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Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the internal stability of Pakistan. [9261]

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Mr. Bradshaw: We are aware that there have been demonstrations in Pakistan against coalition action in Afghanistan. However, when seen in the context of Pakistan's total (largely peaceful) population, we do not believe the recent disturbances pose a serious threat to Pakistan's internal stability.


Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent changes there have been to the EU Common Position on Burma. [10371]

Mr. Bradshaw: Changes in Burma in the past nine months give grounds for cautious optimism, but the rapprochement between the regime and the domestic opposition remains fragile and reversible. Until Burma is firmly embarked on a return to constitutional, democratic rule it would not be appropriate to suspend or remove the core elements of the EU Common Position. The General Affairs Council of 8 October therefore decided to renew the Common Position for a further six months. The core elements of the Common Position are to remain unchanged, with the addition of required legal clarification that enables EU member states to fulfil their UN obligations by allowing Burmese Ministers to attend UN conferences in the EU.

However, in recognition of the progress achieved to date and in expectation of further positive developments, the EU Council Conclusions on 8 October set out a modest first package of positive measures. We stand ready to consider what further measures might be appropriate if change in Burma accelerates significantly. Conversely, if progress were to stall or fail, UK/EU policy would need to be tightened again.


Inheritance Tax

Mr. John Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to mitigate the impact of inheritance tax on those estates which are predominantly comprised of the value of the deceased's family home. [8681]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Even where property represents a high proportion of the total value, most estates also have sufficient liquid assets to satisfy all the inheritance tax which may be due. Executors can nevertheless defer payment of tax when a former home has not been sold by the time the tax on it would otherwise be due, if necessary by making instalments over as long as 10 years. Most eligible estates start in this way, but the overwhelming majority settle their tax before the 10 years is up, usually because the home is no longer in family use and has been sold.

Summer Recess (Departmental Publications)

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) press notices and (b) consultation documents were issued by his Department during the summer recess. [9223]

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Ruth Kelly: From 23 July until 12 October 2001, 25 press notices and a statement by the Chancellor were released by HM Treasury, or by the Treasury in conjunction with another Government Department. During the same time period the Treasury released three consultation documents on its public website.

Aggregates Tax

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what additional cost has been factored into the 10 year transport plan to take account of the aggregates tax. [8854]

Mr. Jamieson: I have been asked to reply.

Any additional costs for transport infrastructure projects due to the Aggregates Levy were not identified in 10 Year Plan for Transport. However in appraising individual projects that are taken forward as part of the Plan, any such additional costs could be identified.

British Waterways

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on the ability of British Waterways to have some flexibility to borrow from the private sector. [8591]

Mr. Andrew Smith [holding answer 18 October 2001]: Borrowing from the private sector is normally more expensive than finance raised directly by Government. Therefore, on value for money grounds, all borrowing by British Waterways should normally be transacted through the National Loans Fund. The exception is PPPs in which value for money is achieved by transferring risk to the private sector.

Married Couples Allowance

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the abolition of the married couples allowance will affect families whose joint taxable income falls short of the personal allowance figure, but just over the point where tax is levied. [8201]

Mr. Andrew Smith [holding answer 18 October 2001]: If a family's joint income is less than £4,535 (the personal allowance), the couple will pay no tax.

Fiscal Variations

Adam Price: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for how long discussions have been continuing with the National Assembly for Wales on fiscal variations; what recent discussions have been held on the subject; and when he will announce conclusions. [9846]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The Chancellor has discussions from time to time on a number of issues relating to the National Assembly for Wales. The Government announced in the 2000 spending review additional Objective 1 funding for Wales.

North-East (Expenditure)

Mr. Alan Campbell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the amount of spending per head in the north-east for the year 1999–2000 on (a) education, (b) health and social services, (c) roads and transport,

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(d) housing, (e) law and order, (f) trade, industry, energy and employment, (g) agriculture, fisheries, food and forestry and (h) culture, media and sport. [9646]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The information requested is available in chapter 8 of Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2001–02 (Cm 5101), which shows total managed expenditure on services in 1999–2000, by Government office region and function of spending, on a per head basis.

Mr. Alan Campbell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the north-east's percentage share of (a) UK public expenditure, (b) UK population and (c) UK gross domestic product in each of the years from 1995 to 1999. [9647]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The information is as follows:

(a) The Treasury publishes analyses of UK public expenditure by Government office region in chapter 8 of Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses on an annual basis, the latest of which is PESA 2001–02 (Cm 5101).

(b) The Office for National Statistics publishes UK population estimates by Government office region in their annual publication Regional Trends. UK population estimates by Government office regions for 1999 are published at

(c) The Office for National Statistics published estimates of UK gross domestic product by Government office region in the First News Release dated 27 February 2001.


Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 16 October; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including their voting record; and if he will make a statement. [9364]

Mr. Gordon Brown: I attended the meeting of the Economic and Finance Council of Ministers.

The main theme of the meeting was the fight against terrorist financing. The council welcomed progress towards achieving agreement with the European Parliament on adopting the second money laundering directive. The directive has subsequently been agreed at conciliation.

The council welcomed an EU presidency report on the fight against the financing of terrorism. I stressed the need for concerted international action and co-operation. We also noted a report from the European Commission on the air transport industry.

The council approved terms of reference for a European Commission study on globalisation and development, which will report in February 2002 ahead of the UN Financing for Development Conference. The commission introduced its second report on the introduction of euro notes and coins and the council adopted a statement for reporting to the Ghent European Council.

Finance Ministers noted the commission's draft employment package for 2001–02, which will be approved at the Laeken European Council. The package reviews member states' employment policies and proposes guidelines and recommendations for taking these policies forward. The presidency report on progress on the draft

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directive on occupational pension schemes was noted by the council. There was also a preliminary discussion of the joint report on pensions, which is being prepared for approval at the European Council in Barcelona, with a progress report to be considered at the European Council in Laeken.

No votes were taken at the meeting.

Following the ECOFIN Council, I also attended the joint ECOFIN/JHA Council, with the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs. The joint council agreed to take forward a further range of measures to combat terrorism, money laundering, economic crime and counterfeiting of the euro. In particular, the Protocol to the 2000 Mutual Legal Assistance Convention was adopted and signed. A copy of the joint council conclusions are being placed in the Library of the House.

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