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14 Mar 2003 : Column 491W—continued


Crown Estate

John Thurso: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what directions he has given to the Crown Estate Commissioners in respect of application of section 4(1) of the Crown Estate Act, 1961; and if he will make a statement. [103131]

Mr. Boateng: None.

ECOFIN Council

Mr. Connarty: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held in Luxembourg on 7 March; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [102511]

Mr. Gordon Brown: I attended the ECOFIN meeting on 7 March. In preparation for the Spring Council on 21–22 March, ECOFIN adopted a Presidency Key Issues Paper on the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines and a related Economic Policy Committee report on structural reforms. Ministers also agreed joint reports by the Commission and the Council on pensions systems and on the future of healthcare and care for the elderly. These reports will also be sent to the Spring Council.

ECOFIN also adopted a report to the Spring Council on strengthening economic policy co-ordination. The report emphasizes the importance of the economic cycle, sustainability, and the quality of public investment and of taking a country-by-country approach to the assessment of member states' compliance with the medium-term close to balance requirement. It is therefore in line with key aspects of the UK's prudent interpretation of the Stabilityand Growth Pact.

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ECOFIN agreed Council Opinions on the Stability Programmes of Portugal and Luxembourg. It also took note of a legislative text on a Recommendation on the voting modalities of the ECB's Governing Council and noted reservations by Finland and the Netherlands. The Council approved a draft statement to be entered in the minutes of the Council at the adoption of the Decision, which confirms that the reform of ECB governance arrangements should not be seen as setting a precedent for other Community institutions.

The Presidency indicated that they would seek final agreement on the tax package at an additional ECOFIN to be held on 19 March. They also indicated that agreement on energy taxation would be postponed to the ECOFIN on 19 March.ECOFIN adopted a Recommendation on the discharge of the 2001 Community Budget and adopted conclusions on priorities for the 2004 Budget.

Under any other business, the German delegation indicated that they had presented a proposal to their Parliament to levy VAT on all flights over German airspace. This was noted by other delegations.

No votes were taken at the meeting.

NHS Foundation Trusts

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions officials from his Department have had with officials from the Department of Health concerning the borrowing limits on NHS foundation trusts. [102584]

Mr. Boateng: Treasury and Department of Health officials have meetings on a regular basis to discuss matters of mutual interest

Offshore Tax Havens

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent guidelines and guidance have been given to the Inland Revenue by Ministers in respect of transactions between the Inland Revenue and entities which are operating out of offshore tax havens; and if he will make a statement. [95827]

Norman Lamb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he has taken to prevent public assets being transferred to companies based in tax havens. [99080]

Mr. Boateng: A number of reforms have already been introduced relating to the project management of major procurement exercises.

The Government are currently reviewing existing guidance on tax aspects of Government procurement to safeguard value for money for Government as a whole.

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Public Service Agreements

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which Public Service Agreement targets will be reported on as part of the web-based reporting of targets; in what month the first data will be published; and if he will make a statement. [102882]

Mr. Boateng: The Government plan to introduce web-based reporting from April 2003. This will cover the targets published in Spending Review 2002: Public Service Agreements 2003–06 (Cm 5571).

Sterling Valuation

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) highest and (b) lowest value of the pound has been with respect to (i) the euro and (ii) the dollar in each year that is applicable since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [102927]

Ruth Kelly: Data on bilateral exchange rates can be obtained from the Office for National Statistics, or from the Bank of England website.

The Government do not comment on day-to-day movements in the foreign exchange markets. The Government's objective for the exchange rate remains a stable and competitive pound in the medium term.


Benefit Recipients

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many recipients of (a) disability living allowance and (b) incapacity benefit there were, broken down by (i) region, (ii) age and (iii) type of disability in each of the last 10 years. [101766]

Maria Eagle: The information has been placed in the Library.

British Sign Language

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department has taken to (a) recognise British Sign Language and (b) improve access to public services for British Sign Language users; and if he will make a statement. [102900]

Mr. Andrew Smith: We have held discussions with various interested organisations, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requires service providers to consider making reasonable adjustments to the way they provide their services so they are accessible to disabled people. The provision of a BSL interpreter could be considered a reasonable adjustment. The DRC's Code of Practice (Rights, Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises) includes examples of situations where providing a BSL interpreter might be a reasonable adjustment.

The Government have funded projects with the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People to increase the number of BSL interpreters and to improve the infrastructure for interpreter training and assessment.

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Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the implications of recent developments in paediatric medicine requiring intensive nursing support by parents for the start date of disability living allowance payments for children being discharged from hospital; and if he will make a statement. [101345]

Maria Eagle: Developments in paediatric medicine do not alter the rules for the start date of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children being discharged from hospital. For all rates and components of DLA, the qualifying rules must have been satisfied for a period of at least three months before DLA can be paid. Where that qualifying period has been completed, the payment of DLA claimed and awarded while children are in hospital starts when they are discharged to their home address. Payments of DLA are reinstated on discharge for children who were receiving the allowance before they went into hospital for more than 12 weeks.

Employers' Liability

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which organisations were invited to submit evidence to the Review on employers' liability; and which organisations submitted evidence. [102377]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 11 March 2003]: The following organisations were invited to contribute to the review of employers' liability insurance:

A range of trade associations were contacted. In addition all interested stakeholders were invited through the website of the Department for Work and Pensions to submit their views to the review team.

A list of the organisations that submitted evidence will be made available after the report of the review has been published.

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which sources of statistical evidence were used in connection with the review of employers' liability; and if he will publish the statistical evidence presented to the review. [102379]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 11 March 2003]: A list of the organisations and the statistical evidence they submitted will be made available after the report of the review has been published.

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