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VAT (Small Businesses)

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to raise the VAT threshold for small businesses to £100,000; and if he will make a statement. [28]

Mr. Boateng: There are no plans to increase the VAT registration threshold to £100,000. As announced in the statement on 18 June by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on enterprise and productivity, Customs are now consulting on a new VAT flat rate scheme. This will make it easier for many smaller businesses with taxable turnover of up to £100,000 to calculate the amount of VAT due and simplify their bookkeeping requirements.

Recreational Clubs

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what increases in rent are being sought by the Crown Estate Commissioners from recreational clubs. [342]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The Crown Estate has as its tenants a large variety of recreational clubs across its marine, rural and urban estates, including yacht clubs, golf clubs and athletic clubs.

The rents paid by such clubs, and any increases, are dependent upon the terms of the lease, market conditions and comparable land uses, and are settled on a case-by- case basis.

Child Care

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what tax and benefit measures he plans to introduce to increase the level of support for parents with children of pre-school age who choose to stay at home and look after their children. [934]

Dawn Primarolo: The extra support which the Government have introduced through the Working Families Tax Credit and the Children's Tax Credit has greatly increased the choices available to parents about how to combine work and caring for children. The largest

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gains have been for families with younger children. A single-earner family with two children under 11, and with earnings of around £12,500 a year, is now around £3,000 a year better off than in 1997.

From April 2002, the Children's Tax Credit will be increased by a further £10 a week, making it worth up to £1,000 a year for around 500,000 families each year in the year of a child's birth. At the same time the Sure Start Maternity Grant, which is available to families on benefit or on WFTC, will rise to £500.

In 2002 and 2003 increases in statutory maternity pay will guarantee a new minimum income for mothers in the first six months after the birth of a child. A new right to paid paternity leave will help fathers who wish to spend time at home with a new baby.


Porton Down

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his Department's inquiry into the use of service personnel for research at Porton Down supervised by Professor Ian Kennedy; if individual volunteers who have claimed compensation will be invited to contribute to the inquiry; if the conclusions reached by the Wiltshire police and the information held by the hon. Members who have pursued the matter in the House will be noted by the inquiry; when he expects the inquiry to be complete; and if all the information that is obtained will be published in full. [731]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor) on 1 May 2001, Official Report, columns 550-51W. The historical survey of the Porton Down volunteer programme will gather information from all source material. This will be largely documentary but will also include information from former Porton Down volunteers.

The historical survey is expected to report in the summer of 2002. The findings of the survey will be published.


Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what were the findings of the investigation into the death of his Department's civil servant found near Limassol, Cyprus on 17 May; what work he was engaged in at the time; and what conclusions have been reached by the Cyprus police. [729]

Dr. Moonie: The civil servant, Mr. M. Morgan, died within the Western Sovereign Base Area (SBA) and as such fell within the jurisdiction of the SBA police force. It is therefore the SBA police, rather than the Cypriot police, who have carried out the investigation into his death.

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This investigation is now complete and the results have been provided to HM Coroner for his consideration at an inquest into Mr. Morgan's death. No date has yet been set for this inquest, pending receipt of a full report from the UK pathologist. As is usual in these circumstances, details of the police investigation will not be made available until after the Coroner's inquest.

Mr. Morgan was the Defence Estates Adviser (Works) in Cyprus providing professional building advice to British Forces Cyprus. This role required Mr. Morgan's close involvement in the transition from contractorised Works Services Management to an in-house arrangement pending the implementation of Prime Contracting in Cyprus.

Aircraft XV208

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if a BAE 146-300 aircraft is (a) owned by and (b) leased to the Meteorological Office to perform research previously done with XV208 Snoopy; what is (i) the lowest operating level and (ii) its highest operating level; and what is the purchase or leasing cost, the cost of on-board equipment and the (A) hourly and (B) annual running cost of the aircraft. [849]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. I have asked him to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Ewins to Mr. Robert Key, dated 27 June 2001:

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the current location is of aircraft XV208; and what is its current role. [847]

Dr. Moonie: Aircraft XV208 is currently based at the Defence Evaluation Research Agency, soon to be QinetiQ, site at Boscombe Down. The aircraft is currently being kept in flying condition while future business for it is explored.

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Specialist School Status

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many specialist schools with an arts specialism have so far been designated; and how many she intends to designate by January 2002. [797]

Mr. Timms: Ninety-one arts colleges have so far been designated. We expect the next designations will be made in January 2002, but it is not possible to say how many. Decisions will be taken at the same time as decisions on the designation of language, sports and technology colleges and will depend in part on the relative quality of applications across the categories.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many specialist status comprehensive schools have been designated. [822]

Mr. Timms: Of the 684 designated specialist schools, 616 are comprehensive, 30 are grammar, 29 are secondary modern and nine are special schools.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment her Department has undertaken of the ability of schools to raise £50,000 to support a school's bid for specialist school status. [932]

Mr. Timms: No formal assessment has been undertaken into the ability of schools applying for specialist school status to raise sponsorship. We recognised there were difficulties with the original £100,000 requirement and reduced this to £50,000 in 1999. My Department grant aids the technology colleges and youth sport trusts, which provide advice to schools about raising sponsorship and raise funds themselves to support applicant schools. The network of 684 specialist schools shows that applicant schools across the country, including those from rural and inner city areas, have successfully raised the sponsorship required. We shall keep the sponsorship criteria under review.

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