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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I must be very careful what I say about pig farmers! It is true, and we agree with the noble Lord, that the lengthy demonstration in favour of pig farmers and "Buy a Pig" in Parliament Square is not a good example to leave to the Mayor of London. It was a chapter of accidents. The Metropolitan Police gave temporary permission without informing the Royal Parks Agency. The Royal Parks Agency decided not to evict the farmers and the pig, for reasons which will readily be sympathised with. When they left temporarily for
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, can the Minister say why this matter falls within the responsibility of the Royal Parks? Why cannot an order be made by the Commons that Parliament Square, which is after all a prime tourist site, should not be defaced? Is the Minister also aware that I find it objectionable to see large political notices hung from the railings at the rear of St Margaret's and Westminster Abbey?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the question of responsibility for Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square goes back to the previous century, and the transfer of responsibility to the Mayor of London is simply in line with precedent. If the noble Baroness refers to the railings that I have in mind, they exist because at that point the tunnel which serves the District Line comes very close to the surface. Although Parliament Square was strengthened to provide for crowds in that area, it is not sufficiently reinforced to take the weight of vehicles. For that reason railings are required.
Lord Richard: My Lords, can my noble friend say what happened to the pig in Parliament Square? Some of us have become quite attached to the pig and are anxious that its wellbeing should be properly safeguarded. Will my noble friend give an undertaking that he will pass on to the new Mayor of London the concerns of this House about the welfare of this noble animal?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that my noble friend is being slightly anthropomorphic. Parliament Square had a succession of pigs rather than a single animal. I do not believe that we can become sentimental about them. I understand that the last pig went off to be adopted.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, when the Government transferred to the Mayor of London power over demonstrations in Parliament Square they hardly expected that they would hand it on a plate to Ken Livingstone. However, as that is the case, if the Mayor ignores the Government's guidelines about what should and should not happen in the square, what kind of sanctions could they impose upon him?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Mayor of London is subject to the London Government Act 1999. That Act provides that the Secretary of State issues guidance to the Mayor about Trafalgar Square
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although there was a succession of pigs, nevertheless they have done a useful job in bringing rural and farming issues into the heart of the urban community so that people know from where their bacon comes? Do the Government have any proposals to tie together more closely rural and urban concerns--for example, the urban White Paper? What support are the Government giving to city farms?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness strays very far from the original Question. I do not believe that it is appropriate for me, with 15 minutes to go, to venture into a disquisition on urban and rural policy.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have received representations about the likely impact of the proposed changes and held a number of meetings with companies, tax advisers and representative bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry.
Lord Northbrook: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Can he explain, and justify, why the Treasury's estimate of the additional cost to companies of this measure is so different from that of the companies themselves and their advisers?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that the boot is on the other foot. The estimate of the Treasury, which is well documented and explicit, is based on a re- analysis of real claims and the Red Book. By contrast, the claims made apparently on behalf of those in industry who say that they will be affected vary enormously. PricewaterhouseCoopers said initially that it had a single client who would lose £1 billion. It then said that it had 24 clients who would in total lose £1.9 billion. The CBI did a survey and came up with the figure of £740 million. The Treasury estimate has remained constant at between £150 and £175 million. Unless those who seek to attack the Treasury get their act together I do not believe that we should take them too seriously.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, can the Minister say why the Government rejected the initial sensible proposal of the Inland Revenue to the effect that pooling--sometimes referred to as onshore pooling--should continue to be allowed so that companies can get the benefit of double tax relief? They do not need to go the whole way and abolish pooling altogether.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall certainly not open up any claimed disagreement between the Government and the Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue is part of government. These proposals have been in the public domain for about a year. The first discussion paper appeared 12 months ago. It is astonishing that those who object to this very modest removal of subsidy from the United Kingdom to high level tax regimes and the restoration of a level playing field cannot get their act together and decide on what basis they oppose the Government's proposals.
Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does the Minister agree that if this proposal is implemented it will be another tax by stealth, proving that the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that during his stewardship taxation has not increased is false?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I could not disagree more with the noble Lord. This must be looked at in the light of all corporate tax changes. Among the major industrialised countries we have the lowest rate of corporation tax, and we have abolished advance corporation tax and stamp duty on intellectual property. We have provided tax relief for the purchase of goodwill and also abolished withholding tax on international bonds. In those circumstances, nothing that the noble Lord says about corporate taxation can be dignified by the term "stealth taxes".
Lord Newby: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Treasury has not finally closed the door to discussions on this matter and there is still scope for a compromise whereby additional tax may be raised but without hitting companies to the extent now claimed?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Treasury has never had a closed mind to these matters; otherwise, we would not have announced at the beginning of this month a deferral of nine months in the implementation of this long overdue measure.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government give high priority to cancer research and already support a wide range of research into prostate cancer. We actively seek to support further studies.
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