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Force Research Unit (Northern Ireland)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the application of exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information in respect of Questions concerning expenditure and staffing levels of the Force Research Unit in Northern Ireland. [56400]

Mr. George Robertson: I have reviewed the application of the exemption in this case and I am satisfied that this information should continue to be withheld under the terms of the Code of Practice.

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 447


Capital Gains Tax

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is his policy retrospectively to increase the rate of capital gains tax for funded unapproved retirement schemes from 23 per cent. to 34 per cent. [58255]

Dawn Primarolo: This capital gains tax change is not retrospective. It is normal practice for capital gains tax reforms to apply to gains realised after the date of announcement of the changes.


Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total revenue receipts by month so far this year from excise duties on tobacco; and what is his forecast for total receipts for 1988-99. [58208]

Dawn Primarolo: The amounts of revenue receipts by month this year are as follows:

Excise duty

£ million

The total tobacco revenue forecast for 1998-99, published in the March 1998 Financial Statement and Budget Report, is £8.9 billion.

Duty-Free Sales

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what rules will apply for sales on ferries of goods bought at port of loading following the abolition of duty free sales inside the European Union. [58209]

Dawn Primarolo: The arrangements which will apply for sales of goods on board ferries, for passengers to take away, following the abolition of intra-EU duty free sales are still being considered. The Commission recently set out, in a press release, their thinking on how the successor regime will work and the Government are giving very careful consideration to this. It is based on the existing provisions of Council Directive 92/12/EEC. At the EU Excise Committee meeting on 1 October the UK reserved its position to allow time for a full appraisal of the Commission's position.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with European partners about the tax regime which will apply after the abolition of duty free sales inside the European Union. [58210]

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 448

Dawn Primarolo: The last time that the abolition of intra-EU duty free sales was discussed at a political level with EU partners was at the ECOFIN Council meeting on 19 May 1998 where a number of Finance Ministers made it clear that they opposed any re-opening of the decision to abolish. Subsequent discussions, on the operation of the successor regime, have been at official level in the Commission chaired EU Excise Committee. Customs and Excise are also entering into a bi-lateral and multi-lateral discussions with a number of other member states to work through the detail of how a successor regime might work in practice.

Working Groups

Mr. Caplin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about the reports of the Treasury-sponsored working groups on (a) the financing of high technology companies and (b) smaller quoted companies. [58338]

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson: These two working groups have now reported to me and I have today placed copies of their reports in the Libraries of both Houses, and they are available on request from the Treasury's Inquiry Unit.

Corporation Tax

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to veto all EU proposals regarding the harmonisation of corporation tax rates. [58204]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 2 November 1998]: Direct tax is primarily a matter for Member States at national level. Decisions on European tax issues are subject to unanimity. The Government will have no hesitation in using the veto when it is in the UK interests to do so.

Age Concern (VAT)

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 26 October 1998, Official Report, column 43, if he will permit Age Concern, Essex to defer implementing value added tax on its home support service pending the review by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise of such levies. [58089]

Dawn Primarolo: Customs are now consulting interested parties to agree the circumstances in which home support services will be exempt from VAT as charity welfare services. Charities including Age Concern, Essex should not anticipate the outcome of the consultation, but where they have paid VAT on services which are subsequently determined to be exempt, they may reclaim the overpaid tax from Customs subject to the normal rules.



Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance has been provided to Albania in the past five years; and what assessment she has made of its impact. [56918]

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 449

Clare Short: UK Government assistance to Albania began in 1993 and has focused on the regulation of capital markets, rural development, health reform, good government and the development of civil society. We have also provided assistance to Albania through contributions to multilateral organisations such as the EU, and during last year's disturbances we provided significant emergency assistance.

Early in 1997 there was a hiatus in bilateral assistance to Albania due to civil disturbances. Since then the programme has been restarted and it is focusing on strengthening governance and civil society, rural development and health reform.

Figures for UK bilateral and multilateral assistance are as follows:



(3) forecast

Multilateral: (UK share)

YearTotal (£)Of which EC

(4) not yet available

We shall be assessing the overall impact of past assistance as we develop future programmes of assistance in the region.

Cash Limits

Mrs. Mahon: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what changes will be made to the cash and running costs limits for her Department in 1998-99. [58027]

Clare Short: Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the cash limit for Class III, Vote 1 will be increased by £12,607,000 from £1,620,700,000 to £1,633,307,000 and the running cost limit will be increased by £3,893,000 from £62,135,000 to £66,028,000.

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 450

Rollover of underspend on 1997-98 cash limit11,221,000
Partial take up of running costs end of year flexibility carryforward1,893,000
Outward PES transfer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Class II, Vote 2)507,000
Increase in Vote Cash limit12,607,000

The increase on the running cost limit is in respect of the take up of end of year flexibility carryforward as announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 14 July 1998, Official Report, columns 131-36, and a transfer of resources of £2,000,000 from the Unallocated subhead.

The increases will be offset by transfers and a claim on the Reserve and therefore will not add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Commonwealth Development Corporation

Mr. Purchase: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proposals she has to change the 1998-99 External Finance Limit for the Commonwealth Development Corporation. [58407]

Clare Short: The External Finance Limit for CDC for 1998/99 will be increased by £15,000,000 from minus £15,000,000 to zero. Advances to CDC in the current financial year will total £35,919,000 equal to loan repayments by CDC, achieving net zero financing in 1998/99. The increase will be offset within DFID's existing provision and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

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