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23 Feb 2004 : Column 115Wcontinued
Richard Ottaway: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is his Department's policy to make notes of (a) meetings and (b) telephone conversations involving Ministers; and under what circumstances no notes would be made. 
Ruth Kelly: HM Treasury follows the central "Guidance on the Management of Private Office Papers" which makes clear that good record management procedures are necessary not least to ensure accountability and provide an audit trail. Among the records covered by the guidance are Ministers' meetings and telephone conversations.
Mr. Love: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research has been undertaken to estimate the impact of Basel 2 on (a) the UK lending industry and (b) those lenders with assets of less than £1 billion; and if he will make a statement. 
Ruth Kelly: The new Basel Accord will be an international agreement on prudential capital, applying mainly to internationally active banks. Implementation of the new Basel Accord in Europe will be through a new Capital Adequacy Directive, which is expected to apply to all UK credit institutions and investment firms (as was the case for the implementation of the existing Basel Accord). The Treasury is currently consulting on the expected impact on all UK lenders ahead of a formal proposal from the European Commission expected later in the year.
Ruth Kelly: The Government currently have no plans to sell holdings of gold from their International Currency Reserves. We remain firmly committed to transparency so, if our plans were to change in the future, we would announce this publicly.
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effectiveness of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise illegal meat enforcement strategy, with particular regard to the number of prosecutions that have been pursued; 
(3) what Her Majesty's Customs and Excise's policy is on prosecuting people caught in possession of illegal meat at United Kingdom ports of entry. 
(a) increasing passengers' awareness of the rules and regulations, encouraging the voluntary surrender of any illegal meat on arrival and increasingly discouraging the public from embarking on their journey to the UK with illegal meat in their possession;
(e) responding flexibly to formal notifications by Defra or the Food Standards Agency by imposing additional restrictions in the event of an outbreak of animal disease or other circumstances which may present a risk to animal or human health.
John Healey: Customs have undertaken a number of informal trials using their own x-ray equipment as well as external trials involving developments in x-ray technology offered by other manufacturers. The most recent trials took place in June last year.
This is a constantly developing area and Customs remain committed to working with other UK and overseas agencies as well as manufacturers to make the most of new technology where it can provide good value for money.
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Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sums in United Kingdom claims on Iraq have been notified to the Paris Club, including interest, broken down by (a) government and (b) non-government claims. 
John Healey: The Government have notified to the Paris Club unrecovered claims of £623 million arising from commercial export contracts with Iraq signed prior to the first Gulf conflict in 1991 insured by the Export Credits Guarantee Department. This amount does not include interest, which it is estimated could bring the figure to around £1.15 billion. The Paris Club deals only with claims arising out of government loans or government-insured commercial credits.
The Government believe that Iraq's external debt is unsustainable and that creditors will need to agree a significant reduction through a clear multilateral process in order to restore Iraq to sustainability. That is likely to involve writing off the vast majority of Iraq's external debt.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the unemployment rate was in England and Wales on the latest date for which figures are available; what the unemployment rate was in each ward in each principal seaside town of England and Wales on the latest date for which figures are available, listed in descending order, with figures for Welsh seaside town clusters disaggregated; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mrs. Lait: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Inland Revenue will prioritise the delivery of land transaction (a) forms and (b) certificates to Scottish solicitors to ensure that they meet the time limits to secure title to land imposed by Scottish law. 
Ruth Kelly: The Inland Revenue is committed to issuing certificates within five working days of receipt of a properly completed return. It would not be practicable to give priority to the issue of certificates to Scottish addresses. However, in certain circumstances certificates in respect of transactions in Scotland can be obtained by personal attendance at Edinburgh Stamp Office. Return forms can be obtained in advance of settlement of land transactions so I see no reason why obtaining a return form should delay matters. In addition the Inland Revenue, and some software suppliers, offer the scope for forms to be completed on-line or on-screen and then printed off for signature.
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the reasons for delay in the Inland Revenue's distribution of land transaction (a) returns and (b) certificates to Scottish solicitors. 
Ruth Kelly: The Inland Revenue is committed to issuing certificates within five working days of receipt of a properly completed return. This target has been achieved across the United Kingdom. In addition, in certain circumstances certificates in respect of transactions in Scotland can be obtained by personal attendance at Edinburgh Stamp Office.
Ruth Kelly: The Inland Revenue has received many representations on several aspects of stamp duty land tax, including some from Scottish solicitors. In addition Inland Revenue officials are in regular discussion with the Law Society of Scotland on all aspects of stamp duty land tax.
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