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Mr. Howard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how much money remains in the reserves; and what plans he has to increase the funds available in the reserves over the course of the current financial year; 
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Mr. Andrew Smith: Any additions to departmental expenditure limits will continue to be reported to Parliament through the supplementary estimates process in the normal way. The forthcoming pre-Budget report will set out the latest position on the public finances.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2001, Official Report, column 204W, on bank disclosures, what information he has received on the lending patterns in under-invested communities of (a) Lloyds TSB, (b) HSBC, (c) Nat West and (d) Barclays. 
Ruth Kelly: Information on the lending patterns of banks to under-invested communities is available in the Bank of England's report "Finance for Small Businesses in Deprived Communities" (November 2000). It is a matter for individual banks to decide whether to disclose further information. I am aware that, of the banks mentioned in my hon. Friend's question, Barclays published some data in their "Social and Environmental Report 2000".
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Dawn Primarolo: None. Small rural public houses, along with other business properties, are assessed for non-domestic rating purposes by Valuation Officers, appointed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (as amended). The method of valuation for such properties is a matter for those involved in the assessment process; i.e. Valuation Officers, ratepayers and their professional advisers, and is subject to a right of appeal to an independent tribunal in the event of disagreement.
Dawn Primarolo: The Treasury does not assess decisions of the Valuation Tribunal. Valuation Tribunals are independent bodies set up to deal with disputes in connection with, inter alia, non-domestic rating matters. Appeals against their decisions lie to the Lands Tribunal. It would be inappropriate for the Treasury to intervene with these independent bodies.
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Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 6 November; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. 
The Commission presented its communication on company taxation. I made it clear that while the Government might support some action to tackle barriers to cross-border business, they do not support the Commission's proposal for a consolidated company tax base in the EU. The specific proposals contained within the study will be considered in due course.
The Commission presented its progress report on the Risk Capital Action Plan, highlighting the need for the EU to remove barriers to a single EU risk capital market. I stressed the UK's support for the objectives of the action plan, but expressed concern that the proposed prospectuses directive, as currently drafted, would have the effect of reducing the supply, and increasing the cost, of risk capital. The Council agreed that rapid progress on the Risk Capital Action Plan was necessary, in line with the timetable agreed at the Lisbon European Council.
The Council noted Economic Policy Committee reports on the budgetary impact of aging populations and on the measurement of output gaps. It also noted a report from the Economic and Financial Committee on measures to improve the quality and timeliness of Eurozone statistics.
The Council also adopted conclusions with respect to Ireland's compliance with the Council Recommendation of 12 February 2001, which recommended measures to bring the 2001 Irish budget in line with the 2000 Broad Economic Policy Guidelines. The Council agreed that the earlier Recommendation had lost part of its force, mainly due to exogenous shocks that have reduced inflationary pressures in the Irish economy.
ECOFIN agreed that taxation of audiovisual and musical products should be examined by the Commission in the context of its wider review of VAT reduced rates, and not by the Culture Council, as taxation matters are for ECOFIN.
Dawn Primarolo: Service company workers affected by the service company legislation are entitled to all the same expenses as conventional employees. In addition to these expenses, service company workers are also entitled to a 5 per cent. flat rate reduction in recognition of the fact that there are costs associated with running a service company. We have no plans to review the level of this deduction.
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