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19 Jan 1999 : Column WA91

Written Answers

Tuesday, 19th January 1999.

Pensioners: Minimum Income Guarantee

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether or to what extent the minimum income guarantee will be unconditionally available to all pensioners.[HL446]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The minimum income guarantee will be available to all those pensioners who need it, subject to their means.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to paragraph 5.21 of the Green Paper, Partnership in Pensions, whether they will make arrangements for the regular uprating of the savings limits for the minimum income guarantee.[HL448]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We recognise that the rules governing treatment of resources can appear unfair to those with modest savings or second pensions. We have made it clear that we would welcome views on the most cost-effective way of tackling this issue with a view to bringing forward proposals later in this Parliament.

Retirement Pensions: Expatriate Pensioners

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to be in a position to introduce measures ensuring equal treatment regarding retirement pensions between expatriate pensioners domiciled in Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and expatriates resident in other countries.[HL430]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We believe our priority should be to concentrate any additional resources that may become available on those pensioners resident in the UK who have most difficulty in making provision for themselves and who would otherwise have the lowest incomes in retirement.

State Second Pension: Broken Work Records

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to paragraph 6.12 of the Green Paper, Partnership in Pensions, how far the credits for the state second pension there described will be available to those with broken work records because no work was available.[HL450]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The proposals in the Green Paper Partnership in Pensions are that credits for state second pension should be available to recipients of invalid care allowance; carers of people receiving

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attendance allowance or disability living allowance, who qualify for home responsibilities protection (HRP); child benefit recipients where the youngest child is aged five or under; and long-term disabled people with broken work records. The coverage of credits for state second pension is one of the issues on which views would be welcomed as part of the Green Paper consultation.

Financial Services and Markets: Responses to Draft Bill

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What responses they have received to the draft Financial Services and Markets Bill.[HL607]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The response to publication of the draft Bill in July 1998 showed strong support for the creation of a single statutory regulator. There is widespread interest in ensuring that the Financial Services Authority continues to operate in a fair, open and accountable manner. The Government intend to clarify and, where necessary, to amend the Bill to meet valid concerns raised on consultation and in response to the current inquiry by the Treasury Select Committee and the intended pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of both Houses.

In the meantime, we have decided to strengthen further the openness and accountability of the new regulatory regime. We intend to include in the Bill a statutory requirement for the FSA to establish practitioner and consumer panels, underpinning the arrangements the FSA has already put in place. We also intend to include in the Bill a requirement for the FSA to hold an annual open meeting at which the chairman and others can be questioned on the FSA's policy and performance. The Bill will also include a requirement that the non-executive members should form a majority on the FSA board.

The statutory requirements in the draft Bill for the FSA to consult on rules will be improved and will include a requirement that proposed rules and rule changes be accompanied by an explanation of how they relate to the FSA's objectives. The consultation requirements will also be extended so as to apply to standing guidance of general application.

The draft Bill requires the FSA to have in place arrangements for independent investigation of complaints. The FSA will be required under the Bill to consult on these arrangements. We also intend that in addition to publishing the conclusions of his investigation the investigator should be able to report on the FSA's response to any recommendations made.

The FSA will be accountable to Ministers and through them to Parliament. Its annual report under the Bill will be a key aspect of that accountability. The draft Bill enables the Treasury to require the FSA to report on specific matters. We will begin discussions with the FSA with a view to publishing an agreed list of matters to be covered in the report. We also intend that the Treasury should be given new powers to commission and publish periodic independent value for money audits of the FSA.

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The draft Bill provides the Treasury with a number of powers to make statutory instruments. Drafts of key orders will be published for public consultation shortly. We will also undertake appropriate consultation on the other orders.

Corporation Tax

Lord Hamilton of Dalzell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the statement by Lord Dubs on the Northern Ireland Bill on 27 October (H.L. Deb., col. 1842) that "Corporation tax provisions are determined centrally by the Treasury in the context of the United Kingdom's overall fiscal policy. To do otherwise might produce undesirable distortions within the United Kingdom single market. For that reason, it is important that corporation tax, like other taxes remains an excepted matter", means that these powers to tax would have to be surrendered by the United Kingdom to the European Union to avoid similar undesirable distortions.[HL361]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have made it clear that they will retain the national veto on tax in Europe, including corporation tax. The Government would not support any action that would harm investment and jobs in Britain and the EU.

Braille Grant to RNIB

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations have been received in regard to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 19 November 1998 (WA 202) about the future of the Braille grant to the Royal National Institute for the Blind; and whether they have given further consideration to the terms of the reply.[HL415]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am aware of one representation which referred to my reply of 19 November 1998. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced on 15 December 1998 that his department will provide £200,000 a year annually to the Royal National Institute for the Blind in support of Braille production. This will be in addition to the £200,000 a year my department will make available through the Library and Information Commission to assist blind and visually impaired people to benefit more widely from access to library services.


Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current composition of the Ministerial Group on the Restructuring of the European Aerospace and Defence Industry (MISC 5).[HL565]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): As the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry may have to take decisions under the competition legislation on the proposed merger which BAe and GEC have announced in principle, the Prime Minister has decided that while these

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issues are under consideration it would be preferable for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry not to participate in the work of MISC 5 in order to avoid any risk of it appearing that he had prejudged the issues involved. The Prime Minister has therefore appointed the Secretary of State for Defence as the Chairman of the Ministerial Group. The DTI will continue to be represented by the Minister for Energy and Industry.

Register of British Ships

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to contact and inform owners of small boats registered on the Part 1 Register of British Ships and Seamen that the registration for the life of the boat is no longer applicable and that they must re-register their boats by 21 March or face removal from the register; and[HL407]

    What assistance they will give owners of boats registered on the Part 1 Register of British Ships and Seamen if their boats are impounded abroad owing to the original registration no longer being valid.[HL408]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Substantial publicity has been given to this change. The time period to renew has been extended from three months to up to five years depending on the date of build of the ship. This year registry renewal was given an high profile launch at the London Boat Show by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) with publicity material sent out in a mailshot to 6,000 contacts within the maritime world. This included yacht clubs, marinas, ship-brokers, owners, managers and agents, chandlers, repairers and harbour masters.

Unfortunately entries in the register have become out of date as owners have not always notified the Mac's Registry of Shipping and Seamen Branch when ships have been sold or sunk or when they have moved their address. The records are currently held in paper ledgers and so the cost of a mailshot would be high, with the expectation that up to half would come back undelivered. Therefore it is not cost-effective to send a direct mailshot to registered owners.

However, the Registry of Shipping and Seamen Branch (RSS) has maintained close contact with all recognised industry bodies to keep them aware of developments and publicity material has been made available to them to circulate to their members. Similarly articles have been submitted to the boating press for inclusion and adverts are planned in magazines for publication in January and February 1999. Further publicity is planned for Spring 2000 and then for the following three years.

The RSS is aware of this potential problem and has recently circulated details of registration renewal to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for onward transmission to British consuls throughout the world. A number of measures are in place to cope with the need to issue documents in an emergency. For example, RSS can confirm

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registration details by fax to the British consul or port official if owners are impounded abroad. Also the renewal period for late applications, without the need for new documentation, has been extended to up to a year.

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