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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have long been aware that the European Community's External Aid Programme is not living up to its potential. We produced a strategy in December 1998 for improving its effectiveness and efficiency and are currently taking this strategy forward in co-operation with the European Commission.
Audit for EC development programmes is the responsibility of the European Court of Auditors, who produce a report in November each year. The National Audit Office scrutinises this report for Parliament in spring the following year.
Ensuring that EC pledges are promptly and efficiently spent falls outside the remit of the National Audit Office. However, we fully support Commissioner Patten's recommendation that efforts should be made to speed up implementation of this proposal.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Department for International Development has already committed nearly £3 million for relief projects in response to the drought which is currently affecting regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India--including Rajasthan. £2 million of this support is being channelled through the World Food Programme for its regional response, and £500,000 through Oxfam for its activities in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
In addition, unconnected with the drought situation, DFID has also committed funds for two innovative projects with the Rajasthan Government which aim to promote universal primary education in the state, including areas affected by the current drought.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are no special rules for supplies over the Internet. Goods ordered over the Internet and delivered physically are treated like any other supply of goods; and supplies delivered electronically are treated as supplies of services. Information on supplies of goods and services are contained in the VAT General Guide (Notice No. 700). Information about supplies of services traded internationally is covered in Place of Supply of Services (Notice No. 741). Information on VAT and the export of goods is published in Exports (Notice No. 703). Proof of export will normally be satisfied through commercial documentation.
Public Notices and information on the whole range of VAT issues are freely available from Customs & Excise Business Advice Centres. In order to assist businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. HM Customs & Excise are in the process of developing a site on the Internet which will provide a wide range of information to help business understand the VAT implications of trading electronically.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Printed books are zero-rated for VAT purposes. If the rights supplied are incidental to the supply of the book, the whole supply will be zero-rated. A separate supply of rights would take its own liability.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have implemented a transparent and open framework for fiscal policy, and believe it is important to explain the reasons for tax changes and how they will work in practice. The Budget press releases and related materials, including the Financial Statement and Budget Report, the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report, and technical notes provide full, clear and accurate information about the Government's policies. They are both informative and objective.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Cleaner Vehicles Task Force, which was set up by the Department in 1997 to look at practical ways of reducing vehicle emissions is publishing its final report, The way forward--the final report of the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force today. The report covers five main areas:
Copies of the final report, along with a background paper published by the Task Force on the environmental impacts of vehicle production and disposal and the reports of the Technology and Testing and Alternative Fuels sub-group, are available in the House Library.
To minimise service disruption, London Underground has carried out temporary repairs where possible, with the approval of Her Majesty's Railways Inspectorate. All stations are now open. Permanent repairs will be carried out as quickly as possible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): There has not been any specific consultation with representatives of bee-keepers or fruit growers about the siting of farm scale evaluations of GM crops. This is because the assessment of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment ascertained that the release would have no adverse effects on bees or the consumers of honey or fruit containing GM pollen.
Lord Whitty: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has in recent years advised operators of mobile concrete pumps that their vehicles should be licensed in the mobile crane tax class, on the basis of legal advice. However, the DVLA is currently considering the implications of R v Reilly Concrete Pumping Limited, in which an operator was convicted under Section 37 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 after registering his vehicles in that class, to consider what advice it should now issue to operators of concrete pumps to ensure that their vehicles are correctly licensed.
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