Previous Section Index Home Page

Alcohol and Tobacco Seizures

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on Customs and Excise policy as regards the seizure of alcohol and tobacco from persons who have bought it for their personal use. [158894]

Dawn Primarolo: I announced in March 2000 the tackling tobacco smuggling strategy, which aims to put tobacco smuggling into decline in three years and has provided £209 million for extra Customs resources. Customs efforts in the tobacco sector are, therefore, exclusively concentrated on attempting to tackle those who smuggle tobacco.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 514W

Customs do not seize alcohol or tobacco from people entering the UK from elsewhere within the EU where those people are able to satisfy Customs that those goods are for their personal use.

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what right of redress persons have when alcohol and tobacco bought for personal use are seized by Customs and Excise. [158893]

Dawn Primarolo: Customs take complaints very seriously and Customs Notice 1000 explains how to seek redress through Customs' own internal complaints procedures and through the Adjudicator and the Parliamentary Ombudsman, both of whom are independent of Customs and Excise.

Hearing Aid Dispensers

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to tax hearing aid dispensers as a single supply under the single supply taxation of optical dispensing services to be introduced from 1 June. [158580]

Dawn Primarolo: As a result of a House of Lords judgment in January this year, changes have to take place to the tax treatment of the ancillary services provided by some businesses. Each case that may be affected by the House of Lords judgment needs to be considered on its own merits.

Electronic Commerce

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 5 April 2001, Official Report, column 242W, on electronic commerce, if he will make a statement on (a) the nature of VAT rules for e-commerce supplies and the changes proposed by the Commission, (b) the purpose of the proposed directive on distance marketing of financial services and (c) when the proposed directive and changes to the VAT rules will next be considered by the ECOFIN Council. [158579]

Dawn Primarolo: Article 9 of the EC Sixth VAT Directive includes rules covering the VAT treatment of e-commerce supplies. The European Commission have proposed a number of changes to these rules, and these are next due to be discussed at the June ECOFIN.

The proposed directive on distance marketing of financial services is intended to complement directive 97/7/EC, which established rules for the distance selling of goods and services other than financial services. The proposed directive includes principles for conduct of business and consumer protection for financial services sold at a distance across borders.

Heat Insulation Standards

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will insist on a pipework heat insulation standard higher than BS5422 in Government private finance initiative and public-private partnership programmes. [158810]

Mr. Andrew Smith: In the PFI, the public sector remains responsible for deciding, as the collective purchaser of public services, on the level of services required and the resources available to pay for them. It therefore focuses on specifying outputs rather than retaining detailed control over inputs.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 515W

Scottish Bank Notes

Mr. Randall: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if Scottish banks will be able to produce Scottish bank notes if the UK introduces the euro. [159248]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) on 28 November 2000, Official Report, column 589W.

Macroeconomic Policy

Mr. Ian Stewart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about his macroeconomic policy in the face of global instability. [160112]

Mr. Gordon Brown: As a result of the actions taken by this Government to reform the macroeconomic policy framework, British economic policy is much better placed in the face of global instability than it has been in the past. Inflation is low and stable, the public finances are sound and the Government are on track to meet their firm fiscal rules. Copies of my statement of 29 April to the International Monetary and Financial Committee have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

In accordance with section 12 of the Bank of England Act 1998, I have written to the Governor restating the Monetary Policy Committee's remit which confirms, as stated in my Budget statement, that the inflation target remains 2.5 per cent. for the 12-month increase in the retail price index excluding mortgage interest rates (RPIX).

My letter to the Governor has been laid before Parliament and a copy has been sent to the Chairman of the Treasury Committee. Copies have also been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.


Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security on what basis mileage payments are set for people in receipt of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for visits to hospitals. [159685]

Mr. Bayley: The mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is intended to contribute towards the extra mobility costs incurred by severely disabled people as a result of their disability. The Department makes no specific provision, through DLA or other benefits, for the reimbursement of travel costs for visits to hospital.

However, the hospital travel costs scheme, which is part of the NHS low income scheme, allows NHS trusts to reimburse patients on low incomes or in receipt of qualifying benefits for the costs, including private car mileage costs, of travel by the cheapest means of transport available to keep hospital appointments. Qualifying benefits for the schemes include income support and family credit, but not DLA. The schemes are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Health.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 516W

Private Pensions

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the number of pensioners whose company pension is reduced because they are also receiving a state retirement pension. [158887]

Mr. Rooker: Information is not available in respect of pensioners whose occupational pension is reduced to take account of the fact that they are also in receipt of the state retirement pension. Such schemes, which have operated since 1948, have lower contributions to take account of the state pension.

Occupational Pension Schemes

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will review the costs and benefits to (a) employers and (b) employees of the legal framework governing the operation of occupational pension schemes. [159363]

Mr. Rooker: Occupational pension schemes in the UK are voluntary. As such, the legal framework that governs occupational pension schemes must achieve a balance between the necessary protection of scheme members, which will include employees as well as pensioner and deferred members, and the costs created for the employers who sponsor the schemes. We are always conscious of the need to maintain this balance and therefore keep the framework under continuous review.

Two examples of recent changes to be introduced as a result of this on-going review are the member nominated trustee provisions, to ensure that all scheme members can play a role in the running of their schemes, and the proposals to replace the minimum funding requirement for occupational schemes.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what help he proposes to provide for those people who are in receipt of a final salary occupational pension plan. [158425]

Mr. Rooker: The pension credit will ensure that people of modest means are rewarded for building on the basic pension level through SERPS, a private or occupational pension, or other forms of income and savings.

State Pension

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the cost of paying the state retirement pension from the day a claimant reaches pensionable age rather than from the Monday following that day. [158348]

Mr. Rooker: The current regulations, originally introduced in 1948, provide for the payment of retirement pension in whole weeks. These regulations also apply at the end of a claim as retirement pension is paid to the end of the week--regardless of the day in the week entitlement to the benefit ceases.

If payment were made for part-weeks and, as now, no attempt was made to recover benefit paid for the remainder of the week after entitlement ceases, we estimate the costs would be up to £20 million.

30 Apr 2001 : Column: 517W

Pension Credit

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if any pensioner will suffer a reduction in their income as a result of the abolition of the capital rules and the introduction of the new Pension Credit. [158692]

Mr. Rooker: As we set out in the pension credit consultation paper (Cm 4900, Chapter 4 paragraph 29), we will ensure that pensioners receiving the Minimum Income Guarantee will receive, at least, the same level of income with the introduction of the Pension Credit.

Next Section Index Home Page