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21 Nov 2002 : Column 273Wcontinued
Ruth Kelly: Estimated costs to the UK economy of fires were set out in Home Office Research Study 229 (October 2001) entitled XThe economic costs of fire". It is not possible to reliably estimate in advance the costs to the UK economy of a firefighters' strike given the number of factors involved, including the different capacity offered by emergency cover arrangements compared with the normal fire service.
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Ruth Kelly: Estimated spending on fire services (the Fire Standard Spending Assessment) is set out in the Government's White Paper: X2002 Spending Review: New Public Spending Plans 20032006", published in July 2002. Actual spending on fire services, including pay, is determined by fire authorities and will include an element derived from local taxation.
Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions his Department has had with representatives of Amey concerning the delayed public-private partnership of London underground; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Flight : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made regarding the cost to HM Treasury of military action in the Middle East; and what discussions his Department has had with the Ministry of Defence about action as a result of the UN resolution against Iraq. 
Ruth Kelly: Officials of HM Treasury and the Ministry of Defence routinely discuss potential contingencies. The cost of any UK contribution to military action would depend on a number of factors, including the scale of the UK contribution and the duration of military action. No decisions have, however, been taken to commit UK Armed Forces to new military action in the Middle East. Military action is neither imminent nor inevitable, and will not be necessary if Iraq chooses to comply fully with UNSCR1441.
When setting the level of the national minimum wage the Government take account of the recommendations of the independent Low Pay Commission. The commission has recently consulted widely as part of the process of preparing its fourth report on the minimum wage and industry, trade unions and other interested parties will have made representations to them, although we have received copies of these from only a
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small number of respondents. The Government submitted their evidence to the commission earlier this month and a copy of this has been placed on my Department's website at www.dti.gov.uk. We expect the commission to present the fourth report to the Government in February 2003.
Ruth Kelly: The Government does not have an equity stake in Network Rail nor does it control the company's governing board. Government has made certain credit facilities available to the company. UK accounting principles includes both Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP) used to prepare company accounts, and the European System of Accounts (ESA95) used by the Office for National Statistics for the compilation of economic statistics. Sir John Bourne (the Comptroller and Auditor General) and Len Cook (the National Statistician) made a joint statement on 24 October on how these accounting rules affect Network Rail. This is available on the ONS and NAO web sites.
Matthew Taylor: To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the data series produced by National Statistics to which Ministers in his Department have had privileged access prior to publication since May 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effects of Government policy on pensions dividend tax in relation to the value of stocks and shares listed on the (a) FTSE 100 share index and (b) FTSE 250 share index. 
Ruth Kelly: The Government ended the payment of dividend tax credits to pension providers and other tax-exempt investors in order to encourage companies to retain more of their profits for investment and long-term growth. Over time, this measure will help to enhance the value of stocks and shares in listed companies.
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date the revised accounting treatment for PFI transactions will be recorded in the government accounts; and if he will make a statement. 
Ruth Kelly: The government's policy when accounting for PFI contracts is to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP). In particular, Application Note F to Financial Reporting Standard 5Private Finance Initiatives and Similar Contract complemented by the Treasury Taskforce Technical Note No.1 (Revised) How to Account for PFI Transactions.
Ruth Kelly: The Government announced in its response to Lord Sharman's report on Audit and Accountability in Central Government that it has invited the Comptroller & Auditor General to take responsibility, under his existing powers, for the validation of systems used in reporting on PSA targets where measurement of performance depends upon data.
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Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to publish statistics this autumn to fulfil his pledge in the 2002 Budget to publish bi-annual reports of departmental progress against public service agreement targets. 
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