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Petrol Smuggling

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to combat the smuggling of petrol into the UK. [77481]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 18 March 1999]: Customs will soon be deploying extra resources to combat the smuggling of road fuel into Northern Ireland. In addition to the anti-smuggling operations a rolling programme of VAT assurance visits to all petroleum retailers in Northern Ireland is in operation. These inspections will check sales against legitimate purchases by reference to pump readings. There is little evidence that smuggling of fuel into any other area of the United Kingdom is a cause for concern.

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Departmental Asset Sales

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the items sold by his Department, its agencies and associated public bodies from those listed in the National Assets Register of November 1997; if he will give in each case the amount of money realised; if he will estimate the total cash raised from such sales to date; and if he will make a statement. [70418]

Mr. Milburn [holding answer 11 February 1999]: Items sold since the publication of the National Assets Register (NAR) by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Departments and associated public bodies are as follows:

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AssetDisposal toAmount realised £
Building fitting out costsPACE3,611,000
FurnitureInland Revenue25,000
IT equipmentFSA103,000

Stamp Duty

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what has been the average increase in stamp duty payable on purchases of private dwellings as a result of (a) the 1997 Budget measures and (b) the 1998 Budget measures; [70679]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 15 February 1999]: The 1997 Budget measure is estimated to have increased the average stamp duty payable from July 1997 on transactions over the £250,000 threshold on residential property by around £3,000, and by around £15,000 for land and commercial property. The 1998 Budget measure is projected to result in similar average increases in 1998-99.

Individual Savings Accounts

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the market research into the ISA conducted by the McKinsey consultancy to be published; and what is the cost of the research. [77308]

Ms Hewitt: As announced, the primary aim of the research is to inform Government policy making. On completion, the Government will decide how best to use the results in support of their aims to encourage personal savings.

The terms of the contract are a matter of commercial confidentiality. The contract was let following a competitive tendering exercise conducted in accordance with recognised procurement practice, under the supervision of the Treasury Procurement Unit.

Charities (Tax Relief)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the amount of tax forgone as a result of tax allowances granted to charities in England and Wales in the last financial year. [76053]

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Ms Hewitt: The total cost of tax reliefs for charities in the UK is estimated at over £2 billion for 1997-98. This comprises around £1.2 billion of direct taxes (including the reliefs given to donors and estates for gifts to charity), about £200 million in VAT reliefs, and £600 million in business rate relief. Information is not available on the total cost of tax reliefs for charities in England and Wales.

However, of the approximately £730 million of direct taxes repaid to charities in the UK in 1997-98, around £680 million was repaid to charities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And of the approximately £250 million exemption from inheritance tax of transfers to charities on death in 1997-98, around £220 million was for estates in England and Wales. Of the approximately £600 million business rate relief in 1997-98, around £520 million was for charities in England and Wales.

It is not possible to give a reliable breakdown of the remainder of the reliefs from direct taxes, or of the estimated cost of £200 million for reliefs from VAT through a variety of zero rates and exemptions.

Public Consultations

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his Department follows Cabinet Office guidance on how to conduct public consultations. [73959]

Ms Hewitt: The Treasury conducts public consultations on a variety of issues with interested parties in a number of ways. The Treasury seeks to follow the best practice principles set out in the CO guidance on "How to conduct written consultation exercises". Less formal consultations, such as the recent regional series of Productivity Road Shows, are also conducted by the Treasury.

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the jurisdictions referred to in paragraph 2-2 of the Financial Services and Markets Bill Progress report, published by Her Majesty's Treasury in March 1999. [76062]

Ms Hewitt: Both the Treasury and the FSA frequently have meetings with Government officials and regulatory bodies from other key jurisdictions. Many recent contacts have expressed a positive interest in and sought detailed information on the UK reforms.

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