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Departmental Policies

James Purnell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what impact his Department's policies have had on the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency since 1997. [54333]

Ruth Kelly: Stalybridge and Hyde, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is benefiting from the long-term action we have taken since 1997 to build economic stability and secure high and stable levels of growth and employment.

Claimant count unemployment in the constituency, for example, has fallen by over 970, or 42 per cent. since May 1997.

Macroeconomic stability is being complemented at the microeconomic level by the Government's policies to ease the transition from welfare into work and to make work pay for lower and middle income families, and to reduce child poverty. The Government are also committed to enabling all persons to share in the country's rising prosperity.

To the end of January 2002, the new deal for 18 to 24-year-olds had helped 1,117 young people in the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency gain valuable skills and experience—620 (56 per cent.) of whom had moved into employment. The working families tax credit (WFTC), introduced in October 1999, is helping to make work pay for low and middle-income families. In November 2001, 2,728 families in the constituency were benefiting from WFTC. 11,566 families in Stalybridge and Hyde are benefiting from increases in child benefit to £15.75 for the first child and £10.55 for subsequent children.

As a result of the 2001 pre-Budget report, all pensioners, including 14,600 in Stalybridge and Hyde, will receive at least a rise of £100 for single pensioners and £160 for couples each year from April 2003. All pensioners aged 75 or over have also been entitled to a free TV licence since

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November 2000—including around 6,400 in Stalybridge and Hyde. 3,500 pensioners are also benefiting from the minimum income guarantee being increased in line with earnings for the rest of this Parliament. 15,700 pensioners in Stalybridge are benefiting from £200 a year winter fuel payments for the rest of this Parliament.

These data are all available in the Library of the House of Commons.

Advertising

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the publicity and advertising campaigns run by his Department in each of the last four years, specifying the (a) purpose, (b) cost to public funds, (c) number of staff involved and (d) method of evaluation in each case. [39096]

Ruth Kelly: The information is set out in the table, which has been placed in the Library.

VAT Schemes

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many businesses participate in the VAT Annual Accounting Scheme; what his estimate is of the total number of businesses eligible to participate; and if he will make a statement. [54459]

Mr. Boateng: Since 1 April 2001, the VAT annual accounting scheme has been available to some 1 million businesses, but less than 10,000 have so far taken it up. In the consultation document "Easing the impact of VAT", the Government explained that "despite the administrative and cash flow benefits, take up of the scheme is currently very low" and set out plans to reform the scheme to encourage greater take-up. These reforms were introduced on 25 April and are expected to achieve a significant increase in take-up of the scheme.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimates are of (a) the number of businesses eligible to participate and (b) the revenue that would be forgone in a full year, if the upper turnover limit on the proposed flat-rate VAT scheme were raised to (i) £200,000 and (ii) £250,000. [54457]

Mr. Boateng: In the Budget, the Government announced that—from next April—the flat rate scheme will be available to 700,000 small businesses with turnovers up to £150,000. If the upper turnover limit of the flat-rate scheme was extended to £200,000 or £250,000, approximately 80,000 or 130,000 additional traders would respectively be eligible to join. The costs of such an extension would depend on the details of such proposals, including the rates applicable under the scheme.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many businesses have participated in the farmers flat rate VAT scheme in each of the last three years; what his estimate is of the total number of businesses eligible to participate; if he will make a statement. [54458]

Mr. Boateng: There were 807 businesses using the agricultural flat rate scheme in 1999, 994 in 2000 and 1,062 in 2001. All businesses whose non-farm income does not exceed the VAT registration threshold, and who supply goods, or goods and services (but not services

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alone), which qualify for inclusion in the scheme are eligible to join. No estimate has been made of how many businesses in total are eligible to participate in the scheme.

Budget (Responses)

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many letters he has received (a) in favour of and (b) critical of his Budget. [54491]

Dawn Primarolo: Between 17 April and 1 May, HM Treasury received a total of 1,983 pieces of correspondence, many of which will have addressed Budget theme and announcements.

Fuel Smuggling

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the origin was of the motor fuel seized by HM Customs and Excise in November 2001 on the M6; and how much fuel was seized. [54299]

Mr. Boateng: HM Customs and Excise did not make any notable seizures of oil on the M6 during November 2001.

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many vehicles, with what carrying capacity, have been seized by HM Customs for alleged smuggling motor transport fuels into Northern Ireland in each year since 1997. [54296]

Mr. Boateng: Customs seizure records do not disaggregate between smuggling and other types of hydrocarbon oils fraud nor do they record the fuel carrying capacity of vehicles seized. However, the total number of vehicles seized in relation to oils fraud in Northern Ireland since 1998–99 are as follows:

Financial yearVehicles seized
1998–9939
1999–200098
2000–01312

I regret that information for 1997–98 is not available. Northern Ireland vehicle seizure figures for the financial year 2001–02 are being collated and will be published in due course.

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the origin was of the motor fuel seized by HM Customs and Excise in Basildon in February; and how much fuel was seized. [54300]

Mr. Boateng: HM Customs and Excise broke up a laundering plant near Basildon, Essex in February 2002. They seized a total of 61,000 litres of unlaundered and laundered rebated gas oil (red diesel). The rebated gas oil (red diesel) which was being laundered was purchased on the UK mainland.

It is not Customs general practice to comment publicly about the existence or nature of investigations of individuals or companies not yet accused of criminal offences. To do so could risk prejudicing any ongoing inquiries or future criminal proceedings.

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Lembit Öpik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures he is taking to stop cross-border smuggling of motor transport fuels into Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [54297]

Mr. Boateng: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Pre-Budget Report document 'Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud' which sets out the Government's action to date in Northern Ireland to tackle oils fraud and to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) on 23 April 2002, Official Report, column 126W.

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what meetings have been held between Ministers or their officials and their Irish counterparts since 1997 to discuss the smuggling of petroleum products into Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [54298]

Mr. Boateng: UK Customs have long enjoyed good relations with their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland including the Revenue Commissioners and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

UK and Republic of Ireland Ministers and officials have met regularly during this period to discuss a wide range of issues including oils fraud. Only last October I visited the Revenue Commissioners in the Republic of Ireland and had a very productive meeting with the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners.

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the evidence submitted to HM Customs and Excise by the fuel retail industry on the smuggling of motor fuel oils into Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [54295]

Mr. Boateng: Customs officials have met with representatives from the fuel retail industry on a regular basis and believe that a constructive dialogue has been established at both operational and strategic levels. Customs pay particular attention to evidence provided by the trade bodies in Northern Ireland in assessing the nature of the Northern Ireland oils fraud problems.


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