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Southern Sudan

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Southern Sudan. [99958]

Mr. Hain: We continue to be deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Sudan. While our immediate priority is to provide humanitarian assistance, the long-term answer is peace.

We have long supported the Inter-Governmental Authority on development (IGAD) peace process as the negotiating body most likely to bring about a negotiated and sustainable peace settlement. Recently, as an active member of the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF), we extended our commitment, pledging political and financial support to a permanent secretariat with full-time Special Envoy. This should allow for a sustained and accelerated negotiation to take place.

After an absence of 11 months, we now have full diplomatic representation in Khartoum. We are therefore in a better position to support the cause of peace in the Sudan.


Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on human rights in Iran. [99951]

Mr. Hain: There have been a number of significant improvements in Iran's human rights record since President Khatami's election in May 1997. We welcome the Iranian government's commitment to develop an Islamic civil society based on respect for the rule of law. The people of Iran now enjoy significantly greater freedom of expression, despite recent closures of a number of reformist publications, many of which have subsequently reopened under different titles, compared to two years ago. February's local council elections, the first in Iran's history, were also particularly welcome, putting local power in the hands of the people and re-affirming the Iranian people's support for the reform process. There have also been some modest improvements in the situation of women, notably with the appointment of Iran's first four women judges and its first woman Vice-President. Over 50 per cent. of the university intake in Iran is now female.

However, we and our EU partners have a number of outstanding concerns. We in conjunction with our EU partners co-sponsored the United Nations General Assembly resolution on human rights in Iran adopted on 18 November which again underlined continuing international concern about certain Iranian human rights policies. We remain particularly concerned about the discrimination practised against some religious minorities (notably the Baha'is), the continued detention on espionage charges of a number of Iranians, including

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13 members of the Iranian Jewish community, the violations of the legal rights of prisoners, and the high number of executions. There is continuing discrimination against women in the courts and society generally. We and our EU partners continue to raise these issues with the Iranian authorities in an effort to improve Iran's human rights record.


Tobacco Smuggling

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to tackle tobacco smuggling. [101320]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government will continue to adopt a tough and rigorous approach to detecting, deterring and preventing tobacco smuggling and fraud. In his Pre-Budget Report the Chancellor announced a package of new measures to strengthen Customs' ability to tackle tobacco smuggling and fraud including x-ray scanners and compulsory marking of UK duty paid cigarettes and tobacco, and new offences and penalties for those caught handling or selling unmarked tobacco products.

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to encourage other EU member states to increase tobacco taxation in order to reduce incentives for bootlegging. [101319]

Dawn Primarolo: The European Commission is due to review tobacco taxation in the coming year and to report the outcome to ECOFIN.

The Government will continue to take every opportunity, in ECOFIN and elsewhere, to seek to influence the Commission and other member states to introduce a duty structure which would reduce the incentive for both legal cross-border shopping and smuggling.

Tax Investigations

Mr. Gill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what appeal procedures are available to taxpayers who believe they are unfairly targeted by Inland Revenue inspectors or subjected to investigation without reasonable grounds for suspicion. [101365]

Dawn Primarolo: Any person whose tax return is the subject of an inquiry may appeal to the General Commissioners for a direction that the inquiry should cease. The Commissioners must make such a direction unless there are reasonable grounds for the inquiry to continue. This right is explained in a leaflet which is sent to all taxpayers whose returns are the subject of an inquiry.

The Inland Revenue may begin an inquiry into a person's tax return without needing to suspect that anything may be wrong. Once an inspector has made sufficient inquiries to satisfy himself that a return is correct, he should end the investigation, and internal guidance and training make this clear. The taxpayer's right of appeal is an additional safeguard.

The Inland Revenue is committed to treating everyone fairly. However, where a person believes that he is being unfairly targeted, there is a well-established

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formal complaints procedure. Where the complaint cannot be resolved by the local office or the regional office, it is referred to the Adjudicator, Dame Barbara Mills. Alternatively, a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration ("the Parliamentary Ombudsman") may be made through a Member of Parliament.

Free School Meals

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what component of Disability Working Allowance compensates for non-entitlement to free school meals; [101145]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answers 2 December 1999]: Disability Working Allowance was introduced in 1992 and was broadly based on Family Credit. When the Family Credit scheme was introduced in 1988, provision was made to replace the value of entitlement to free school meals by adding £2.55 a week to each child credit. The total child credit has since been uprated annually by the Rossi index.

Disabled Persons Tax Credit and Working Families Tax Credit which replaced Disability Working Allowance and Family Credit respectively were introduced on 5 October 1999.

Duty Free Allowances

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to provide information to travellers at UK ports of entry on the duty free allowances. [101628]

Dawn Primarolo: Posters explaining the allowances are displayed at ports of entry. Leaflets setting out the allowances are published by HM Customs and Excise and are freely available.

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements his Department has made for information on the Working Families Tax Credit to be displayed and available to the public at (a) health centres, (b) dentists' surgeries, (c) GPs' surgeries, (d) post offices, (e) public libraries and (f) other venues. [101630]

Dawn Primarolo: In advance of the start of the advertising campaign, WFTC literature was made available free of charge to 21,000 intermediary organisations throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. As a result of this:

    Dentists, pharmacists and GP surgeries will also shortly be supplied with posters promoting the 'passporting' benefits of WFTC.

    Main Post Offices display posters and factsheets and in September, in-house television featured WFTC information every 15 minutes. All other post offices display factsheets.

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    Public inquiry areas in Inland Revenue offices and Benefits Agency offices display WFTC leaflets and posters.

Dr. George Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people in North West Norfolk he estimates will benefit from the Working Families Tax Credit; and by how much he estimates each family will on average benefit. [101321]

Dawn Primarolo: Reliable estimates for the numbers in receipt of Working Families Tax Credit in North West Norfolk are not available. It is estimated that in 2000-01 for the UK as a whole, the first full year of the Working Families Tax Credit, about 1.4 million families will enjoy the more generous help provided by the new scheme. Families in receipt of the Working Families Tax Credit will receive on average £24 a week more than they would on Family Credit.

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