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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Manufacturing Productivity

Mr. Wareing: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list the trends in manufacturing productivity in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) other member states of the European Union in each of the first three quarters of 1996. [40549]

Mr. Greg Knight: Figures on UK manufacturing output per person employed are published by the Office for National Statistics in table 4.7 of "Economic Trends", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. They are also available on the central shared database, which can be accessed from the Library. The figures up to August 1996 will be released on Wednesday 16 October. Comparable figures for the other member states of the European Union are not yet available.

British Coal Enterprise

Mr. Tipping: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what sum was received by the Government from the sale of British Coal Enterprises. [40422]

Mr. Page: The sale of British Coal Enterprise is a matter for British Coal. I understand that the corporation has not yet completed the sale of all the activities of BCE.

Research Establishments

Mr. Waterson: To ask the president of the Board of Trade when he will place further memoranda concerning the prior options reviews of public sector research establishments in the Library. [41075]

Mr. Ian Taylor: I have placed in the Library of the House the memorandum setting out the rationale underlying the decisions concerning ADAS which were announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 18 July.

Businesses

Mr. Waterson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what are his plans for reforming Government support for business. [41076]

Mr. Lang: We are today launching two new challenges. I am also confirming a major simplification of central schemes.

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Both challenges are designed to enhance the competitiveness of businesses, either through helping local partnerships to design and deliver high quality business support to firms--particularly smaller firms in their area--or through projects to improve the business performance of specific sectors of industry.

The local challenge will build on business link partnerships. It will reinforce the opportunities offered to small firms to access support in the co-ordinated way that these partnerships provide. It will encourage cross-partnership bids where these add value.

The sector challenge will bring together in one place the majority of Government funding for sectoral activity. it covers activities designed to have a broad impact on the competitiveness of sectors wherever they are located in the United Kingdom, including innovative approaches to export promotion.

A radical streamlining of DTI business support will reduce the number of separate schemes from 140 to fewer than 25 central programmes plus the two new challenges.

Further announcements in the coming weeks will set out in more detail our plans on specific schemes aimed at helping smaller firms to win through exporting, foresight the information society, and so on.

The Government have agreed criteria under which all current or potential new central schemes will be reviewed. Such reviews will be an on-going process with annual reports back to Ministers. We are committed to changing the emphasis of support away from central towards local and sectoral design and delivery. Over time, central schemes will become the exception, not the rule.

We are also committed to involving businesses and business support organisations more directly in deciding which schemes should continue. In future, we will consult businesses and business support organisations as a matter of course before taking decisions. I am pleased therefore to welcome the new consultative group being established by the business link partners to provide their input into this exercise.

Business told us that it wanted simpler, more accessible and more flexible support. The proposals announced today delivery just that.

I am placing copies of the local and sector challenge bidding guidelines in the Library of the House.

TREASURY

VAT

Mr. Spearing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table showing for each member state of the European Community the rates levied by value added tax on food in shops, household fuel, children's clothing, books, newspapers and magazines, public transport, water and sewage services, newly constructed homes, second-hand homes and the standard of tax most recently adopted; when the current VAT agreement expires; and what remunerations have been received from the Commission concerning its services or continuation for any stated period. [41410]

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Mr. Oppenheim [holding answer 14 October 1996]: The information about VAT rates is set out in the table. The current EC VAT agreement (the sixth VAT directive), and so the provisions governing the VAT rates

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detailed in the table, have no expiry date. In the absence of any unanimous agreement upon 'definitive' VAT regime, the existing provisions continue to apply automatically and without time limit.

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VAT rates on various goods and services in the EC
Percentage rate of VAT

Homes
Member stateFoods in shopsHousehold fuelChildren's clothingBooksNewspaper and magazinesPublic transportWater and sewage suppliesNewSecond-handStandard rate
Austria1020201010102020Exempt20
Belgium6(1)2121666(2)2112Exempt21
Denmark25252525(3)25(4)Exempt(5)Exempt25Exempt25
Finland172222122262222Exempt22
France(6)5.520.620.65.52.15.5(7)20.620.6Exempt20.6
Germany7151577(8)15(9)15ExemptExempt15
Greece81818448(10)1818Exempt18
Ireland(11)012.50012.5Exempt2112.5Exempt21
Italy(12)10(13)101644(14)1019(15)191919
Luxembourg3(16)123331515ExemptExempt15
Netherlands617.517.5666(17)17.517.5Exempt17.5
Portugal(18)17(19)1717555(20)17(21)ExemptExempt17
Spain(22)71616447716Exempt16
Sweden122525256122525Exempt25
UK(23)08000000Exempt17.5

(1) A reduced rate of 12 per cent. applies to coal and peat.

(2) A reduced rate of 6 per cent. applies to the supply of water.

(3) A zero rate applies to magazines.

(4) Transport on regular services is exempt, but on chartered buses is taxable at 25 per cent.

(5) Exemption only applies to water in connection with the letting of a house or premise; otherwise the standard rate of 25 per cent. applies.

(6) Sweets, chocolate, margarine and vegetable fat are subject to the standard rate of 20.6 per cent.

(7) A reduced rate of 5.5 per cent. applies to sewage services.

(8) A reduced rate of 7 per cent. applies to transport which takes place within a town or where the distance does not exceed 50 km.

(9) A reduced rate of 7 per cent. applies to supplies of water.

(10) A reduced rate of 8 per cent. applies to sewage services.

(11) Chocolates, sweets, biscuits etc. are taxable at 12.5 per cent.

(12) A reduced rate of 4 per cent. applies to basic foodstuffs such as bread and pasta; a rate of 16 per cent. applies to items such as lobsters and oysters.

(13) A 16 per cent. rate applies to coal.

(14) Transport between towns which are less than 50 km apart is exempt.

(15) A reduced rate of 4 per cent. applies to certain social housing.

(16) A 12 per cent. rate applies to wood, oil and coal.

(17) A reduced rate of 6 per cent. applies to the supply of water.

(18) A reduced rate of 12 per cent. applies to unprepared foodstuffs.

(19) A reduced rate of 5 per cent. applies to electricity and oil.

(20) A reduced rate of 5 per cent. applies to the supply of water.

(21) A reduced rate of 5 per cent. applies to certain constructions of housing by building co-operatives.

(22) A reduced rate of 4 per cent. applies to certain basic foodstuffs.

(23) The standard rate of 17.5 per cent. applies to confectionery, crisps, ice cream, chocolate etc.


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Tax Secrecy

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he has to remove tax secrecy from (a) the Channel Islands, (b) the Isle of Man, (c) Gibraltar and (d) Caribbean dependencies; and if he will enter into discussions with the authorities of such places about the prevention of drug trafficking and fraud. [40368]

Mr. Jack [holding answer 14 October 1996]: Arrangements already exist for the exchange of information with the Channel Islands and other dependencies, where appropriate, for taxation purposes, including the detection and prevention of fraud. Legislation has been in place for some time to tackle the avoidance of tax through the use of off-shore concerns, and if the Government become aware of any significant new risk in this area, further legislation will be considered.

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The Government take a prominent role in advising these territories on suitable legislation concerning the prevention of drug trafficking and fraud. All have drug money laundering legislation and some have extended these provisions to cover all serious crimes. Many have statutory gateways which allow information to be passed to overseas regulators. These measures have removed many obstacles caused by secrecy provisions, and further work is continuing to improve the exchange of information with these territories.


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