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27 Feb 2004 : Column 591Wcontinued
Brian Cotter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the evidential basis was for his Department's decision to maintain the £30,000 turnover test for sub-contractors to receive gross payments under the Construction Industry Scheme; and what advice he received from the Inland Revenue on this matter during the recent review of the scheme. 
Dawn Primarolo: There has been a specialised taxation scheme for the construction industry since the 1970s to regulate an industry with a long history of poor compliance on taxation matters. The original scheme required a deduction to be made from payments unless the subcontractor could meet certain standards, which allowed him to be paid gross. However, this system failed to limit the numbers receiving gross payment.
The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) was introduced in Finance Act 1995 and implemented from August 1999. It tightened up the criteria for gaining a gross payment certificate by requiring all subcontractors applying for gross payment status to demonstrate a minimum level of turnover. This approach proved successful and safeguarded monies that were previously at risk to the Exchequer under its predecessor.
The current review of CIS followed industry complaints about its cumbersome processes. The Chancellor announced, in Budget 2003 that the CIS would be replaced by a new system that will relieve some of the industry's administrative burden.
The Inland Revenue has consulted extensively with industry representatives on the detail of the new scheme, including the criteria for gross payment status. Alternatives to the turnover test were suggested by the
27 Feb 2004 : Column 592W
industry but none was as effective in restricting the number of subcontractors obtaining gross payment required to preserve the effectiveness of the scheme.
Successive Governments have accepted that it is not appropriate to disclose the advice given to Ministers by civil servants.
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list for (a) male, (b) female and (c) all workers in (i) Scotland and (ii) each of the unitary local authority areas in Scotland the (A) weekly median earnings and (B) distribution of earnings for those earning (1) under the point below which 10 per cent. of earners fall and (2) the above point above which 10 per cent. of earners exceed. 
Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.
Letter from Len Cook to Annabelle Ewing, dated 27 February 2004:
|Argyll & Bute||400.1||375.6||(6)||(6)||381.2||358.0|
|Scottish Borders, The||(6)||(6)||(6)||(6)||355.6||299.9|
|Dumfries & Galloway||407.6||358.1||(6)||(6)||381.6||322.5|
|Edinburgh, City of||509.0||426.8||409.2||352.0||467.0||393.5|
|Perth & Kinross||(6)||(6)||353.3||303.2||405.5||370.4|
(6) Estimate removed since it did not meet criteria for publication
27 Feb 2004 : Column 593W
Mr. Spring: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) by what rate real GDP grew in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) the Republic of Ireland, (c) Denmark, (d) Sweden, (e) Finland, (f) Germany, (h) the Netherlands, (i) Belgium, (k) Luxembourg, (l) France, (m) Spain, (n) Portugal, (o) Italy, (p) Austria, (q) Greece, (r) the area now forming the euro-12, (s) the EU 15 and (t) the United States for each year since 1992; 
Ruth Kelly: The statistics requested are available in the OECD Economic Outlook, December 2003.
Mr. Trimble: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, following the introduction of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, he will take steps to ensure that no fuels used in power stations for the generation of electricity are subject to duties or taxes. 
John Healey: The EU emissions trading scheme is expected to be running from January 2005, and the Government will take account of its impact on the existing tax system.
Decisions on taxation are a matter for the Chancellor as part of the Budget process, taking account of the Government's economic, social and environmental objectives.
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