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27 Oct 2003 : Column 38W—continued

Gold Sales

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the proceeds of gold sales from the UK reserves were in each year since 1997; and if he will estimate the value of that gold at today's prices. [133659]

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total receipts for the gold reserves sold off by the Treasury over the past five years were; and what the value of those reserves would be at the afternoon fix of 20 October. [133974]

Ruth Kelly: The gold sales between July 1999 and March 2002 reflect a prudent decision to reduce over-exposure to a single asset in the net reserves portfolio. The total proceeds from the sale of 395 tonnes of gold during this period were US$3,496 million. At current market prices, the total value of this gold would be US$4,961 million. The difference between these two figures does not represent the real financial impact of the sales, as the proceeds from the gold sales were invested in euro, dollar and yen interest baring assets that have also increased in value over this period. The gold sales reduced risk by around 30 per cent. (as measured by value-at-risk) and are not expected to deliver a loss in return when measured over the medium to long-term; the appropriate time horizon for such a decision.

Government Buildings

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list vacant (a) Government owned and (b) Government leased buildings; and if he will make a statement. [132881]

Mr. Boateng: The list of holdings owned and leased by UK departments in England, Scotland and Wales that have recorded vacant space has been placed in the Library. This excludes accommodation that is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive and leases that have been transferred to PFI suppliers under the STEPS and PRIME contracts.

Government Rents

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent studies his Department has undertaken on rents paid by central Government buildings in London compared to alternative locations. [134705]

Mr. Boateng: The Chancellor's Departments have not undertaken any recent studies in this area. The Independent Review of Public Sector Relocation is examining the question of comparative accommodation costs.

Housing Market Statistics

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on (a) prices and (b) volumes of transactions in the housing market. [134420]

Ruth Kelly: The Government's forthcoming pre-Budget report will include an assessment of recent housing market developments.

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Illegal Meat

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the occasions on which illegal meat has been seized by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise since 1 May; and what quantities were obtained in each case. [133976]

John Healey: Customs do not publish information in the format requested as there is a risk of prejudicing ongoing and future law enforcement operations; Exemption 4 (Law Enforcement and Legal Proceedings) and Exemption 7 (Effective management and operations of the public service) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information apply. Full-year figures are published by Defra in its Annual Review of Controls on Imports of Animal Products each July.

Income Distribution

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of national income accrued to the (a) top and (b) bottom (i) 1 per cent, (ii) 5 per cent. (iii) 10 per cent. and (iv) 20 per cent. of the income distribution in each year since 1979. [134101]

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. Meacher, dated 27 October 2003:

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Investment Statistics

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of (a) non-residential business investment, (b) residential business investment, (c) public investment and (d) total investment in (i) 1995 market prices and (ii) current prices, as a proportion of GDP, since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [134134]

Mr. Boateng: Latest figures for investment by sector and GDP at current market prices were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of the 2003 Blue Book dataset on 30 September. The ONS no longer publishes data at constant 1995 prices, having now replaced them with chained volume measures as indicators of growth in real magnitudes in the national accounts.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set out the calculations on which the 40 p per litre duty rebate on liquefied petroleum gas are based. [134365]

John Healey: The Government offers lower duty rates for less environmentally-damaging fuels by offering duty differentials relative to the main road fuels. These differentials are intended primarily to reflect the relative environmental benefits individual. In determining the size of the duty incentive for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the Government took into account principally the environmental benefits of the fuel, such as local air quality improvements. It also took account of the significant market barriers faced by LPG: it requires a dedicated and separate re-fuelling infrastructure and vehicles have to be converted or specifically designed to use gaseous fuels.

In his 2003 Budget statement, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor announced that the Government would consult on support for road fuel gases beyond 2004. The Department for Transport, HM Treasury and Customs and Excise published a consultation document in June inviting key stakeholders and users to express their views on how to ensure that both the duty payable and the purchase grants available for road fuel gases continue to reflect environmental and other policy objectives.

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