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Rail Safety

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will call for a report from Railtrack on the near head-on crash on the London-Liverpool Street line to Colchester on Sunday 25 June; and if he will make a statement. [128523]

Mr. Hill: Both Railtrack and the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE)'s Railway Inspectorate are carrying out investigations. The results of HSE's investigation will be included in the monthly "signals passed at danger" report to Ministers, copies of which are placed in the House of Commons Library.


House of Lords Reform

Ann Keen: To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on her plans for a joint committee of both Houses to consider the parliamentary aspects of reform of the House of Lords, as set out in the White Paper "Modernising Parliament: Reforming the House of Lords" (Cm 4183). [129008]

Mrs. Beckett: As I confirmed on 19 June, we aim to establish a Joint Committee of both Houses to consider the Parliamentary implications of the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords' proposals for the composition of the second chamber, which the Government have broadly accepted. We intend that it should begin work as soon as possible after the summer recess. We are opening discussions through the usual channels in both Houses on the membership and precise terms of reference.

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Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to "The Government's Measures of Success: Output and Performance Analyses", published by HM Treasury on 31 March 1999, pages 116 and 117, if she will state the targets she has set (a) for the percentage of all named day parliamentary questions to be answered substantially by the date specified by the hon. Member and (b) for answering ordinary written parliamentary questions within five days of the date specified by the hon. Member. [127664]

Marjorie Mowlam: We aim to answer all parliamentary questions on time and we will continue to look at ways to improve our performance.

Interactive Voice Response Systems

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many agencies of her Department use interactive voice response systems when dealing with telephone inquiries from the general public. [127115]

Mr. Ian McCartney: The Government Car and Despatch Agency, which is the only agency of the Cabinet Office, does not normally deal with members of the general public and does not use interactive voice response systems.

The Central Office of Information is a department and executive agency that reports to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office. It does not itself use interactive voice response systems when dealing with inquires that it receives directly from the general public. However, as part of its Direct Marketing services it employs agents, on behalf of Government clients, who use interactive voice response systems as a backup to live handling of calls.


Internet Purchasing

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he is making to accommodate the increased quantities of letters and parcels containing goods from overseas likely to result from internet purchasing while such letters and parcels are being assessed for VAT and import duties. [126095]

Mr. Alan Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

These are matters for the Post Office and other companies handling such packets to determine in liaison with HM Customs and Excise.

British Telecom

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Treasury's residual holding of British Telecom plc shares. [129190]

Mr. Andrew Smith: On 27 June 2000, the Treasury sold 11,096,309 ordinary shares in British Telecom plc which it had held following earlier share sales. The shares were sold, via a competitive auction conducted by ABN AMRO Rothschild on the Treasury's behalf, to Schroder

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Salomon Smith Barney at a price of £9.25¼ per share, generating total proceeds of £102.7 million. The Treasury now retains only a very small number of shares to meet any future appeals for bonus shares arising from the BT2 and BT3 flotations.

Foreign Taxation

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assistance the UK authorities give to (a) French and (b) Belgian tax authorities in the recovery of tax owed by UK citizens to those authorities. [128606]

Dawn Primarolo: There are arrangements for the UK to assist the recovery of tax claims of other countries' tax authorities under EC Directive 76/308 on mutual assistance.

Working Families Tax Credit

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many advisers, dealing with the working families tax credit system, have been trained specifically to deal with employees who as part of their contract receive bonuses in the course of their employment; in what circumstances such bonuses are included for assessment purposes; and how this applies to military personnel. [128520]

Dawn Primarolo: Staff on processing sections and on helplines in the Tax Credits Offices in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are all trained to deal with questions about the income relevant to an application for the Working Families Tax Credit, or to refer such questions to the relevant specialists for advice. Bonuses which are paid as part of normal remuneration, and bonuses which are paid separately from normal remuneration, for example, for periods longer than the normal pay period are included for assessment purposes. This applies equally to bonuses paid to military personnel.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families have benefited from the working families tax credit and by how much (a) nationally, (b) in Teesside and (c) in the constituency of Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East; and if he will make a statement. [128510]

Dawn Primarolo: The number of families in receipt of the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) at the end of April 2000 is provisionally estimated at 1,053,000. 17,100 of these were in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees unitary authorities. I refer my hon. Friend to my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) on 28 June 2000, Official Report, column 537W, for the number of WFTC awards in the Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East constituency.

The national average value of awards current at April 2000 is estimated at £73 per week. For the North East region it is estimated at £71 per week. There are too few cases in the 5 per cent. sample of awards used for these analyses to provide reliable estimates of average awards at the local authority or constituency level.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Mr. Portillo: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will publish the Comprehensive Spending Review. [128556]

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Mr. Andrew Smith: A date for the 2000 Spending Review is not yet fixed, but it will be in July.

Road Fuel

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the revenue lost in each of the last five years due to road vehicles registered and kept in Northern Ireland purchasing their fuel in the Irish Republic. [128612]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) on 20 March 2000, Official Report, column 442W.

PFI Contracts

Mr. Alan Williams: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the PFI contracts entered into by his Department, indicating (a) their dates of commencement, (b) their value, (c) if they have been subject to refinancing and (d) if his Department has a claw-back entitlement to share in savings arising from refinancing. [129059]

Mr. Andrew Smith: There is one Treasury PFI contract for the refurbishment of its main building. The answer to the specific questions are:

(a) Financial close was on 5 May 2000.
(b) Estimated capital spending by the private sector partner is £118 million.
(c) No.
(d) Yes.

Climate Change Levy

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list those industry sectors and businesses given (a) full and (b) partial exemption from the climate change levy. [128631]

Mr. Timms: The Government's aim in designing the climate change levy has been to maximise its environmental effectiveness while safeguarding the competitiveness of UK business.

The Government have recognised the case for giving special treatment to energy intensive sectors because of their high energy costs and their exposure to international competition. Those eligible energy intensive sectors which enter into agreements to implement all cost- effective energy saving measures and achieve carbon or emissions targets which meet the Government's criteria will qualify for an 80 per cent. discount from the levy rates.

Sectors which have already agreed indicative energy efficiency targets are Cement; Food and Drink (as represented by the Food and Drink Federation); Glass; Non-ferrous metals; Aluminium; Paper; Chemicals; Foundries; Steel and Ceramics. A number of smaller energy intensive sectors are also involved in negotiations for a sector agreement. Details of the final agreements will be published later in the year.

The Government have also recognised the unique position of horticulture as an energy intensive sector, exposed to international competition but not eligible for a negotiated agreement and benefiting from special treatment in other EU states. Budget 2000 announced a

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special package of measures for the horticulture sector: targeted support from the climate change levy energy efficiency fund; extending the list of investments qualifying for enhanced capital allowances to include thermal screens; and a temporary 50 per cent. discount on the levy for a period of up to five years while energy efficiency measures take effect.

The Government believe, in line with the view expressed by Lord Marshall, that all businesses should have the incentive to save energy at the margin. For this reason there are no total sectoral exemptions from the levy.

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