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Air Quality Monitoring

Mr. Callaghan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to extend and improve the effectiveness of the monitoring of air quality in towns and cities in the United Kingdom. [11040]

Mr. Clappison: I have been asked to reply.

The Department of the Environment currently monitors air pollutants at over 1,500 non-automatic sites and more than 50 automatic sites across the United Kingdom. The Government intend to expand the automatic monitoring network further by completing the main multi-pollutant urban network and integrating national and local systems, to form a national automatic network of at least 80 sites by the end of 1996.


Value Added Tax

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will withdraw the guidelines issued to officers of the Customs and Excise Department regarding the charging of value added tax on computer equipment for the specific use of registered disabled people. [11695]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: No. While items of computer equipment are undoubtedly useful to disabled people, they cannot be supplied tax free under VAT law unless designed solely for their use. However VAT is not chargeable on the service of adapting computer equipment so that it is easier for disabled people to use.

Private Finance Initiative

Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he now defines and assesses risk to both the public and private sectors within the private finance initiative. [4925]

29 Jan 1996 : Column: 487

Mr. Jack: Guidance on the definition and assessment of risk is contained in the recent publication "Private Opportunity, Public Benefit", a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

Corporation Tax

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent the costs have exceeded projections in respect of extending the period over which trading losses could be carried back to set against corporation tax liabilities from one year to three years; and what impact this has had on Government revenues. [8311]

Mr. Jack: The "Financial Statement and Budget Report 1991-92" estimated the net cost of extending loss carry back for companies from one year to three years as £250 million in 1992-93.

However, the net cost cannot be measured precisely. Repayments of corporation tax in 1992-93 are estimated to include £350 million from the extension of loss carry back to three years, but the consequent changes to group relief surrendered and losses carried forward, which would reduce the cost, cannot be measured.

Higher Rate Tax

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will list the numbers brought into the higher rate tax for each year since 1989-90 when the Government did not increased tax thresholds in line with (a) inflation and (b) earnings; [8307]

Mr. Jack: Estimated taxpayer numbers under independent taxation for years from 1990-91 are given in the table. Under the 1989-90 income tax regime indexed to allow for changes in the retail prices index there would be 1.5 million higher rate taxpayers in 1996-97. Equivalent estimates for all intervening years could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Statutory indexation of tax thresholds is expressed in terms of price rather than earnings movements.

Estimated taxpayer numbers(1)

Number of lower rate taxpayersNumber of basic rate taxpayersNumber of higher rate taxpayers

(1) Figures for 1989-90 are in terms of joint taxation, figures for later years include individuals under independent taxation and are therefore not directly comparable. It is estimated that there were about 20 million single people and married couples liable to tax at the basic rate only and 1.5 million liable at the higher rate.

(2) Provisional.

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Mr. Meacher: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the tax threshold as a per cent. of average earnings for each year since 1966 for (a) a single person, (b) a single-wage married couple, (c) a two-wage married couple and (d) a single-wage married couple with two children aged eight and 12 years. [9316]

Mr. Jack: Available information giving a historical series of tax thresholds as a percentage of average earnings is in appendix C of "Inland Revenue Statistics 1992" for earlier years and table 2.6 of "Inland Revenue Statistics 1995" for recent years.

Latest estimates for years from 1994-95, based on the 1994-95 "New Earnings Survey", are in the table. Additional information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Tax threshold as a percentage of average earnings(3) for all occupations

Single personMarried man without children

(3) Full time males paid at adult rates working a full week.

(4) Provisional.

Retired People (Earnings)

Mr. David Nicholson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amount of earnings for retired people, above the limit of the state pension, was free of income tax, in each year since 1979. [10642]

Mr. Jack: The amount of the personal allowance, age allowances and the standard rate of basic state retirement pension received by a single person, for each year since 1979-80, is given in the table.

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Standard rate of basic rate
£ per annum

Personal allowanceAge allowanceAge allowanceStandard rate of basic state retirement pension
Age under 65Age 65-74Age 75 or moreUnder 8080 or more

(5) Lower age allowance for people aged 65-80, higher age allowance for people aged 80 or over.

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29 Jan 1996 : Column: 489

Charities (Tax)

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the total tax paid by all United Kingdom domiciled charities for each of the years (a) 1979-80, (b) 1990-91 and (c) 1994-95; and if he will make a statement on the taxation of charities and the implications for charities of the changed balance of taxation between direct and indirect. [11320]

Mr. Jack [holding answer 23 January 1996]: For 1994-95, it is estimated that charities paid the following tax:

£ million
Income and capital taxes(6)neg
National non-domestic rates100

(6) "neg" = negligible (under £3 million).

Estimates of the excise duties paid by charities are not readily available, nor are comparable figures for the earlier years.

The Government value the work of charities and encourage charitable activities through the tax system. Charities are exempt from tax on most of their income and gains.

Since 1979, the Government have done a great deal to extend and improve the tax incentives to give to charity by deed of covenant and under the gift aid and payroll giving schemes. In 1994-95, tax reliefs for charities totalled £1.5 billion, of which £900 million related to direct taxation, £200 million to indirect taxation and £400 million to rate relief.

The Government's overall tax policy is aimed at leaving people with more money to spend as they choose. That choice includes the possibility of giving more to charity.

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