Mr. Spearing : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the application of the first objective of the draft code of practice on government information on page 72 of his recent publication "Open Government" (Cm 2290) to the proposals contained in the European Union (Public Information) Bill.
Mr. Waldegrave : The commitments to extend publication and availability of government information in the White Paper on open government, Cm 2290, do not require that information should be sent to every household in the country, which is a central purpose of the European Union (Public Information) Bill.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the commitment to receipt of information in confidence, set out in paragraph XIV of part II of the draft code of practice on government information published in his White Paper on open government (Cm 2290), refers solely to a commitment entered into in writing.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will give examples of the kind of information disclosure of which would increase the likelihood of damage to the environment, which would be exempted from disclosure under the draft code of practice on government information, included in his White Paper on open government (Cm 2290).
Mr. Waldegrave : There is a similar exemption in the Environmental Information Regulations 1992, which is based in turn on article 3 of EC directive 90/313/EC. Guidance notes issues in December 1992 by the Department of the Environment give the following examples of possible harm :
"In some cases the dissemination of environmental information could in fact harm or pollute the environment. For example, information about the location of nesting sites, rare habitats or
endangered/protected species should be withheld to avoid the risk of damage. And information about possible Sites of Special Scientific Interest should not be made available until a formal notice is served ; making information available prematurely could run the risk of preemptive damage being caused to the site before it was protected. Bodies will need to exercise careful judgement when restricting information in this way."
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the criteria adopted to judge governmental information or records whose sensitivity is such that no date can be put on their potential release, to which reference is made at paragraph 9.23 of his White Paper on open government (Cm 2290).
Mr. Waldegrave : The criteria adopted in respect of records whose sensitivity is such that no date can be put on their potential release are, first, that they are required by the Department either because they are in use or are awaiting review and, secondly, that they fall into one or other of the categories listed in paragraph 9.23 of the White Paper on open government (Cm 2290) for which the Lord Chancellor has given "blanket" approval to retain under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act 1958. Individual records may also be retained under this section if they meet the first criterion for extended closure under section 5(1)--exceptionally sensitive records containing information, the disclosure of which would not be in the public interest--but the date on which the sensitivity is likely to pass is not known.
Although no date can be put on their potential release, such records are subject to regular review--at least every 10 years--and they are subject to the test of actual damage caused by release ; when the sensitivity has passed, the records will be released.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the exemption of information under section XV of part II of his draft code of practice on government information contained in his White Paper on open government (Cm 2290) will include information which cannot be sought in a parliamentary question arising from precedent created by Ministers to block acceptance of all questions that fall within certain categories ; and how members of the public are to be informed as to which information cannot be sought in a parliamentary question.
Mr. Waldegrave : The code of practice is not intended to make information available to the public which could not normally be obtained by hon. Members. Matters on which Ministers have refused to answer questions will often be covered by a specific exemption, and in some cases difficulties may be avoided by addressing the question correctly--for example, to a public body rather than to a Minister who would not normally answer questions on matters within the day-to-day responsibility of an independent public body. When information is refused under the code of practice, reasons will be given including any exemption considered relevant.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what additional resources will be made available to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration to carry out the new tasks conferred upon the Office of Parliamentary Ombudsman, as set out at paragraph 1.12 of the White Paper on open government (Cm 2290) ; and what criteria he has used to judge the likely resource demands upon the parliamentary ombudsman arising from the White Paper.
Mr. Waldegrave : The resources available to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration are determined through the public expenditure survey in the usual way. The commissioner puts proposals directly to the Treasury.
Dr. Marek : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will place in the Library a copy of the guidance issued to Departments by the Public Record Office on the appraisal of personal records.
Mr. John M. Taylor : A copy of the guidance will be placed in the Library. In addition the chief executive of the Public Record Office, the Keeper of Public Records, who is best placed to provide specific information about the guidance, will be writing direct.
Dr. Marek : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what documentation is available about the extent and completeness of records transferred from various sources on any particular topic for keeping at the Public Record Office.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The hon. Member's question concerns a specific matter on which the chief executive of the Public Record Office is best placed to provide an answer and I have accordingly asked the chief executive, the Keeper of Public Records, to reply direct.
Dr. Marek : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will place a copy in the Library of the guidelines issued by the Public Record Office on the documentation of the selection and transfer of records to the office.
Letter from S. Tyacke to Dr. John Marek, dated 14 October 1993 : As part of his reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions, as set out below, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department has asked me to write to you direct.
Parliamentary Question : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, if he will place a copy in the Library of the guidance issued by the Public Record Office to departments on the appraisal of personal records.
Date appeared : 27 July 1993. For written answer : 18 October 1993. PQ Reference No. 132. LCD PQ Reference No. 93/493.
The guidance issued by the Public Record Office to departments on the appraisal of personal records is included in the Manual of Records Administration, issued to departments, and other organisations covered by the Public Records Acts, by our Government Services Department (paragraphs 3.5.18-3.5.21). I am arranging for a copy of the Manual to be placed in the Library of the House of Commons in response to a later question put down by you.
Parliamentary Question : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what documentation is available about the extent and completeness of records transferred from various sources on any particular topic for keeping at the Public Record Office. Date appeared : 27 July 1993. For written answer : 18 October 1993. PQ Reference No. 133. LCD PQ Reference No. 93/494.
When records are transferred to the Public Record Office, they are accompanied by lists, describing the contents of the transfer item by item, and these lists are made available in multiple sets in the reading rooms of the Public Record Office, as the records they describe become open to public inspection. Currently each set of lists of records transferred by modern departments, and made available in the reading rooms at Kew, contains upwards of half a million pages.
The records are arranged in classes, each representing an original series of documents created in relation to a particular
Column 4activity or function of a department of court of law. The items in each class are described in the sets of lists, which are added to if and when further records are transferred and accessioned to a class. Nearly two thousand new pages of lists are added to each set every year.
The Current Guide to the contents of the Public Record Office forms the central means of reference to its holdings, and describes the individual classes of records in the Office, giving readers the information they need to proceed to the correct class list, so that they can order items described in the lists.
The class lists describe only those records that have been selected for transfer. The processes of selection involve, in the 35 largest departments alone, the file by file inspection of nearly 35 miles of records each year. As I have commented in an answer to a later question put down by you, it is a major current objective of the Public Record Office to improve the documentation of these processes of selection, in order that our own responsibility to co-ordinate and supervise them may be made more effective.
Parliamentary Question : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, if he will place a copy in the Library of the guidelines issued by the Public Record Office on the documentation of the selection and transfer of records to the Office. Date appeared : 27 July 1993. For written answer : 18 October 1993. PQ Reference No. 135. LCD PQ Reference No. 93/496.
I am arranging for a copy of the Manual of Records Administration, issued to government departments and other organisations covered by the Public Records Acts, by our Government Services Department, to be placed in the Library of the House of Commons. It includes, at paragraph 3.5.18 3.5.21, the guidance on personal records, which is the subject of an earlier question put down by you.
The intention of the Manual is to give guidance to departments on every aspect of work carried out under the Public Records Acts, and to indicate the division of responsibilities between departments and the Public Record Office. Although in this respect it should be a practical tool, it is not possible for it to cover every eventuality, and the need for day to day consultation between departments and the Public Record Office continues.
A completely revised edition of the Manual was issued to departments in March 1993, and further amendments and additions were distributed in July this year. Chapter 5, on access to public records transferred to the Public Record Office, has been revised to take account of the new arrangements set out in Chapter 9 of the White Paper on Open Government (Cm. 2290), which covered the handling of public records. The revised text of Chapter 5, which is in the process of being distributed to departments, is included in the copy of the Manual in the Library.
The Manual contains, in Chapter 3 on Selection and Destruction, in Chapter 6 on Preparation for Transfer and in Part 7.1 on Transfer of Records, guidance from the Public Record Office on the documentation of these activities. It is a major current objective of our Government Services Department to improve the documentation of the processes of appraisal--the determination of the value of records--and of selection.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask me.
Dr. Marek : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what guarantees were sought relating to standards to be maintained and professional ability available at the Royal Free NHS trust before it was designated as a place of deposit by the Public Record Office.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The hon. Member's question concerns a specific matter on which the chief executive of the Public Record Office is best placed to provide an answer and I have accordingly asked the chief executive, the Keeper of Public Records, to reply direct. Letter from S. Tyacke to Dr. John Marek, dated 14 October 1993 : As part of his reply to your recent Parliamentary Question, as set out below, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department has asked me to write to you direct.
Column 5Parliamentary Question : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what guarantees were sought relating to standards to be maintained and professional ability available at the Royal Free NHS Trust before it was designated as a place of deposit by the Public Record Office. Date appeared : 27 July 1993. For written answer : 18 October 1993. PQ Reference No. 134. LCD PQ Reference No. 93/495.
Places of deposit for public records are appointed under s. 4 (1) of the 1958 Public Records Act by the Keeper of Public Records, acting under powers delegated by the Lord Chancellor. Appointments are effected by an annual Lord Chancellor's (Places of Deposit) Instrument, issued each October, 247 such places of deposit being appointed in 1992.
When an institution, such as the Royal Free NHS Trust, wishes to hold public records, such as hospital records, which have been selected for permanent preservation, and which are over 30 years old, it must apply to the Public Record Office for appointment as a place of deposit. The Public Record Office Liaison Officer is responsible for discussing with the institution the standards of storage and public access (where appropriate) it is expected to reach and to inspect the facilities that are ultimately provided before an appointment may proceed. As respects storage conditions, places of deposit are expected to house records in premises which follow as nearly as possible the recommendations in BS 5454 : 1989 Recommendations for storage and exhibition of archival documents (BSI, 1989). The principal requirements are that :
1. The storage accommodation should be large enough to take not only the existing archive collection but also future accruals over a considerable number of years.
2. There must be strict precautions against unauthorised entry, to keep out the potential thief or vandal. The building should, therefore, be protected by an intruder alarm system, any doors should be strongly constructed, with thief proof locks, and ideally there should be no windows in the storage area.
3. Fire precautions should be of a very high standard, because of the unique nature of archives. At least there must be a smoke detection and alarm system, a suitable number of portable fire extinguishers, and appropriate fire resistances.
4. There must be no risk of flooding from internal or external sources.
5. It must be possible to control the atmospheric conditions within the approved ranges of temperature (16 C to 18 C) and relative humidity (55 per cent. to 65 per cent.).
Places of deposit are expected to provide access, under constant supervision, at reasonable hours depending on the nature of the institution. Furthermore, it is expected that the records in places of deposit should be managed by a qualified archivist.
The processes which led to the first appointment in 1992 and subsequent monitoring of the Royal Free Hospital are common to all places of deposit. Officials at the hospital were in close contact with the Liaison Officer through the life of the project to set up the hospital archive, and advice was given on the feasibility of conversion of the Hoo (the actual building which was appointed a place of deposit), on the plans and specifications produced for that conversion and on the future management of the records. This enabled the PRO to ensure that appropriate standards were being adhered to throughout the conversion. As soon as the conversion work was completed, the building was inspected and assessed against the standards appropriate to a place of deposit and was formally appointed in the 1992 Lord Chancellor's Places of Deposit Instrument on the recommendations of the Liaison Officer.
The Instrument is renewed annually and an institution's appointment may be rescinded if standards drop below an acceptable level. The Liaison Officer is responsible for inspecting not only proposed new places of deposit but also existing places of deposit on a regular basis to ensure that standards of professional care for the records are being maintained. Unless circumstances warrant a visit before then, The Hoo will be due for reinspection in 2000.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask me.
Column 6within the Snaresbrook crown court complex have been unable to sit due to the absence of a judge or recorder ; what was the specific reason for each such cancellation ; what was the date of the maximum number of cancellations occurring on any single day ; and what was the estimated cost to public funds on that day, and the total for the year so far.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what method of funding is used to ensure that posts of judge and recorder for crown courts are filled ; and what action is being taken to ensure that scheduled court sittings are not cancelled due to absence of a judge or recorder.
Mr. John M. Taylor : Judges in the crown court are paid direct from the Consolidated Fund and not via the departmental vote ensuring that sufficient funds are available to meet their salaries. The departmental vote includes moneys to pay the fees of recorders and assistant recorders. The budget received by the court service is based on the planned number of sitting days for recorders and assistant recorders. Scheduled sittings are based upon the known availability of judges, recorders and assistant recorders. In the event of a judge, recorder or assistant recorder being unavailable for a scheduled sitting every attempt is made to book a member of the part-time judiciary.
Mr. Nelson : Preparation of the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford re the report of the Director General of Fair Trading on the marketing and sale of investment-linked insurance products, made under section 122(4) and (5) of the Financial Services Act 1986, was an integral part of the evaluation carried out by officials. It is not possible to isolate the specific costs of its preparation.
Mr. Salmond : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 8 July 1993, Official Report, columns 227-28, if he will publish details of the proposals for rebalancing the composition of the Securities and Investments Board ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer under which paragraphs of treaty articles and consequential directives obligations are placed on Her Majesty's Government to make VAT charges in respect of (a) building repairs, (b) items of safety equipment hitherto
Column 7exempt and (c) non-domestic building and civil engineering projects ; in each case what communications he received from the Commission or the European Court in relation to these or similar obligations ; and in what manner the purport of each communication was reported to Parliament.
Sir John Cope : Article 99 of the treaty of Rome--treaty establishing the European Economic Community--allows for the EC Council of Ministers to adopt provisions for the harmonisation of legislation concerning VAT and other indirect taxes. The sixth Council VAT directive (77/388/EEC), which was adopted in accordance with this article, provides the framework for the application of VAT in all EC member states, including the United Kingdom's zero rates. The vires for the retention of the United Kingdom's zero rates of VAT are contained in article 28.2 of the EC sixth VAT directive, which refers to article 17, last indent of the EC second VAT directive (67/228/EEC). This states :
"Such measures may only be taken for clearly defined social reasons and for the benefit of the final consumer".
The European Commission began infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom in 1981 alleging that some of the United Kingdom's zero rates did not comply with these conditions. The European Court of Justice supported the Commission where the supplies were made to businesses, but rejected the Commission's argument where the supplies were made direct to individuals.
Item (a) Building repairs have never been subject to the zero rate, and their taxation was not affected by the result of this judgment. For items (b) and (c) listed above the correspondence between the Commission/European Court of Justice and the United Kingdom on this matter is as follows :
19 October 1981 :
the Commission informed the United Kingdom that its zero rates did not in its opinion conform to the provisions of the EC sixth VAT directive under the provisions of article 169 of the treaty of Rome ;
25 February 1982 :
the United Kingdom defended its zero rates in a letter to the Commission ;
4 September 1984 :
the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to the United Kingdom ; 2 December 1987 :
the Advocate General's opinion was published on the case ; and 21 June 1988 :
the Court issued its judgment.
Pleadings in infraction proceedings are strictly confidential to the parties in dispute. This point was discussed by the then Secretary of State for Employment, Lord Young of Graffham, in response to a question from Lord Stoddart of Swindon in October 1986, Official Report, House of Lords, 16 October 1986, columns 910-13.
The content of the judgment itself was communicated to Parliament in a speech made by the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley), on the date of the judgment, Official Report, 21 June 1988, columns 969-87.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the guidance which has been given by the Commission of the European Community as to the degree to which current variation in the rate of VAT charged between its member states constitutes an obstruction to the
Column 8establishment or functioning of the Common Market together with the findings of the European Court of Justice relating to interpretation of this part of the article.
Sir John Cope : The Commission has given no guidance, nor has the European Court of Justice issued any findings about the harmonisation of VAT rates with the Community with regard to the establishment or functioning of the Common Market.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will set out a table showing for each group of commodities for which VAT is, or can be, chargeable by member states of the European Community, the prevailing rates charged by each member state in respect of each group of commodities for a latest practicable date, with footnotes for main variations in the figure or figure range, shown together with a concise statement, with references, of the treaty and consequential directive obligations placed on the United Kingdom to vary, or refrain from varying, such VAT rates (a) until 31 December 1996 and (b) thereafter ;
(2) if he will publish a table for each principal item of commodities for which VAT is charged by any member state of the European Community the amount of which would be raised at rates of (a) 8.5 and (b) 17 per cent.
Sir John Cope : Rates of VAT applied in member states of the European Community on a range of commodities are set out in a document produced by the Commission of the European Communities which has been placed in the House of Commons Library. The title of the document is "The Evolution of VAT Rates applicable in the Member States of the Community" and the document number is XXI/158/93 EN. It shows the position at 1 May 1993.
Article 99 of the treaty of Rome allows for the EC Council of Ministers to adopt provisions for the harmonisation of legislation concerning VAT and other indirect taxes. EC VAT rates are governed by the sixth VAT directive (77/388/EEC) as amended (91/680/EEC), and the VAT rates and structures directive (92/77/EEC). The directives set out the exemptions from VAT and the rates of VAT which are to apply to taxable goods and services in the EC from 1 January 1993. For most goods and services a standard rate of at least 15 per cent. is to be applied. Member states may also apply one or two reduced rates of not less than 5 per cent. to a specified list of goods and services. The United Kingdom's right to maintain its existing zero rates is protected by the sixth VAT directive and reinforced by the more recent VAT rates directive, at least until 31 December 1996 and without prejudice to what happens thereafter. The United Kingdom may apply a reduced rate--or the standard rate--to any goods or services that are currently zero-rated. The rates directive makes no provision for higher-- luxury--rates of VAT.
The scope and coverage of the reduced rate list will be reviewed before the end of 1994. The minimum VAT standard rate is legally binding until 31 December 1996. If by then the Council has not agreed a new minimum rate to apply from 1 January 1997, the minimum standard rate will lapse on that date.
Table 9 of the tax ready reckoner and tax reliefs published by HM Treasury in July 1993 sets out the cost of applying a zero rather than a standard rate of VAT to the main zero-rated items, in 1993-94. These figures can be adjusted pro rata to arrive at a rough estimate of the
Column 9revenue yield from applying a rate of 8.5 per cent. A table showing figures for each principal item for which VAT is charged by any member state of the European Community is not available and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Ainger : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what was the cost to HM Customs and Excise to charter the Milbrook Surveyor used to attempt to locate bales of cannabis off south Wales ; (2) if the Customs and Excise intend to repeat the operation to attempt to locate cannabis bales on the sea bed off south Wales ; (3) if he will make it his policy to improve co-ordination between HM Customs and Excise, HM Coastguard and the Royal Navy over the sharing of marine equipment.
Column 10A further recovery operation was mounted by Customs over the period 25 September to 1 October 1993 and another is planned.
Customs is committed to inter-agency co-operation and already works closely with other Government services, including both the Royal Navy and HM Coastguard. Such co-operation includes joint operational activities, together with the use of vessels and other equipment.
Sir Ralph Howell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish figures for 1971, 1979, 1984 and each year since 1988 for a married man with two children earning average male annual earnings, showing the length of time, after taking into account income tax, liability and national insurance contributions, necessary to pay for (a) one lb of sugar, (b) one lb of back bacon, (c) one lb of beef sirloin, (d) one lb of fresh cod fillets, (e) 14 lb of potatoes, (f) 800 gm of sliced loaf, (gs shown in the table.
Length of time necessary to work<1> to pay for selected food commodities \ Minutes |1971|1979|1984|1988|1989|1990|1991|1992|1993 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1 lb of sugar |4 |4 |4 |3 |3 |3 |3 |3 |3 1 lb of back bacon |30 |33 |26 |21 |20 |21 |20 |20 |21 1 lb of beef sirloin<2> |49 |56 |52 |42 |41 |40 |37 |33 |34 1 lb of fresh cod fillets |23 |32 |24 |27 |26 |27 |28 |28 |23 14 lb of potatoes |24 |25 |37 |23 |22 |26 |23 |23 |18 800 gm sliced loaf (white) |9 |9 |7 |6 |6 |5 |5 |5 |5 1 lb of butter |19 |23 |15 |12 |13 |12 |10 |10 |11 1 pint of fresh milk |5 |4 |4 |3 |3 |3 |3 |3 |3 1 dozen eggs (55-60 gramme) |23 |18 |16 |13 |11 |12 |10 |9 |9 1 lb of pork |34 |32 |24 |18 |19 |19 |20 |17 |15 <1>Married couple with husband only working. <2>From 1989 this refers to rump steak.
Mr. Mandelson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the sum of tax repaid to (a) pension funds, (b) insurance companies, (c) oil companies and (d) other companies in each year since 1986-87.
Income tax repayments and tax credits to: £ million |Pension funds |Insurance companies|Other companies ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1986-87 |1,187 |553 |270 1987-88 |1,799 |803 |476 1988-89 |1,826 |1,021 |336 1989-90 |2,126 |988 |403 1990-91 |2,294 |1,417 |437 1991-92 |2,199 |1,841 |529 <1>1992-93 |2,000 |1,800 |650 <1> Provisional.
These estimates are based on a sample survey of income tax repayments and payments of tax credits.
Petroleum revenue tax repayments to oil companies: |£ million ------------------------------- <1>1986-87 |19 1987-88 |253 1988-89 |666 1989-90 |440 1990-91 |578 1991-92 |1,607 1992-93 |941 <1> Includes repayments of advance petroleum revenue tax.
Figures for corporation tax repayments were given in my reply of 28 June 1993 at column 372 . A breakdown in the form requested is not available centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been (a) the total investment income of individuals and (b) the tax revenues on investment income in each financial year since 1990-91, together with an estimate for the current year ; and what is his estimate of the cost to the Exchequer in each year of the exemption from tax of the investment income of old people.