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Chernobyl: Closure

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers): Substantial work is in progress within the G7, European Union and international financial institutions to help Ukraine implement its decision to close Chernobyl by the year 2000 within the framework of a sound energy sector strategy. Not all of the relevant studies will be ready by June, though good progress is being made. Once Ukraine has decided on energy options which can attract appropriate Western financial support, a detailed action plan can be finalised. The Government expect a constructive discussion to take place on Chernobyl at the Halifax Summit and that this will be followed up by further intensive discussions at the technical level.

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VAT: Seventh Directive

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all UK VAT offices are interpreting the Seventh Directive on VAT and the Information Sheet of 1st January 1995 in a consistent manner with particular regard to the definitions of "eligible stock" and "opening stock" in respect of both the "Global Accounting Scheme" and the "Second-hand Margin Scheme" in relation to works of art, antiques, collectors' items and second hand goods; and

    What is the accepted method of calculation of valuation of "opening stock" to be used by traders in joining the Global Accounting Scheme and/or the Second-hand Margin Scheme and whether they will confirm that all VAT offices are required to adhere to this method; and

    What remedies are available to dealers and traders if individual VAT offices are making differing interpretations of the Seventh Directive on VAT and the Information Sheet of 1st January 1995; and

    What is the specific department in HM Customs and Excise where problems in dealing with anomalies in the Seventh Directive and the Information Sheet of 1st January 1995 are to be resolved.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): In general, businesses requiring advice or rulings on the details contained in Information Sheet 1/95 or other matters concerning the implementation of the Seventh VAT Directive should refer to their local VAT office. However, should businesses have concerns about, or disagree with, any decision or advice received, it is open to them to ask their local VAT office for clarification or a reconsideration. There are laid down procedures for dealing with disagreements between businesses and Customs over VAT issues and these are set out in the VAT Guide, which is available from local VAT offices. The Information Sheet is to be superseded from 1 June 1995 by a new VAT Notice covering changes resulting from implementation of the Seventh Directive. This is being co-ordinated by the VAT Collection Division, Queens Dock, Liverpool L74 4AA. (The contact official is Mrs Heather Elliott).

More specifically, there is no prescribed method of calculating opening stock for Global Accounting. In order not to place an undue accounting burden on businesses, Customs are prepared to accept any reasonable and fair method of identifying and valuing stock on hand when starting to use this system.

Eligible Margin Scheme goods on hand can be included in the Margin Scheme stock records subject to certain conditions. The principle requirement is that evidence is held of the purchase price of the goods in question.

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any consultative document dealing with the Seventh Directive on VAT has been issued to auction houses with philatelic departments and

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    whether a copy of this document can be made available in the Library.

Lord Henley: Customs and Excise have consulted widely on the Seventh Directive. Consultative meetings were held last year to which auctioneer trade bodies, auction houses with philatelic departments and the Philatelic Traders' Society were invited. Since then, there has been regular contact with a number of auctioneers on a range of pre- and post-implementation issues associated with the Seventh Directive.

Private Finance Panel

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the names and professional qualifications of the chairman and members of the Private Finance Panel and indicate which department has the lead position.

Lord Henley: The members of the Private Finance Panel, their academic and professional qualifications and the positions they hold are listed below.

    Sir Alastair Morton BA, MA, FCIT, Nominated FICE, FRSA

Co-chairman, Eurotunnel.

    Mr Malcolm R. Bates MSc, FCIS, FRAeS, CIMgt

Deputy Managing Director, GEC.

    Sir Christopher Bland BA

Chairman, NFC plc and Life Sciences International plc.

    Mr Howard J. Davies MA, MSc

Director General, CBI; Deputy Governor-elect of the Bank of England.

    Mr Alan Gormly CBE, CA

Chairman, Royal Insurance Holdings plc; Joint Deputy Chairman, Trafalgar House plc.

    Mr Hugh R. Jenkins FRICS, FPMI

Chief Executive, Prudential Portfolio Managers.

    Mr Pen Kent MA

Executive Director, Bank of England

    Ms Sheila V. Masters Ll.B, FCA; Associate, Institute of Taxation

Partner, KPMG Peat Marwick. (Formerly Director of Finance, NHS Executive.)

    Sir Brian Pearse FCIB, CBIM

Chairman, The Housing Corporation and Lucas Industries

    Mr Neville Simms C Eng, M Eng, MICE, FCIOB

Group Chief Executive, Tarmac plc.

    Mr. Bob Dobbie BSc, PhD

Head of Industrial Competitiveness Division, Department of Trade and Industry.

    Mr Colin Reeves MA, MSc, PhD, IPFA

Director of Finance, NHS Executive.

    Mr Peter Mackay MA

Secretary, Scottish Office Industry Department

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    Mr. Steve Robson MA, PhD

Director (Finance, Regulation and Industry), HM Treasury

    Mr David Rowlands BA

Principal Finance Officer, Department of Transport

    Mr Philip Fletcher MA

Deputy Secretary (Housing and Urban), Department of the Environment.

The lead department for the Private Finance Initiative is Her Majesty's Treasury.

National Insurance Holiday Scheme

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are now in a position to say what arrangements they have made for monitoring the administration of the national insurance holiday for the long-term unemployed to ensure that employers do not benefit from it by dismissing other workers in order to earn its benefits.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The Government expect that the vast majority of employers taking advantage of the scheme will abide by its rules and that they will find it more worthwhile to retain employees than start afresh with new recruits simply to maximise the amount of national insurance holiday.

Nevertheless, we will monitor the scheme carefully to ensure that employers are operating it correctly. We intend to use the details of qualifying employees and their employers, which we propose to hold centrally on computer, as the basis to develop a number of checks. To complement these checks, national insurance inspectors will monitor the operation of the scheme as part of the routine examinations which they make of employers' records each year.

Lloyd's: Powers of Secretary of State

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the event of the insolvency of Lloyd's of London, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has powers under the provisions of the Insurance Companies Act 1982 (a) to deem individual Names at Lloyd's to be insurance companies and, without writ or similar action through the courts, to require assets belonging to individual Names to be placed in trust to the extent of their indebtedness to Lloyd's, which assets could not be released from trust without the consent of the Secretary of State; and (b) to require any information and documents to be produced by Names to the extent that it should appear to be necessary for the protection of policyholders, including policyholders in the United States of America; and whether this

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    action would relate only to the liability of individual Names or whether it could be applied to all Names to the extent that assets might be needed to meet the liabilities of those Names at Lloyd's who had no assets to meet their own liabilities.

Lord Inglewood: An individual Name who fails to demonstrate solvency, in the sense that the solvency certificate required pursuant to Section 83(4) of the Insurance Companies Act 1982 had not been furnished, would cease to be exempt from Part II of the Act. Such a Name would then become subject to regulation by the Secretary of State, in accordance with Part II, as an insurance company (defined in Section 96(1) of the Act as a person or body of persons (whether incorporated or not) carrying on insurance business). As such he/she could, in accordance with the grounds set out in Section 37, be required, inter alia, by the Secretary of State, (in accordance with Sections 39 and 40, without recourse to the courts) to maintain specified assets in the UK, and place them in trust. He/she might also (in accordance with Section 44) be required to furnish information and produce documents, and (in accordance with Section 45) be required to take other actions for the protection of policyholders. The extent to which these and all other powers provided by Part II might be exercised in any instance would depend on the circumstances of the case.

In the event of Lloyd's ceasing to be solvent, in the sense that the members of Lloyd's taken together had failed to maintain the margin of solvency prescribed pursuant to Section 84(1) of the Act, specified powers of intervention set out in Part II of the Act, (namely Sections 38–41, 44 and 45) would become exercisable in relation to the members of Lloyd's. The extent to which the powers would be exercised would depend on the prevailing circumstances.

Internet Publication of Environmental Information

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will follow the example of Canada in placing the country's reservoir of environmental information on Internet.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): We are very interested in exploring the possibilities offered by Internet publishing for providing information of all types. The Government Centre for Information Systems (CCTA) has recently set up the Government Information System, which provides space for central and local government and other public bodies to publish information on the Internet. The Department of the Environment provides some information, including all departmental press notices.

The department and CCTA are involved in an exercise to assess the value of publication on the Internet, and officials are looking at how best to proceed.

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