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Environmental Taxation

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to improve the scope of environmental taxation. [141848]

Mr. Timms: The climate change levy comes into effect next April and we plan to introduce the aggregates levy from April 2002. We are also planning a number of reforms to existing taxes to help meet our environmental objectives, including a package of measures responding to the urban task force aimed at regenerating Britain's towns and cities.

Regional Development Agencies

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for meetings with the Regional Development Agencies in England to discuss their involvement with the implementation of measures contained in his pre-Budget statement. [141844]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Treasury Ministers have met the Regional Development Agencies on regular occasions in the past to discuss a wide range of issues affecting them and we look forward to further meeting with them in the future.

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On the measures we announced in the PBR, RDAs have been fully consulted at every stage. For example, my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury attended the Joint meeting of Chairmen and Ministers in October. Further consultation is continuing with them on the implementation of these measures.


Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to review the impact of the exchange rate on the British tourist industry; and if he will make a statement. [141853]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government regularly assess the effects of the exchange rate and all other relevant factors on the UK economy. Developments in individual industries, including tourism, are also closely monitored by both the Treasury and other Departments.


Mr. Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to change VAT levels. [141845]

Dawn Primarolo: This Government have not changed the main rates of VAT in this Parliament, and we have no plans to do so now.

Subsidies (Environment)

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the examples of justifications of a subsidy which is damaging to the environment which were submitted to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury during the Spending Review 2000; and if he will make a statement. [142539]

Mr. Timms: Departments' submissions during Spending Review 2000 are confidential.


Mr. Winnick: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 2 November on the Climate Change Levy. [142731]

Mr. Timms: I expect to do so shortly.

Departmental Policies (Blackpool, South)

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set out, including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effect on the Blackpool, South constituency of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [142230]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Blackpool, South parliamentary constituency, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is benefiting from the long-term action we have taken to build economic stability and secure high and stable levels of growth and employment. Since the General Election, claimant unemployment in the constituency has fallen by 1,858, or 50 per cent., youth unemployment is down by 80 per cent., and long-term unemployment has fallen by 78 per cent.

Macroeconomic stability is being complemented at the microeconomic level by the Government's policies to ease the transition from welfare into work and to make work

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pay. To the end of September 2000, the New Deal for 18 to 24-year-olds had helped 931 young people in the Blackpool, South constituency gain valuable skills and experience--474 (51 per cent.) of whom had moved into employment. The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), introduced in October 1999, is helping to make work pay for low and middle income families. In May 2000, 3,300 families in Blackpool, South were benefiting from WFTC.

The Government are also committed to developing policies which enable all pensioners to share in the country's rising prosperity. As a result of the recent pre-Budget report, all pensioners, including 20,600 in Blackpool, South, will receive an above-inflation increase in the basic state pension from April 2001. Single pensioners will receive an extra £5 a week, and couples will receive an extra £8 a week. All pensioners aged 75 or over have also been entitled to a free TV licence since November 2000--including around 13,500 in Blackpool, South.

Tax (Self Assessment)

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what improvements he plans to make in the income tax self assessment scheme, with particular respect to investigations. [142474]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government announced on 10 November that they intend to bring forward changes to the law in the next Finance Bill, and that the Inland Revenue will improve its procedures for conducting inquiries in consultation with interested representative bodies (Inland Revenue Press Release PR174/00).

These improvements are the result of a joint report, "Income Tax Self Assessment Inquiries", published by the Inland Revenue and the Chartered Institute of Taxation on 10 November 2000 and which has been placed in the Library.

Tax Investigations

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason the Inland Revenue does not give reasons for investigations of individuals' tax affairs. [142475]

Dawn Primarolo: Tax inspectors have the statutory right to inquire into any tax return to check whether it is correct. They do not need to have grounds for suspicion, and the return may be chosen at random or following an assessment of risk. Disclosing how a return has been chosen would reduce the future effectiveness of the selection methods. 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.


Communications Data

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce powers to permit (a) the storage of communications data relating to all telephone calls and telecommunications and (b) access to this information by law enforcement

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agencies and the security services; what representations he has received relating to this issue; and if he will make a statement. [141749]

Mr. Straw: My Department has received representations from the National Criminal Intelligence Service on behalf of the law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies underlining the importance of communications data to their investigations, and arguing for mandatory retention of such data. We will consider these representations but the Government have no current plans to legislate.

Law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies access communications data now in a number of different ways including the Data Protection Act 1998. Part I, Chapter II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 puts in place statutory controls, for the first time, governing access to such data. Access must be properly authorised, for specific purposes only, and is subject to independent oversight. The relevant RIPA provisions will be commenced next year.


Mr. Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the Government's policy is on enforcing the return of Kosovan nationals to Kosovo during the winter period; and if he will make a statement. [143118]

Mrs. Roche: In response to a request to host countries by the United Nations Authorities in Kosovo (UNMIK) to cease enforcing the return of Kosovans to Kosovo during the severe Balkan winter, we have given this careful consideration and decided that a wholesale suspension of enforced returns back to Kosovo would not be justified. We do not accept that single people or couples who have put forward manifestly unfounded applications and who may, for example, have arrived in the United Kingdom in recent months and long after peace was secured in Kosovo and who have families and homes there, could not return to them. But we have agreed to temporarily suspend the enforced return of families with children or vulnerable dependants or other vulnerable cases in recognition of the difficulties that larger family groups and vulnerable people may present to UNMIK in terms of providing support and accommodation during the winter period.

This position has been fully explained to UNMIK who have also been assured that, in line with their previous request, we will continue to inform them of returns in advance where it is possible to do so. UNMIK have said they understand our position and have expressed gratitude for the considered way in which the United Kingdom has approached the accommodation problems in Kosovo.

Immigration and Asylum Act

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if arrangements for the implementation of the marriage aspects of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 have been made; and if he will make a statement. [143117]

Mr. Straw: The marriage powers in section 24 and Part IX of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, will come into effect on 1 January 2001.

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In support of this, The Reporting of Suspicious Marriages (Scotland) Regulations 2000 and The Reporting of Suspicious Marriages (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2000 were made on 8 December. These provide for the reporting of suspicious marriages in Scotland and Northern Ireland to the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND).

The Reporting of Suspicious Marriages and the Registration of Marriages (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2000 were made on 29 November. These regulations provide for the reporting of suspicious marriages in England and Wales to IND, and prescribe procedures for the Registrar General for England and Wales to waive or reduce the new 15 day waiting period, and various consequential amendments to forms. The related Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Fees)(Amendment) Order 2000 was laid before Parliament on 30 November. This Order prescribes the fees payable for the entry of a notice of marriage in the marriage notice book and for an application to the Registrar General to waive or reduce the 15 day waiting period.

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