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Westminster City Council: Commercial Waste

Lord Colwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Local authorities' powers with regard to receptacles for commercial waste are set out in Section 47 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Council Tax: Enforcement

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The regulations which govern the billing and collection of council tax in England are set out in the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992. Although local authorities have powers to contract out the billing and collection of council tax, contactors are still bound by these regulations.

The regulations provide that before a local authority can take enforcement action to recover council tax arrears it must first apply to the magistrates' courts for a liability order to formally establish that there is a debt. Once a liability order has been obtained, the administration and enforcement regulations give local authorities a range of powers to recover the debt which include attachment of earnings, deductions from income support and the levy of distress.

Following the grant of a liability order, the magistrates' courts will become involved again in the

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enforcement process only if a local authority seeks the debtor's committal to prison. Committal, however, is already the last resort in the enforcement process and a local authority can only apply for a debtor's committal to prison if it has at least attempted to levy distress first.

Economic Growth Measurement

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to move from measuring economic "growth" principally or exclusively in terms of Gross Domestic Product towards measuring all economically significant activity, including that currently either not measured or not recorded; if so, what steps they are taking to promote the more accurate measurement of growth in the relevant international bodies (and especially in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development); and by what date can an improved system of measurement be expected to be in operation.[HL2908]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to reply.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Director of the Macro-Economic Statistics and Analysis Group of the Office for National Statistics, Mr. John Kidgell, dated 21 June 1999.

In the absence of the Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary Question on measuring economic growth.

Economic activity as measured by Gross Domestic Product is covered by guidelines in the UN System of National Accounts 1993 and the European System of Accounts 1995. These international agreements aim to improve comparability. Where suitable data sources enable a more complete picture of economic activity to be presented, these data are reflected in the UK National Accounts. For many areas (such as illegal activity) ONS and others have undertaken research to provide illustrative estimates. However, these estimates are not sufficiently developed to be incorporated into the National Accounts.

In addition, the guidelines allow the use of satellite accounts to provide supplementary information about the economy. For example, household accounts, which are being developed in the UK, aim to place a value on unpaid household production. Progress on the household account will be presented in the Economic Trends publication later this year. Other satellite accounts, such as environmental accounts, which describe the relationship between the economy and the environment, are also under development. These satellite accounts could, in theory, be used to produce a measure of GDP which has been adjusted for the effect of the economy upon areas such as the environment. However, in practice there is no agreed methodology of valuing many of the elements in satellite accounts, so the ONS does not have any plans to produce such a measure.

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