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Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the holding of a referendum on independence in Montenegro by the end of this year; and if he has received representations from the Montenegran Government on the issue. [40638]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 5 March 2002]: The future of Montenegro is ultimately in the hands of the people of Montenegro. But we and our EU partners have made clear our belief that Montenegro's interests, and those of the wider region, will best be served by a negotiated outcome between Belgrade and Podgorica which leaves intact a single internationally-recognised state. The EU High Representative, Javier Solana, has been working with the parties on this issue since November 2001. We strongly

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support his efforts and have advised the parties against any abrupt or unilateral moves in this delicate situation. All those concerned, including President Djukanovic of Montenegro, have engaged constructively in this process.

We maintain regular contact with the Montenegrin authorities, and with President Djukanovic personally, on this and on other issues.

Europe Day

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to celebrate Europe day in 2002. [41288]

Peter Hain: The FCO today launched a new website,, to raise awareness of Europe day and of Britain's role in Europe. It is hoped that the website format and the style of the content will primarily appeal to teenagers and young adults. It will feature information about Europe day and the European Union, details of Europe day celebrations and a quiz to promote an interest in European affairs.

Hong Kong

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will publish the next report to Parliament on Hong Kong and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. [41289]

Mr. MacShane: The tenth report in this series, covering the period July-December 2001, was laid before the House yesterday. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, The report includes a foreword by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I commend the report to the House.

European Union

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union for March and also the major European Union events for the period between 31 March and August. [41290]

Peter Hain: The information is as follows.

March 2002
1BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council (evening)
1BrusselsInternal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council
4BrusselsEurogroup (evening)
4BrusselsEnvironment Council
7BrusselsEmployment and Social Affairs Council
11BrusselsResearch Council
11–12BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
15–16BarcelonaEuropean Council
18ToledoMeeting of Trade Ministers (Ministerial Informal)
18–19BrusselsAgriculture Council
19ToledoEuromed Trade Ministers Meeting
23–24BrusselsDefence Minister's Meeting (Ministerial Informal)
25–26BrusselsTransport and Telecom Council
27–28Monterry, MexicoFinancing and Development Conference

The following are the principal events in the EU between 1 April and August 2002 (certain relevant events are also included: the list is based on the information available at the date of issue).

5–6LuxembourgMigrations Council (ASEM Ministerial Informal)
8LuxembourgFisheries Council
13–14LuxembourgECOFIN (Ministerial Informal)
15–16LuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council
22–23ValenciaEuromed Conference
22–23LuxembourgAgriculture Council
25–26LuxembourgJustice and Home Affairs Council
27–30LuxembourgAgriculture Council (Ministerial Informal)
3–4BrusselsTourism Council (Ministerial Informal)
9Europe Day
13BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council and Defence Ministers Meeting
17–18MadridEU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit
21BrusselsInternal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council
23BrusselsCulture and Audio-visual Council
24–26BrusselsEnvironment Council (Ministerial Informal)
27–28BrusselsAgriculture Council
30BrusselsDevelopment Council
30BrusselsEducation and Youth Council
31–1 JuneBrusselsTransport Council (Ministerial Informal)
3BrusselsEmployment and Social Affairs Council
6–8BrusselsForeign Affairs Council (ASEM Ministers)
6–7BrusselsIndustry and Energy Council
10–11BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
10–11BrusselsAgriculture Council
11BrusselsFisheries Council
13–14BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council
17–18BrusselsTransport and Telecoms Council
17–18BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
21–22SevilleEuropean Council
24BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council (Evening)
24–25BrusselsEnvironment Council
26BrusselsHealth Council
6CopenhagenASEM Ministers for Finance
12–13KoldingMeeting of Employment and Social Policy Ministers (Informal)
15–16BrusselsAgriculture Council
19BrusselsBudget Meeting
19–21ArhusEnvironment Ministers Meeting (Informal)
22–23BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
31–1 ElsinoreGymnich (Ministerial Informal)

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European Union

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 27 February 2002, Ref 38404, if his Department has conducted an internal analysis of the recurring annual direct and indirect (a) costs and (b) benefits arising from UK membership of the European Union. [40849]

Peter Hain: No.

Laeken Declaration

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a

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statement on paragraph 1 of the Laeken conclusions, with particular reference to the inclusion of the concept of irreversibility. [39631]

Peter Hain: The opening paragraph of the Laeken conclusions refers to three of the EU's main projects—the introduction of the single currency, enlargement and the Future of Europe debate. The Gothenburg European Council in June 2001 noted the impressive progress in the enlargement negotiations and observed that

At Laeken, in December, the European Council confirmed the continued good progress of the negotiations and reiterated the irreversible nature of the process. The

6 Mar 2002 : Column 397W

Government remain committed to the timetable for enlargement agreed at Gothenburg and reinforced at Laeken.


Tax Evasion

Mr. Wood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much revenue the Treasury estimates has been lost each year since 1997 through (a) income tax evasion, (b) VAT evasion, (c) non-payment of national insurance contributions and (d) benefit fraud. [36075]

Dawn Primarolo: There is no reliable measure of the total income tax and national insurance contributions lost to evasion. In his report, published in March 2002, Lord Grabiner QC commented on the scale of the hidden economy and said:

There are no revenue estimates for all VAT evasion since 1997. However, estimates for VAT Missing Trader Fraud have been published and I refer the hon. Gentleman to page 19 of the Customs and Excise paper "Measuring Indirect Tax Fraud" that was published on 27 November 2001 a copy of which is in the Library of the House. This gives estimates for this type of VAT fraud for 1999–2000 and 2000–01. There are no estimates for any earlier years.

The most recent estimate of the annual loss to benefit fraud is £2 billion.

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