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International Development

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what ways the Treasury is contributing to the forthcoming White Paper on international development. [10440]

Mrs. Liddell: The Treasury is one of a number of Government Departments consulted by the Department for International Development on the White Paper, and our contributions will be set out in that document.

28 Jul 1997 : Column: 13


Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many litres of (a) unleaded and (b) four-star petrol were sold in each of the last five years; and how much he estimates the reduced rate of excise on unleaded petrol, relative to that of four-star petrol, cost the Exchequer over the same period. [10253]

Dawn Primarolo: The amount of (a) unleaded petrol and (b) four-star petrol released for consumption in the last five years was:

Million litres
Unleaded petrolLeaded petrol

On the assumption that the unleaded share has not increased after 1992-93 in the absence of the duty differential, the cost to the Exchequer of the unleaded rate being less than the leaded rate would have been approximately £4.5 billion. This is an estimate because factors other than the duty differential would have affected the unleaded share.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress he has made in obtaining the necessary authorisation at EC level for reducing the duty on ultra-low-sulphur diesel. [10254]

Dawn Primarolo: The necessary EC derogation has now been obtained. A reduced rate of excise duty on ultra-low-sulphur diesel will be introduced as soon as possible after Royal Assent to the current Finance Bill.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the Government's policy on maintaining the percentage differential on the rate of excise between unleaded petrol and four-star petrol. [10250]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government remain committed to a tax incentive to discourage drivers from switching from unleaded to leaded petrol. The Chancellor took the view in his last Budget to leave the differential unchanged in cash terms.

Cross-border Shopping

Mr. Luff: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 1 July, Official Report, column 105, if the latest estimated figures of duty revenues lost as a result of cross-border shopping include VAT. [9942]

Dawn Primarolo: Figures given in the answer of 1 July were for excise duty only and did not include any amounts for VAT.

Customs' estimate of excise duty and VAT revenues lost from legitimate cross-border shopping for alcohol and tobacco products for the year ending 30 June 1996 is given in the table.

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Revenue losses from cross-border shopping (£ million)

Product typeExcise dutyVATTotal revenue
Tobacco products551570

Figures have been independently rounded to £5 million. Figures in this answer assume that 50 per cent. of alcohol purchased is additional consumption; this assumption is currently under review.

Customs' estimate of total revenue evasion--excise duty and VAT--through smuggling of alcohol and tobacco products, excluding any losses from commercial fraud, is set out in the table. The actual loss to the Exchequer will be less than the amount of revenue evaded, as some smuggling is likely to represent additional consumption rather than substituting for similar goods bought in the UK.

Revenue evaded through smuggling (£ million)

Product typeExcise dutyVATTotal revenue
Hand-rolling tobacco33585425
Cigarettes and other tobacco products11025135

Figures have been independently rounded to £5 million. Components may not therefore sum to the totals given.

Offshore Trusts

Mr. Prior: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what plans he has to legislate against tax avoidance schemes relating to offshore trusts in Jersey; [10078]

Dawn Primarolo: The Chancellor announced in his Budget a wide-ranging review of all areas of tax avoidance.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list his targets for savings in the Ministry of Defence in connection with his comprehensive spending review. [8188]

Mr. Darling: The scope of the strategic defence review was announced on 28 May. It will be integrated with our wider comprehensive spending review announced on 11 June, which is addressing priorities across all Government expenditure.

NHS Expenditure

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the real reduction in NHS expenditure for (a) 1997-98 and (b) 1998-99, excluding allocations from the reserve, consequential on the higher GDP deflator announced in the Budget. [8141]

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Mr. Darling [holding answer 11 July 1997]: On the basis of the inflation forecast published in the Budget, the expenditure plans set by the last Government for the NHS provided for real-terms growth across the UK of 0.8 per cent. in 1997-98 and a real-terms fall of 0.5 per cent. in 1998-99. However, the additional sums allocated to the NHS in the Budget will result in a real increase of 2¼ per cent. next year.

Public Expenditure

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate, in 1995-96 prices, the change in real value of the control total for public expenditure in (a) 1997-98 and (b) 1998-99 relative to the forecast in the November 1996 Budget, as a consequence of the new estimates of the GDP deflator contained in his Budget; and if he will make a statement.[9483]

Mr. Darling [holding answer 21 July 1997]: We are keeping to the inherited control totals for 1997-98 and 1998-99 as promised in the manifesto. There have been no cuts in the cash programmes set out in the 1996 Budget.

As set out in the 1996 and the 1997 Budgets, the real values of the control total, in 1995-96 prices, for the next two years respectively are £254.8 billion and £256.6 billion; and £252.3 billion and £252.2 billion.

In his Budget announced on 2 July, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced significant real increases for key priorities in 1998-99--NHS spending of 2¼ per cent. and for current spending on UK schools of 2¾ per cent. despite the higher inflation we inherited from the previous Government. We have also provided extra resources, as we also promised, under welfare to work and the capital receipts initiative which, as we have always made clear, would be additional to the control totals.

We will meet our obligations on these key priorities, but we will not lose sight of the need to keep a firm grip on inflation through the new framework for monetary policy and a close control on how we, as a Government, spend people's money. Cash planning without automatic inflation adjustments has been a key principle of spending control for two decades. It is not right to accommodate higher inflation by automatically increasing cash plans.

Policy Reviews

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list for each departmental policy review presently in progress or scheduled, (a) a description of the purpose of the review and (b) its expected date of completion. [10193]

Mrs. Liddell [holding answer 22 July 1997]: Below is a list of policy reviews in progress or scheduled by the Chancellor's departments:

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    Review of the Bank of England's financial arrangements

    The Bank's finances will be reviewed to ensure that they are in line with the Bank's new responsibilities and best practice of transparency and accountability.

    The review is under way and will be completed as soon as possible.

    Review of the North sea fiscal regime

    To ensure that an appropriate share of North sea profits are being taxed while continuing to maintain a high level of oil industry interest in the future development of the UK's oil and gas reserves.

    The review will be completed in time for the spring Budget.

    Review of capital gains taxation

    To consult industry widely on the reform of capital gains tax.

    The findings of the review will be reported in the next Budget.

    Review of charities taxation

    To explore the options for a simpler, more coherent system of tax reliefs which is better suited to the way charities work today.

    Charities will be asked to send their initial views by 1 December 1997 and these will be worked into a consultation paper for publication in spring 1998.

    Review of leakage and avoidance of direct taxes

    To identify situations in which significant amounts of tax are, or are at risk of, leaking from the Exchequer and to consider how the Inland Revenue approaches the defeat and deterrence of tax avoidance schemes.

    An outcome of the rolling review is expected to be proposed for legislation to counter tax leakage in future Finance Bills. The first results will be available in time for a spring budget.

    Review of alcohol and tobacco duties

    To reduce losses to Government and industry revenue through alcohol and tobacco fraud, smuggling and cross-border shopping. The review will also look at health and law and order issues.

    Trade associations and other interested parties will be consulted at an early stage and their views sought on the extent of the problem and practical ways in which it can be tackled. A report is due by the end of 1997.

    Review of the venture capital trust scheme and enterprise investment scheme

    To take views from interested parties on the exclusion of arrangements where a substantial part of the return to investors is guaranteed, or which are backed by property, from the venture capital trust scheme and enterprise investment scheme.

    The Government will publish draft legislation on guarantee arrangements for the Finance Bill following a spring Budget and will lay regulations in Parliament on asset-backed arrangements. It is expected to be ready by autumn 1997.

    Tax benefit review

    To explore the scope for the tax and benefit systems to act as an incentive to move off benefit and into work.

    The project is expected to last for about a year.

    Review of the landfill tax

    To review the operation and level of the tax.

    The project is expected to be complete by January 1998.

    Report to Parliament on the revenue effect of a reduced rate of VAT for energy-efficient materials and alternative options for targeted relief to help those on low incomes to save energy

    Section 111 of the Finance Act 1997 commits the Treasury to report by March 1998 on the consequences to the Exchequer of a reduced rate of VAT for energy-saving materials. This review broadens the scope of that study so that it will also look at the best way of giving help where it is needed.

    It is expected to be complete by the end of October 1997.

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