Previous Section Index Home Page

14 Oct 2005 : Column 642W—continued

NHS Bank

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans his Department has to provide additional funding to the NHS Bank. [17967]

Mr. Des Browne: The NHS Bank is funded by the Department of Health and any changes to its funding would be an internal matter for the Department.

Nuclear Power

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department has taken to establish the full economic life cycle costs of nuclear fission; and if he will make a statement. [17283]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 13 October 2005]: I have been asked to reply.
14 Oct 2005 : Column 643W

The Department has undertaken no research to establish the full economic life cycle costs of nuclear fission.

Public Service Agreement Targets

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his Department plans to publish a comprehensive assessment of the performance of Government Departments with regard to Public Service Agreement targets set as part of the 2002 Spending Review. [17966]

Mr. Des Browne: Progress against PSA targets is regularly reported by Departments in their departmental reports and autumn performance reports.

Smoking Ban

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the likely change in tax revenues which would result from a ban on smoking in public places; and if he will make a statement. [17752]

Mr. Des Browne: The Government takes all factors into account when forecasting tax revenues, including changes in consumption resulting from Government measures to reduce smoking prevalence. However, it is not possible to isolate the particular effect of any one of these measures.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what changes are proposed for the operation of stamp duty land tax; whether these changes include (a) electronic scanning of returns, (b) issuing of requisitions and (c) charging of interest; and if he will make a statement; [17803]

(2) how many stamp duty land duty tax returns to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs resulted in the issuing of requisitions in the last year for which figures are available; and what percentage of the overall number of returns this figure represents. [17804]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: From 1 October 2004 to 30 September 2005, a total of 974,012 stamp duty land tax (SDLT) returns were processed electronically. Of these, 251,805 resulted in the issue of form SDLT8 (request for further information relating to incomplete or incorrectly completed returns). This represents 25.85 per cent. of the returns processed electronically. Since 26 August 2005 the percentage of cases where SDLT's are issued has continued to fall to approximately 15 per cent. HMRC will continue to work to reduce the incidents. It has also been possible to file SDLT returns on-line directly into the SDLT automated system. Using this service removes the need to use post, and (because of the in-built checks) has a very high probability of returns being complete and correct first time. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is working with representative bodies to encourage the use of the service.

A recent review by HMRC of SDLT legislation revealed that the statutory provisions for charging interest on SDLT were incomplete and that HMRC had been collecting and paying interest in error for a period
14 Oct 2005 : Column 644W
since 1 December 2003. As soon as HMRC became aware of this problem all interest charges were suspended, as were the reminders for interest outstanding. Any interest already paid is being refunded. HMRC will be contacting each purchaser affected, and their agent, where applicable, as soon as possible to repay the interest paid. Further information is available on the HMRC website at The appropriate legislation has now been introduced and interest on late payments of SDLT is chargeable from 26 September 2005.

Teenage Pregnancies

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many teenage pregnancies there were in each of the last 10 years, broken down by local authority. [16958]

John Healey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell to Lynne Featherstone, dated 14 October 2005:


Bulgaria (EU Accession)

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise the issue of performing bears in Bulgaria with the Government before any decision by the Government to agree to the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union. [17094]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Bulgaria already has legislation which outlaws bear dancing, but it may take time to eliminate the practice entirely. This is a matter for the Bulgarian Government. It is not a condition for EU accession.

Canada (Anniversary)

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if his Department will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the conquest of Canada. [17081]

Ian Pearson: We are in contact with the relevant federal and provincial authorities about the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 2009. These discussions are still at an early stage.

Dorte Schmidt-Brown Case

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a
14 Oct 2005 : Column 645W
statement on his policy towards reform of the EU authorities, with particular reference to the Dorte Schmidt-Brown case; [16090]

(2) if he will make a statement on the status of (a) investigations and (b) rulings in the Dorte Schmidt-Brown case. [16091]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: It is important that appropriate procedures exist to oblige officials to report serious wrongdoing and to enjoy protection if they do so in good faith. The United Kingdom supported the introduction of the "Whistleblowers' Charter" and pressed strongly for these procedures to be included in the revised Staff Regulation, which came into force in May 2004. This charter, and the rules now in force, obliges the staff of the EU institutions to raise any concerns they have with regard to serious wrongdoing with either the Director-General of their institution, the Secretary-General, "persons in equivalent positions", or the independent European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

Dorte Schmidt-Brown made allegations of wrongdoing against senior managers at the European Union's statistical body, Eurostat. Disciplinary procedures were opened immediately against the senior managers allegedly involved, and their cases are now in the hands of French prosecutors who will hold them to account if the outcome of their investigations confirms that serious wrongdoing has taken place. It is clear the irregular financial practices in existence at Eurostat in the late 1990s left the EU's resources vulnerable to fraud. But thanks to the new systems put in place, these practices have been discovered and the financial management improved.

Ms Schmidt-Brown raised a libel action (against a UK company "Eurogramme", that she alleges was improperly awarded Eurostat contacts) before the High Court of England and Wales, seeking damages for defamation she claimed to have suffered through statements made by the company. That case was settled out of court.

In December 2002, Ms Schmidt-Brown asked the Court of First instance to order the Commission to pay the costs of her libel case in the High Court (€75,000), claiming that they, as her employer, had a duty themselves to take the steps necessary to protect her reputation. On 5 July 2005, the Court ruled against Ms Schmidt-Brown. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on this judgment by the Court.

Further information can be found in OLAF's annual activities report which is available at: for more information on the progress of EU activity in this area. The report provides information on the different sources of information it receives which lead to investigations, including whistleblowers.

Next Section Index Home Page