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25 Feb 2003 : Column 384W—continued

North Sea Tax Regime

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made as to the effect tax changes on North Sea oil and gas companies announced in the Budget statement 2002 are having on the competitiveness of the industry. [99025]

John Healey: The Budget 2002 changes to the North Sea taxation regime make new investment in the North Sea more economic for oil and gas companies while extracting a fairer share of revenue for the taxpayer. The reforms are too recent for a comprehensive assessment of their overall economic impact, but the Government are encouraged by early evidence from the UKOOA report of November 2002, which found that

Tax and Benefits

Mr. Allen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) families and (b) individuals have gained from tax and benefit changes since 1997; and on average by how much. [98256]

Dawn Primarolo: As a result of tax and benefit changes introduced since 1997, by 2003–04 households with children will be, on average, £1,200 per year better off. Some 6.4 million households with children will be better off.

By 2003–04, all households will be £740 per year better off on average as a result of measures introduced since 1997. Each adult will be £440 per year better off on average. There are nearly 35 million adults in households that will be better off as a result of measures introduced since 1997.

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Tax Credit Helpline

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what performance targets have been set for the tax credit helpline; and what have been the monthly performance levels against those targets since the helpline was established. [94237]

Dawn Primarolo : A helpline was set up in August 2002 to handle detailed inquiries about the two new tax credits—Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. The introduction of these two new tax credits in April 2003 represents a large one-off piece of work for the Inland Revenue. That work includes handling telephone enquiries and processing claims. The helpline has not been set stand-alone performance targets because, as a one-off exercise, call handling and claims processing are effectively being managed as a single stream of work—allowing resources to be allocated across the two in the light of changing workload priorities.

The underlying aim at the helpline is to ensure that people can get through when they need to. That is monitored in a number of ways, including looking at the volume of calls received and handled. The best available evidence on calls made and calls received indicates that, in each month since August 2002, a high proportion—certainly more than 90 per cent.—of callers have got through on the same day.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will estimate the number of families where the principal earner has a gross income above the higher rate threshold and the gross household income is below £58,175; [93061]

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Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 23 January 2003]: No reliable estimates exist.

Thermal Insulation

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer further to his answer of 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 42W, on thermal insulation, what the implications are of the European Union Court Case 416/85, EC Commission v. United Kingdom for the possibilities of VAT reduction on the sales and installation of energy saving materials; and if he will make a statement. [98563]

John Healey: European Court of Justice case 416/85 concerned the scope of the UK's zero rates. The Court held that zero-rating could only be justified for clearly defined social reasons and for the benefit of the final consumer.

The long-standing formal agreements with our European partners make entirely separate provision for reduced rates (of no lower than 5 per cent.) and allow relief for the 'supply, construction, renovation and alteration of housing provided as part of a social policy'. Under this provision, the UK has been able to introduce a reduced rate for installations of certain energy-saving materials in homes. Our current policy is to restrict the relief to the installation of materials whose primary purpose is to save energy, and the European Court case has no bearing on this limitation.

As I explained in my answer of 22 January, we are not able to introduce a reduced rate of VAT for energy-efficient or energy-saving materials sold direct to the public. This is not because of the European Court case, but rather that the reduced rate provision makes clear that goods and materials can only have a reduced rate when they are supplied as part of an overall service.

UK Listing Authority

Mr. Colman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the principal regulatory risks are that the UK Listing Authority is responsible for managing; [99159]

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Ruth Kelly: The United Kingdom Listing Authority (UKLA) is part of the Financial Services Authority, which is independent of the Government. The duties of the FSA in its capacity as the UKLA are set out in section 73 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. Following on from these duties, the UKLA formulates and enforces Listing Rules that:

The UKLA also has operational objectives, that are more task-specific, which are discussed each year with the Treasury. These objectives can be found on the UKLA section of the FSA website.

Issues relating to the UKLA's review of the Listings Rules are a matter for the UKLA.



Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what is the (a) value of imports the UK received from Burma and (b) the nature of these imports in 2002. [88773]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 8 January 2003]: I have been asked to reply.

According to figures published by HM Customs and Excise, UK imports of goods from Burma in 2002 were as follows:


Fish, (not marine mammals), crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic invertebrates and preparations thereof8,310
Vegetables and fruit 485
Coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, and manufactures thereof 7
Oil seeds and oleaginous fruit 10
Cork and wood 979
Pulp and waste paper 121
Cork and wood manufactures (excluding furniture) 1,302
Textile yarn, fabrics, made-up articles, nes and related products 49
Manufactures of metals, nes 14
Power generating machinery and equipment 1,225
Machinery specialised for particular industries 1
General industrial machinery and equipment, nes and machine parts, nes 2
Office machines and automatic data processing machines 1
Electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, nes and electrical parts thereof (including non-electrical counterparts, nes, of electrical household type equipment)2
Transport equipment other than road vehicles 29
Prefabricated buildings; sanitary, plumbing and lighting fixtures and fittings, nes 6
Furniture and parts thereof; bedding, mattresses, supports, cushions and similar stuffed furnishings1,437
Articles of apparel and clothing accessories50,177
Professional, scientific and controlling instruments and apparatus, nes1
Miscellaneous manufactured articles, nes94
Commodities and transactions not elsewhere classified66

nes = not elsewhere specified


Products are classified according to the Standard International Trade Classification (revision 3).

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