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Interest Rates

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 10 May 2000, Official Report, columns 417-19W, what the average bank interest rate for mortgages has been since October 1995. [131780]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 24 July 2000]: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from John Pullinger to Mr. David Willetts, dated 28 July 2000:

Climate Change Levy

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the cost of exempting (a) hydro power and (b) non-nuclear and non-fossil fuel generated electricity from the climate change levy in (a) Scotland and (b) the UK. [131588]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 24 July 2000]: The initial cost of exempting small scale hydro electric power and non-nuclear/non-fossil fuel generated electricity from the Climate Change Levy is estimated to be around £20 million in a full year. The exact cost of the exemption in future years will depend on the speed of progress made towards the Government's target of generating 5 per cent. of electricity from renewable sources by 2003. Separate estimates for Scotland are not available.

28 Jul 2000 : Column: 1028W

Debt Repayment (HIPCs)

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the size of Government debt repayment from the HIPC countries in 1996-97; what he estimates the debt repayment will be in 2000-01; and to what extent such repayments will be recycled into (a) primary healthcare and (b) AIDS care and prevention in these countries. [131626]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 24 July 2000]: The total amount received from HIPCs in 1996-97 was £29.4 million. Under the UK's policy of 100 per cent. debt forgiveness once countries have reached decision point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, they can immediately stop making payments on all their debts outstanding to the UK Government.

So far nine countries have reached their decision point, of which eight owed money to the UK. For these countries all payments to the UK Government have already ceased. In total the debt relief to these countries afforded by the HIPC initiative and the Government's 100 per cent. debt relief policy will add up to £241 million.

A further 11 countries are expected to reach decision point by the end of 2000. If they did the total amount that the UK Government would be writing off for these 20 countries would be £659 million. The total payments due for payment in 2000-01 depends entirely on how quickly countries reach decision point, and hence how many benefit from the UK's policy of 100 per cent. debt relief.

Under the enhanced HIPC initiative, debt relief is tied much more closely to poverty reduction. Countries are developing national poverty reduction strategies as part of their qualification for debt relief. Countries will examine causes of poverty and opportunities for tackling it. The Poverty Reduction Strategy of an individual country will often identify primary healthcare and HIV/AIDS as priority areas for government action and increased resources. But many competing claims for additional resources, and it is up to the governments of the HIPC countries themselves to decide how to balance these, in discussion with key stakeholders.

Departmental Groups

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list each group that is responsible to his Department, with significant and plural membership from outside the Civil Service, and to which the Nolan rules on non-departmental public bodies do not apply and for each such group, if it (a) is a company limited by guarantee, (b) is a charity, (c) has no formal legal basis, and (d) has some other legal basis giving details. [131237]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 24 July 2000]: The bodies falling within the scope of the question are as follows. Although they are not formally within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Treasury Minsters observe the spirit of the rules and Nolan principles in making appointments to them:

28 Jul 2000 : Column: 1029W

Tobacco Industry

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the current price is of a packet of 20 cigarettes in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) Belgium, (c) France and (d) Germany. [132337]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 24 July 2000]: The price of a packet of 20 cigarettes will vary according to the brand and these prices are not available for other EU countries. The most popular price category (MPPC) for cigarettes in each of the EU member states is contained in the Excise Duty Tables published by the European Commission.

Share and Security Dealing

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposal was put forward by the Government of France at the meeting of ECOFIN in July concerning the operation of the single market in share and security dealing within the Community; if he will place a copy of that proposal in the Library; on what Treaty and Article it is based; what voting took place at ECOFIN on the proposal; what voting arrangements will govern any subsequent consideration by ECOFIN; and what action will follow in the European Parliament. [132574]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I will right to my hon. Friend and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

28 Jul 2000 : Column: 1030W

Green Cars

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his taxation policy in respect of the development of non-polluting methods of powering motor cars. [132791]

Mr. Timms: Duty on road fuel gases was cut by 29 per cent. in 1999 and was frozen in the March Budget.

The duty differential between ultra low sulphur diesel and conventional diesel had succeeded in turning the UK market over to the more environmentally friendly low sulphur fuel. Furthermore, as announced in March 2000 a 1p/litre inventive will be introduced for ultra low sulphur petrol.

The graduated system of Vehicle Excise Duty for new cars, being introduced in March 2001, will offer discounted rates for cars using more environmentally friendly fuels.

Press Releases

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many press releases have been issued so far this year; and what the total cost of the production and issuing of press releases was in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000 to date. [132780]

Miss Melanie Johnson: In 2000, 125 press notices have been released to 30 June. The cost to date to the Treasury for the services of the Central Office of Information (COI), which distribute press releases, has been £14,709.60. The number of press notices released and the amounts billed to Treasury by COI in previous years are as follows:

Number of press noticesCOI distribution costs (£)

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