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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 6 July 1995

TREASURY

Education (Spending)

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of gross domestic product in England and Wales is spent on education.     [32238]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: Gross domestic product by territory is published in table 12.1 of "Regional Trends" 1995 edition on a calendar year basis only, while general Government expenditure by territory is published in table 7.7 of the statistical supplement to the "Financial Statement an Budget Report 1995 96", Cm 2821, on a financial year basis only. In England and Wales, identifiable general Government expenditure on education in 1993 94 accounted for 6.1 per cent. of GDP for 1993.

Import/Export Controls (Breaches)

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent communications or discussions he has had with the chairman of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise in regard to progress in continuing inquiries into alleged malpractice by companies or individuals in military import/export transactions.     [32660]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Investigation into alleged breaches of import or export controls is a matter for the commissioners of Customs in their role as an independent investigating and prosecuting authority of the Crown.

Neither the Chancellor nor I, the Treasury Minister with general responsibility for Customs matters, are consulted on decisions on investigation and prosecution in individual cases, but we are routinely informed of significant events in important cases. It would not be appropriate to make public details of communications on inquiries lest they prejudice current or future investigations or legal proceedings or cause unfairness to individuals.

VAT (Tour Operators)

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy urgently to press the European Commission for changes to the regulations relating to value added tax and the tour operators margins scheme.     [32879]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I share my hon. Friend's concern and I have recently written to Commissioner Monti urging that the European Commission should give greater priority to a full review of the EC rules on the application of VAT to tour operators.

Mr. Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what proposals he has to find means of compensating smaller tour operators for damage to their business as a result of the proposed implementation of


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the Valued Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order;     [32881] (2) what recent representations he has received concerning value added tax and the tour operators margins scheme; and if he will set out the action which he intends to take as a result of those representations.     [32878]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I have received many representations about the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order 1995 which was laid before the House on 9 June, and is due to come into effect on 1 January 1996.

Many in the industry, but not all, wish to see the implementation of the change delayed.

I am aware of the concern expressed about possible distortions of competition and the effect of the order, particularly on the smaller tour operators.

Accordingly, Customs and Excise has begun a wide-ranging review of the scheme and has issued a consultation paper to trade bodies and other interested parties. It has requested replies on the particular issues arising from the 1 January 1996 change by the end of August. I shall then consider what further action, if any, is appropriate.

Mr. Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will identify those sections of the European directives which have led to the promotion of the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order.     [32882]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The relevant EC legislation is article 26 of council directive 77/388/EEC--the Sixth VAT Directive.

Mr. Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what will be the net cost to the United Kingdom travel industry of the proposed implementation from 1 January 1996 of the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order; if that order has yet been subject to a compliance cost assessment; and if he will make a statement.     [32880]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The increase in the total VAT due to the Exchequer as a consequence of the proposed implementation of the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order 1995 is estimated at between £10 million and £40 million in a full year.

The order is the subject of a compliance cost assessment, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he intends next to meet representatives of the Association of British Travel Agents to discuss the implications for the United Kingdom travel industry which will be caused by the implementation of the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order.     [32967]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I have no plans for a meeting at this stage. However, Customs and Excise has begun a wide-ranging review of the tour operators' margin scheme and issues arising from the proposed implementation of the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order 1995 will be examined as a matter of priority. Customs has issued a


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consultation paper and offered to meet representative bodies at any mutually convenient time.

Mr. Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement of his policy on the consistency of the proposed implementation of the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order with help for small businesses.     [32883]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I recognise the concern over the position of smaller tour operators affected by the Value Added Tax (Tour Operators) (Amendment) Order 1995. Their position is being examined as a matter of priority as part of the wide-ranging review of the tour operators' margin scheme, and in full consultation with the industry.

Tortoise Products

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what seizures of tortoise products have been made by Customs and Excise in the last 12 months; and what advice is offered to travellers at ports of entry concerning tortoise products offered for sale in Morocco and other countries.     [32747]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: HM Customs and Excise seized the following tortoise products in the year ending 31 March 1995--the latest period for which figures are available:

8 tortoise shells

72 tablets stated to contain tortoise as an ingredient While advice to passengers is not directed specifically at the sale of tortoise products in Morocco, international travellers are made aware of the controls on protected species in general by means of posters, leaflets and the display cases which appear at many major airports.

Imported Biodiesel (Revenue)

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much revenue was raised last year on imported biodiesel.     [32716]

Mr Heathcoat-Amory: The answer is as follows:

Excise duty: None

Customs duty: Negligible

VAT: Negligible

Departmental Capital Spending

Mr. Betts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the expected capital spending figure for his Department for 1994 95; and what is the latest budget figure.     [30872]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 28 June 1995]: The provisional outturn figure for 1994 95 is £2.7 million. The budget provision for 1995 96 is £5.6 million.

Duty Receipts

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total amount of duty on (a) tobacco products, (b) alcohol products and (c) all other liable products for each of the last 10 fiscal years expressed (i) at April 1995 prices and (ii) as a percentage of total Exchequer income.     [32331]


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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory [holding answer 4 July 1995]: The figures are as follows:


                 |(a) Tobacco     |(b) Alcohol     |(c) Other duties                 

                 |duty            |duties          |duties<1>                        

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

(i) Duty receipts at April 1995 prices-£ million                                     

1985-86          |6,942           |6,533           |17,104                           

1986-87          |7,174           |6,312           |18,731                           

1987-88          |6,914           |6,300           |18,865                           

1988-89          |6,829           |6,183           |19,522                           

1989-90          |6,391           |5,633           |18,515                           

1990-91          |6,523           |5,620           |17,871                           

1991-92          |6,949           |5,596           |18,720                           

1992-93          |6,470           |5,471           |18,905                           

1993-94          |6,863           |5,447           |20,818                           

1994-95          |7,576           |5,702           |22,068                           

                                                                                     

(ii) Duty receipts as proportion of central government receipts- percentage          

1985-86          |3.4             |3.2             |8.5                              

1986-87          |3.5             |3.1             |9.1                              

1987-88          |3.2             |2.9             |8.7                              

1988-89          |3.1             |2.8             |8.8                              

1989-90          |2.9             |2.6             |8.4                              

1990-91          |3.1             |2.5             |7.9                              

1991-92          |2.9             |2.5             |8.4                              

1992-93          |3.0             |2.5             |8.8                              

1993-94          |3.1             |2.5             |9.5                              

1994-95          |3.3             |2.5             |9.5                              

<1> Other duties include vehicle excise duty and customs and Excise duties, other    

than those on tobacco and alcohol.                                                   

Figures for 1994-95 are provisional.                                                 

VAT Receipts

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total amount of VAT collected in each of the last 10 fiscal years expressed (a) at April 1995 prices and (b) as a percentage of total Exchequer income.     [32329]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory [holding answer 4 July 1995]: The figures are as follows:


Net VAT receipts                                                                    

                                          |(b) as proportion of                     

                     |(a) at April 1995   |central government                       

                     |prices              |receipts                                 

                     |£ million           |percentage                               

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

1985-86              |30,092              |14.9                                     

1986-87              |32,234              |15.7                                     

1987-88              |34,910              |16.1                                     

1988-89              |37,401              |16.8                                     

1989-90              |37,421              |17.0                                     

1990-91              |35,885              |15.9                                     

1991-92              |39,361              |17.7                                     

1992-93              |39,891              |18.5                                     

1993-94              |41,024              |18.6                                     

1994-95              |42,879              |18.5                                     

Figures for 1994-95 are provisional.                                                

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Electronic Mail

Mr. Allen: To ask the Chairman of the Information Committee what information he has on the savings hon. Members will make by using the Internet as opposed to mail for correspondence.


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Mr. Gary Waller: Savings will accrue to the House if the Parliamentary data and video network connection to the Internet is used instead of traditional mail. However, in those cases where connection to the PDVN is via a modem, there will be an increased telephone charge.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Chairman of the Information Committee what training will be provided for hon. Members and their staff on the Internet.

Mr. Waller: Demonstrations by the Computer Office to Members of both Houses, their staff and staff of the two Houses in the use of the world wide web and Internet e-mail will be provided at workshop open days. In addition, leaflets will be available on the use of the Internet, and Members and other users can ask the PDVN helpdesk for assistance.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Chairman of the Information Committee if he will commission a study of the trends in hon. Member's work patterns and work load due to the advent of electronic mail; and what mechanisms and training are to be provided for assisting hon. Members and their researchers to deal with Internet e-mail.

Mr. Waller: It is too early to consider such a study, since trends of hon. Members'usage of the PDVN have not emerged. The Committee will consider in due course what mechanisms are appropriate for Internet e-mail and recommend appropriate guidance for users. As far as training is concerned, I refer the hon. Member to my preceding reply to him on this subject.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Chairman of the Information Committee for what reasons hon. Members' connection to the Internet via the PDVN has been delayed; and when he expects access to be available.

Mr. Waller: The Internet connection was completed in mid-May and early testing of the facility took place during late May and through June. General access to the service has depended on standardising PDVN equipment and on the availability of a mail conversion gateway received only at the end of June. Users of the PDVN who are interested in using the Internet are being asked to allow their machines to be converted during the summer recess and should contact the PDVN helpdesk to arrange a convenient time for the upgrade. At the same time, other new services are also being made available, including the Library's parliamentary electronic document distribution system, Novell Group Wise 4.1--the updated version of Wordperfect Office--and also remote Windows access.

Parliamentary On-line Information System

Mr. Allen: To ask the Chairman of the Information Committee, if POLIS will be made available to the general public via the Internet.

Mr. Waller: No.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Subsidence Adviser

Mr. Lester: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he has received an annual report from the subsidence adviser appointed under section 46 of the Coal Industry Act 1994.     [33340]


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Mr. Page: I have today received the subsidence adviser's first annual report. In accordance with the Coal Mining (Subsidence Adviser) Regulations 1994, copies have been laid in both Libraries of the Houses.

Official Receiver

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what will be the maximum distance bankrupts and company directors will be required to travel to attend for further interview by the official receiver, in order that the official receiver can investigate possible offences which may have been committed if the initial enquiries of the official receiver are contracted out.     [32322]

Mr. Jonathan Evans: No decisions have yet been taken in relation to the residual size and location of the Insolvency Service should contracting out go ahead.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the maximum distance any of the constituents of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby who become bankrupt can expect to travel in the event of any of the functions of the official receiver being contracted out.     [32584]

Mr. Evans: Accessibility will be an issue for discussion with potential bidders in the course of the negotiations on their proposals for contracting out. It is expected, however, that bankrupts will not be required to travel substantially farther than is presently necessary.

Illegal Steel Subsidies

Sir Cranley Onslow: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what evidence of illegal subsidies his Steel Subsidies Monitoring Committee has so far passed to the European Commission.     [31144]

Mr. Eggar: The committee was formed in February 1995 to encourage the UK steel industry and other Government Departments to bring forward information which might point to the existence of illegal subsidies. A good deal of background information has been collected, and discussed with the Commission, including information about Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Irish cases.

Amway UK Ltd.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 26 June, Official Report, columns 447 48, if hon. Members other than Ministers were present at the meetings in 1992 and 1995 between Ministers and Messrs Amway UK Ltd., or the Direct Selling Association.     [32619]

Mr. Jonathan Evans [holding answer 5 July 1995]: The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) was present at both meetings.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Small Claims Limit

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) what consultation his Department has carried out to consider increases in the small claims limit since July 1994; and if he will make a statement.     [32737]


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(2) how many representations he has received since January as part of the full public consultation prior to any increase in the small claims limit; and if he will make a statement.     [32738]

(3) what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the interim report of the judicial review on the civil justice system conducted by Lord Woolf to comply with his Department's criteria for a departmental consultation on the level of the small claims limit; and if he will make a statement.     [32840]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The small claims limit fell within the scope of the first stage of Lord Woolf's review of access to justice. During this review, Lord Woolf himself conducted an extensive consultation exercise including a programme of public seminars. A list of the individuals and organisations which contributed to the inquiry is annexed to the interim report, which was published last month. In view of that wide-ranging consultation, the Lord Chancellor does not intend to undertake further public consultation on the question whether he should implement Lord Woolf's recommendation that the limit for small claims, other than those for personal injury, should be raised to £3,000. The power to make the necessary amendments rests with the County Court Rule Committee which, as part of its consideration of the matter, will consult interested parties.

Child Abuse Cases

Mr. Alan Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans his Department has to ensure that the public gallery in court is cleared during the evidence of children in cases of alleged abuse.     [32039]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The question concerns a specific operational matter on which the chief executive of the Court Service is best placed to provide an answer and I have accordingly asked the chief executive to reply direct.

Letter from M. D. Huebner to Mr. Alan Howarth, dated 6 July 1995 :

PQ 95/677: Child Abuse Cases

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, has asked me to reply to the above Question about the evidence of children in cases of alleged abuse.

I should let you know that, with few exceptions, proceedings in the Crown Court are held in open court. However, section 37(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 enables a court to direct that all persons, other than court staff, the parties and their legal representatives, be excluded from court when evidence is given by a child or young person in proceedings contrary to decency or morality. The parents or guardian of a child witness can ask their legal adviser to make such an application. It is then for the judge to decide, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.

Prosecution Costs (Plymouth)

Mr. Steen: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the cost to public funds of the recent prosecution by Plymouth trading standards department of a resident of south Brent, south Devon, for the sale of a horse.     [31838]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The question concerns a specific operational matter on which the chief executive of the Court Service is best placed to provide an answer and I have accordingly asked the chief executive to reply direct.


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Letter from M. D. Huebner to Mr. Anthony Steen, dated 6 July 1995:

PQ 95/666: Cost of bringing a prosecution

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, has asked me to reply to your Question about the cost to public funds of bringing a prosecution.

I am sorry to have to tell you that this information is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Small Claims Courts

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many landlords were taken to the small claims courts by former tenants for not repaying their deposits in each of the last 20 years; and if he will make a statement.     [31919]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The question concerns a specific operational matter on which the chief executive of the Court Service is best placed to provide an answer and I have accordingly asked the chief executive to reply direct.

Letter from M. D. Huebner to Mr. Simon Hughes, dated 6 July 1995:

PQ 95/668: Landlords taken to court by their former tenants The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, has asked me to reply to your Question about the number of landlords who have been taken to court by their former tenants.

I am sorry to have to tell you that this information is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

SCOTLAND

Property Maintenance

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what measures are in place which allow (a) local authorities, (b) mortgage lenders, (c) police forces, (d) council tax registration officers or (e) private citizens to take action to force owner-occupiers who (i) neglect owner-occupied property to the extent that it detrimentally affects the amenity and quality of life of neighbours or (ii) use residential property for trading, storage or warehousing purposes, to cease such practices and return such residential property to proper use; what plans he has to introduce additional measures; and if he will make a statement;     [31387] (2) what action can be taken against a householder of an owner-occupied property in a residential area who (a) neglects to properly maintain his or her property to a reasonable standard or (b) uses the property for trading, warehousing and storage purposes to the significant detriment of neighbours and their amenity; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The responsibility for dealing with houses in poor condition lies with local authorities and they have wide- ranging powers. Where it is drawn to their attention that a house has been neglected they may take action under the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897, or the Building (Scotland) Act 1959, or the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 or the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 to require that it be repaired or up-graded. These powers may also be used where neighbours are affected and there is a provision to require the maintenance of private open spaces. Planning permission for change of use is required if a residential


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property is used for business purposes and that use is more than incidental to the enjoyment of the property as a dwelling house. Authorities have power to take action against those who breach planning control under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972. There are no present plans to introduce measures additional to these powers.

Any action which a mortgage lender could take over the condition or use of a property would be determined in individual circumstances by the terms of the mortgage agreement.

Higher Education

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from smaller colleges of higher education alleging difficulties in coping with Scottish Higher Education Funding Council-imposed budget reductions over the next three years; and what response he has made.     [32232]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: My Department has received letters from the principals of two monotechnic higher education institutions and nine copies of a campaign letter from representatives of St. Andrew's College of Higher Education. My right hon. Friend has also received formal representations from the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals in relation to the 1995 public expenditure survey.

It is for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to determine the relative needs of institutions within the total resources available to it. The council keeps in close touch with all the institutions it funds.

My right hon. Friend will be considering carefully the council's assessment of the needs of higher education during the forthcoming public expenditure survey.

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what distinction the SHEFC made in deciding budgets for higher education colleges in the next three years, between colleges which had reserves and colleges which had not been permitted to acquire reserves.     [32234]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: None. The SHEFC set out its allocations of funding to higher education institutions in its circular letter No. 10/95 on 15 March 1995.

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the impact of funding cuts in the next three years on the quality of provision in higher education

colleges.     [32235]


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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Our expenditure plans for higher education until the 1997 98 financial year were set out in the departmental report "Serving Scotland's Needs", Cm 2814. This included a summary of the quality assessment reports on teaching by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council in the academic session 1993 94, and reaffirmed the Government's commitment to greater accountability of HEIs in terms of relevant, up-to-date information about quality and standards to such as employers and current and prospective students. The funding councils, including SHEFC, are working to develop indicators for performance including teaching quality.

My right hon. Friend will be considering evidence as to teaching quality and various representations he has received in the forthcoming public expenditure survey. So far almost 30 per cent. of the quality assessments of teaching published by SHEFC have been rated as excellent and only 2 per cent. as unsatisfactory.

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many overseas students there were in Scottish higher education institutions in each year since 1985; and what proportion they represented of the total.     [32236]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The number and percentage of full-time overseas students in higher education institutions from 1985 86 to 1993 94 is shown in the table.


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