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16 Dec 2002 : Column 607W—continued

Environmental Health Practitioners

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to allow tax incentives to companies who take on an environmental health practitioner. [87492]

John Healey: The Government keeps all taxes under review and any changes will be announced as part of the normal Budget process. The Government currently has no plans to allow tax relief to companies who take on an environmental health practitioner.

Equitable Life

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what contingency plans have been made to help pensioners in the event of Equitable Life going into liquidation. [86506]

Ruth Kelly [holding answer 12 December 2002]: Equitable Life issued its interim accounts on 15 November and made it clear that it remained solvent. The FSA continues to monitor the company to ensure that it is complying with regulatory requirements.

Should an insurer become insolvent a safety net for policyholders is already in place in the shape of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The Scheme will act if a company has become insolvent or gone out of business. The Scheme will first seek to take measures to safeguard policyholders, for example by trying to ensure that policies are transferred to another company. If that is not possible then compensation may be payable to eligible policyholders, subject to the Scheme rules.

Government Debt

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how much Government debt has been generated by private finance initiatives (a) as a percentage of GDP and (b) in total; [86675]

Mr. Boateng: Forecasts of the Government's net borrowing are compiled in accordance with National Accounts concepts and methods, which are based on international rules (European System of Accounts—ESA95), that the Government are legally obliged to

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follow. Under these rules economic activity is measured by transactions, which are recorded according to the sector considered to be undertaking the transaction.

For an on-balance sheet PFI deal, the capital expenditure adds to public sector net borrowing, assuming that there are no off-setting reductions in other capital spending. For an off-balance sheet PFI contract, the capital expenditure does not affect public sector net borrowing. Professional accountants, in preparing the accounts of Government Departments, judge whether a PFI deal is on or off balance sheet. The National Audit Office, or a comparable audit body, audits these decisions.

The Government publish a full statement of expected PFI-related payments in the Budget, showing estimated PFI payments for the next 25 years. Service charge payments made by the public sector to the private sector score as public sector current expenditure in the year in which they are made.

Highlands and Islands

Mr. David Stewart : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what revised gross domestic product figures for the Highlands and Islands regarding eligibility for Objective One status for 2000–06 the Office of National Statistics has calculated since the bids for Objective One status were submitted. [84295]

Ruth Kelly [holding answer 2 December 2002]: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from L. Cook to Mr. David Stewart, dated 16 December 2002:

Table 1: ONS data published in October 1998

GDP # million2,7392,8772,9903,093
GDP # per head7,3857,7298,0208,308
GDP # per head UK=10080797978

In April 2001, sub-regional gross value added (GVA) data were published using the new ESA95 methodology, for the period 1993 to 1998, as shown in Table 2. ESA95 is the new National and Regional Accounts convention now used for compiling regional accounts by all EU countries.

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Table 2: ONS data published in April 2001

GDP # million2,9473,0523,1763,2173,3063,461
GDP # per head7,9438,1998,5158,6348,8989,369
GDP # per head UK=100828180777575

The ONS published revised estimates for NUTS level 1 (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the nine English Government Office Regions) for 1989 to 1999 on 21 November 2002, and will be publishing provisional estimates for 2000 and 2001 in December 2002. The ONS then plans to publish consistent sub-regional and local area (NUTS levels 2 and 3 respectively) GVA for the period 1993–2000 early in 2003. These data will be supplied to Eurostat, who will, as described above, convert these to a PPP basis before publishing on an EU=100 index basis.
However, I should like to draw to your attention to an announcement the ONS put out this week about an error in sub-national, annual business inquiry estimates which provide part of the source information for many industries. These are impacting on the ONS regional GVA publications of 21 November 2002 and 17 December 2002 referred to above. The size of the error is within the range of variability seen by changes made in the past when first published GVA estimates have been revised. We are taking the unusual step of publishing a revised series of estimates at NUTS-1, 2 and 3 level in early 2003. Therefore the regional GVA series being published in 2002 are being referred to as provisional, but because the size of the revisions is not anticipated to be outside of past user experiences they will continue to be made available, subject to being marked as provisional from now on. The announcement can be found at the NS website at:

Loan Guarantees

Harry Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his policy relating to setting out in the national accounts the extent of Government liability for guarantees of loans, with special reference to the London Underground. [86555]

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. Harry Cohen, dated 16 December 2002:

Ministerial Engagements

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer how many engagements were undertaken outside London (a) by him or his predecessor and (b) by ministers in his Department in January (i) 2000, (ii) 2001 and (iii) 2002. [87347]

Ruth Kelly: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that the Minister of State, Cabinet Office has given him today.

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Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will answer written question 83395 tabled by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West on 21 November. [87228]

Dawn Primarolo: I replied to the hon. Gentleman's question on 12 December.

Partnerships UK

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what procedures are in place to measure the effectiveness of Partnerships UK in delivering and developing public private partnerships; what plans his Department has for the future development of Partnerships UK; and if he will make a statement. [83214]

Mr. Boateng: Partnerships UK has a unique corporate governance structure geared towards safeguarding its public sector mission. The structure includes the establishment of an Advisory Council chaired by Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary. The council is comprised of a wide range of representatives of PUK's public sector client base, and is appointed by HM Treasury. HM Treasury also appoints two non-executive directors to PUK's board.

Copies of the Advisory Council's most recent report and Partnerships UK's Annual Report for the year 2002 are both available from the House Library.

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