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Departmental Expenditure Limit

Ms Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes will be made to his Department's budget, departmental expenditure and Operating Cost limits for 1999-2000. [108701]

Mr. Hoon: The Government have decided that, subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate for Class VI Vote 1 Defence for 1999-2000, the following changes should apply:

This will cover the additional expenditure incurred by UK forces on operations in Kosovo and Bosnia during the current financial year which are estimated at just under £400 million and £112 million respectively. The figure also includes full take-up of the Ministry of Defence's entitlement to End Year Flexibility of £74 million.

The Supplementary Estimates will also provide for changes in the general pattern of expenditure, including adjustments between the Defence Procurement Agency's equipment programme and the operating costs programmes.

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As the increase in the Defence Expenditure Limit will be met from the Reserve, which is part of the Government's overall spending plan, it will not add to the planned total of public expenditure in the current year.

Oath of Allegiance

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many letters he has received since 1 May 1997 on (a) constituency matters and (b) other matters of Government policy from each of those Members of the House who have not taken the oath of allegiance. [108409]

Dr. Moonie: The information requested cannot be provided as correspondence between MPs and the Department is treated in confidence unless the originating MP chooses to make such issues public.

Services Recruits

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of recruits to the (a) Royal Navy and (b) armed forces passed the initial physical fitness tests in (a) 1997-98 and (b) 1998-99. [107965]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.


Health Spending

2. Mr. Bradshaw: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer by how much spending on health has increased since 1 May 1997; and by what proportion of GDP health spending will increase by 2002. [106882]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Since we took office the Government have increased spending on the NHS by 10.4 per cent. in real terms. We estimate that by 2002 health spending will be around 7 per cent. of GDP.

Interest Rates

14. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the prospects for convergence between United Kingdom and European interest rates in the medium term. [106898]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Our policy is as set out in the Chancellor's October 1997 statement, including five economic tests which will have to be met before any decision to join can be taken.

28. Mr. Beith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what account he has taken of the impact of the level of interest rates on the economy of the north east of England in deciding the level of public expenditure in the region. [106912]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The north east of England, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is benefiting from the long-term action we have taken to create a platform of economic stability and secure high and stable levels of growth and employment.

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Pesticides Tax

15. Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much revenue he estimates he will raise from his proposed tax on the use of pesticides. [106899]

Mr. Timms: On 1 February, the Government welcomed the voluntary proposals on reducing the environmental impacts of pesticide use brought forward by the British Agrochemical Association and announced that, subject to further detailed discussions on these proposals, the Chancellor will not proceed with the introduction of a pesticides tax in the Budget.

Stamp Duty

16. Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of people who will pay extra stamp duty in 2000-01 as a result of the 1999 Budget. [106900]

Miss Melanie Johnson: About 95,000 transactions will be affected as a result of the 1999 Budget measures on stamp duty on land and property.

VAT (Building and Maintenance)

17. Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received on the rate of VAT levied on building, renovation and maintenance work. [106901]

Dawn Primarolo: Treasury Ministers have received a number of letters about the rate of VAT on building, renovation and maintenance work.

34. Mr. Pike: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the building industry on VAT on house repairs, renovation and extension work. [106920]

Dawn Primarolo: None.

Football Clubs

18. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce a tax redistribution arrangement based on turnover for professional football clubs. [106902]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 16 December 1999, Official Report, column 297W.

Single Currency

19. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on future British membership of the single European currency. [106903]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor of the Exchequer regularly discusses the Government's economic policy with Cabinet colleagues. The Government's position on the single currency remains as set by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his statement to the House of Commons on 27 October 1997, Official Report, columns 583-88.

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Exchange Rate

20. Mr. Geraint Davies: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of the value of sterling on trends in manufacturing output in the past 12 months. [106904]

Miss Melanie Johnson: There is strong evidence to suggest that manufacturers on the whole are coping well with the strength of sterling. Manufacturing output rose by 1.1 per cent. in the three months to November, compared to the previous three months, while export volumes have risen significantly through 1999.


21. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much additional expenditure has been directed exclusively to pensioners since May 1997. [106905]

Mr. Andrew Smith: From May 1997 until the financial year 2001-02, the Government have made available an additional £4 billion in real terms exclusively for pensioners. We have introduced the Minimum Income Guarantee which will be uprated by earnings growth through the remainder of this Parliament and Winter Fuel Payments of £100 per year per pensioner household. This year, we will introduce free TV licences for pensioners aged 75 and over and pensioners will receive free access to National museums in England where there are currently charges. The Government's Transport Bill contains proposals to guarantee pensioners at least half-price fares on buses in return for passes costing no more than five pounds.

NHS (Hypothecated Funding)

22. Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the benefits of applying hypothecated funding to the NHS. [106906]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The Chancellor announced in his Pre-Budget Report that there was a strong, ongoing health case for year-on-year real terms increases in the price of cigarettes to support the Government's objectives to reduce smoking and tackle cancer and coronary heart disease, and that any additional revenue raised from real increases in tobacco duties would in future be spent on improved healthcare.

Savings Tax (EU Directive)

23. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if there are any circumstances in which it would be his policy to agree to the European Commission's Draft directive on the Taxation of Savings. [106907]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government have made clear that there can be no agreement to any draft directive on the taxation of savings as long as it risks damaging European Union financial markets.

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