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1 May 2007 : Column 1630W—continued

Taxation: Aviation

Gordon Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the risk of going into liquidation for small tour operators as a result of costs imposed by air passenger duty; and what steps he is taking to prevent this. [131432]

John Healey: No formal assessment has been conducted. Some small tour operators have written to the Chancellor about the Government's decision, but I am not aware that any have expressed a risk of insolvency.

No provision exists to extend Government help in these specific circumstances and it is doubtful whether it would be legal to distinguish between operators in this way or to offer assistance to the sector under EU state aid rules.

Taxation: Quarrying

Chris Huhne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what fiscal incentives are in place to discourage quarrying and promote the use of alternative raw materials to protect the environment. [134646]


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John Healey: The aggregates levy ensures that the external costs associated with exploitation of aggregate are reflected in the price of aggregate. The price increase reduces demand for and encourages efficient use of freshly quarried aggregate materials.

The levy is also structured to promote use of alternatives to virgin aggregates from more sustainable sources, such as recycled demolition waste and slate waste, by granting these materials exemption from the levy.

The levy is part of a package of environmental measures (including the landfill tax and climate change levy) designed to encourage more efficient processes, environmental awareness and sustainable development. Research shows the levy, as part of this package, is helping to meet the Government’s policy aims. For example, Great Britain has seen a reduction in sales of virgin aggregate by around 18 million tonnes between 2001 and 2005 and an increase in the use of recycled aggregate in England of around 5.5 million tonnes.

Taxation: Small Businesses

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the reasons were for the change in small and medium companies’ tax rates in 2008 announced in the last Budget; and what assessment he has made of the impact of those changes on their competitiveness. [134568]

John Healey: Paragraphs 3.11 to 3.39 in Chapter 3 of Budget 2007 available at:

outline the rationale for the major business tax reforms announced at the Budget, including those that impact on small and medium companies, and details how these reforms will help to boost the growth, productivity and international competitiveness of businesses in the UK.

Teenage Pregnancy: Suffolk

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many girls under the age of 16 years (a) became pregnant and (b) gave birth in (i) Bury St. Edmunds constituency and (ii) Suffolk county council area in each of the last 10 years, broken down by age. [134691]

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

Letter from Colin Mowl, dated 1 May 2007:

Number of conceptions and maternities to girls aged under 16, Suffolk, 1996-2005
Conceptions Maternities

1996

82

12

1997

89

12

1998

71

12

1999

58

14

2000

62

5

2001

73

12

2002

75

13

2003

93

19

2004

73

12

2005(1)

73

9

(1) Conceptions for 2005 are provisional.

VAT

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the impact on VAT receipts of the changes set out in schedule 3 of the Finance Bill 2007. [134702]

John Healey: The net yield from the changes set out in schedule 3 of the Finance Bill 2007 is set out at Table A2 of the Budget 2007 book.

VAT: Disabled

Roger Berry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will bring forward legislative proposals to make goods and services for the exclusive personal use of disabled people eligible for VAT relief. [134425]

John Healey: There is a wide range of goods and services supplied to disabled people for their personal use on which VAT is not chargeable. This includes certain building alterations to a disabled person's home, wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and equipment designed solely for use by a disabled person.

Under the VAT agreements with our European partners, signed by successive Governments, we can retain our existing VAT zero rates, but we may not extend them or introduce new ones. It is therefore not possible to remove VAT from additional goods and services purchased for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person.

More generally, the Government are carefully considering evidence presented in the recent Low Incomes Tax Reform Group’s report “VAT and disabled people—the case for removing the barriers”, and will assess whether any of the recommended VAT changes, including new reduced rates, would be consistent with our European
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VAT agreements and well-targeted and cost-effective when compared with the range of support already provided for people with disabilities.

VAT: Turbines

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any plans to remove VAT from domestic wind turbines generating green energy. [133470]

John Healey [holding answer 24 April 2007]: Under the VAT agreements with our European partners, signed by successive Governments, we can retain our existing VAT zero rates, but we may not extend them or introduce new ones. It is therefore not possible to remove VAT entirely from domestic wind turbines.

Under the same European agreements, a reduced rate of VAT of not less than 5 per cent. is available for the construction, renovation and alteration of housing provided as part of a social policy. We have used this provision to introduce a reduced rate of VAT for the installation by contractors of a range of energy-saving and energy-efficient products and microgeneration technologies, including solar panels and wind turbines, in houses and other residential accommodation.

Welfare Tax Credits

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how may tax credit recipients have not received one or more payments as scheduled in April 2007 as a result of renewing awards in the new tax year 2007-08; [133629]

(2) whether guidance has been circulated to HM Revenue and Customs staff centrally and in local HM Revenue and Customs offices on issuing interim manual payments to tax credit recipients who have not received one or more payments as a result of renewing awards in the new tax year 2007-08. [133631]

Mr. Timms: I am not aware of any claimants not receiving payments scheduled in April 2007 as a result of them renewing their tax credit award for the tax year 2007-08.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how may tax credit recipients did not receive one or more payments in (a) April 2006, (b) April 2005 and (c) April 2004 as a result of renewing awards at the beginning of each new tax year. [133630]

Mr. Timms: This information is not available.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether people of whom HM Revenue and Customs have no records and who illegally pay no tax are included within the estimates of those entitled to receive tax credits in the Family Resource Survey cited in HM Revenue and Customs’ Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit Take-up rates 2004-05; [133749]

(2) whether the figures in the HM Revenue and Customs document Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit Take-up rates 2004-05 take account of an
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estimate of (a) the amounts which were fraudulently claimed and (b) the number of couples fraudulently claiming to be lone parents. [134396]

Mr. Timms: The methodology used by HMRC in producing the child and working tax credits take-up statistics is detailed in pages 13 to 17 of the HMRC publication “Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit Take-up Rates 2004-05”, which is available on the HMRC website at:

The number of recipients of tax credits is drawn from HMRC administrative data. HMRC have a range of compliance processes in place to ensure that only claims from those eligible for tax credits are put into payment. This includes cross checking income information from the tax credit claim form against other HMRC systems.

The number of entitled non-recipients of tax credits is estimated from the Family Resources Survey and the British Household Panel Survey. Survey data received by HM Revenue and Customs are anonymised. It is not therefore possible to establish whether particular families are non-compliant with respect to tax or tax credits.

The methodology minimises the effect of non- compliance on the take-up rate figures as the recipient population is included both in the numerator and denominator of the calculation.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Climate, Energy and Security

11. Dr. Desmond Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the levels of support among the permanent members of the UN Security Council for discussing the relationship between climate and energy security. [134742]

Mr. McCartney: Without support from all the permanent members of the Security Council the debate on climate, energy and security could not have taken place. There was some procedural opposition, based upon perceptions of the role of the Security Council versus the General Assembly, but there is growing international acceptance of the relationship between climate, energy and security, as shown by China’s recognition during the debate that climate change had security implications.

Iran

15. Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on Iran’s nuclear programme. [134748]

18. Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on Iran’s nuclear programme. [134752]

Dr. Howells: We remain very concerned about Iran’s nuclear programme. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran to persuade them to suspend their
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proliferation-sensitive activities and return to negotiations on the basis of proposals we presented to Iran last June. This would give Iran everything it needs to develop a state of the art civil nuclear industry, and wider benefits, in a way that addresses the concerns of the international community.

Darfur

16. Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the security situation in the Darfur region. [134750]

Mr. McCartney: Security remains precarious. Humanitarian agencies face increasing banditry. The Sudanese Government resumed bombing villages in Darfur last week, resulting in a number of civilian injuries and deaths. We condemn these attacks, which show little regard for human life. They violated UN Security Council Resolution 1591 and must cease immediately. All sides to the conflict must commit to the peace process or face further measures in the Security Council. The Government remain actively engaged on this issue at the highest levels. I raised our concerns with the Sudanese Justice Minister while at the Human Rights Council in March.

19. Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the security situation in the Darfur region. [134753]

Mr. McCartney: Security remains precarious. Humanitarian agencies face increasing banditry. The Sudanese Government resumed bombing villages in Darfur last week, resulting in a number of civilian injuries and deaths. We condemn these attacks, which show little regard for human life. They violated UNSCR 1591 and must cease immediately. All sides to the conflict must commit to the peace process or face further measures in the Security Council.

Iraqi Kurdistan

17. Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the social, political and economic development of Iraqi Kurdistan since 1990; and if she will make a statement. [134751]

Dr. Howells: The social, political and economic development in the Kurdish region since 1990, following the establishment of the no-fly zone and the formation of the Kurdish Regional Government and National Assembly, has helped to foster a more developed economy than in other parts of Iraq.

The provinces of Erbil, Dohuk and Suleymaniyah that the Kurdish regional government administers enjoy moderate stability. Security is better than in the rest of Iraq.


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