Previous Section Index Home Page

2 Apr 2003 : Column 716W—continued

Customs and Excise

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the benefit of joint industry and Government initiatives, including Commercial Awareness Training for HM Customs and Excise officers in targeting illegal imports. [106036]

John Healey: Commercial Awareness Training for Customs and Excise staff is designed to ensure that Customs understand their role in helping businesses, and to help businesses to be compliant. A foundation level guided learning package has been written with the assistance of representatives of businesses affected by Customs' work, and two pilot training courses have been held which were jointly designed, developed and delivered with them. It is planned to make this training available to Customs staff nationally later this year, once the pilot courses have been fully evaluated.

2 Apr 2003 : Column 717W

European Working Groups

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on progress with achieving transparency in respect of the European working groups for which his Department is responsible. [105735]

Ruth Kelly: The Government has long been committed to greater openness in the ED Institutions. This was a key theme of the UK Presidencies in 1992 and 1998. Making it easier to gain access to non-sensitive documents is crucial to this. The Government welcomed Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. As a result, more documents are released to the public, while genuinely sensitive documents are given the protection they need.

Much of the Council's work takes place in preparatory bodies, including working groups. Published reports on the work under consideration by the Economic Policy Committee, and its various working groups are available on the committee's website: finance/epc en.htm. The items currently under consideration by the Economic and Financial Committee are those to be discussed in the coming months by the ECOFIN Council, when they are subject to normal parliamentary scrutiny.

Other bodies such as the High Level Tax Group, the Financial Services Committee and the Budget Committee report to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and the Economic and Financial Committee and their outputs go through the ECOFIN Council.

Accountability and transparency of council business to Parliament are ensured by the scrutiny process, to which the Government is also firmly committed.

We strongly supported the measures agreed at the Seville European Council to make the Council more open when in legislating mode. We remain committed to increasing transparency. For the first time at ECOFIN, there was a televised session for the final stages of reaching political agreement on a legislative procedure—the Prospectus Directive in November 2002. The Future of Europe Convention is also looking at ways to make the EU more open.


Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what request he has received for additional funding from the Ministry of Defence further to his commitment of £1.7 billion to meet the costs of military action in Iraq; [105679]

2 Apr 2003 : Column 718W

Mr. Boateng: A contingency reserve of £1.75 billion was set aside to meet the cost of security and military preparations. Now that UK armed forces are in action in Iraq the Chancellor has announced a further £1.25 billion to increase the special reserves to £3 billion, to be drawn on as necessary. It is too early to make an assessment of the final costs of our involvement in Iraq. The Treasury does not estimate costs for such operations in the manner requested.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions his Department has had with (a) other European states, (b) the United States of America and (c) other coalition countries about the funding of the current conflict with Iraq. [105688]

Mr. Boateng: The Government have been in discussions with European states, the United States of America and other coalition countries on a wide range of issues regarding the present situation in Iraq.

Landfill Tax Credit

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much the Treasury has spent on consultations regarding changes to the Landfill Tax Credit scheme. [105759]

John Healey: The information is not available in the format requested. HM Treasury and Defra published a joint consultation on the Landfill Tax Credit scheme last year. A number of officials in both Departments worked on the consultation which generated 700 responses. These were all given careful consideration in assessing policy options and informing the Government's decisions.

The document was made available on both HM Treasury and Defra websites, and the cost of publishing the consultation was minimal.

Pension Projections

John Mann: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of differences between the pension projection basis provided by the Financial Services Authority and the Department for Work and Pensions (a) to new businesses and (b) in annual forecasts. [105904]

Ruth Kelly: I understand that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) have undertaken an analysis of the pension projection basis set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for Statutory Money Purchase Illustrations (SMPIs).

Following consultation in April 2002, the FSA decided that the assumptions, including mortality rates, annuity interest rates, and other data, used by firms to compile point of sale projections should be amended to bring them into line with the DWP basis.

SMPIs will be in real value terms, while projections at the point of sale, which are governed by FSA rules, are in monetary terms, although firms have the option to show real value figures. The FSA are currently consulting on a new disclosure regime. This proposes SMPI based projections should be mandatory at the point of sale.

2 Apr 2003 : Column 719W

PFI/PPP Contracts

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer under what heading of public expenditure in departmental accounts the management of PFI and PPP contracts is defined. [105205]

Mr. Boateng: To the extent that government departments incur costs in the management of PFI and PPP contracts, these would be included within the heading of 'Administration costs' and charged to the department's Operating Cost Statement.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department has undertaken regulatory impact assessments on (a) changes to stamp duty levels, (b) capital gains tax taper relief, (c) changes to charities taxation in the Finance Act 2000 and (d) changes to the VAT regime for energy saving goods in the Finance Act 2000; and if he will make a statement. [105211]

Dawn Primarolo : A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) has been required since August 1998 where proposals for legislative changes may have more than a negligible impact on the compliance costs of business, charities or voluntary bodies.

(a) No RIA has been made of the changes to stamp duty levels since 1998 as an increase in rates has a negligible impact on compliance costs.

(b) Changes to capital gains tax taper relief made after August 1998 were expected to have a negligible regulatory impact so no RIA has been made.

(c) A RIA on the FA 2000 charity changes was published on 21 March 2000 and a copy was placed in the House of Commons Library.

(d) A RIA was carried out on the changes made to the VAT regime for energy-saving goods in the Finance Act 2000. This is available in the House of Commons Library (RIA: 00/109).


Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the proportion of income tax due that is collected per self-assessment tax payer, in the latest year for which figures are available. [104759]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue's accounting year for tax runs to the end of October each year.

In the account year to the end of October 2002, the Revenue collected £23.2 billion out of £24.5 billion self-assessment income tax due. On average, that amounts to collecting £94.7 per cent. of the tax due for each self-assessment taxpayer who has sent in a return. Further amounts will have been collected after the end of the accounting period.

Smoking Survey

Chris Grayling: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has set a date for the publication of the Office of National Statistics survey on smoking behaviour and attitudes. [106650]

2 Apr 2003 : Column 720W

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. Chris Grayling, dated 2 April 2003:

Next Section Index Home Page