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20 Jun 2002 : Column 451W
26. Mr. Steen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the document "Modernising Annuities", with special reference to his policy on the upper age limit for turning savings into retirement income. 
Ruth Kelly: As the consultation document "Modernising Annuities" sets out, there are sound financial reasons for people to annuitise their retirement savings by age 75. So the Government do not propose to abolish the age 75 rule.
Ruth Kelly: There were 601 responses to the Government's recent consultation document "Modernising Annuities". The Government are evaluating the outcome of the consultation before deciding how to proceed.
John Healey: We shall be introducing a new, lower rate of duty on biodiesel on Royal Assent to the Finance Bill, 20 pence per litre less than the rate for ultra-low sulphur mineral diesel. We have also introduced duty incentives to encourage the production and use of road fuel gases, such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and have given a commitment that duty on these fuels will be frozen in real terms until at least 2004.
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John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration has been given to the (a) chemical marking of and (b) addition of yellow dye to UK petrol and diesel to deter the sale and use of illegal fuel. 
John Healey: The Government set out their strategy for tackling the misuse of marked rebated oils as road fuels in "Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud", published alongside the 2001 pre-Budget report. Following consultations, action is being taken to tighten fiscal control over the distribution of rebated oils and to introduce an additional European marker for rebated gas oil and rebated kerosene. The Government have seen no evidence that marking legitimate duty paid fuel would constitute a more effective or pragmatic response to the problem.
John Healey: The Government are committed to tackling fuel duty evasion and its associated problems in Northern Ireland. Further details about road fuels fraud in Northern Ireland and the Government's activities to counter it have been published in the documents "Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud" (November 2001) and the Northern Ireland Organised Crime Task Force's "Threat Assessment and Strategy" documents (May 2002). Copies of these documents have been placed in the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make an assessment of the amount of duty lost because of smuggling between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland over the last 12 months. 
John Healey: Customs' most recent estimate of the total revenue loss from the use of non-UK duty paid fuels, including legitimate cross-border shopping as well as all types of fraud, is for the calendar year 2000 and is contained in "Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud", published in November 2001 as part of the PBR. The Government have undertaken to update those figures annually.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average cost is of a litre of (a) unleaded petrol and (b) diesel fuel in (i) Northern Ireland and (ii) the rest of the United Kingdom; and what proportion of the cost is made up of fuel duty in each case. 
John Healey: The Department of Trade and Industry collect information on the average pump prices of unleaded petrol and diesel on a weekly basis across the UK. However, this information is not broken down by geographical region and so it is not possible to provide average costs for Northern Ireland specifically.
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John Healey: Customs records of the number of vehicles seized do not disaggregate between the nature of the offences involved in each case. I regret, therefore, that this information is not available.
Customs believe the great majority of fraud on the British mainland involves the misuse of rebated or low tax fuels supplied for non-road use, but a specific estimate of loss from red diesel alone is not available.
John Healey: Customs have made no such assessment. However, the Northern Ireland Organised Crime Task Force's Year Two "Threat Assessment", which was published in May 2002, contains further information on the role of serious and organised crime in oils fraud. Copies of this document have been placed in the House of Commons Library.
Ruth Kelly: The impact of house prices on the UK economy was taken into account in the Government's latest assessment of UK economic developments and prospects, published in Chapter B of the Financial Statement and Budget Report, April 2002.
Ruth Kelly: Despite rising over the past 12 months, claimant count unemployment in London has fallen by nearly 120,000 (42 per cent.) since spring 1997 and, as for the UK as a whole, remains close to the lowest levels since the 1970s. Moreover, with employment continuing
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to rise, increasing by 12,000 over the past year, the London labour market is stable and performing well by historical standards.
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