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3 Feb 2003 : Column 29W—continued

Financial Advertising

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what change the Financial Services Authority plan to make to the public complaints procedure for financial advertisements; [94632]

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Ruth Kelly: The Financial Services Consumer Panel wrote to the Financial Services Authority (the FSA) on 20 January about their concerns about the disclosure of information where members of the public make complaints about financial promotions. I am told that the FSA replied to the Consumer Panel on 23 January.

The FSA tell me that they are committed to intensifying its efforts to reduce the number of unclear and misleading financial promotions. They have introduced various initiatives to make it easier for consumers to complain about financial promotions and they have given publicity to those measures. To help consumers understand their approach, and the actions they take, they have introduced an online bulletin and they will be publishing statistics to report on their work in this area.

The information they receive from consumers is combined with intelligence from other sources and from their own monitoring activities. Where they deem it appropriate they act, normally through the supervisory process, to ensure that advertisements are changed or withdrawn. Where serious problems arise, they already require firms to contact customers directly to correct possible misunderstandings and to offer appropriate restitution.

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what response his Department will give to the call by the Financial Services Consumer Panel on 24 January for a review of the law on financial advertising; [95010]

Ruth Kelly: We are considering the issues raised by the Financial Services Consumer Panel.

Gold Disposals

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average price received was during HM Treasury's recent programme of gold disposals. [94504]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested by the right hon. Gentleman can be found in Table 2 of the Treasury's Review of the Sale of Part of the UK Gold Reserves (dated October 2002). Copies of this document have been place in the House of Commons' Library and is also available on the Treasury's website—

House Market Volatility

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the links between macroeconomic and housing market volatility; and if he will make a statement. [94599]

Ruth Kelly: As set out in the "Paper for the Treasury Committee on the Treasury's approach to the preliminary and technical work", published on 6 September 2002, a number of supporting studies will be published alongside the assessment of the five economic tests. One of these will assess the behaviour of the housing market, and its impact on consumption. Further detail can be found in the 6 September paper.

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Income Drawdown Policies

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures his Department has taken to ensure that consumers are given adequate warnings about the risks associated with income drawdown policies. [94628]

Ruth Kelly: Sales of income drawdown (also known as income withdrawal) products are regulated in the same way as the sale of other investments. Under the Financial Service Authority's rules, an adviser is required, as part of the sales process, to establish that the product is suitable and that the customer understands and is content with any investment risks involved. The Financial Services Authority also publishes, as part of its consumer education programme, information on income withdrawal products, which is designed to help consumers understand these products and explain the risks involved.

Inland Revenue

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the latest value of Inland Revenue total fixed assets, broken down by (a) land, (b) buildings and (c) other assets; and if he will make a statement. [91717]

Dawn Primarolo: The net book value of land and buildings in the latest consolidated audited accounts as at 31 March 2002 is £4.7 million.

This figure comprises £0.1 million for land, £0.1 million for buildings and £4.1 million in respect of refurbishments, from the accounts of the Valuation Office Agency.

The remaining £0.4 million represents the combined net book value of land and buildings in the accounts of the Inland Revenue.

The net book value of other assets as at 31 March 2002 is £479.4 million.


Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 412W, on insurance, what plans he has to discuss the development of a new insurance standard with the International Accounting Standards Board. [94422]

Ruth Kelly: The responsibility for developing an international standard on accounting for insurance contracts rests with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). The IASB is still developing its proposals for 'Phase 1' on accounting on insurance contracts, which will be issued for public consultation later this year. The Treasury currently has no plans to discuss the proposals with the IASB. The implications of accounting for insurance contracts by UK entities are a matter for the UK Accounting Standards Board (ASB), which is continuing to monitor closely the IASB project. The Treasury has regular contact with the ASB on a range of issues.

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Insurance Brokers

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has made an assessment of the likely impact of the Financial Services Authority assuming responsibility for regulating insurance brokers; and if he will make a statement. [95098]

Ruth Kelly: On 21 October 2002 the Treasury issued a public consultation document entitled "Regulating Insurance Mediation". This sets out in detail the Government's proposals for giving the Financial Services Authority responsibility for regulating insurance brokers. This document includes a draft "Regulatory Impact Assessment" (RIA) of the likely impact of these proposals and seeks views on the content of this draft RIA.

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions officials from his Department have had with representatives of insurance brokers regarding the Financial Services Authority's assumption of responsibility for regulating insurance brokers. [95099]

Ruth Kelly: Treasury officials have had various meetings with insurance brokers' representatives before and during the public consultation on regulating insurance mediation issued on 21 October 2002. In addition Treasury officials have attended meetings arranged by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) which have included insurance broker representatives as well as making presentations at seminars and conferences aimed at insurers and insurance brokers. Insurance broker representatives have had the opportunity to respond to the Treasury's consultation document "Regulating Insurance Mediation" and the Treasury will take their views fully into account when finalising their proposals.

Landfill Tax

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the landfill tax credit scheme on the economic viability of (a) incineration of waste and (b) recycling and recovery. [94559]

John Healey: The Government reviewed the role of the scheme in consultation with key stakeholders last summer and the pre-Budget report announced the decision to reform the scheme from 1 April 2003. Approximately two thirds of the funding currently going though the scheme, under objects C and CC, will be allocated to additional public spending on sustainable waste management. The remainder, around £47 million per year, will be spent on community environmental projects though a successor tax credit scheme. The LTCS reform, by boosting strategic waste management, will help improve recycling and recovery, though any impact on incineration from this specific reform is expected to be very limited.

The pre-Budget report also announced an increase in the standard rate of landfill tax from the year 2005–06 by £3 per tonne as part of an escalator to a medium to long term rate of £35, which helps to make alternatives to landfill more economically viable. Both measures, the

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reform of the LTCS as well as the increase in the rate of landfill tax, are in support of our objective of increasing support to sustainable waste management.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will consult on proposals for the landfill tax escalator rate. [94570]

John Healey: The Government are currently consulting key stakeholders on options for a revenue-neutral proposal on the landfill escalator, as stated in the pre-Budget report.

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