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Income Tax

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will quantify in real cash terms the total change in the amount of income tax paid by higher rate taxpayers between May 1997 and the latest date for which information is available. [14425]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to "Inland Revenue Statistics", table 3.4, copies of which are available in the Library of the House. The latest version of the table can be accessed on the Inland Revenue website

Mr. Watts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make an assessment of the cost of lowering the higher rate of income tax by 1 pence. [15395]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer my hon. Friend to "Inland Revenue Statistics" table 1.6, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. The latest version can be accessed on the Inland Revenue website

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Burns: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many named day parliamentary written questions were tabled to his Department between 15 October and 5 November; and what proportion of these have received holding answers. [13299]

Mr. Boateng: 86 of the 143 named day questions tabled to the Treasury in the period concerned were answered substantively on the nominated day.

Mr. Burns: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of those named day parliamentary written questions to his Department that received a holding answer between 15 October and 5 November received the substantive answer (a) within three parliamentary days, (b) within seven parliamentary days, (c) within 10 parliamentary days, (d) within 15 parliamentary days and (e) over 15 parliamentary days after the holding answer was issued. [13318]

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Mr. Boateng: Of the 75 named day questions to which holding answers were given in the period concerned, 53 received substantive answers within three sitting days, 12 within seven days, five within 10 days and five within 15 days.

Combined Heat and Power

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to improve fiscal incentives for the development of combined heat and power plants. [15512]

Mr. Boateng: Gas or coal used by good quality combined heat and power systems is exempt from the climate change levy. Electricity produced by such systems is also exempt if it is used on the site where it is generated or if it is sold through a bilateral contract to another end user. Good quality CHP systems are also eligible for 100 per cent. enhanced capital allowances as part of the Government's climate change levy package. The Government are considering how best to encourage CHP and will be publishing proposals in the form of a CHP strategy in the coming months.

Illegal Drugs (Hull)

Mr. Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to (a) increase and (b) improve illegal drugs interception by Customs and Excise at the Port of Hull; and if he will make a statement. [15690]

Mr. Boateng: Greater flexibility in the deployment of officers enable Customs in Hull to respond more quickly to smuggling threats. The Customs drug dog unit in Hull has been expanded and from the new year an X-ray scanner will be based in Hull to greatly increase the number of freight examinations.

Aggregates Levy

Mr. Heath: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the quarrying industry on the design of the proposed aggregates levy. [15340]

Mr. Boateng: I and my officials have had meetings with various representative bodies for the aggregates industry, and other interested parties throughout the development of the levy.

Illegal Food Imports

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many, and what percentage of flights arriving at (a) Heathrow, (b) Gatwick, (c) Stansted and (d) other airports in the UK were checked, in the latest year for which figures are available, for the presence of food intended for illegal importation; and of those flights checked, on how many occasions such food was found. [15192]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 15 November 2001]: The lead responsibility for controls on imported food lies with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and agencies acting on its behalf. Customs has provided support to these agencies and participated in a number of joint exercises at airports to address the risk of illegal meat imports. Application of normal Customs controls to incoming flights is based on

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assessment of a range of risks and no figures exist of how many flights were checked for the purpose of detecting illegal importation. Where illegal food is found during Customs examination appropriate action is taken. Seizures in the year 1 April 2000–31 March 2001 were:

This does not include seizures made in joint exercises with the lead enforcement agencies where they take the seizure action.

Advanced Corporation Tax

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the total cost to local government pension schemes resulting from the abolition of advanced corporation tax relief on pension funds. [14698]

Dr. Whitehead: I have been asked to reply.

The LGA estimated that the net effect of the 1997 decision to abolish advance corporation tax relief on local authority pension funds was £130 million. The Government specifically took account of this estimate in the spending plans set by the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Radio Spectrum

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the possibility of selling or licensing the military spectrum to the private sector. [14419]

Mr. Alexander [holding answer 12 November 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friends, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Chancellor of the Exchequer commissioned earlier this year an independent review of radio spectrum management, led by Professor Martin Cave, to advise on the principles which should guide future management of the spectrum, to help derive most value from this national asset. One of the issues which the review is exploring is how best to improve the arrangements for facilitating access, for commercial uses, to any defence spectrum which would not compromise any legitimate current or future defence needs. The review is due to report to Ministers by the end of 2001.

Freedom of Information

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date his Department established a working group of officials to prepare his Department for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and on what dates this committee has met since it was set up. [14775]

Mr. Blunkett: I have been asked to reply.

In May this year, the Home Office established a Board level Senior Group to steer departmental progress towards implementation of the Act. The group first met on 8 May. Pending a decision on the timing of implementation, it has not met since, but is now scheduled to meet on 29 November 2001.

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The Senior Group is supported by a working-level Practitioners Group, which met on 14 May and 17 September 2001.


Direct Selling (Utilities)

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to tighten the regulation of direct selling by utilities. [12152]

Mr. Wilson: Direct selling is regulated under a range of consumer legislation. The Consumer Protection (Cancellation of Contracts Concluded away from Business Premises) Regulations (The Doorstep Selling Regulations), govern doorstep sales and were strengthened in 1998. New Distance Selling Regulations, governing telephone and internet sales, came into force in October 2000. Local Trading Standards departments are responsible for the enforcement of these regulations. Breaches of the regulations that result in harm to the collective interests of consumers could also be grounds for the courts to make a Stop Now Order requiring the company concerned to cease the offending conduct. Under The Stop Now Order (E. C. Directive) Regulations, which came into force on 1 June 2001, the power to apply for such Orders is held by the Director General of Fair Trading, local authority trading standards officers, and sectoral regulators.

In the case of gas and electricity, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) introduced a Marketing Licence Condition in 1998 that governs the sales and marketing practices of suppliers. The Licence Condition was strengthened in January 2001. Ofgem closely monitors the sales and marketing activities of suppliers, and, where necessary, it will take formal action against individual suppliers.

In addition, I have recently written to all gas and electricity suppliers to express my concern about the distress caused by incidences of sales malpractice and demand that suppliers improve their performances. Consumers affected by sales malpractice not only form a negative view of an individual company, but also of the competitive market as a whole. It is in suppliers' own interests to maintain the highest possible sales standards, to resolve problems rapidly where they occur and to ensure that the consumer is content with the outcome.

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