Finance Bill

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Dawn Primarolo: I presume that it would not be in order for me to answer the question of the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) on annex H of the sixth VAT directive. I will say merely that representations on churches have been and continue to be made to the commission, which is reviewing the sixth directive in January 2003. The Chancellor took the view that a grant scheme would fulfil his commitment to assist churches and places of worship that came within the criteria, while continuing to press the commission to speed up its review before 2003. The grant arrangements are wholly in order and widely welcomed.

The hon. Gentleman introduced a sour note into what has been a good discussion. I am sure that he is not suggesting that the Government should withdraw the grant scheme to the churches and wait instead for the commission's view.

Mr. Ottaway: Perish the thought that I should be considered sour. It was a legitimate point to raise. On a point that will come out in the next clause, it would be helpful if the Minister could tell us whether grants given instead of a VAT rebate are treated as public expenditure? The arrangements have been made accordingly.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde touched on an issue about which every member of the Committee would be concerned: road deaths, not just of children but of many other individuals. He also raised the point of the many different ways in which we should approach reducing unnecessary deaths—although I consider all road deaths unnecessary. As the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, cars can be involved in fatal crashes in a wide variety of circumstances. I think that he also raised the issue on Second Reading, when I explained that more than 1,000 children were killed or seriously injured while travelling in a car in 1999. Those figures came from the 1999 ``Road Accident Statistics Great Britain—The Casualty Report'', which I am told was compiled by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Office for National Statistics.

A particular issue is the use of appropriate safety restraints in cars. Clearly, the latest safety standards are always the most advanced and therefore the best. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the standards are appropriate to the age, weight and height of the child. Such restraints can be expensive, so the Government took the view that there could be a reduction of up to £15 on the newer more expensive brands of seats. That is an extremely important contribution to assisting parents who, because of cost, use second-hand older seats and restraints, which are harder to install and not always the safest.

The right hon. Gentleman may have preferred the money that is to be used for the measure to be spent in other areas, but the Government believe that the incentive is correct. It is a relatively small amount, and safety is of great concern to us. The incentive forms part of a valuable set of measures also contained in the Budget to assist families with children, particularly small children. On that basis, we proposed a modest but important measure.

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we could not reduce the VAT charge to zero. The lowest level to which we can now go is 5 per cent., and we have used that option. Although I am grateful—believe it or not—for his comments, I hope that he will accept that the Government's decisions are based on the information that we had. The measure's cost is modest, but it will contribute to child safety.

Mr. Jack: I am grateful to the Paymaster General for the careful and considered way in which she has responded to my observations, but the facts speak for themselves. According to the source of data from which she quoted, there was one child fatality in a car in 1999 in the age range 0 to one year. At the age of one, there were six fatalities; at age two, there were three; at age three, there were eight; at age four, there were three; and at age five, there were two fatalities. Thankfully, such fatalities in cars are very low.

Dawn Primarolo: The right hon. Gentleman will know that car seats are compulsory for under-threes when they are carried in the front of a vehicle. We seek to address the use for children up to 11 in all parts of the vehicle, but how can we put a price on a child's life? If the use of the relief saved one child's life, I would consider that to have been a good investment.

Mr. Jack: I am grateful that the Paymaster General has repeated the second sentence that I uttered in this debate, because it is difficult to adjudicate in such matters where lives are saved. I ask those at the Treasury, when they have a moment to reflect, to re-examine the study by the Transport Research Laboratory in evaluating work undertaken by the universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh into methods for training young children in pedestrian skills. They will see that, for a small sum of money, a disproportionate gain in the number of young lives that are saved can be achieved. Should there be a Division on clause 94, I will not vote against it. However, what is the best way of spending the money? As child pedestrian safety is not touched by the clause, perhaps the Government will address that in the future.

Dawn Primarolo: The right hon. Gentleman will know that, in many parts of the country, life skills training projects are targeted at the age range to which he referred. They cover safety not only on the road, but in the home and around railway stations and tracks. He will welcome the fact that the Government will make £10 million available during the next five years, specifically to address child pedestrians and how to increase safety by using training and play situations in controlled environments to impress on young people the need to be safe. I hope that he will accept that the clause sits with several other issues that the Government are taking and will continue to take forward.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 94 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household (Mr. Graham Allen): I beg to move, That further consideration be adjourned.

This might be a useful moment to request an adjournment until this afternoon and to inform all Committee members that, should events outside take the expected turn, we would like to convene the Programming Sub-Committee at a time convenient to all members, including yourself, Dr. Clark, and the other Chairmen.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Allen. We are doing well, and there is every likelihood that the Committee will be concluded by 7 pm on Thursday 24 May as set out in the programme motion.

Mr. Luff: How will we know where the Programming Sub-Committee will meet?

The Chairman: As I understand it, the Programming Sub-Committee will meet in this room at a time convenient for us all. That will probably be 4.20 this afternoon.

Mr. Ottaway: How are we to be notified?

The Chairman: Those of us who are involved will be here at 4.20 pm and, if there is not a Committee, we will do nothing for 10 minutes until the Committee sits at 4.30 pm.

Question put and agreed to.

        Adjourned accordingly at thirteen minutes past Twelve o'clock till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Clark, Dr. Michael (Chairman)
Allen, Mr.
Barnes, Mr.
Bennett, Mr.
Burnett, Mr.
Dobbin, Mr.
Donohoe, Mr.
Flight, Mr.
Jack, Mr.
Johnson, Miss Melanie
Kilfoyle, Mr.
Lammy, Mr.
Letwin, Mr.
Luff, Mr.
Michael, Mr.
Ottaway, Mr.
Primarolo, Dawn
Roy, Mr.
Timms, Mr.

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