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2 Feb 2006 : Column 739W—continued

Financial Protection Products

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to examine whether the sale of financial protection products through non-advised channels is compatible with the regulatory requirement to treat customers fairly. [46896]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is responsible for the regulatory requirement for financial services firms to treat their customers fairly. The FSA is operationally independent of the Government. I will ask the FSA's chairman, Sir Callum McCarthy, to write to the hon. Member.

Fuel Prices

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the European Union's concession to France on fuel prices in rural areas; and if he will reduce fuel prices in the islands of Scotland by three per cent. until 2011. [47746]

John Healey: The French Government made a recent decision to allow their regional councils to introduce reduced rates of duty for road fuel consumed within their territories.
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This decision required the prior approval of the Council of Ministers and the Commission to allow a derogation from the Energy Products Directive permitting this measure. We assessed the French Government's application when they made their application for derogation to the Commission last year.

The UK Government believe that taxation policy is a matter for individual member states. Within the UK, however, we believe that allowing variations from the national fuel duty rate for one region or another would represent a departure from the principle of uniform duty rates across the UK. It would also conflict with our environmental objectives and create potential for fraud.

Gold Reserves

Tim Loughton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the sale proceeds were of gold reserves sold in the last five years; and what the current equivalent value is. [48079]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: 395 tonnes of gold were sold from the reserves between July 1999 and March 2002. The proceeds in dollars, and further details, can be found on page 27 of Review of the sale of part of the UK gold reserves" published by the Treasury in October 2002 ( Reserves.PDF).

At closing market prices on 30 January 2006, the total value of this gold would be approximately £4,082 million.

The programme was part of a prudent restructuring of the foreign currency and gold reserves aimed at achieving a better-balanced portfolio. As a result of the programme a one-off reduction in risk of approximately 30 per cent. was achieved (as measured by value-at-risk).

The proceeds from the sales were reinvested in interest bearing foreign currency assets in broadly the same proportions as the foreign currency assets held in the net reserves (40 per cent. dollars; 40 per cent. euros; and 20 per cent. yen) and these have earned returns over this period.

It is inappropriate to measure gains or losses resulting from fluctuations in market values over a short-term period.

HM Revenue and Customs Estate

Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the oral answer of 26 January 2006, Official Report, column 1505, on HM Revenue and Customs Estate, how many companies competed for the contract which was won by Mapeley in 2001 regarding properties included in his Department's estate. [46915]

Dawn Primarolo: The competition for the contract that was eventually awarded to Mapeley comprised three stages.

The NAO looked at the STEPS contract and published a report on 7 May 2004.
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Home Information Packs

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 30 November 2005, Official Report, column 523W, on home information packs, (1) what assessment (a) HM Treasury and (b) HM Revenue and Customs have made of the revenue to be generated from levying VAT on home information packs; [48102]

(2) whether VAT will be levied on home information packs. [48150]

Dawn Primarolo: The exact nature of the packs, and how they will be provided, is still under consideration by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, following a consultation on draft regulations which ended on 30 December 2005.

Population Estimates

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the net change to the (a) number of households and (b) population size in each government office region in each of the next 20 years. [47878]

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

Letter from Colin Mowl, dated 2 February 2006:

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Table 1: Projected net household growth for Government office regions in England 2002-based interim household projections

Additional households
per year 2001–21
North East3.0
North West15.5
Yorkshire and the Humber12.8
East Midlands15.9
West Midlands14.4
South East33.9
South West22.6

ODPM's 2002 Based Interim Household Projections

Table 2: Net population change for Government office regions in England 2003-based subnational population projections

North EastNorth WestYorkshire and the HumberEast MidlandsWest MidlandsEastLondonSouth EastSouth West

Office for National Statistics

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