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26 Feb 2004 : Column 528W—continued


Ministerial Meetings

Adam Price: To ask the Leader of the House how many meetings he has had in his capacity as Leader of the House in the past eight months. [153624]

Mr. Hain: I undertake a wide range of meetings with interested parties. These include meetings with Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, House officials and Cabinet colleagues.

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Opposition Days

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Leader of the House (1) for how long (a) the Opposition front-bench speakers, (b) the Government front-bench speakers and (c) other front-bench speakers spoke in Opposition Day debates in each year since 1974; [157062]

Mr. Hain: This information is a matter of public record, but could be collated only at disproportionate cost.


Alcoholic Drinks (Duty)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the loss of duty payable to the Government consequent on the purchase of (a) beer, (b) wine and (c) spirits in France by United Kingdom residents in the last year for which figures are available. [155233]

John Healey: The most recent estimates of the loss of duty and VAT payable to the Government consequent on purchases of beer, wine and spirits made in all EU member states and on ferries by UK cross-border shoppers during 2001–02 are contained in "Measuring and Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud" (December 2003), a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Business Skills

Ms Walley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his Department's policy is on developing business skills in young people; and if he will make a statement. [155586]

John Healey: The Government are implementing a range of policies to develop business skills in young people, including the recommendations of the Davies Review of Enterprise and the Economy in Education. Enterprise Learning Pathfinders began in this academic year and, from September 2005, all pupils will experience at least five days of enterprise education before they leave school. The Government also provide funding for Enterprise Advisers for disadvantaged schools and in Enterprise Areas, supports organisations such as Young Enterprise and Enterprise Insight, and is setting up a National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.

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Customs and Excise

Mr. Steen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will change the policy of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise that genuine mistakes made in good faith are not reasonable excuses for surcharge purposes. [156047]

John Healey: The VAT system aims to encourage payment of the right tax at the right time. As well as safeguarding revenues, this provides equity for all taxpaying businesses. A business may be penalised if it does not pay the right tax at the right time: the misdeclaration penalty penalises significant or repeated errors in the amount of tax paid and the default surcharge penalises late payment.

The VAT penalty system has safeguards to ensure that businesses are not treated over-harshly. For the smallest businesses, several warnings are issued before a late payment penalty is issued—so that a business would not be penalised until its fifth default. Both misdeclaration penalties and default penalties can be withdrawn if there is a reasonable excuse for an error or delay. In this context, reasonable excuses can include compassionate circumstances or unforeseen events. However, this would not include mistakes of the type to which the hon. Gentleman refers since the penalties are, in part, designed to encourage accuracy.

Earnings Statistics

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of (a) male, (b) female and (c) all full-time workers in (i) Scotland, (ii) each of the unitary local authority areas in Scotland and (iii) Great Britain had hourly gross earnings (A) including and (B) excluding overtime of below (1) £7.58, (2) £5.68 and (3) £4.20. [156219]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Ms Annabelle Ewing, dated 26 February 2004:

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Percentage of full-time employees whose average gross hourly pay (including overtime) in 2003 fell below three stated thresholds

Male employees' pay thresholdsFemale employees' pay thresholdsAll employees' pay thresholds
Great Britain26.
Local Authorities
Aberdeen City23.810.032.711.227.310.4
Argyll and Bute39.741.740.511.6
Scottish Borders, The43.015.157.325.650.020.2
Dumfries and Galloway49.215.652.126.050.520.2
Dundee City26.310.337.416.331.112.9
East Ayrshire31.017.238.918.134.617.6
East Dunbartonshire25.029.527.3
East Lothian36.532.0
East Renfrewshire36.141.738.913.9
Edinburgh, City of26.311.01.431.710.128.510.61.2
Glasgow City27.
North Ayrshire23.737.518.129.611.8
North Lanarkshire33.210.238.610.935.210.5
Orkney Islands37.525.0
Perth and Kinross30.811.548.025.538.417.7
South Ayrshire23.537.512.529.68.9
South Lanarkshire24.28.344.919.
West Dunbartonshire29.748.419.438.915.1
West Lothian30.39.046.312.636.710.4
Western Isles37.5

Percentage of full-time employees whose average gross hourly pay (excluding overtime) in 2003 fell below three stated thresholds

Male employees' pay thresholdsFemale employees' pay thresholdsAll employees' pay thresholds
Great Britain27.99.51.337.415.11.931.511.61.5
Local Authorities
Aberdeen City25.111.032.311.227.911.0
Argyll and Bute42.541.742.114.9
Scottish Borders, The45.318.657.326.851.222.6
Dumfries and Galloway50.
Dundee City29.410.837.415.632.812.9
East Ayrshire34.519.540.319.437.119.5
East Dunbartonshire29.529.529.5
East Lothian39.734.011.0
East Renfrewshire33.341.737.513.9
Edinburgh, City of27.711.61.732.410.129.711.01.4
Glasgow City28.510.51.135.812.831.811.51.1
North Ayrshire25.842.321.132.714.3
North Lanarkshire35.210.839.110.936.610.8
Orkney Islands37.525.0
Perth and Kinross32.314.649.024.539.719.0
Shetland Islands30.3
South Ayrshire23.537.514.829.69.9
South Lanarkshire26.89.144.919.534.713.6
West Dunbartonshire29.750.021.039.715.9
West Lothian35.49.746.314.739.711.7
Western Isles41.0

26 Feb 2004 : Column 533W

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