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Value Added Tax

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the effect on Treasury revenue in 1996-97 and in a full year of extending value added tax at (a) 8 per cent. and (b) 17.5 per cent. to all those zero-rated, giving figures separately for each item. [91]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Table 10 of the Treasury publication "Tax Ready Reckoner and Tax Reliefs" shows the estimated cost of not applying standard rate VAT to those items currently zero-rated. Those figures make no allowance for changes in consumer behaviour. It is possible to derive estimates for revenue from 8 per cent. VAT from those figures. The latest figures available are for 1995-96.

£ million

8.0 per cent.17.5 per cent.
Construction of new dwellings8201,800
Domestic passenger transport6201,350
International passenger transport 530 1,150
Books, newspapers and magazines 550 1,200
Childrens clothes and shoes340750
Water and sewerage services410900
Drugs and medicines on prescription 300 650
Supplies to charities90200
Ships and aircraft above a certain size 210 450
Vehicles and other supplies to disabled people 70 150

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Ordtech Trials

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the total cost to the public funds of the Ordtech trials. [1023]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: It is not possible at this stage to give a total cost to the public funds of the Ordtech trials. Legal fees paid to date by HM Customs and Excise, as prosecuting authority, amount to £175,808.


Sri Lanka

Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans Her Majesty's Government have to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people and refugees from the Jaffna area of Sri Lanka. [566]

Mr. Hanley: Earlier this month, we provided two emergency aid grants of £250,000 and £100,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross and Christian Action, Research and Education respectively, to help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the recent fighting. We also provide on-going support, through Save the Children and Oxfam, for relief and rehabilitation programmes which help displaced families. In 1995-96, we expect to spend around £1.2 million on these programmes.

Aid Programme

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) percentage and (b) amount of the annual expenditure for overseas aid is channelled through non-governmental organisations (i) in developing countries overall, (ii) in each country and (iii) on each project. [1546]

Mr. Hanley: In 1994-95 total expenditure for overseas aid to developing countries was £2.018 billion. Of this, £1.048 billion was in the form of bilateral aid, of which 16.5 per cent. or £173 million was channelled through non-governmental organisations. More detailed breakdowns of this expenditure by individual countries and projects are not available and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.



Mr. Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many voucher booklets offering discounts on home insulation products were

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recently distributed; which body was responsible for producing them; to whom they were distributed; and at what cost; [600]

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The voucher booklets were produced by the Department of the Environment with the aim of increasing the take-up of energy efficiency measures through offers provided by private sector companies and trade associations at their own expense. Cavity wall insulation was only one of 14 different products and services included in the booklet. The voucher book as a whole was supported by television advertising costing £1,232,313.

Over 5 million voucher books have been distributed direct to owner-occupied older properties which are likely to be able to benefit from the full range of offers included. Distribution costs were £58,750. The voucher books can also be obtained from local energy advice centres and by using press advertisement coupons.

The cavity wall insulation offer is nominally promoted by InstaGroup, but covers four major fibre-based cavity insulation system designers, the National Cavity Insulation Association and the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency. InstaGroup's role as promoter came as a result of agreement among all the participants. All the vouchers are valid at least until the end of the year, and longer in some cases. It is therefore too early to assess the results.


Sir David Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what studies or research are being undertaken into the particular care and support requirements in housing of the elderly living in rural areas. [207]

Mr. Curry: In 1995, my Department commissioned research into the nature of demand for housing in rural areas including the housing needs of elderly people. A final report is due in July 1996.

Sir David Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy in respect of local initiatives which provide care and support services, including specialist retirement housing, to meet the needs of elderly home owners in rural areas; and if he will make a statement. [206]

Mr. Curry: The Government's policy is that care should be provided to people as far as possible in their existing housing where this is their preference and it is

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cost effective to do so. This policy is supported by the availability of home renovation grants and the work of home improvement agencies.

Ms Corston: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the impact of the introduction of stress area enhancement on the number of new homes built in (a) the south-west and (b) Great Britain. [593]

Mr. Clappison: The purpose of stress area enhancement is to channel additional housing resources to those local authority areas with the greatest social, environmental housing problems. Any effect on the number of new homes built is marginal, and the specific information requested is not available.

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library copies of the housing investment programme bids made by each housing authority in England; and if he will summarise the total lists from each region. [975]

Mr. Curry: Copies of local authorities' HIP bids for 1996-97 along with strategy statements and associated HIP forms are being collated and will be placed in the Library shortly. Regional summaries of the bids will be placed in the Library when all the bid data have been verified.

Mr. Carrington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he now intends to take to improve standards in houses in multiple occupation. [2214]

Mr. Curry: I am proposing a package of measures which will be able to deal with the problems in this sector of the housing market in a more cost-effective and flexible way than a national mandatory licensing scheme. I intend, therefore, to bring forward legislation as soon as possible.

There are four principal elements to this legislative package. First, there will be general duty of care placed on HMO landlords with respect to amenity and fire safety standards. Breach of this duty will be a criminal offence punishable by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale--£5,000. Guidance on the duty will be set out in a national code of practice which will be issued before the new duty is brought into force.

Secondly, local authorities will be able to introduce a modified form of HMO registration scheme. This will exclude smaller HMOs--those with only two households or with one household and no more than four other occupants--and houses converted entirely into self-contained flats. The registration schemes will contain powers enabling local authorities to refuse to register all properties where conditions are substandard or where management is inadequate. Re-registration will be required after five years and there will be higher fees chargeable to landlords for registration and new re-registration fees at a lower rate. These fees will help local authorities to resource an enhanced programme of enforcement activity.

Thirdly, I also propose to extend local authorities' existing mandatory duty to ensure that there are adequate fire safety precautions in larger HMOs. This duty will be introduced by statutory instrument and there will be further consultation on its scope, but I am minded to apply it to all HMOs which could come within the scope of the new form of registration scheme providing these

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properties have three storeys or more. I also propose exemptions for specific public sector landlords, but these HMO landlords will of course still be subject to the new duty of care.

Finally, I shall be introducing some important deregulatory measures by making an order under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 to modify some of the local authority HMO enforcement procedures. For the principal HMO enforcement notices, local authorities will be required first to serve a notice informing landlords that they are minded to take action, but this procedure can be dispensed with in emergencies. Where a formal enforcement notice is still required, I propose that local authorities will have power to recover the costs of their enforcement action from the landlord, subject to a maximum amount.

Local authorities will be required to consult the fire authorities mainly about the exercise of their statutory duty to check fire safety in HMOs, but will no longer have to consult them about HMO enforcement notices served in other circumstances. In addition to this substantial package of new provisions, and as stated in the consultation paper, the new planning controls on the switch from hotel to hostel use will remain in force.

I share the widespread concern that the rapid expansion of hostels in a number of popular resort areas is causing very serious problems. As these new HMO controls begin to take effect, however, we should see a great improvement in these areas--providing that the local authorities concerned pursue a vigorous programme of enforcement action using their new powers.

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if the White Paper "Our Future Homes" (CM 2901) was (a) subject to, and (b) modified on account of an environmental appraisal using the guidance contained in "Policy Appraisal and the Environment" produced by his Department; and if he will publish the appraisal; [303]

Mr. Curry: The housing White Paper "Our Future Homes" sets out the Government's aim of meeting demand for housing in an environmentally sustainable way, using our resources effectively, building where possible on existing urban land rather than greenfield sites and reducing the number of empty homes. Environmental considerations have been, and continue to be, an integral part of policy development. They have for instance played a large part in decisions made to:

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The effectiveness of housing policies, including environmental and sustainable development considerations, is reviewed continually.

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