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3 May 2006 : Column 1726W—continued


Lynne Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 30 March 2006, Official Report, column 1118W, on VAT relief, whether within an existing zero rate of VAT category it is permitted to alter the detailed arrangements with respect to an item or service to which the zero rate applies. [67585]

Dawn Primarolo: Under our agreements with our European partners we are not permitted to extend the scope of our existing zero rates to include supplies on which VAT is currently chargeable.

War Loan Repayments

Anne Moffat: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the UK Government continue to pay interest and capital reduction to the US in connection with lend lease and war loans; and if he will make a statement. [67695]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government intends to meet its obligations under the 1945 Agreement by repaying the United States Government in full the amounts lent in 1945. Repayment of the war loans to the United States Government are expected to be completed on 31 December 2006.

Western Gray Whales

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assurances he received during discussions on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's funding for Shell's proposed Sakhalin II development that none of the remaining western gray whales will die as a result of the project. [67174]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, together with the other potential lenders to the Sakhalin II project, have undertaken an extensive and detailed assessment of the risks to the western gray whales. This assessment has drawn on the views of an independent panel of world-renowned whale experts, convened by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). This panel produced a series of recommendations on whale protection measures relating to noise, construction schedules, vessel movements, monitoring and other relevant issues, and it is hoped that these measures, together with Sakhalin Energy's own whale protection plans, will minimise the level of disruption to the whale's habitat. To date there is no evidence of Sakhalin Energy's activities resulting in any whale deaths, and recent research has indicated that the whale population is showing signs of recovery.

Further comfort is drawn from the establishment of an independent western gray whale Advisory Panel that will oversee and advise on ongoing whale conservation activities and research. Sakhalin Energy has agreed to implement all reasonable recommendations that this panel produces.

Whale protection measures and commitments would be contractual obligations under any loan agreements between Sakhalin Energy and the potential lenders, and these commitments would be monitored and publicly reported on.