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National Insurance (Care Homes)

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the increased revenue from national insurance employees' contribution from the care home sector. [57180]

Dawn Primarolo: I regret that it would be possible to provide a reliable estimate only at disproportionate cost.

Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the mandate of the Committee on the mutual assistance in customs and agricultural markets, including operation of the CIS is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if he will list the items currently under its consideration; if he will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [58436]

Ruth Kelly: The legal base for the Committee on mutual assistance on customs and agricultural matters is set out in Council Regulation (EC) No. 515/97. It has a mandate to examine all matters relating to the application of this regulation and the effectiveness of its operation.

The Committee has met three times in the last 12 months.

Representation is normally two officials from HM Customs and Excise. Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Office of the Information Commissioner also attend when necessary.

Travel expenses for two officials are reimbursed by the Commission. The usual cost of overnight accommodation and subsistence per day per official is 217.95 euro (£134.70).

The main item under consideration at present is the development of the Customs Information System, an automated information system being set up to assist in preventing, investigating and prosecuting operations which are in breach of customs or agricultural legislation.

Accountability and transparency to Parliament are ensured by the regular EU scrutiny process: documents agreed by various Council (ECOFIN, JHA, etc.) are submitted to Parliament along with explanatory memorandums and are examined by the Scrutiny Committees.

Mortgage Rates

Chris Ruane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average mortgage rate was in each of the last 20 years. [58665]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Chris Ruane, dated 23 May 2002:

23 May 2002 : Column 566W

Average rates for mortgages with building societies, 1984–2001(16)

Average rate(17)Basic rate(18)

(16) The average rates are based on information provided by building societies. The figures reflect rates at the end of the year.

(17) These data represent the weighted average of individual reporters' own weighted average rates on their overall residential loan book.

(18) These data represent the weighted average of the individual reporters' standard variable (headline) rate applying to the majority of mortgage accounts at the end of reporting period.


Paul Holmes: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will restore the 1979 methods of calculating the official level of unemployment; [58760]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Paul Holmes, dated 23 May 2002:

23 May 2002 : Column 567W

Tonnage Tax

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to review the tonnage tax. [59720]

Dawn Primarolo: The tonnage tax was introduced in 2000 as part of a package of measures to revive the UK shipping industry. In accordance with commitments given at the time, I am asking the Inland Revenue to begin a review of the way the regime is operating. As the review develops, it will contribute to the Government's evaluation of the whole package of measures including the impact on employment and training. Details about how representations can be made to the review will be available on the Inland Revenue's website.–new/tonnagetax.pdf

Departmental Land

Mr. Luff: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the land that his Department is (a) offering for sale and (b) plans to offer in the next 12 months, giving its (i) location and (ii) size. [59059]

Ruth Kelly: The Treasury does not plan to sell any land over this period.

European Council Decisions

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his policy towards Recital 22 of Council Decision 2002/177/EC (OJ L60, 1 Mar 02), on making visible a gender perspective across all pillars. [57905]

Malcolm Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

Council Decision 2202/177/EC, dated 18 February 2002, is on the 'guidelines for member states employment policies for the year 2002'. Recital 22 states that member states should strengthen their efforts to include and make visible a gender perspective across all the pillars (of the Employment Guidelines). This Recital clarifies the intention of the Council, and reflects the wishes of the European Parliament, that gender equality should be a horizontal objective for member states when they take the Guidelines into account in their national employment policies.

The UK Government fully supports the principle that a concern for gender equality needs to be reflected across the full range of employment policy. The Government principally achieves that outcome through the Policy Appraisal for Equal Treatment Guidelines, issued to all Departments in November 1998, and through the Gender Impact Assessment framework, which will be produced during 2002–03.

23 May 2002 : Column 568W

The website of the Women and Equality Unit of the Cabinet Office publicises this activity, which is also reported on in the UK Employment Action Plan 2002, along with a gender breakdown of performance data. The LKP will be placed in the Library shortly.

Customs and Excise

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the (a) size of fleet and (b) type and age of vehicles was in each division of Customs and Excise in the last three years; [53478]

Mr. Boateng: Like all their equipment and staff, Customs' vehicles are deployed in a flexible way based on the latest assessments of risk, rather than located exclusively in any one region. On a national basis, the total Customs' vehicle fleet has increased from 2,085 in 1999–2000 to 2,143 in 2001–02.

The average age of the vehicle fleet has remained constant at around 4.5 years. The proportions of different vehicle types which make up the fleet have also remained broadly constant with approximately 78.3 per cent. designated as cars, 8 per cent. as car-derived vans, 8.5 per cent. as light commercial vehicles and 5.2 per cent. as specialist/heavy goods vehicles.

The percentage of the vehicle fleet fitted with online computer terminals, used either for satellite navigation or covert tracking, has risen from approximately 3 per cent. in 1999–2000 to approximately 8 per cent. in 2001–02.

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff were employed at the HM Customs and Excise Coventry International Hub in each year since 1995. [58086]

Mr. Boateng: HM Customs and Excise's station at Coventry International HUB opened in October 1999.

Staff employed (headcount) at the station in 2000, 2001 and 2002 (1 April each year) were as follows:

Number of staff employed

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