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Parliamentary Questions

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many written parliamentary questions were tabled for answer by his Department in each of the past five years; how many of these were not answered because the information (a) could be obtained only at disproportionate cost, (b) was not held centrally and (c) was not normally disclosed; how many of these could now be answered due to computerisation, more effective and efficient operational systems or more open government; and if he will list each question along with the name and constituency of the right hon. or hon. Member who originally tabled it.     [28519]

Mr. Nelson: The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of parliamentary questions, which would have been answered directly by him or his Ministers prior to the establishment of executive agencies, are now referred to the chief executive of such an agency.     [28501]

Mr. Nelson: The chief executives of the four agencies responsible to the Chancellor of the Exchequer have delegated authority to reply to parliamentary questions on day-to-day operational matters within their responsibilities. Since October 1992, five questions to the Chancellor have been referred to chief executives for reply under these arrangements.

Works of Art

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his reply of 9 June, Official Report , column 340 , how many owners of chattels had been granted conditional exemption from inheritance tax as capital transfer tax in each year since 1987.     [28851]

Sir George Young: The numbers of owners are as follows: 1987: 35

1988: 51

1989: 44

1990: 41

1991: 69

1992: 73

1993: 55

1994: 63


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These figures are for owners of chattels which are currently conditionally exempt, and can be viewed by appointment.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his reply of 9 June, Official Report, column 340, if he will place in the Library a copy of the register of conditionally exempt works of art.     [28853]

Sir George Young: The register of conditionally exempt works of art, which now has over 14,000 entries, was computerised in 1993. As the hon. Member may be aware, there are established guidelines on the acceptance of electronic data by the House of Commons Library. The feasibility of making the register available through the Library will be explored and I will write to the hon. Member in due course.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his reply of 9 June, Official Report, column 340, how many owners of chattels which have been granted conditional exemption from inheritance tax as capital transfer tax have allowed access in the latest 12 month period for which figures are available to members of the public wishing to view conditionally exempt works of art.     [28849]

Sir George Young: Records are not kept centrally of how many members of the public have exercised their rights to require owners of chattels conditionally exempt from inheritance tax or capital transfer tax to allow viewing of these works of art.

VAT

Mr. Thurnham: To ask the Chancellor of the


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Exchequer how much extra revenue would be raised from the extension of VAT to new building.     [28884]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The Treasury publication, "Tax Ready Reckoner and Tax Reliefs", shows that applying the standard rate of VAT to new dwellings is estimated to raise £1,950 million in a full year in 1994 95. This figure makes no allowance for behavioural changes.

Mrs. Peacock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many businesses registered and deregistered for value added tax in (a) Batley and Spen and (b) west Yorkshire each year since 1983.     [27710]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory [holding answer 13 June 1995]: Customs does not have information concerning the number of businesses registered and deregistered in the Batley and Spen constituency. The local VAT office at Halifax covers, in addition to Halifax, the towns of Batley, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Morley, Todmorden and part of Bradford. The local VAT offices at Bradford, Doncaster, Halifax and Leeds cover the west Yorkshire area. They are able to provide only the number of registrations and deregistrations for VAT at the Halifax office and in west Yorkshire since 1985. These are in the following schedule. Traders who are in business and trading below the registrations threshold may choose to register for VAT, if they wish. This gives them the advantage of being able to reclaim VAT paid on goods and expenses in connection with their business. Above the threshold level registration is obligatory.

The effect of the substantial increase in the registration threshold in both 1991 and 1993 provides an explanation for the net decrease in the number of registered businesses since 1991.


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                   |Registrations at  |Deregistrations at|Registrations in  |Deregistrations in                   

                   |Halifax           |Halifax           |West              |West                                 

Year               |office            |office            |Yorkshire         |Yorkshire                            

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

1985               |2,228             |2,257             |7,905             |7,958                                

1986               |2,254             |2,329             |8,299             |8,862                                

1987               |2,256             |1,856             |8,469             |7,427                                

1988               |2,634             |2,110             |10,274            |7,946                                

1989               |3,284             |2,256             |11,385            |8,102                                

1990               |2,646             |2,318             |10,013            |8,245                                

1991               |2,486             |3,046             |8,871             |10,875                               

1992               |2,147             |2,652             |8,302             |9,967                                

1993               |2,207             |2,540             |8,240             |9,180                                

1994               |1,891             |2,443             |7,373             |8,621                                

1995<1>            |482               |560               |1,605             |2,004                                

<1>To end March.                                                                                                  

Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Gareth Wardell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if a person who is in receipt of incapacity benefit will be treated for tax purposes in exactly the same way as a person in receipt of retirement pension.     [28979]

Sir George Young: Both incapacity benefit and state retirement pension are taxable, except for incapacity benefit payable in the first 28 weeks of incapacity, and additional payments of both incapacity benefit and retirement pension payable to claimants with children. For most claimants, arrangements for collecting tax are broadly similar in both cases.


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Gilts and Bonds

Mr. Butcher: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Inland Revenue will make available a provisional compliance cost assessment on the proposals set out in the consultation paper on the taxation of gilts and bonds.     [29242]

Sir George Young: My foreword to the Inland Revenue's consultation document makes clear that we are aiming for a major simplification of the current rules. This offers the prospect of substantial long-run compliance cost savings as well as wider efficiency gains. But the precise effects will depend on the details, a number of which have been expressly left open as matters for consultation.


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If we decide to proceed with these proposals, the Inland Revenue will make available the compliance cost assessment once the details have been sufficiently settled and the responses given in consultation have been fully evaluated.

Northern Electric

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has voted his shares either directly or by proxy in recent shareholder votes in Northern Electric; whether he supported the call for an emergency annual meeting; and what public statement he has made on whether Northern Electric is to accept the offer of Trafalgar House plc.     [29774]

Sir George Young: At no shareholder meeting have Treasury shares been voted. The Treasury was prepared to vote its shares in March in favour of the full cash alternative in reference to a combination of cash and Trafalgar House shares. Not to have so voted our shares would have meant acceptance by default of the latter option and would have involved, unacceptably, the Treasury taking a new stake in a private sector company. In the event, the Trafalgar House bid was withdrawn. The Government's usual policy is not to vote our shareholdings to intervene in the commercial activities of a privatised company but, in the circumstances of last March, we took account of the fact that Northern Electric had recommended acceptance of the Trafalgar House bid. Treasury Ministers have made no public statements on this matter.

Fundamental Expenditure Review

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which Minister in his Department is responsible for the fundamental expenditure review process; and how many such reviews have been approved so far by that Minister.     [29740]

Mr. Aitken: Secretaries of State in Departments have been conducting the reviews in co-operation with me. The Departments listed have produced final reports already, but the reviews were intended to look at long term spending patterns and follow-up work and implementation are continuing in most cases.

Ministry of Defence

Department of Trade and Industry

Employment Department

Department of Transport

Urban spending by the Department of the Environment

Home Office

Lord Chancellor's Department

Department for Education

Department of National Heritage

Department of Health

Department of Social Security

HM Treasury

Customs and Excise

Inland Revenue

Investor Compensation Scheme

Mr. Darling: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he proposes to meet the Securities Investment Board


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or the Personal Investment Authority to discuss the operation of the investor compensation scheme; and if he will make a statement;     [29730]

(2) what information he has on the solvency of the investors compensation scheme set up under the Financial Services Act 1986; and if he will make a statement.     [29729]

Mr. Nelson: I meet senior figures from the Securities and Investments Board, the Personal Investment Authority and the investors compensation scheme to discuss matters of policy and interest from time to time. I recently met the chairman and chief executive of the ICS.

Correspondence

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 6 April referred from the Department of Social Security regarding a constituent, reference 0595/38.     [29669]

Sir George Young: A reply was sent on 19 June.

Pensions

Mr. Denham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures he proposes to take to ensure that holders of appropriate personal pensions can rely on these policies to provide benefits at least as generous as those provided by SERPS.     [27602]

Mr. Nelson [holding answer 19 June 1995]: It would be inappropriate for the Government to guarantee the investment performance of a personal pension. However, the financial services regulators have rules designed to ensure that financial advisers are trained, competent and able to recommend only products which are suitable for the individual investor and whose risks are properly explained.

Civil Servants

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 4 May, Official Report , column 264 , if he will provide comparable details on civil service early retirement packages on grounds of inefficiency.     [29284]

Mr. Nelson [holding answer 19 June 1995]: Inefficiency is a ground for dismissal. An immediate lump-sum payment of up to two years' salary may be made where a department judges payment of compensation to be appropriate. Where compensation is agreed and the person dismissed is over 55, this may be forgone in favour of immediate payment of the accrued superannuation benefits which would otherwise be preserved for payment at retiring age. There have been 15 departures from the Treasury on inefficiency grounds in the past five financial years, 11 of which were during probation. No compensation was paid in any of these cases.

Electricity Privatisation

Mr. Darling: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set out the terms of reference of the Treasury inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sale of PowerGen and National Power stock in March; if he will


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name the official who is conducting this inquiry; if the completed inquiry report will be published in full; and if he will make a statement.     [28841]

Sir George Young [holding answer 15 June 1995]: The stock exchange has suggested further examination into the circumstances surrounding the Genco2 share sale, including the dissemination of information between various parts of the public sector and between the public sector and the market. Sir Terence Burns has asked Mr. John Beastall, a senior Treasury official and former Treasury officer of accounts, to take this work forward and draft the Treasury response. He has been asked to examine in detail the events surrounding the share sale and the role of all the parties involved and any lessons to be learned for future share issues by public authorities. Once the work has been completed, the Permanent Secretary, Sir Terence Burns, will respond to the stock exchange and the response will be published.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 20 June 1995.     [27975]

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 20 June.     [27976]

The Prime Minister: This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today.

President Clinton

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Prime Minister what contact he has had with President Clinton on plans for a visit to the United Kingdom.     [27979]

The Prime Minister: I would welcome a further visit to the United Kingdom by President Clinton. We are discussing possible dates.

Nuclear Tests

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister what steps he has taken to persuade the French Government not to resume nuclear testing and to oppose any proposals taken by them to do so.     [29739]

The Prime Minister: We are in regular contact with the French Government, who are aware of our views.

BMARC

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister if the intelligence sources referred to in the oral statement on BMARC by the President of the Board of Trade of 13 June, Official Report , columns 595 606, and dated at July and September 1988 used material from within the Astra group of companies.     [29722]


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The Prime Minister: It is not the Government's policy to comment on the sources of information contained in intelligence material.

Scott Inquiry

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 June to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central, (Mr. Fatchett) Official Report , column 373 , if he will list the external lawyers who have been used to provide advice for witnesses to the Scott inquiry; and if external lawyers have been used at the request of witnesses of Departments or of the Treasury solicitors.      [29764]

The Prime Minister: The Government will have no objection to publishing the names of external lawyers who have been used to provide advice for witnesses to the Scott inquiry at public expense after Sir Richard Scott's final report has been published and provision of such advice has been concluded. External advice is provided at public expense either where the witness concerned requests it and the departmental legal adviser considers this reasonable or where, after consultation with his departmental legal adviser of the Treasury Solicitor, it is agreed that such advice should be sought.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 24 February, to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central, (Mr. Cousins) Official Report , column 353 , if further evidence has been taken in private by Lord Justice Scott.     [29155]

The Prime Minister: Sir Richard Scott continues to obtain evidence, both oral and written, as the need arises. I am advised by the inquiry that the last evidence taken at a private hearing was on 4 May 1995.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if the Cabinet Office has received any information on allegations that British companies had circumvented export control regulations or guidelines covering Iraq or Iran, which have not yet been passed on to Lord Justice Scott.     [29151]

The Prime Minister: All information received by the Cabinet Office and identified as required by Sir Richard Scott's inquiry has been passed to the inquiry.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if he has instituted any change in the system of distribution of intelligence reports to Ministers and their appropriate officials as a result of the problems outlined by Baroness Thatcher in her evidence to the Scott inquiry.     [29150]

The Prime Minister: A number of improvements have been made, of which details have been given to the Scott inquiry.

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 June given to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), Official Report , column 373 , how many requests for legal assistance for witnesses to the Scott inquiry have been turned down as unreasonable; and if he will break down the costs to public funds between the costs in respect of (a) external lawyers and (b) the Treasury solicitors.     [29763]

The Prime Minister: Witnesses to the Scott inquiry who wish to seek legal assistance at public expense must first seek the approval of their departmental legal adviser


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or the Treasury Solicitor's Department. Where necessary, the nature, scope, source and terms of such legal advice are discussed with the individual concerned. I am not aware of any case in which there was a disagreement over the provision of legal advice following such discussions. The information on legal costs is given in my answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) today.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), Official Report , column 374 , on leaks from the provisional draft report of Lord Justice Scott, who conducted the inquiry; what were the responses of those who were interviewed; and if he will publish the conclusions for the inquiry.     [29519]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to my reply to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) on 12 June, Official Report , column 374.

Security Vetting

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 24 April, Official Report , column 344, if contractors who carry out basic checks are now obliged to require their employees and potential employees to disclose to them any information concerning any criminal record, including those which are spent and if he will make a statement.     [29770]

The Prime Minister: Contractors are obliged only to carry out basic checks on employees or potential employees who will have access to Government assets. As part of a basic check, employees and potential employees are not required to disclose spent convictions. Contractors have a duty to request from their employees and potential employees, a completed criminal record declaration form. However, employees and potential employees do not have to return the form to their employer; if they prefer, they can pass it directly to the contracting Department or agency.

In my answer of 24 April, I also referred to exceptional cases where, in the interests of national security, and with the agreement of the Cabinet Office, Office of Public Service and Science, extra inquiries are necessary in addition to those carried out for a basic check. Where these include a check against the national collection of criminal records, individuals are required to declare spent convictions, as permitted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975, and the rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (Exceptions) Order 1979. This information is available only to the contracting Department or agency and is not accessible by the contractor.

Intergovernmental Conference

Mr. David Porter: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 June, Official Report , column 374 , which treaty gives authority to the common fisheries policy, and which is subject to amendment at the 1996 inter-governmental conference; and if he will make it his policy to seek withdrawal from the common fisheries policy.     [28923]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 June]: Fisheries are part of the common agricultural policy


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governed by articles 38 47 of the EC treaty which will be reviewed as part of the 1996 intergovernmental conference. The detailed rules of the common fisheries policy are set out in the Council regulation 3760/92 which comes up for formal review in 2002. We have no plans for UK withdrawal from the common fisheries policy, but we are continuing to work for improvements in the appropriate fora.

Overseas Visits (Royal Family)

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister when the royal household sought the advice of Her Majesty's Government on the appropriateness of a member of the royal family attending the Island games, Gibraltar, to be held in July.     [28674]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 June]: Official visits overseas by members of the royal family are made on the advice of the Government. The Princess Royal had hoped to attend the Island games in Gibraltar in July but, in the event, she was unable to do so.

TRANSPORT

Motorway Noise

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department takes to monitor noise levels faced by residential properties located near to motorways.     [28166]

Mr. Watts: This is an operational matter for the Highways Agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member. Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 20 June 1995:

As you know, the Minister for Railways and Roads, Mr. John Watts MP, has asked me to write to you in reply to your recent Parliamentary Question concerning the question of monitoring of noise levels faced by residential properties located near to motorways. No routine monitoring of noise levels adjacent to trunk roads or motorways is undertaken, there being no requirement on the Highways Agency to do so.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the sections of the British motorway network where noise levels exceed 68 db(A) at the facade of adjacent residential properties of which an increase of at least 1 db(A) is attributable to traffic on the new or improved motorway.     [28167]

Mr. Watts: This is an operational matter for the Highways Agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member. Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 20 June 1995:

As you know, the Minister for Railways and Roads, Mr. John Watts MP, has asked me to write to you in reply to your recent Parliamentary Question requesting a list of the sections of the British motorway network where noise levels exceed 68 db(A) at the facade of residential properties of which an increase of at least 1 db(A) is attributable to traffic on the new or improved motorway. The Highways Agency is only responsible for motorways in England. I cannot therefore comment on motorways in the other parts of the United Kingdom.


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The Noise Insulation Regulations require an offer of insulation or grant to owners of residential properties which qualify in accordance with the criteria you have quoted within six months of a new or improved road being open to traffic, but statistics of such offers are not collected centrally.


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