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Northern Ireland: Sub-Post Office Closures

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government recognise the important role played by sub-post offices in local communities, particularly in rural areas and for the elderly and less mobile. Since November 2000 there has been a formal requirement on Post Office Ltd to maintain the rural network and prevent avoidable closures. This applies until 2006 in the first instance.

In developing its urban reinvention programme post office closure proposals, Post Office Ltd undertakes a detailed assessment of the accessibility (including for the elderly and disabled) of alternative offices identified as the main receiving branches. This assessment includes the nature of the terrain between the branches, the distance of the journey on foot, including how busy the roads are and whether/where there are pedestrian crossings, traffic lights or underpasses where these need to be crossed. Access by public transport, predominately by bus, is checked giving route numbers and distance of stops from the closing and receiving branches. Availability of parking is also checked. At the end of this programme, at least 95 per cent of the urban population nationally will still live within one mile of a post office and the majority within half a mile.

Emissions Trading

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government published for consultation a draft UK National Allocation Plan (NAP) setting out proposals for allocating emission allowances to firms covered under the first phase of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which runs from 2005–07, and the way in which the international competitiveness of UK industry will be supported. While the Government will be submitting a NAP to the European Commission outlining key principles in April 2004, the final decision on the overall allocation of allowances will not be taken until 1 October 2004. It is therefore too soon to state whether UK firms will be required to make emissions reductions greater than those required in the plans submitted by other member states.

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Miners: Vibration White Finger Scheme

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many miners or widows claiming under the British coal vibration white finger litigation died before receiving their compensation.[HL2269]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: As at 15 March 2004 1,687 miners had died since they had submitted claims under the Vibration White Finger scheme. I am sorry that no similar figure is available for widows of former miners.

EU: Lisbon 2000 Agenda

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they are doing to promote the integration of the Lisbon 2000 agenda into other key European Union policy areas, including the growth and stability pact; the structural and cohesion funds; and European Union competition and industrial policies.[HL2166]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The Government believe that the Lisbon strategy needs to incorporate action across a wide range of European Union policy areas if it is to be effective. The Government set out their approach in the progress report Advancing long term prosperity: economic reform in an enlarged Europe (February 2004).

The recent spring European Council reflected this, with conclusions including support for the four presidency initiative on regulatory reform, implementation of the findings of the Kok review of European labour markets, and action to improve the single market for services. The Government are pursuing:

    reform of the structural and cohesion funds so that member states can pursue effective policies for regional growth and developing human capital within a framework which has sufficient flexibility to meet their differing needs as set out in the Government's consultation document A modern regional policy for the United Kingdom (March 2003) and confirmed in the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's Statement to the House on 17 September 2003; and

    an approach to competition and industrial policy founded on flexible, dynamic markets. This includes effective control of economically unjustified state aid, strong competition policy including proactive investigation of markets and sectors, and reforms to the EU regulatory framework to promote flexibility and growth.

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The Government published a discussion paper on the stability and growth pact (SGP) alongside the Budget. As the Chancellor said in his Budget Statement, the discussion paper compares the UK framework with the rules of the European Union's SGP and examines the principles, based on UK experience, which should guide the evolution of fiscal policy.

Alternative Investment Market: Inheritance Tax

Lord Donoughue asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, if one of the qualifying alternative investment market shares entitled to 100 per cent inheritance tax relief and held for two years, is taken over for cash and net proceeds are reinvested in a similarly qualifying company, the investor loses all of the time benefits from the original holding; and [HL2214]

    Whether an investor of shares traded on the alternative shares market can carry over time benefits from one holding to another new holding; and what is the time within which the proceeds must be reinvested to carry over the time benefits in order to maintain inheritance tax relief; and [HL2215]

    Whether, if an investor of shares traded on the alternative shares market sells shares for one of the companies qualifying for relief from inheritance tax and the proceeds are reinvested in a similar qualifying company, the investor loses all the time benefits from the original holding. [HL2216]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The rules for inheritance tax business property relief provide for property to be replaced while maintaining entitlement to relief. The same rules apply to shares on the alternative investment market as to other property eligible for relief: where otherwise qualifying property has replaced other such property, it is entitled to business property relief if it and the property it replaced was owned for a total of at least two years during the five years immediately before the taxable transfer.

Olympic Games 2012: London Bid

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 29 January (WA 56), whether a newly elected Mayor of London could under the Greater London Authority Act 1999, with or without the support of the Greater London Authority, decline to levy a council tax to raise London's contribution to staging the 2012 Olympic Games; and what would happen to the bid in those circumstances, or to the financing of the games following a successful bid. [HL2306]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In the memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Mayor of London, presented to Parliament in June 2003 as Command Paper Cm 5867, the Mayor has agreed that, subject to the Greater London Authority's decision-making processes, a council tax precept, beginning no earlier than 2006–07, would be made to support the cost of staging the games.

As part of the bid, both the Mayor and the Government will be required to sign guarantees confirming the amounts to be funded by council tax and other funding sources, and pledging to take all necessary measures to ensure that London will fulfil its obligations under the host city contract, which will be signed with the International Olympic Committee if London's bid is successful. Under the GLA Act 1999, the Mayor and London Assembly have a duty to secure a financially balanced budget and the Mayor must levy the council tax precept that is necessary to fund that budget.

National Lottery

Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Since the commitment in the National Lottery funding decision document to increase the public's involvement in decisions on lottery spending, what consultations about particular local decisions and with whom the Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund have carried out in:

    (a) South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council;

    (b) North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council;

    (c) Newcastle Metropolitan Borough Council;

    (d) Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council; and

    (e) Sunderland Metropolitan Borough Council.[HL2330]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Community Fund makes most of its grant decisions on a regional basis. Decisions on grants in the north-east are made by a committee drawn from the region and this committee includes members of the north-east public drawn by lot.

The New Opportunities Fund regularly consults with local authority officials. In particular, the fund arranges meetings twice a year with representatives from each north-east local authority to discuss grant decisions in their area.

The National Lottery funding decision document refers to the future of the National Lottery, in particular the approach that the recently announced Big Lottery Fund will take. The Big Lottery Fund will merge the work of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. Plans are being developed for consultation events on how the Big Lottery Fund will work and these will involve the public across the UK, including the north-east areas mentioned in my noble friend's question.

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