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Drug Seizures

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many drug seizures were made by Customs and Excise in (a) Coventry and (b) the west midlands in each year since 1990; and if he will indicate for each year the percentage change from the last one. [31095]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The number of drug seizures made by Customs and Excise in Coventry and the west midlands, and percentage changes were as follows:

Coventry West Midlands
NumberPer cent. changeNumberPer cent. change
19900--65--
19910--64-1
199215--94+46
199316+787-7
199414-1393+7
199523+64120+29


6 Jun 1996 : Column: 514

Living Standards

Mr. Michael Brown: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the average living standards in each Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country in 1995; and what was the gap between the United Kingdom and the OECD average. [30796]

Mrs. Angela Knight: The most commonly cited single measure of living standards for which valid international comparison can be made is gross domestic product per capita.

The 1995 figures for GDP per capita are available for all OECD countries in the OECD publication "Main Economic Indicators", which is available in the House of Commons Library.

Disabled Employees

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many registered disabled people are employed by his Department; and what percentage this is of the total figure. [30770]

Mrs. Angela Knight: As at 1 April 1996, the Treasury employed three registered disabled people, which represents 0.27 per cent. of the Treasury staff. The Treasury also employs a number of disabled people who have chosen not to register, or who became disabled after the withdrawal of the registration scheme under the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Exchange Rate Mechanism

Mr. Michael Brown: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his policy in respect of the pound sterling eventually re-joining a system of managed exchange rates. [30795]

Mrs. Angela Knight: The Prime Minister has made clear on many occasions the Government's policy which is that the United Kingdom will not rejoin the ERM during this Parliament, and there is no question of us ever rejoining a rigid, old-style exchange rate mechanism.

Inheritance Tax

Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to raise the limit below which delivery of an inheritance tax account is not required for administering a deceased person's estate. [32064]

Mr. Jack: The Inland Revenue has today laid regulations increasing the overall limit from £145,000 to £180,000, and relaxing the current rules on lifetime gifts and overseas assets. The changes will come into operation from 1 July 1996, for estates of persons dying on or after 6 April 1996. They will simplify the administration of some 7,500 estates in 1996-97.

Council of Ministers

Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the recent Council meeting of the Economic and Finance Ministers of the European Union. [32166]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: I represented the United Kingdom at the Economic and Finance Council--ECOFIN--of the European Union in Luxembourg on 3 June.

6 Jun 1996 : Column: 515

At the start of the meeting we reminded the Council that the Prime Minister had made it clear that until there was agreement to lift the export ban on beef derivatives, and until a clear framework was in place leading to a lifting of the wider ban, the UK could not be expected to continue to co-operate normally on other Community business. As a result, the UK could not be expected to agree decisions requiring unanimity.

I later made clear that the UK would not be able to agree the common position on the regulation on the protection of the Community's financial interests although the UK supported the regulation. I also put down a general reserve on a proposal for a directive for a common system of VAT on agricultural outputs.

With the Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment, I attended a joint lunch with other EU Finance Ministers and Social Affairs Ministers at which we discussed the importance and priority of tackling unemployment.

As preparation for the forthcoming Florence European Council, the Council considered a report on progress to date in preparing for stage 3 of economic and monetary union, an interim report on follow-up to discussion of employment at previous European Councils--a substantive report is due for the Dublin European Council--and a draft of the broad economic policy guidelines for the Community and member states.

The Council decided to reinstate the excessive deficit decision relating to Germany and to abrogate the excessive deficit decision against Denmark. The Council did not reach agreement on a proposal to extend the European Investment bank mandate to lend to Asia and Latin America. The Council was consulted on the recommendation by the European Monetary Institute council for the appointment of a new president of the EMI and briefly considered a paper on pension reform in the EU and central and east European countries in preparation for the structured dialogue at the 8 July ECOFIN.

Company Profits (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Barry Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what account was taken in the company profit component of the gross domestic product figures for the Isle of Wight of the profits of companies or holding companies whose headquarters are not based on the Isle of Wight; and how the effects of the rules relating to habitual residence were applied. [28442]

Mrs. Angela Knight [holding answer 7 May 1996]: For the compilation of regional gross domestic product, profits of multi-regional companies are allocated to the area in which they are generated, either directly where data are available or otherwise by the use of proxies such as wages and salaries of employees in the area.

Habitual residence appears to refer to the main residence of an individual for the Inland Revenue's assessment of tax. Taxes are transfers of income not involving productive activity; habitual residence is not a term associated with gross domestic product since the latter is a measure of production.

6 Jun 1996 : Column: 516

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Hong Kong

Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards the security of human rights in Hong Kong after 1 July 1997. [30977]

Mr. David Davis: The Sino-British joint declaration on the question of Hong Kong, which is a binding treaty between Britain and China, provides for continuing human rights protection in Hong Kong after the handover. Specifically, in the last paragraph of chapter XIII of annex I to the joint declaration, China pledges to ensure that the provisions of the international covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, as applied to Hong Kong, remain in force after 30 June 1997.

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress on the implementation in Hong Kong of the Chinese nationality law. [32165]

Mr. Rifkind: The interpretation in question states that British citizenship acquired by Chinese nationals under the British nationality selection scheme will not be recognised under the Chinese nationality law. The British Government regard British citizenship obtained under the BNSS as having exactly the same validity as British citizenship acquired in any other way. We do not differentiate between British citizens who have acquired their British citizenship through the BNSS and those who have acquired it in any other way. Passports issued under the BNSS are the same as passports issued to all other British citizens and are equally valid.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong. [31241]

Mr. David Davis [holding answer 4 June 1996]: There has been encouraging progress in recent months. The steering committee of the international conference on Indo-Chinese refugees, which held its final meeting on March, emphasised that those screened out as non-refugees must return to Vietnam. We have been working hard to raise the monthly number of returnees, with good co-operation from the Vietnamese Government. As a result, the rate of both voluntary and orderly repatriation has increased. It remains our objective to complete the repatriation of Vietnamese migrants by July 1997.

Disabled Employees

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many registered disabled people are employed by his Department; and what percentage this is of the total figure. [30765]

Mr. David Davis: Based on a voluntary survey of staff, as at 1 April 1996 the Foreign and Commonwealth employed 48 registered disabled officers. This is 0.7 per cent. of the total number of staff employed.

6 Jun 1996 : Column: 517


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