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3 Feb 2010 : Column 371W—continued

Taxation: Aviation

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment the Government made of using maximum take-off weight as a basis for the proposed per plane tax which was rejected in November 2008. [313004]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The Government considered the use of maximum take-off weight as part of the consultation to reform air passenger duty in January 2008, available at:

The Government's response to the consultation, published in November 2008, is available at:

Taxation: Holiday Accommodation

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 11 January 2010, Official Report, column 765W, on furnished holiday lettings, if he will make an estimate of the number of furnished holiday lettings owned by (a) UK residents and (b) residents of other EU member states in (i) North Yorkshire and (ii) England. [312342]

Mr. Timms: There are an estimated 75,000 furnished holiday lettings properties. Of these, around 62,000 are owned by individuals with a correspondence address in England and around 6,000 are owned by individuals in Yorkshire and Humberside. HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) administrative systems do not have information on the location of the properties themselves. Non-UK residents are not eligible to claim tax relief under the furnished holiday lettings rules.

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VAT: Alcoholic Drinks

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department has issued rebates of value added tax to supermarkets in relation to loss-leading marketing promotions of alcohol products in the last five years. [312717]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 25 January 2010]: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is responsible for the collection and management of value added tax.

Supermarkets are subject to the same VAT rules as other businesses. They are required to account for VAT on payments received for their positive-rated sales, including alcohol products, and are able to recover VAT paid on purchases for their business, including products for re-sale.

The VAT returns rendered to HMRC by supermarkets and other businesses do not distinguish payments or recovery of VAT on alcohol products from those on other sales.

VAT: Memorials

Bob Russell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will estimate the amount of value added tax on memorials to children (a) levied in each of the last five financial years and (b) expected to be levied in (i) 2009-10 and (ii) 2010-11; [314702]

(2) if he will make it his policy not to levy value added tax on the purchase and erection of memorials for children; and if he will make a statement. [314703]

Mr. Timms: The information requested is not available, as HM Revenue and Customs does not collect data on VAT collected from individual categories of goods and services.

Under our agreements with our European partners, we are not able to extend our existing zero rates or introduce new exemptions from VAT.

Women and Equality

Departmental Advertising

Grant Shapps: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how much the Government Equalities Office has spent on (a) print, (b) online, (c) television and (d) radio advertising in each year since it was established; and what percentage of advertising expenditure in each such year was managed by the Central Office of Information. [309903]

Michael Jabez Foster: The Government Equalities Office was established on 12 October 2007. For the financial year 2007-08 there was no expenditure on advertising. In 2008-09 the GEO spent £26,776.43 on advertising. All of this was related to print and associated on-line newspaper advertising. In 2009-10 to date GEO' has spent £63,345 on advertising all of which was print related and mainly covered recruitment to the Boards of GEO's NDPBs. None of the detailed expenditure was managed by the Central Office of Information.

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Departmental Billing

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what estimate she has made of the average length of time taken by (a) the Government Equalities Office and (b) its agencies to pay invoices from (i) small and medium-sized enterprises and (ii) all creditors in the last 12 months. [315140]

Michael Jabez Foster: The Government Equalities Office continues to meet its target of paying over 90 per cent. of all trade creditors including small and medium-sized enterprises within 10-working days of receipt of a valid invoice.

Departmental Public Expenditure

David Simpson: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how much the Government Equalities Office spent on (a) new furnishings, (b) works of art and (c) new vehicles in each year since its inception. [312514]

Michael Jabez Foster: Since its creation on 12 October 2007, the Government Equalities Office has not spent any money on new furnishings, works of art or new vehicles.

Equality Bill 2008-09: Equality Bill 2009-10

Margaret Moran: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality whether guidance has been prepared for those organisations which would have duties under the provisions proposed in the Equality Bill. [315110]

Michael Jabez Foster: Clear, practical guidance on the Equality Bill will help people to understand their rights and responsibilities under the Bill. Better understanding should improve compliance and ensure people can assert their rights.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has statutory responsibility to produce guidance on all the Equality Bill provisions except the socio-economic duty.

The Commission published draft guidance on the employment provisions in the Bill for public consultation on 27 January 2010 and will be publishing further draft guidance for consultation shortly.

The Government will issue guidance for public bodies on the socio-economic duty later this year. It will draw on the principles set out in the guide to the duty we published on 8 January, and will be the subject of consultation with relevant public bodies.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Carlton Gardens

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether there are plans to sell 1 Carlton Gardens. [313783]

Chris Bryant: No.

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Afghanistan: Corruption

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the proportion of Afghanistan's GDP attributable to bribery; what steps his Department is taking to counter bribery in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [313156]

Chris Bryant: The Government made no such estimation. However, Afghanistan ranks second to last on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (before Somalia) and nearly one in every five Afghans experience corruption when trying to access public health care and state electricity supply. Integrity Watch Afghanistan estimate that in some provinces, households on average pay $100 per year in bribes to public officials. This is a lot of money for most households in a country where the average annual income for an Afghan is US$354 and huge inequalities exist between rich and poor.

At the London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010 the Government of Afghanistan committed to:

The International Community in return promised to support them in that task.

Building Afghan institutions that are durable, capable and accountable to their people is key to success in Afghanistan and a key element of the UK mission in Afghanistan. Tackling corruption at all levels is essential to achieving this. The UK has set up a Multi-Agency Task Force (MATF) of experts across the Government to support the Afghan Government's efforts to tackle corruption. The MATF is focused on prevention efforts such as improving public financial management, building Afghan law enforcement so that impunity can end, the strengthening of accountability bodies and opportunities for citizens to hold their government to account.

Belarus: Human Rights

Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of (a) the human rights situation and (b) progress on democratic reform in Belarus; and if he will make a statement. [315198]

Chris Bryant: We have significant concerns about human rights in Belarus which we set out in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's annual Human Rights Report. The Belarusian authorities continue to harass civil society, non-governmental organisations, religious organisations and the independent media. Belarus is the only European country to continue to use the death penalty. However, there have been some small but welcome improvements in the past two years. In particular, we welcome the decision to allow a number of independent newspapers access to state distribution, and to allow European Radio for Belarus to open a correspondents'
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office for a year. We also welcome the engagement by the Belarusian authorities in the EU's Eastern Partnership, and the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue launched in 2009.

Progress on democratic reform has also been slow. Belarus has responded to some of the recommendations made by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Monitoring Mission in 2008. This is a positive step, though we are disappointed that an important change-the right of observers to view the ballot papers as they are counted-was not included in the proposed reforms. The conduct of local elections in April 2010 will be an important test of the willingness of the Belarusian authorities to meet international election standards.

Departmental Official Engagements

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to meet the US ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues during her visit to the UK in February. [315193]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The UK remains fully committed to the protection and promotion of all human rights, including the rights of women. We work closely with international partners to promote gender equality and women's rights through international organisations; and through our promotion of women's rights bilaterally.

We are keen to work closely with ambassador Verveer on issues affecting women globally. A decision on who will meet her will be made subject to confirmation of her final travel programme.

Uzbekistan: Cotton

Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to prevent imports of (a) cotton and (b) clothing which has been produced by child labour in Uzbekistan; and if he will make a statement. [315197]

Chris Bryant: The UK remains concerned about reports of the use of child labour in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan. The UK has raised its concerns with the Uzbek Government and through the EU. Our embassy in Tashkent also remains in regular contact with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the issue. In order to support the establishment of stronger child labour monitoring systems in Uzbekistan our embassy is funding a project that has delivered informal education and vocational training to children most at risk of child labour in thirteen rural areas.

The EU welcomed Uzbekistan's signing of the International Labour Organisation Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Minimum Age of Employment in 2008 and 2009 respectively. A National Action Plan was launched in 2008 to ensure implementation of these conventions. We continue to urge Uzbekistan to implement effectively its international obligations in this regard.

The EU can temporarily withdraw trade preferences provided to developing countries under its Generalised System of Preferences, if there is sufficient evidence of labour rights violations. However, the EU and UK believe the best way to improve labour standards is for
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governments to work with workers' and employers' groups to improve their ability to comply with, and enforce, labour laws.

The UK Government continue to call on businesses to look at their supply chains and take appropriate action if they find evidence that goods have been produced using child labour.

There is no legal requirement for goods to bear marks indicating their origin. As such it would be difficult for the Government to establish a blanket ban on imports of Uzbek cotton and clothing. Similarly, products manufactured using Uzbek cotton in a third country would legitimately bear the country of manufacture as the country of origin.

International Development

Climate Change: Finance

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of the UK's fast-start financing for climate change adaptation will be drawn from his Department's existing budgets. [314906]

Mr. Thomas: In 2010-11, around 60-65 per cent. of the UK's fast-start financing for adaptation will come from The Department for International Development's (DFID's) budget.

The departmental budgets for 2011-12 and 2012-13 have not yet been decided.

The UK remains committed to providing additional post 2012 financing on top of the 0.7 per cent. official development assistance (ODA) commitment and to limiting the share of our ODA for climate change to no more than 10 per cent.

Departmental Billing

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the average length of time taken by his Department to pay invoices from (a) small and medium-sized enterprises and (b) all creditors in the last 12 months. [315128]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Prime Minister announced in October 2008 that all central Government Departments will aim to pay invoices within ten days. The Department for International Development (DFID) commenced reporting of ten day payment performance in November 2008. In December 2009 DFID reported 96.03 per cent. of invoices were paid within ten days. DFID does not separately capture payment information by small or medium-sized enterprises.

Haiti: Earthquakes

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance his Department is providing to ensure that cholera does not break out in camps for displaced persons in Haiti. [315030]

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Mr. Michael Foster: Shortly after the earthquake struck on 12 January, the Department for International Development (DFID) announced £300,000 in funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for disease surveillance to help prevent epidemics.

Despite some increase in diarrhoea, tetanus and contagious diseases, comprehensive surveillance has not detected any major signs so far.

Our field team reports that co-ordination of the water and sanitation relief efforts continue to improve despite the scope and complexity of this response. To strengthen co-ordination, we have given £1 million to the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for co-ordination. This funding is helping to strengthen the efforts of implementing partners on the ground to address sanitation issues and reduce the risk of diseases such as cholera.

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