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19 May 2004 : Column 987W—continued

Working Time Regulations

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many residents of West Lancashire have benefited from a reduction of the compulsory working week to 48 hours. [171727]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Working Time Regulations provide workers with the right to refuse to work more than 48 hours on average, if they do not want to. Numbers for West Lancashire are not available, however it has been estimated that around 300,000 workers resident in the north-west stood to benefit from the introduction of the weekly working time limits in 1998.

Work-Life Balance

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what schemes and initiatives her Department is undertaking in each constituency in Hampshire to promote a better work-life balance. [171644]

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 17 May 2004]: The national Work-life Balance (WLB) campaign was launched by the Prime Minister in 2000. Using case studies, a body of research evidence, and a dedicated website the campaign seeks to demonstrate to employers and employees the case for adopting flexible working practices, and highlight the business benefits that can accrue to companies who have considered, and then implemented, alternative ways of working. The campaign has historically provided practical help in implementing Work-life Balance initiatives through the DTI Challenge Fund.

At present only one Challenge fund project, from the fifth and final round, is operating in Hampshire. New DTI arrangements to support best practice in business, and other employer organisations, are now in place.
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These arrangements will be the means by which work-life balance, and the DTI financial support to promote the take-up and growth of flexible working opportunities, will be delivered.

Financial assistance to implement best practice in work-life balance and flexible working (and a range of other best practice areas) will be accessible via Business Link offices. Advisers in these offices, in Hampshire and the rest of the country, will provide local points of access for this support. Further details on these arrangements are available on the DTI website at


Aviation Tax

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the additional revenue that would be raised, assuming no change in the level of sales, if duty free concessions on alcohol, tobacco and VAT were abolished at UK airports. [171364]

John Healey: No estimate of the additional revenue that would be raised if duty free concessions on alcohol, tobacco and VAT were abolished at UK airports is available.

Climate Change Levy

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what revenue he received from the Climate Change Levy in (a) 2002–03 and (b) 2003–04; and what proportion of that sum in each year was received from those companies receiving 80 per cent. discounts as part of sectoral climate change agreements. [173463]

John Healey: Table 2.1D in the ONS publication "Financial Statistics" (April 2004) shows cash receipts from the Climate Change Levy to be £829 million in 2002–03. A provisional figure for 2003–04 receipts of £831 million is also available on the ONS website.

It is not possible to determine the proportion of levy receipts the Exchequer received during 2002–03 or 2003–04 from those companies covered by negotiated climate change agreements.

Construction Industry

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of the climate change levy on the construction industry. [174252]

John Healey: Climate Change Levy (CCL) revenue receipts and forecast revenues are provided for the UK as a whole and are not available by individual industry sector. The CCL is broadly revenue neutral for business as a whole. CCL revenues are recycled back to business by means of a 0.3 percentage point reduction in employers' national insurance contributions, introduced at the same time as the levy in April 2001, and by support for energy efficiency and low carbon technologies. CCL has not led to any net gain to the public finances.
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Monitoring of the climate change levy takes the form of a rolling programme of research and analysis of data as they become available, encompassing all sectors of industry. It takes account of data from specific research as well as information from business organisations, individual companies, environment groups and site visits by officials.

Credit Derivatives

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the review of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 covers the regulation of credit derivatives. [173263]

Ruth Kelly: The regulatory treatment of credit derivatives does not specifically fall under the remit of the two-year review of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. However, the FSA is participating in a review of trading book activity by the Basel Committee and the International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO), including the prudential treatment of credit derivatives.

Debt Cancellation

Colin Burgon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his policy is on the cancellation of debt in the world's poorest countries. [173930]

John Healey: The UK fully supports the cancellation of debt of the world's poorest countries through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. We were instrumental in securing international agreement to enhance the original Initiative in 1999, to ensure that as much debt relief as possible is granted to as many countries as possible. The UK continues to be a champion of the HIPC Initiative. We have provided commitments of £2.3 billion of debt relief to eligible countries and have pledged a total of US$474 million through multilateral institutions to support the Initiative further. The UK goes even further than is required under the Initiative, and is committed to providing 100 per cent. debt relief to eligible HIPC countries.

The HIPC Initiative is delivering real benefits to participating countries. It is providing over $70 billion of debt relief to the 27 counties that have reached Decision Point. We are committed to maintaining the momentum of the HIPC Initiative and continue to ensure that it is fully implemented. Ethiopia and Niger's exits from the Initiative in April mean that five countries have now reached Completion Point since September 2003 (Ethiopia, Guyana, Nicaragua, Niger and Senegal), bringing the total number to 13.

The HIPC Initiative is also helping increase annual social expenditures in countries receiving debt relief. Total social spending has increased by around $4 billion since 1999—equivalent to 2.7 per cent. of GDP. On average, health and education spending account for 65 per cent. of the use of HIPC debt relief.

However, debt relief alone is not sufficient. All HIPC countries will need additional aid to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is why
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the UK has proposed an International Finance Facility (IFF), which could provide the much-needed substantial increase in aid—in the form of grants, concessional loans, or further debt relief—needed to attain the MDGs without threatening the long-term debt sustainability of the world's poorest countries.

European Council of Finance Ministers

Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held on 11 May; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [173080]

Mr. Gordon Brown: I attended the ECOFIN meeting on 11 May. This was the first ECOFIN attended by the accession countries as full members of the European Union.

ECOFIN had an orientation discussion of the draft Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs). The Council took note of the Commission's recommendations for this year's update and requested that the Economic and Financial Committee and the Economic Policy Committee take work forward so as to enable the Council to adopt a report to the European Council on the BEPGs in its meeting on 2 June.

An EPC report on Potential Output and Output gaps was adopted. Discussion noted the transitional problems of Spain, Austria and Germany in moving to an estimation method based solely on the production function.

The Council took stock of the situation regarding the adoption of the European Investment Bank's external lending mandates.

The Council adopted a Decision abrogating Decision 2002/923/EC on the existence of an excessive budget deficit in Portugal, noting that it had complied with the terms of the Recommendation adopted by the Council with a view to bringing that deficit situation to an end.

The Council took stock of progress made in negotiations on savings tax agreements. It welcomed progress made with Andorra on a savings tax agreement and the prospect of monetary agreement, and adopted a Decision on the position to be taken. I provided an update on the Crown Dependencies and Caribbean Overseas Territories. The Council reaffirmed its determination for the various savings tax

Following global compromises agreed with the European Parliament in March, political agreement was reached on two draft Directives on financial services as amended by the European Parliament—Transparency Directive and Committee Structure Directive. Formal adoption, without further discussion, will follow later in the year.

The Council took note of the presentation by the Commission of the EU's preliminary draft budget for 2005. A brief exchange of views was held. It was requested that the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) examine the text and prepare a package enabling the Council to adopt the 2005 Draft Budget at the July 16th Budget ECOFIN.
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The Council was briefed by the Presidency on the work by the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) on the EU's financial perspective for 2007–2013, and held an exchange of views. I stated the need for a budget of 1 per cent. of ED GNI based on clear priorities: —subsidiarity, EU valued added, and budget discipline. The Presidency will prepare a report in advance of the European Council on 17 and 18 June, to provide guidance for the next phase of work.

The Council took note of the situation regarding excise duty rates on alcohol and of concerns expressed by the Swedish delegation regarding delay in the presentation by the Commission of a report on this subject. The Commission said that the report was currently being finalised and would be adopted as soon as practical within the coming weeks. The presidency concluded that all Member States would want to consider the report carefully when it was released.

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