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Government Information

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish his guidance to Government Departments and other Crown bodies on where Government information should be free or for payment; and, where charges are made, how those charges should be determined. [6461]

Mr. Andrew Smith: I am placing on the Treasury's website a document "Charges for Information: When and How" (Guidance for Government Departments and Other Crown Bodies). It is intended to help Government Departments and other Crown bodies decide whether

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particular information should be free of charge, charged at a subsidised rate, charged to recover the full costs involved, or (where the private sector produces similar information products and services) charged to recover a profit in the interests of fair competition. Copies of the document are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he plans to announce the results of the comprehensive spending review for financial years 2003–04 to 2006–07. [5832]

Mr. Andrew Smith: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mrs. Lawrence) on 25 June 2001, Official Report, columns 38–39W.

Centenarians

Mr. Cox: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) men and (b) women over the age of 100 there are in the United Kingdom. [6384]

Ruth Kelly: As part of the process of making national population projections, the Government Actuary's Department produces estimates of the population aged 100 and over. The latest set of national projections were based on the estimated population at mid-1998. The estimated numbers aged 100 and over in the United Kingdom at mid-1998 were (a) 1,000 men and (b) 7,000 women.

Pensions Legislation

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to amend legislation on pensions to take account of the recent judgment of the High Court in re Venables. [6538]

Ruth Kelly: The Inland Revenue is seeking to appeal in the case of Venables following the High Court judgment of 14 June 2001.

Tax Benefit Reference Manual

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the next edition of the Tax Benefit Reference Manual will be published. [6460]

Dawn Primarolo: Copies of the 2001–02 Edition of the Tax Benefit Reference Manual are today being deposited in the Library of the House.

Financial Services and Markets Act

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what transitional arrangements will be put in place as part of the entry into force of the main provisions of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. [6537]

Ruth Kelly: I announced on 12 July that the date, known as "N2", on which the main provisions of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) will

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come into force will be Saturday 1 December. Regulation of financial services by a single statutory regulator, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), operating under a single body of law will bring substantial benefits to financial services firms and consumers.

A large number of firms are already authorised to carry on financial services under existing legislation; a small number of firms and individuals will require authorisation for the first time at N2. For all financial services firms and individuals the Government seek to minimise the disruption arising from the introduction of the new framework for financial services regulation, while maintaining the appropriate degree of consumer protection.

A number of transitional issues arise from the replacement by FSMA of existing regulatory frameworks. The Government have made or expect to make transitional orders covering the treatment of misconduct by firms which was committed before N2; applications for authorisation to existing regulators which are partly completed by N2; complaints about financial services firms to the ombudsman which will be replaced by the Financial Ombudsman Service; and a significant number of other issues.

Today the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Transitional Provisions)(Authorised Persons etc.) Order 2001 has been laid before Parliament. This Order provides, in summary, that if a firm is authorised by one of the existing financial services regulators that firm is from N2 to have equivalent authorisation under FSMA.

The Order generally requires the FSA to use its best endeavours to provide by N2 firms' scope of permission under FSMA. Where the FSA is unable to provide this, firms will not have contravened, for those activities which they were carrying on prior to N2, the requirement that they carry on only regulated activities for which they have permission from the FSA.

A small number of firms are expected to require authorisation for the first time at N2. As I also announced on 12 July, these firms will be able to apply for authorisation by the FSA under FSMA from 3 September. We will legislate to ensure that new applications for authorisation received before N2 for activities currently carried on lawfully will have, where appropriate, interim authorisation under FSMA until the application has been determined.

Property Seizures

Bob Spink: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will review his policy on the permanent seizure of a vehicle used for the illegal importation of goods when the vehicle owner is unaware of such a use; and if he will make a statement; [5828]

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Mr. Boateng: The decision whether to restore a seized vehicle to the registered owner and the terms of that restoration will depend upon the circumstances of each case. Anyone who has consented to the use of their vehicle by others accepts a variety of risks by doing so and should take all reasonable steps to ensure that it will not be used for smuggling. Customs will look sympathetically at any claim where the vehicle has clearly been taken without the permission of the owner, eg the vehicle was stolen and reported to the police prior to the seizure.

Neighbourhood Renewal

Tim Loughton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his proposals for using tax credits for neighbourhood renewal in deprived areas. [5940]

Mr. Boateng: I refer the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham to the answer given to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) on 17 July 2001, Official Report, column 183W.

Ophthalmic Dispensing

Mr. Heath: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the application of VAT to ophthalmic dispensing. [5797]

Mr. Boateng: VAT was introduced at the standard rate on hearing aid and spectacles in 1988. There have been no changes to this treatment since May 1997.

Whisky

Angus Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of trends in sales of whisky in the (a) UK and (b) overseas over the last five years; and what assessment he has made of the impact of levels of whisky duties on these trends. [5700]

Mr. Boateng: Trends in sales of Scotch whisky are affected by many factors; of which duty is just one. For example, consumer preferences and pre-tax pricing play a major part. The spirits duty rate has now been frozen for four consecutive Budgets to strengthen both the international competitiveness and the domestic base of the UK spirits industry. In absolute terms this means that a standard bottle of spirits is some 60p cheaper than it would otherwise have been.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of whisky duty levels on employment in the Scotch whisky sector; and if he will make it his policy to bring duties on whisky into line with duties on other types of alcohol; and if he will make a statement. [5699]

Mr. Boateng: The Government appreciate the importance of the Scotch whisky industry and the significant contribution it makes to employment in local and regional economies. Judgments on the appropriate level of alcohol duties are made on a Budget by Budget basis and, as is sensible, take account of a wide range of factors which include the Government's expenditure priorities.

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Objective 1

Adam Price: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many sustainable full-time jobs were created by the Objective 1 programme during the 2000–01 financial year in each UK Objective 1 region. [6402]

Mr. Boateng: The current Objective 1 programme runs from 2000–06 and many projects have only just begun. They will be evaluated on an on-going basis, and part of this evaluation will be to gauge projects' effectiveness in promoting economic prosperity, social inclusion and employability.

The Objective 1 programme is aimed at promoting the development and structural adjustment of the EU regions most lagging behind in development. It is not intended to create jobs: successful businesses create jobs.


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