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Euro

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last discussed Government policy on the euro with the Federation of Small Businesses. [134652]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor meets many business representatives to discuss a wide range of issues.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what constitutional issues he considered in deciding that there was no constitutional bar to future British entry to the euro. [134651]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor's October 1997 statement set out the Government's position on the constitutional issue.

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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what period of time his five economic tests would have to have been met for him to decide that convergence had been achieved. [135025]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The determining factor underpinning any Government decision is whether the economic case for the UK joining is clear and unambiguous. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said we will make another assessment of the five economic tests early in the next Parliament.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of the result of the Danish referendum on the single European currency. [134939]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Danish membership of EMU is a matter for the Danish people.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met (a) the Foreign Secretary and (b) the Northern Ireland Secretary to discuss the implications of replacing the pound with the single European currency. [135024]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor of the Exchequer meets his Cabinet colleagues on a regular basis and discusses a wide range of issues.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the progress towards each of his five economic tests for replacing the pound with the single European currency being met. [134940]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said we will make another assessment of the five economic tests early in the next Parliament.

New Taxes

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many new taxes he has introduced since May 1997. [134649]

Dawn Primarolo: Information on taxation is in the Financial Statement and Budget Reports, which can be found in the House of Commons Library.

Disabled Persons Learning Credit

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the take-up of the disabled persons learning credit. [134722]

Dawn Primarolo: We are not aware of the existence of the disabled persons learning credit.

Gold Reserves

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the current value in pounds sterling is of those euros purchased with the proceeds of United Kingdom gold reserves sold and invested in the euro; [134915]

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Miss Melanie Johnson: The Treasury is planning to reduce its gold holdings to around 300 tonnes over the medium term, as announced on 7 May 1999.

Details of the proceeds from each of the eight gold auctions held to date can be found on the Bank of England's website (www.bankofengland.co.uk/press.htm). The proceeds have been reinvested in interest-bearing foreign currency assets. The currency split being broadly the same as that of the net reserves. Details of this can be found in the "Exchange Equalisation Account: Accounts 1997-98", published 26 January 2000.

Pre-Budget Report

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff in his Department worked on the 1999 Pre-Budget report. [134725]

Dawn Primarolo: A number of staff in the Treasury worked on the 1999 Pre-Budget Report.

Financial Services

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent developments there have been in the regulation of financial services. [135644]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, which received Royal Assent on 14 June, provides a framework for the completion of the modernisation of financial services regulation announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in May 1997.

Parliament will be asked to approve secondary legislation under the Act. The Treasury has today issued two consultation documents: on the scope of FSA regulation; and on the framework for the promotion of financial services. In the document on scope there are draft Orders on regulated activities; when regulated activities are and are not being carried on by way of business; persons who will be exempt from the requirement for FSA authorisation; the exemption of appointed representatives of an authorised person; and activities which will not be exempt regulated activities under Part XX of the Act. In the document on the framework for promotion of financial services there are draft Orders on financial promotion and on the promotion of collective investment scheme.

The Government have previously announced a number of areas which it proposes should be subject to FSA regulation, in order to strike a better balance between the interests of providers and consumers of financial services. The principal change is the regulation of mortgage lending, on which the Treasury has today issued a further consultation document. Other areas which the Government propose be brought into the scope of FSA regulation are pre-paid funeral plans, deposit taking by credit unions and Lloyd's insurance.

Copies of all three consultation documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Further copies are available from the Treasury, and can also be accessed via the Treasury's website (www.hm-treasury.gov.uk).

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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Egypt

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Egyptian Government to ensure Shaiboob William Arsal's appeal against his conviction for murder is held in an open and transparent manner. [133847]

Mr. Hain: We are aware of the circumstances of Shaiboob William Arsal's trial. The case is now sub judice under Egyptian law following his appeal to the Court of Cassation on 12 June. We would not want to make any comment that might prejudice his appeal. However, we shall continue to follow the course of his case closely as we shall all reports of human rights concern.

Arms Exports

Laura Moffatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken to consolidate the UK's national criteria against which the Government assess licence applications to export arms and dual-use equipment with those of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports; and if he will make a statement. [135683]

Mr. Hain: Licences to export arms and other goods controlled for strategic reasons are issued by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, acting through the Export Control Organisation of the DTI. All relevant individual licence applications are circulated by DTI to other Government Departments with an interest, as determined by those Departments in line with their own policy responsibilities. These include the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development.

In the Foreign Secretary's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms) on 28 July 1997, Official Report, column 27, he set out the criteria which would be used in considering advance approvals for promotion prior to formal application for an export licence, applications for licences to export miliary equipment, and dual-use goods where there are grounds for believing that the end-user will be the armed forces or internal security forces of the recipient country. As my right hon. Friend said then, the Government are committed to the maintenance of a strong defence industry as part of our industrial base as well as of our defence effort, and recognise that defence exports can also contribute to international stability by strengthening collective defence relationships; but believe that arms transfers must be managed responsibly. We have since taken a range of measures designed to ensure the highest standards of responsibility in our export control policies. These include the adoption during the UK's Presidency of the EU of a Code of Conduct on Arms Exports; the publication of Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls which are among the most transparent of those of any arms exporting country; the ban on the export of equipment used for torture; the ratification of the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel landmines and the passage of the Land Mines Act; and our many efforts to combat illicit trafficking in and destabilising accumulations of small arms.

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Since the Council of the European Union adopted the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports on 8 June 1998, all relevant licence applications have been assessed against the UK's national criteria and those in the Code of Conduct, which represent minimum standards that all member states have agreed to apply. The criteria in the EU Code of Conduct are compatible with those which I announced in July 1997. At the same time there is a large degree of overlap between the two. It is clearly in the interests of Government Departments involved in assessing licence applications, British exporters and other interested parties that the criteria which are used should be set out as clearly and unambiguously as possible.

With immediate effect, therefore, the following consolidated criteria will be used in considering all individual applications for licences to export goods on the Military List, which forms Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994; advance approvals for promotion prior to formal application for an export licence; and licence applications for the export of dual-use goods as specified in Annexe 1 of Council Decision 94/942/CFSP when there are grounds for believing that the end-user of such goods will be the armed forces or internal security forces or similar entities in the recipient country, or that the goods will be used to produce arms or other goods on the Military List for such end-users. The criteria are based on those in the EU Code of Conduct, incorporating elements from the UK's national criteria where appropriate. As before, they will not be applied mechanistically but on a case-by-case basis, using judgment and commonsense. Neither the fact of this consolidation, nor any minor additions or amendments to the wording of the two sets of criteria used before, should be taken to imply any change in policy or in its application.

An export licence will not be issued if the arguments for doing so are outweighed by the need to comply with the UK's international obligations and commitments, by concern that the goods might be used for internal repression or international aggression, by the risks to regional stability or by other considerations as described in these criteria.










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