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7 Feb 2008 : Column WA195



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Written Answers

Thursday 7 February 2008

Alcohol: Revenue and Customs

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: While the ONS methodology gives a single estimate of the current strength of wine it does not show how the strength may have increased over the last few years. HM Revenue and Customs is currently reviewing the methodology it uses to calculate the consumption of pure alcohol from wine, in conjunction with the Office for National Statistics and the Department of Health, in view of new information. Once the review is complete HMRC will recalculate their estimates of the consumption of wine since 2000-01 on the basis of the new methodology.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The clearances of pure alcohol for beer are derived from the tax receipts and do not depend on the strength of beer.

Figures on the average strength of beer were given in my Written Answer of 10 December 2007 (Official Report, col. WA 15) as this is the strength which links the two published data series on pure alcohol clearances of beer, and on total clearances of beer. However a strength estimate is only necessary in the calculation to convert pure alcohol clearances to quantities for the small proportion of total beer clearances which are not home produced. This is in contrast to clearances of spirits for which we only produce data on pure alcohol and not total clearances and an average strength is not needed.

Building Regulations

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): We have no current plans to do so. Companies that insure newly built homes are private companies and the Government do not seek to influence what should be in their policies. Under current legislation it is the function of building control bodies, comprising both local authority building control and private sector approved inspectors, to ensure that any building work complies with all of the requirements of building regulations, and there is no current intention to alter this position.

Buses

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Travel concessionary authorities’ (TCAs) responsibilities for implementing the statutory minimum travel concession will generally result in costs in three areas: issuing passes, reimbursing operators, and administering the scheme.

The Government are paying a grant of over £31 million in total to TCAs in England outside London in this financial year (2007-08) to cover the cost of issuing concessionary travel passes. The amount of grant to London is to be confirmed. The grant to each TCA is based on £4 per pass currently in circulation, uplifted by 20 per cent to recognise that the new concession is likely to be more attractive than the existing one. It is not possible to say how much it will cost each TCA to produce passes as this will depend on a number of factors, including the state of their existing data on concessionaires and whom they have contracted with to produce their passes. Details of the grant to cover the cost of passes are available in a supplementary table to this Answer in the Library of the House.

The costs of reimbursing bus operators and administering concessionary travel schemes are generally covered by amounts included in the formula grant settlement for each TCA. TCAs do not separately identify the costs of administering the scheme in their returns to Government.

The department is also paying a special grant in the following three years (2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11) to cover the cost of improving the statutory minimum bus concession from free off-peak local travel to free off-peak travel anywhere in England. The proposed

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distribution of this grant is set out in a further supplementary table. The final distribution will be subject to a parliamentary debate in due course.

Central-Local Concordat

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is fully committed to the principles set out in the Central-Local Concordat, including in particular the new performance management arrangements for local authorities and their partners, based on a single set of 198 national indicators and a limited number of targets agreed in local area agreements (LAAs). The new system of comprehensive area assessment will significantly reduce the burden of inspection for children's services from next year; DCSF has contributed over £1 billion of funding to the new, un-ring-fenced area based grant for 2008-09; and the number of targets DCSF agrees with local authorities will be significantly reduced from April by the transition to new LAAs. DCSF is currently working closely with other government departments, government offices, national agencies and others to agree the new LAAs with local authorities and their partners by June.

Climate Change: Emissions Trading

Lord Teverson asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government's spending priorities are not, in general, determined by the way in which the money is raised. Hypothecating revenues to particular spending programmes imparts inflexibility in spending decisions and can lead to a misallocation of resources, with reduced value for money for taxpayers. The spending review process ensures that resources are allocated efficiently to deliver government objectives and ensures priorities, such as education and health, receive the increased levels of funding, as set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

The CSR increases Defra's budget by 1.4 per cent in real terms, from £3,508 million in 2007-08 to £3,960 million. This increase allows the Government to allocate substantial resources to tackle climate change including the Environmental Transformation Fund, and increased resources for flood defences to help the UK adapt.

Cyprus

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have not made any representations to President Papadopoulos regarding Mr Talat's offer in September 2007. It is vital however, if progress is to be made, that there exists constant contact and dialogue at all levels between the two communities. We continue to urge all parties to take measures to help build trust on the island and demonstrate the necessary political will to turn words into actions.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Malloch-Brown: We have not discussed with UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, the package of proposals presented by Mr Talat, leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, in September 2007. However, we were encouraged by Mr Talat's expression of support for the 8 July agreement and the list of confidence-building measures that he proposed.

We continue to encourage all parties to the Cyprus problem to engage fully with the efforts of the UN to achieve a comprehensive solution based on the 8 July

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agreement. 2008 presents a unique opportunity to make decisive progress towards a comprehensive settlement. We urge all parties to take measures to help build trust on the island and demonstrate the necessary political will to turn words into actions.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Malloch-Brown: We continue to support fully the EU's commitment of 2004, reaffirmed in 2007, to support the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, thereby facilitating a settlement.

The EU aid package of €259 million is starting to make a visible difference to the lives of Turkish Cypriots. To date, €88 million have been tendered for, €33 million have been contracted and €12 million have been spent.

At the same time, we remain committed to achieving further trade liberalisation and will continue to support the efforts of the EU presidency to secure such an agreement. Improving the ability of Turkish Cypriots to trade with the EU will bring the community closer to Europe and reduce dependence on Turkey.

However, while efforts to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community are important, ultimately this isolation will only be fully lifted in the context of a UN brokered comprehensive settlement to reunite the island.

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Malloch-Brown: We fully endorse the remarks made in the latest report from the UN Secretary-General that “it is regrettable that the ongoing debate on the lifting of the isolation of Turkish Cypriots has become a debate on recognition”. We remain committed to supporting the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, thereby facilitating a settlement.

The recent UN Security Council Resolution on Cyprus (1789) was agreed with consensus among the five permanent members of the Security Council. The resolution stressed the importance that all parties focus on making decisive progress towards a comprehensive settlement in 2008.



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Embryology

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Government have no plans to change the term “child donor” in the context of proposed new paragraph 9 of Schedule 3 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 at the present time. The use of the term “child donor” has the specific meaning set out in that paragraph and does not have any broader meaning. The Government do, however, recognise the need to ensure clarity in the use of terminology and will consider this matter further as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill progresses.

EU: Structural and Cohesion Funds

Baroness Cohen of Pimlico asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: EU structural funds in the UK are not administered by the Department for Transport but by the appropriate managing authority.

Food: Supplements

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Goods imported into the United Kingdom from the Channel Islands are generally subject to import VAT in the same way as goods imported from any country outside the European Union.



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EC Legislation provides that import VAT is not payable on commercial consignments, for example on goods purchased over the internet, if the total value of the goods in the consignment does not exceed £18. This de minimis limit is set out in Article 22 of Council Directive 88/331/EEC amending Directive 83/181/EEC as regards exemption from value-added tax on the final importation of certain goods.

The legislation states:

Goods of a total value not exceeding 10 ECU shall be exempt on admission. Member states may grant exemption for imported goods of a total value of more than 10 ECU but not exceeding 22 ECU.

The UK choose to exempt goods with a total value up to 22 ECU.

In order to comply with this legislation packets must bear a customs declaration which indicates that the value of the goods is 22 ECU (£18) or less.


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