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TREASURY

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what period an employer is required to continue making payments of Working Families Tax Credit to a person (a) outside the UK and (b) taking extended unpaid leave. [147229]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 25 January 2001]: Guidance on when an employer should stop paying tax credit payments is included in the booklet "WFTC/EG--An employer's guide to tax credits" which is routinely issued by the Inland Revenue to employers. Employers are normally required to pay tax credits until the date the Inland Revenue has told them to stop, unless the employee leaves the employment before that date. This applies provided the employer's payroll arrangements remain in the UK. The employer can stop paying tax credits to an employee as soon as there is a pay period in which no other payroll payments are due to that employee. The Inland Revenue then pays the employee direct for the rest of the award period.

1 Feb 2001 : Column: 280W

Road User Charge (Foreign Lorries)

Mr. Syms: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Government plan to introduce their proposal for a Britdisk vignette on foreign road hauliers; and if he will make a statement. [147145]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 25 January 2001]: The Chancellor proposed in the pre-Budget report to introduce a 'vignette' or 'road user charge' for foreign lorries. The proposal, including its practical implementation, is now being developed further.

Red Diesel

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the increase in revenue to the Exchequer were all users of red diesel to be charged at the duty rate charged on (a) standard diesel and (b) ultra low sulphur diesel. [148149]

Mr. Timms: Rebated gas oil, also known as red diesel, is liable for duty at the rate of 3.13 pence per litre and is used in excepted vehicles and as a heating and industrial fuel. Assuming the current level of use, raising the rate of duty on gas oil to that applying to (a) standard diesel and (b) ultra low sulphur diesel would raise additional revenues of £3.5 billion and £3.3 billion respectively. In practice, the additional revenue would be significantly less than this because a fifteenfold increase in the duty rate would reduce the demand for rebated gas oil.

Inland Revenue

Mr. Gray: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 18 January 2001, Official Report, column 304W, when he (a) received and (b) approved the Inland Revenue Commissioner's report. [147785]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue annual report was published on 26 January.

I received and approved it prior to publication.

Widow's Bereavement Allowance

(Crossland Case)

Mr. Swinney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds the Inland Revenue settled the Crossland case regarding the exclusion of widowers from receiving widow's bereavement allowance; and what legal advice it received regarding a possible outcome if the allowance was challenged under the European Convention on Human Rights. [148208]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government made a friendly settlement with Mr. Crossland, which was published by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It would not be appropriate to disclose any legal advice the Government received, in accordance with exemption 4 (law enforcement and legal proceedings) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Tonnage Tax

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what specific commitment he has made to review the tonnage tax arrangement within a particular time period. [148577]

1 Feb 2001 : Column: 281W

Dawn Primarolo: The Government keep all taxes under review, and changes are considered as part of the Budget process.

PRIME MINISTER

Hinduja Brothers

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Prime Minister if he will publish the terms of reference of the inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond QC; and if he will make a statement on the scope of the inquiry. [148148]

The Prime Minister: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on 29 January 2001, Official Report, column 70W, and to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) on 30 January 2001, Official Report, columns 166-68W.

Mr. Gale: To ask the Prime Minister if he will give the dates and context of discussions that he has personally had with the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), since May 1997, to discuss matters relating to the Hinduja brothers. [148112]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to his right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) on 31 January 2001, Official Report. column 224W.

Mr. DuncanSmith: To ask the Prime Minister which Ministers and officials of Her Majesty's Government have communicated with other Ministers and officials concerning the Hinduja brothers' application for citizenship. [148262]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) on 30 January 2001, Official Report, columns 166-68W.

Stem Cell Research

Mr. Amess: To ask the Prime Minister (1) on how many occasions he has met Sir Chris Evans since May 1997; [146861]

The Prime Minister: I have meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals. As with previous Administrations, it is not my practice to provide details of all such meetings.

1 Feb 2001 : Column: 282W

Mr. Amess: To ask the Prime Minister for what reasons he has not met religious leaders to discuss their objections to human cloning and the use of embryonic stem cells. [146864]

The Prime Minister: I was unable to agree a meeting owing to existing diary commitments. However, I do meet religious leaders regularly and will continue to do so.

The Government have listened very carefully to representations made on the recommendations of the Donaldson Report and the regulations and respect the views on both sides of the debate of many people on these sensitive issues.

NHS

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Prime Minister what personal responsibility he has for the NHS. [146952]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the statement I made to the House on 27 July 2000, Official Report, columns 1256-61, in which I set out plans to bring about the most fundamental and far-reaching reforms the National Health Service has seen since its establishment in 1948; and to create a service fit for the 21st century.

CABINET OFFICE

Civil Service Pension Scheme

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what is the state's total liability at 2001 prices to pay civil service pensions, assuming all existing contributors retire and that all pensioners die at the age projected by the scheme's actuaries. [148008]

Marjorie Mowlam: The latest assessment of the capitalised value of liability to pay civil service pensions was undertaken by the Government Actuary's Department in 2000. This showed total liabilities of £54.4 billion for benefits accrued in respect of employment (or further employment) prior to 1 April 1999, broken down as follows:

Value of liabilities£ billion
Current pensions and associated contingent pensions25.2
Deferred pensions, including contingent pensions for those no longer contributing7.3
Accrued benefits for existing contributors21.9
Total54.4

SOLICITOR-GENERAL

Serious Fraud Office

33. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General what recent discussions the Director of the Serious Fraud Office has had with his European Union counterparts; and if he will make a statement. [146809]

The Solicitor-General: The Director of the Serious Fraud Office, Mrs. Rosalind Wright, addressed the Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime in September 2000. The Director ensures that the SFO makes the fullest possible contribution to the continuous discussions with her European colleagues on improving the response to fraud and mutual legal assistance within the European Union.

The Director and her staff are also in regular contact with member states' specialist financial crime and fraud investigators, magistrates and prosecutors in connection with casework.


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