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Inland Revenue

Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the next steps review of the Inland Revenue is now complete; and if he will make a statement [18654]

Mr. Jack: The review of the Inland Revenue's next steps arrangements was announced in December 1994, and has been carried out in accordance with the normal

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arrangements for periodic reviews of next steps bodies. Two of the three elements of the review have now been completed.

The first element of the review required consideration of what are known as the prior options--abolition, privatisation, contractorisation or market testing of all or part of the Department's functions and reconsideration of its organisational structure. The review concluded that there is a continuing need for all the Department's core functions and that the wholesale privatisation of the work of assessing and collecting tax would not be appropriate, but the review also noted that the private sector has played and will continue to play a significant role in the delivery of the Department's business.

Approaching 25 per cent. of the Department's annual running costs have already been contracted out, market tested or benchmarked against other market tests, and the Department's outsourcing contract for information technology services represents one of the largest such public sector arrangements in the world. The review reaffirmed the Inland Revenue's commitment to continue to search for further ways of involving the private sector either directly or indirectly in its work.

The prior options review also concluded that the existing organisational structure based on a number of operational and service executive offices remains sound, and is right for the Inland Revenue.

The second element of the review required evaluation of the effectiveness of the existing arrangements and scope for further improvements. That element took stock of the performance of the executive offices against their objectives and key targets, analysed their relationship with the centre of the Department and considered how existing arrangements might be improved. The results have been very encouraging, showing a marked improvement in performance since the establishment of the executive offices in April 1992, but areas for further development and improvement were identified and will be pursued.

In the light of the findings of the review, the framework documents, which set out the policy and resources framework within which each of the Department's executive offices operates, and the authority, responsibilities and accountability of the controllers, are being revised.

Ministerial Accountability

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to paragraph K8.1 of the Scott report relating to ministerial accountability, what additional measures he proposes to ensure his Department's compliance with paragraph 27 of "Questions of Procedure for Ministers."[17320]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 26 February 1996]: I refer the hon. Member to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 26 February, Official Report, columns 589-604.

Mortgage Endowment Policies

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the loss in revenue for each year since 1979 accruing from the granting of mortgage endowment policies. [17474]

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Mr. Jack [holding answer 27 February 1996]: The estimated cost of life assurance premium relief on mortgage endowment policy premiums was about £90 million in 1993-94 and £80 million in 1994-95. Information for earlier years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

These approximate estimates are based on information from the family expenditure survey.

PRIME MINISTER

Export Controls

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to commission an independent review on the power to impose controls on exports from the United Kingdom. [17235]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the speech made by my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade on 26 February, Official Report, columns 589-604.

Engagements

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 26 February, indicating the purpose of each meeting. [18170]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 February. [16238]

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for Thursday 29 February. [16239]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is carrying out official engagements in the far east.

Downing Street Meetings

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister (1) on how many occasions during the past 12 months he has had meetings at 10 Downing street with (a) Sir Gerrard Neale and (b) Lord Younger; [18208]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have been asked to reply.

As far as my right hon. Friend is aware, none.

British Aerospace

Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister on what occasions British Aerospace was represented (a) directly

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and (b) indirectly in groups led by (i) him and (ii) other Ministers to India in each of the last five years; if he will give the dates of such visits; and if he will make a statement. [18127]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have been asked to reply.

Representatives from British Aerospace have accompanied British Ministers to India on two occasions during the last five years in connection with our trade promotion programme for India.

Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had relating to the sale by British Aerospace to India of Hawk 100 aircraft; and if he will make a statement. [18133]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have been asked to reply.

The Indian air force has a requirement for a number of advanced jet trainer aircraft. British Aerospace has offered a variant of the Hawk aircraft to meet that requirement. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has commended the Hawk to the Indian Prime Minister on more than one occasion.

Lord-Lieutenants

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Prime Minister which lord-lieutenants will be affected by the changes in local government organisation that come into operation on 1 April. [18655]

The Prime Minister: On 1 April 1996 the following arrangements will come into effect.


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Information Technology Developments

Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Prime Minister how he intends to ensure that the United Kingdom derives maximum benefit from opportunities in developments in multi-media and information technology; and if he will make a statement. [18656]

The Prime Minister: The Government see the development of multi-media and information technology as an exciting area of opportunity for the United Kingdom in which much is already being achieved. These technological innovations are having an important impact on all aspects of our way of life. In the future there will be further opportunities for business to develop new products, services and ways of working; for individuals to adapt their work patterns; for consumers to improve their quality of life with new electronic products and services; and for the providers of services such as health care, education and training to strengthen their quality and delivery.

The Government have been committed to the comprehensive development of these technologies since the early 1980s. By freeing up the market for our telecommunications and broadcasting industries through privatisation and deregulation and promoting the use of computers in schools we have made sure that the UK is in the vanguard of technological change. We are now undertaking a further range of initiatives, most recently through the information society initiative launched last month.

A strong lead is rightly being given by the private sector's enterprise and initiative. That will continue to be supported by a focused and complementary partnership with Government. In order to reinforce that focus and driving force across Government, I have asked my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister to convene a ministerial group with the following terms of reference:


In addition to the chairman, members of the group will be as follows:



    President of the Board of Trade
    Chief Secretary, Treasury
    Secretary of State for National Heritage
    Secretary of State for Education and Employment
    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
    Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)
    Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Ian Taylor).

Other Ministers will be invited to attend for items on which they have a departmental interest. My efficiency adviser and the chief scientific adviser will also attend.

The work of the group will build on the information society initiative and the separate activities of the central information technology unit recently set up in the Office of Public Service to plan the Government's own use of technology. By these means the Government will ensure

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that there is strengthened stimulus and co-ordination within and beyond Government to enable the UK to derive maximum benefit from the new technology.


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