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Marriage Registrars

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to make regulations to amend the duty of marriage registrars to report suspicious marriages; and if he will make a statement. [86031]

Ms Hewitt: The Immigration and Asylum Bill places a duty on registrars to report to the Home Office marriages which they reasonably suspect to be sham marriages, and for reports to be made in such form and manner, and within a time period as may be set out in regulations. The Bill provides for these regulations to be made by the Registrar General with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

BMARC

Mr. David Davis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the results of the inquiry by HM Customs and Excise set up in June 1995 into the

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allegations that directors of BMARC had condoned or participated in the illegal export of naval cannon to Iran; and if he will make a statement. [85920]

Dawn Primarolo: As the enforcement authority for export controls, Customs investigated the allegations but found no evidence that would support a prosecution against any of the directors of BMARC.

Taxation

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the assumptions for household spending and council tax payment which were used in the answer to the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) of 11 December 1996, Official Report, columns 190-202. [85912]

Dawn Primarolo: The written answer of 11 December 1996 was given by the previous Government. It would be inappropriate for me to seek to explain the assumptions on which it was based, beyond what was said at the time by the Minister concerned.

Training Allowance

Mr. Healey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if a training allowance paid to a trainee, who is not receiving an unemployment-related benefit whilst on a European Social Fund course of training, is subject to (a) income tax and (b) national insurance contributions. [85749]

Dawn Primarolo: Where a training allowance funded by the European Social Fund is paid to a trainee who is not an employee the allowance will not normally be chargeable to income tax or National Insurance contributions.

Republic of Ireland GNP

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the per capita Gross National Product in the Republic of Ireland as a percentage of the EU average, for the most recent year available. [85851]

Ms Hewitt: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Tim Holt to Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory, dated 8 June 1999:



    The latest estimates available from Eurostat (the Statistical Office of the European Community) are for 1998. These show the Republic of Ireland with a per capita gross domestic product of 87.5 per cent of the EU average. These estimates are subject to revision.

National Insurance Contributions

Mr. Mallon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps are being taken to enable the person whose National Insurance number is BT 21 74 42 B, to pay their

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Class 2 National Insurance contributions, and how long it will be before these steps are completed. [86173]

Dawn Primarolo: The Director of the Inland Revenue National Insurance Contributions Office will shortly be writing to the hon. Member about the person concerned.

VAT

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the revenue implications for the Exchequer of the judgment of the European Court in the First National Bank of Chicago case (Case C-172/96); and if he will make a statement. [85684]

Ms Hewitt: HM Customs and Excise are monitoring claims from businesses applying the ruling to previous forex transactions. It is too early to estimate with any certainty the final amount to be paid out.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his policy with regard to the VAT treatment of (a) unilateral and (b) bilateral supplies in the field of financial transactions and instruments following the judgment of the European Court in the First National Bank of Chicago case (Case C-172/96). [85683]

Dawn Primarolo: Supplies of financial services and instruments are exempt from VAT. VAT on related costs is recoverable to the extent that it relates to supplies to counter-parties outside the territory of the European Community.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals for legislation with regards to VAT on financial services have been made by the European Union VAT Committee; and if he will make a statement. [85681]

Dawn Primarolo: No such proposal has been made.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions (i) he, (ii) Treasury Ministers and (iii) Treasury officials have had with (a) the European Commission, (b) the European Union VAT Committee and (c) the Council of Ministers with regards to VAT on financial services. [85682]

Dawn Primarolo: The European Commission has commissioned a series of studies into the feasibility of applying VAT to financial services. Customs and Excise are responsible for VAT policy, and officials have spoken to Commission officials about the progress of the studies on a number of occasions. In addition, Customs officials have attended seminars and a conference organised by the Commission. The consultants' report has yet to be considered by the Commission. No proposals have been made.

EU Budget

Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is following the agreement of the Berlin Council on the European budget of the net United Kingdom contributions to the budget until 2006. [86051]

Ms Hewitt: We intend to publish estimates when the Commission has provided figures for allocations under the structural and cohesion funds. These are expected in the next few weeks.

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CABINET OFFICE

Biotechnology

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Lewes of 24 May 1999, Official Report, column 39, if he will provide further details in respect of the questions asked. [85659]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: No.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what criteria were used by the Biotechnology Presentation Group in identifying an independent scientist to appear on the "Today" programme on 10 May to comment on the Christian Aid/Action Aid report on GM foods in the third world. [85929]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: In its report on 12 May, the Science and Technology Select Committee of this House called for a more informed public debate on Genetic Modification and said that the Government had a role to play in leading that debate. The Government also believe it important that the public hears the views of scientists who are experts on genetic modification.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will list the scientific sources of his advice on the benefits of biotechnology, indicating those he will make available to hon. Members. [85933]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The Government are advised by experts who sit on our advisory committees. We also pay careful attention to the views of other experts. The potential benefits of biotechnology were most recently described in the report of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics published on 27 May.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office for what reasons the briefing notes on biodiversity, herbicide resistance and cross pollination in connection with GMOs prepared for the Government's Biotechnology Presentation Group were inadequate. [85932]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The briefing notes were not sufficiently informative.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will publish the minutes of all meetings of the Biotechnology Presentation Group. [86119]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The minutes of inter-Ministerial meetings are not normally published. Previous Governments followed the same practice.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office (1) what amendments the Biotechnology Presentation Group made in the report he published on the Health Implications of genetically modified foods by the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser; and if he will publish a list of all the amendments stating the reasons for them; [86116]

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Dr. Jack Cunningham: After discussing an initial draft with Ministers, the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser revised the report in order to ensure that it was more easily comprehensible for the lay reader and to include specific recommendations for action. The only amendment to the report made by the Biotechnology Presentation Group was to suggest an expansion of the heading before paragraph 41.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what central rebuttals strategy had been established for use after his oral statement on biotechnology of 21 May 1999, Official Report, columns 1371-73. [86127]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) on 26 May 1999, Official Report, column 153.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if the new advisory committees he announced in his oral statement on biotechnology of 21 May 1999, Official Report, columns 1371-73 will sit in public. [86133]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The new advisory committees will abide by the guidelines on transparency contained in paragraph 51 of the Report of the Review of the Regulatory Framework, published on 21 May, copies of which are in the Libraries of the House.


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