Previous Section Index Home Page


Mrs. Browning: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many domestic mortgages, underwritten

13 Dec 1999 : Column: 75W

with endowment policies, matured with a shortfall in the sum insured in (a) 1995, (b) 1996, (c) 1997, and (d) 1998. [102153]

Miss Melanie Johnson: This information could be obtained only from the endowment providers. To collect such information would entail disproportionate costs.

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if the Financial Services Authority will regulate buy-to-let mortgages; [102509]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Following consultation, the Treasury is in the process of reaching a decision on whether statutory regulation would best protect the interests of consumers and the Treasury will make an announcement in due course.


Mr. Howard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate how much the United Kingdom would have lost through the decline in the value of the euro if it had joined economic and monetary union on 1 January, taking into account the obligation of member states to contribute (a) to the establishment of the initial share capital of the European Central Bank and (b) to the exchange reserves of the ECB; and if he will set out the assumptions made in calculating the answer. [102603]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The United Kingdom did not join the single currency on 1 January 1999 so therefore the circumstances did not arise.

Gold Reserves

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent the sales of gold reserves by the Bank of England are intended as a contribution towards the stability of bullion banks. [102148]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The gold sales are part of a technical restructuring of the UK's foreign currency and gold reserves to achieve a better balance in the portfolio by diversifying more widely and not being over exposed to one asset.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for how many central banks the Bank of England acts as a depository for the leasing of their gold reserves. [102150]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Details of any arrangements the Bank of England has with other central banks are commercially confidential.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer by what criteria the Treasury will judge the success or failure of its policy to sell 415 tonnes of the gold reserves. [102151]

Miss Melanie Johnson: By achieving a better balance in the portfolio these sales will enable the Treasury to meet one of its performance targets of

13 Dec 1999 : Column: 76W

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much gold has been sold by the Bank of England since he instructed the Bank to undertake such sales; and what was the average price per ounce received from each such sale. [102069]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The results of the gold auctions held on 7 July 1999, 21 September 1999 and 29 November 1999 are published in Bank of England Press Notices issued on those days. Copies of the Press Notices are available in the House of Commons Library.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if 40 per cent. of the proceeds from the gold sales by the Bank of England have been put into the Euro; and at what prices. [102149]

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total amount of euro-based currencies acquired by the Bank of England since the initiation of gold sales; and what was the average price per euro in each such purchase. [102070]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The proceeds from sales of gold have been invested in interest bearing foreign currency assets in broadly the same proportion as currently held in the net foreign currency reserves (40 per cent. dollars; 40 per cent. euro; and 20 per cent. yen). Table 2 of the Quarterly Report on UK Official Holdings of Foreign Currency and Gold for the period July to September 1999, published on 2 December provides a breakdown of the size and composition of the United Kingdom's reserve holdings.

Departmental Employees (Disabled People)

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the total workforce in his Department is registered as disabled; and what steps he is taking to encourage the employment of disabled people in his Department. [102051]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The old system of registration of disabled people ended when the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 came into force on 2 December 1996. People who were registered as disabled on that date were given protection under the Act for a further three years, and into the future if they continued to meet the definition of disability contained in the Act. So employers, including the Chancellor's Departments now need to identify staff who might be covered by the employment provisions of the Act, rather than whether or not they were formerly registered as disabled. Current records show that about 4 per cent. of staff in the Treasury and Customs and 3.9 per cent. of staff in Inland Revenue have a disability as defined in the Act.

Each Department has a variety of measures in place to ensure equal treatment for disabled people, and to ensure that they meet their legal obligations to protect disabled people from discrimination in the field of employment.

EU Accounts

Mr. Colvin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his policy in relation to the European Court of Auditors' rejection of the European Union's accounts for 1997. [102179]

13 Dec 1999 : Column: 77W

Miss Melanie Johnson: In its Annual Report, the European Court of Auditors declined to give a positive statement of assurance on the EU accounts for 1997, and again on the accounts for 1998, because of the level of errors detected in payment transactions. This is clearly unacceptable and the Government will press the Commission and other Member States to take action. The Government strongly encourages and supports measures to reduce financial mismanagement and fraud against the EU budget. The Government has strongly backed Commission reform and expects the new Commission under Romano Prodi's presidency to act decisively.

Early Retirement (Stress)

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures he is taking to reduce the number of workers in the public sector taking early retirement on the ground of stress; and if he will make a statement. [102399]

Mr. Andrew Smith: In August this year my predecessor announced that he had set up a wide ranging review into the level of ill health retirement in the public sector. The terms of reference for the review are:

    To identify best practice both in the management of pension scheme provisions and the operation of relevant human resource policies; and

    To make recommendations to Ministers on the implementation of measures to spread best practice and to ensure the appropriate use of ill health retirement benefits."

The contribution which stress related illness makes to the level of ill health retirement, and the measures which might be taken to reduce its incidence, is being considered in the review.

The review is due to report early in 2000.

EU Budget

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on (a) the net and gross contribution figures to the EU Budget listed in Table 3 of HM Treasury White Paper, European Community Finances (Cm 4382) and (b) the ONS UK Balance of Payments 1999 edition, Table 9.2 and Table 9.7. [102350]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Table 3 of the annual White Paper European Community Finances provides details, by calendar year, of UK contributions to, and public sector receipts from, the EU Budget broken down by the various elements. In particular, Cm 4382 contains outturn information in respect of years 1996 to 1998 and an estimate for 1999.

Section 9 of the ONS Pink Book presents a geographical breakdown of the current account of the balance of payments. Table 9.2 includes total UK current account credits and debits with EU Institutions, including trade in service receipts and balance of payments income transactions as well as official transfers to, and from, EU Institutions. Table 9.7 includes the total current account transfers to, and from, EU Institutions.

13 Dec 1999 : Column: 78W

Thus the coverage of Table 3 of the White Paper and Section 9 of the Pink Book are different. The White Paper covers all public sector payments to, and receipts from, the EU while the Pink Book also includes balance of payments transactions between EU Institutions and UK companies. However, Tables 3.11, 5.1 and 6.1 of the Pink Book record receipts from, and payments to, EU Institutions and are comparable in coverage to the White Paper net contribution figures.

Next Section Index Home Page