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7 Nov 2002 : Column 781W—continued

Social Fund Budget

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will increase the Social Fund budget, with particular reference to (a) the Community Care Grant and (b) the Budgeting Loan budgets. [79214]

Mr. Boateng: The Government are examining options to enable the Social Fund better to fulfil its aim of helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in society meet certain needs.

Alternative Fuels

Mr. Todd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce fiscal incentives to encourage consumers to purchase and use combined electric and petrol engine powered vehicles. [79409]

John Healey: The Government have introduced fiscal incentives for the purchase of combined electric and petrol powered vehicles through discounts in vehicle excise duty and company car tax.

Furthermore, the Government are also promoting the use of cleaner fuels through schemes such as the PowerShift programme, which offers grants for motorists to buy or convert vehicles which run on LPG, natural gas or electricity.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what fiscal incentives he has made available for the wider use of alternative fuels for motor vehicles. [78229]

John Healey: In successive Budgets, the Chancellor has introduced a number of initiatives to promote the use of cleaner fuels. These include duty differentials for road fuel gases and bio-diesel, discounts to vehicle excise duty for cars using cleaner fuels, and the environment-focused changes to the company car tax system.

Furthermore, the Government continues to promote the use of cleaner fuels through schemes such as the PowerShift programme, which offers grants for motorists to buy or convert vehicles which run on LPG, natural gas or electricity, and the Green Fuel Challenge which is supporting projects for the development of biogas, ethanol and hydrogen through duty reliefs.

VAT Compliance Costs

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2002, Official Report, column 352W, on VAT, for what reason he is unable to give a publication date; and if he will make a statement. [79517]

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John Healey: Ministers are considering the research methodology, data and analysis in this research, in accordance with their continuing commitment to reduce compliance costs for VAT—registered businesses.

Gift Aid

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Excheque what the value of shares given in Gift Aid was in the last tax year. [79105]

John Healey: There is no Gift Aid scheme on gifts of shares. However, Budget 2000 introduced relief at a taxpayer's marginal tax rate on gifts of shares and other qualifying investments.

The value of shares and other qualifying investments given to charities in 2000–01 is estimated at #100 million.

Regional GDP

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps the Government are taking to decrease disparities in regional gross domestic product per capita; and which Minister is in charge of these efforts. [79322]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 7 November 2002]: The Government set out in the 2002 Spending Review White Paper (Cm 5570) the steps which it is taking to promote prosperity in every region of the UK. Given the Government's long term ambition to reduce the persistent gap in performance between regions, the Spending Review established a new Public Service Agreement target to make sustainable improvements in the economic performance of all English regions and over the longer term reduce the persistent gap in growth rates between the regions. This target, as described in full in the 2002 Spending Review White Paper, is jointly owned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, DTI and the Treasury. Devolved policies are the responsibility of the devolved administrations.

Third World Debt

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on recent measures he has taken to reduce third world debt. [78234]

John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Chancellor to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) earlier today.

Census

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the groups recognised in Census 2001 with numbers of less than 700,000 as recorded in the 1991 Census; which groups other than Sikhs requested separate monitoring for the Census 2001 but were denied their request; and which groups recognised

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in law as distinct ethnic groups requested separate monitoring for the Census 2001 but were denied their request. [78212]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Menzies Campbell, dated 7 November 2002:

























7 Nov 2002 : Column 784W





Tax Fraud

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the present practice of the Board of Inland Revenue is with regard to instituting criminal proceedings in cases of suspected serious tax fraud. [80100]

Mr. Gordon Brown: Further to the statement made on 18 October 1990 at column 882 by the then Chancellor, the right hon. John Major, the practice of the Board of Inland Revenue in cases of suspected serious tax fraud is as follows:





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