expenses, in particular the services of a carer, can be reimbursed by the appropriate administrative department when the hearing of a case at a Crown, county or magistrates court involving a disabled person has to be re-sited because of difficulties of access for that disabled person.

Mr. John M. Taylor: In criminal cases, additional travelling and associated costs properly incurred by a disabled witness or successful defendant may be allowed from public funds. The costs incurred by a carer who necessarily attends may also be allowed. In civil proceedings, the parties' costs are a matter to be determined by the court.

Northern Ireland Court Service

Mr. Coe: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary Lord Chancellor's Department, what changes have been made


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to the class IX vote 3 cash limit and running costs limit for the Northern Ireland court service.

Mr. John M. Taylor: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class IX, vote 3 has been increased by £758,000 from £26,151,000 to £29,909,000 and the running costs limit by £758,000 from £17,254,000 to £18,012,000. The vote is eligible for a cash limit increase of £94,000 in respect of the end-year flexibility arrangements for running costs. This supplementary estimate gives effect to that increase. The further increase arises out of the transfer from the Crown property unit of the cost of the payment of contributions in lieu of rates.

ENVIRONMENT

Privatisation

Mr. Grocott: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the privatisations which his Department has promoted since 1979 indicating, in each case, the date of the sale, the proceeds of the sale, and the estimated current value of the company.

Sir Paul Beresford: Since 1979, my Department has promoted the following privatisations:


                                             |Net Proceeds from                  

Sale                       |Date of Sale     |Sale                               

                                             |£ millions                         

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

Shares in 10 water holding                                                       

companies                  |December 1989    |<1>5,093.7                         

                                                                                 

Property Services Agency                                                         

(PSA) Projects             |1 December 1992  |-49.9                              

                                                                                 

PSA Services Building                                                            

Management (BM)                                                                  

Scotland                   |1 September 1993 |3.5                                

                                                                                 

PSA Services BM                                                                  

Manchester                 |1 October 1993   |-11.5                              

                                                                                 

PSA Services North East                                                          

BM                         |1 October 1993   |8.0                                

                                                                                 

PSA Services BM South                                                            

East and BM South West     |1 October 1993   |10.4                               

My Department promoted the sale of the Crown Suppliers in 1990.                  

The sale was not concluded and the organisation closed on 31                     

March 1991.                                                                      

In addition, the Hydraulics Research Station became private research             

association on 1 April 1982.                                                     

Details of the current value of each holding are not a matter for                

my Department.                                                                   

<1>Includes the sale of Welsh Water by the Secretary of State for                

Wales.                                                                           

Water and Sewerage Services

Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the powers which rest with the Director General of Water Services to determine the method of charging for water and sewerage services in England and Wales.

Mr. Atkins: The method of charging water and sewerage services in England and Wales is a matter for the water and sewerage companies. The Director General


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of Water Services has no powers to determine the method of charging, but he does have powers, in section 2 of the Water Industry Act 1991, to ensure--subject to his obligation to secure that the companies can properly finance the carrying out of their functions --that the interests of customers and potential customers are protected as regards the fixing and recovery of charges by the companies.

Commission for New Towns

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment who is to be the new chairman of the Commission for New Towns; and who are its board members.

Sir Paul Beresford: An announcement about the new chairman of CNT will be made in due course. The current board members are as follows:

Sir Neil Shields MC (Chairman)

Lord Finsberg MBE (Deputy Chairman)

Lord Bellwin JP

Mr. R. B. Caws OBE

Mr. F. C. Graves OBE, DL

Sir Brian Jenkins GBE

Ms W. Luscombe

Mr. M. H. Mallinson

Lady Marsh

Mr. J. R. Trustam Eve

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Grocott: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the average cost to his Department of answering (a) a written and (b) an oral parliamentary question.

Sir Paul Beresford: The latest estimate of the costs of preparing answers to both written and oral questions was given in the reply by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell) to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones) on 30 November 1993, Official Report, column 387.

Teesside Development Corporation

Mr. Devlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what current developments Teesside development corporation has in hand; and if he will make a statement on progress to date.

Sir Paul Beresford: The Teesside development corporation has the following schemes currently under way: At Hartlepool, the corporation has just opened a major new tourist attraction, the Hartlepool historic quay, which is well on its way to achieving its target of 250,000 visitors per annum. The opening of the centre has already led to the attraction of substantial private sector investment in complementary developments such as a factory shopping complex, superstore, food courts, public house and restaurant and negotiations are also under way for further commercial and residential schemes. At Teesside the corporation is continuing in its drive to transform 100 hectares of formerly derelict land into a high-quality development incorporating commercial, office, residential, retail, educational and leisure facilities. To that end, the Tees barrage, which was commissioned in September 1994, will be fully operational in 1995. This


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will dramatically improve the environment and water quality of the Tees providing a prestigious and dramatic setting for water sports and recreation. It will also lead to the attraction of further private investment on high-quality sites with attractive water frontage.

Preston farm, the corporation's main industrial and business site continue to attract new private sector investment. The latest success is the announcement of the creation of 1,000 new jobs within a three-year period by the international cable company COMCAST. Overall, the Teesside development corporation in its first six years to 31 March 1994 has achieved the following:

- 7,000 new jobs in new floorspace

- 274,000 sq m of new floorspace

- 700 houses completed with a further 350 underway.

- £715 million of private sector investment attracted to the area.

- 330 hectares of land reclaimed.

- Over 6,000 jobs provided in the construction industry. - Over 300 companies assisted to expand and/or to relocate to Teesside

- £53 million of receipts.

- £10 million of European assistance secured.

- Integrated the community into its developments by promoting schemes such as social and sheltered housing, training initiatives, a new University College, two nursing homes, a Community Farm, an Enterprise and Training Centre and wide-spread environmental improvements.

Belgrave Residents Association, Leicester

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will invite the district auditor to investigate the use of public money by the Belgrave residents association in the city of Leicester and the means by which it came by and disposed of public funds; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: No. If my hon. Friend has concerns about the use of local authority funds he should refer the matter to the district auditor for investigation.

Standard Spending Assessments

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is his policy on limiting increases in SSAs over the next two years for local authority expenditure levels;


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(2) what discussions he has had with his colleagues regarding levels of SSAs; and what effects these will have on local government expenditure over the next two years.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: My right hon. Friend regularly discusses the future spending needs of local government with colleagues. Conclusions from these discussions will be announced in due course.

Leicester City Council

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will invite the district auditor to investigate the sale by Leicester city council of land to a temple, a mosque and a gurdwara in Hamilton in Leicester; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: No. This is not a matter for the Government. If my hon. Friend has concerns about any financial transactions by the local authority he should refer the matter to the district auditor.

Non-domestic Rates

Mr. Butcher: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will estimate the number of hereditaments where the transition for the 1990 change is likely to be incomplete at 31 March 1995 but is likely to be (i) complete and (ii) more nearly complete at 1 April 1995 by virtue of a reduction in the rateable value from the date; (2) how many hereditaments in England which currently fall (a) below and (b) above the threshold of rateable value, for determining whether the lower limit on year-on-year increases in non-domestic rates bills applies, there are estimated to be for which the transition to the rateable value and national non-domestic rate introduced in April 1990 will not have been completed at 31 March 1995; and if he will estimate (i) the average percentage and (ii) the aggregate amount by which the 1994 95 rates bills for those hereditaments falls below the amount which would have been payable without transitional relief.

Mr. Curry: The information about properties in England which are currently in transition is contained in the table. Assuming for illustrative purposes that the rate poundage is unchanged in real terms between 1994 95 and 1995 96, preliminary results from the 1995 revaluation suggest that 35,000 of an estimated 330,000 properties in transition at 31 March 1995 would find themselves with no further increase next year and 50,000 would be closer to reaching their full liability than they are now.Source: Inland Revenue: estimates rounded to nearest 5,000.


Properties with rate bills affected by transitional arrangements in 1994-95, England                                   

Size of property                                                     Reduction in bill                                 

                                                                     due to transition                                 

                 |(1) Number      |(2) Actual rates|(3) Rates bill  |(4) Amount      |(5) Amount per                   

                 |(000's)         |bill with       |without         |£ million       |cent.                            

                                  |transition      |transition                                                         

                                  |£ million       |£ million                                                          

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

Small            |275             |335             |450             |115             |74                               

Large            |55              |1,050           |1,435           |385             |73                               

All              |330             |1,385           |1,885           |500             |73                               

Source: Inland Revenue                                                                                                 

Notes:                                                                                                                 

1. Figures (except percentages) are rounded to nearest 5 units.                                                        

2. Small properties have a 1 April 1990 rateable value less than £10,000 (£15,000 in London).                          

3. Column 4 is column 3 less column 2.                                                                                 

4. Column 5 is column 2 as a percentage of column 3.                                                                   


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Mr. Butcher: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what studies he has commissioned, internally and from external consultants, of the likely impact of the April 1995 revaluation of non-domestic property in England on rateable values and non-domestic rate bills in different regions and different sectors of the economy; if he will publish those studies, or summary thereof; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will list the regions, sectors and types of hereditament most affected by large increases or decreases in non-domestic rates.


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Mr. Curry: The Inland Revenue is analysing the results of the revaluation as they come in. Although numbers are subject to change, our current estimate of the effect of the revaluation on rateable values is given in the table. The effect on rates bills will depend on the multiplier which is determined for 1995 96, and on the final form of our proposed transitional arrangements for the 1995 revaluation, details of which are contained in a consultation paper that we issued on 3 October. Copies of the consultation paper are in the Library and we expect to announce our decisions by the end of November.


Provisional estimates of impact of 1995 revaluation on rateable value                                 

Average percentage increase (+)/decrease (-) in 1995 list RV compared with 1990 list RV               

Region                    Property type                                                               

                         |Shops     |Offices   |Warehouses|Factories |Other     |All                  

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

South west               |+7        |+13       |+12       |+2        |+17       |+11                  

Rest of South east       |+2        |-12       |+7        |+2        |+12       |+2                   

East Anglia              |+12       |+14       |+9        |+3        |+15       |+11                  

North west               |+31       |+51       |+46       |+31       |+21       |+32                  

Northern                 |+30       |+50       |+43       |+20       |+16       |+24                  

East Midlands            |+22       |+35       |+21       |+15       |+17       |+20                  

West Midlands            |+31       |+54       |+49       |+40       |+9        |+34                  

Yorkshire and Humberside |+27       |+56       |+32       |+23       |+14       |+26                  

Inner London             |-16       |-59       |-14       |-14       |-3        |-40                  

Outer London             |+12       |-5        |+5        |-8        |+13       |+5                   

All                      |+10       |-29       |+17       |+13       |+13       |+1                   

Source: Inland Revenue                                                                                

Note:                                                                                                 

All numbers are still subject to change, possibly significant, as the revaluation work progresses.    


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Mr. Butcher: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many hereditaments in England which fall (a) below and (b) above the threshold rateable value, for determining whether the lower limit on year- on-year increases in non-domestic rates bills applies, there are estimated to be whose rates bills for 1995 96 in the absence of transitional relief and assuming the rate poundage as adjusted for the revaluation is indexed for inflation would be (i) under 50 per cent., (ii) between 50 and 80 per cent., (iii) between 80 and 120 per cent., (iv)


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between 120 and 200 per cent., (v) between 200 and 500 per cent. and (vi) over 500 per cent. of their bills for 1994 95; and if he will estimate for each of those categories the aggregate increase or decrease in the rates bills between the two years.

Mr. Butcher: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the regions, sectors and types of hereditament where there is the greatest incidence of incomplete transition to the rateable value and national non-domestic rate introduced in April 1990.

Mr. Curry: Estimates for England based on preliminary results of the 1995 revaluation are given in the table. It has been assumed for illustrative purposes that the rate poundage is unchanged in real terms between 1994 95 and 1995 96.


Estimated increase or decrease in rate bills in England between 1994-95 and     

1995-96 as a result of the 1995 revaluation,                                    

in the absence of transitional relief                                           

1995-96 bilSmall properties    Large properties    Total                        

percentage of                                                                   

1994-95 bills                                                                   

          |Number   |Change in|Number   |Change in|Number   |Change in          

          |(000s)   |bills    |(000s)   |bills    |(000s)   |bills              

                    |£ million          |£ million          |£ million          

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

<50       |10       |-320     |15       |-730     |25       |-1050              

50-80     |35       |-80      |25       |-315     |60       |-400               

80-120    |335      |45       |145      |105      |500      |150                

120-200   |695      |670      |165      |1130     |865      |1805               

200-500   |145      |220      |20       |345      |165      |565                

>500      |10       |40       |-        |90       |10       |130                

                                                                                

Total     |1255     |575      |370      |625      |1630     |1200               

Source: Inland Revenue                                                          

Notes:                                                                          

1. Figures are rounded to nearest 5 units. (`-' means less than 3 units).       

2. Totals may not sum due to rounding.                                          

3. Small properties have a 1 April 1990 rateable value less than £10,000 (£15,  

000 in London).                                                                 

Mr. Curry: The greatest incidence of property in England currently remaining in transition under the 1990


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scheme is the inner London, with 45 per cent. of its properties in transition. The incidence is greater than elsewhere for each main sector of the economy, regardless of whether the 1 April 1990 rateable value of property is more or less than the £15,000 threshold used for determining entitlement to transitional relief. The figures for each class of property are given in the table.


Percentage of properties estimated to be in transition in inner London area  

as at 31 March 1995                                                          

            Properties in                                                    

            transition as a                                                  

            proportion of total                                              

            number of                                                        

            properties                                                       

            in each class per                                                

            cent.                                                            

Size       |Shops     |Offices   |Warehouses|Factories |Other                

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

Small      |50        |35        |40        |30        |50                   

Large      |60        |30        |20        |20        |60                   

Source: Inland Revenue                                                       

Note:                                                                        

Small properties have a 1 April 1990 rateable value less than £10,000 (£15,  

000 in London).                                                              


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Repair Costs

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what evidence he has on the number of local authorities which have incurred significant losses as a result of a failure to bill leaseholders for repair costs.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: None. The Department does not collect information in this form.

Westminster City Council

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what investigation his Department is making into Westminster city council's failure to recover repair costs from leaseholders.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: It is not the role of the Department to carry out such investigations. This is a matter for the authority's auditors.

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the reasons for the qualification of Westminster city council's accounts for 1993 94.


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