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French Transport Strike: Compensation Payments

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: We know that the French authorities are now working to expedite the consideration of claims and to decide them as quickly as possible. Our officials are continuing to work closely with the authorities to ensure that valid claims are dealt with fairly and within the framework of French law, which we understand does not provide for the payment of interest.

Landlord and Tenant Act 1954: Law Commission Recommendations

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: The Government are looking closely at the recommendations in this report, many of which are obviously sensible. We will announce our conclusions in due course. Implementation would require primary legislation.

Gypsy Families and Council Housing

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: We have no plans to do so. Gypsy families have exactly the same rights of access to council housing as anyone else, and we see no need to ask local authorities to keep such records.

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Second Homes

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many United Kingdom households have two or more homes.[HL776]

Baroness Hayman: The information available is for households living in Great Britain, an estimated 250,000 of whom owned or rented a second home in Great Britain in 1996-97. This figure excludes second homes owned or rented in Great Britain by people living abroad or in Northern Ireland. The information is from the Survey of English Housing and the ONS Omnibus Survey.

Household Statistics: Bedrooms

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many United Kingdom households have homes with three or more bedrooms; and[HL777]

    How many United Kingdom households with two or more children live in homes with fewer than three bedrooms.[HL778]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Monkswell from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr. T. Holt, dated 3 March 1998.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent questions on United Kingdom households with three or more bedrooms and with two or more children living in homes with less than three bedrooms.

During 1996-97, 61 per cent. of households in Great Britain lived in accommodation which had three or more bedrooms. For this same year, among families in Great Britain with two or more dependent children, 13 per cent. of these families lived in accommodation with fewer than three bedrooms.

These statistics are taken from the 1996 General Household Survey for Great Britain. Equivalent data are not compiled for the United Kingdom.

Duty-free Shopping in the EU

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the impending abolition of duty free shopping by travellers between Member States of the European Union as previously agreed by their finance Ministers.[HL714]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The decision to end duty-free shopping within the European Union on 30 June 1999 was taken by the Council of Finance Ministers in 1991. Any review of that decision has to be for the Council as a whole. The Government have

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previously said that they will not stand in the way of any proposal for a Commission study into the impact of abolition, particularly if this were also to examine the nature of any successor regime to duty free.

Mis-sold Personal Pensions: Compensation

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the latest figures published by the Treasury on 12 February on the compensation paid to the 600,000 people who were mis-sold personal pensions and the warning by the Economic Secretary that in some cases they still leave much to be desired, what further progress has been made in this matter.[HL670]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government's objective is to see that all those investors who were mis-sold a personal pension receive prompt redress. To this end, the Government have since June 1997 collected and published each month figures from the firms with most cases to review, showing the progress each has made. The latest figures, covering the period to the end of January 1998, were published on 12 February.

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These show that progress continues to be made, with 60 per cent. of their cases requiring review resolved. Most of the firms concerned have now resolved over half the cases identified for priority review.

However, there is no room for complacency, many cases remain unresolved, and we fully support the regulators in their ongoing efforts to ensure that all firms deal with their caseloads quickly and fairly.

VAT Zero-rating: Exclusion of Architects' and Surveyors' Services

The Earl of Harrowby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the services of an architect or surveyor are excluded from VAT zero rating in Schedule 8, Group 6 (Protected Buildings), Item 2 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994.[HL734]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Only services performed in the course of the construction of a building are zero-rated. The services of architects and surveyors are not regarded as being directly connected to the actual construction of a building and are therefore excluded from zero-rating.

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