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Retail Petrol Industry

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his officials last met representatives of the retail petrol industry; what was discussed at the meeting; and if he will place a copy of the minutes of the meeting in the Library. [5308]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

My officials regularly meet representatives from the retail petrol industry. A number of issues are discussed at these meetings including wholesaler and retailer relations, commercial and economic trends influencing the market and competitive factors affecting the industry. It is not our policy to make minutes of these meetings publicly available as they contain commercially sensitive information.

Personal Pensions

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to review the £100,000 maximum binding limit for awards against firms by the Personal Investment Authority Ombudsman for the mis-selling of personal pensions. [2468]

Ruth Kelly: The Personal Investment Authority Ombudsman Bureau will cease to exist when the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 comes into force at midnight on 30 November. The successor body is the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Redress for mis-selling personal pensions takes the form of directing a firm to take an action, either to fund the reinstatement of a mis-selling victim to their occupational pension scheme or to top-up their personal pension. Where the Financial Ombudsman Service makes any direction to a firm, the cost to the firm will not be subject to a specific limit in cash terms, although all Financial Ombudsman Service awards will be subject to "fair and reasonable" criteria.

Under Section 229(4) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), it is for the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to specify the maximum amount that may be regarded as fair compensation for loss or damaged suffered by the complainant. Following a number of consultations on the Financial Ombudsman Scheme and its rules, the FSA decided that the maximum binding limit on firms for money awards should be £100,000. However, the Ombudsman may recommend that firms pay the balance on a voluntary basis. There was widespread support for that limit but also general agreement that the limit should be capable of regular review. The FSA confirmed that it would review the limit, in consultation with the Financial Ombudsman Service, and in the light of experience, every three years.

Insurance Premiums

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he has for reviewing the competitiveness and fairness to the consumer of the ways

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in which the insurance industry assesses risk in relation to insurance premiums on a postcode basis. [2098]

Ruth Kelly: The Government, through their National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, have brought together many different organisations in response to the specific problems of deprived neighbourhoods. For example, we are working with local authorities and housing associations to promote the take up of Insurance with Rent schemes. These, along with other initiatives, should help to work towards a situation where nobody is unfairly denied access to insurance services.

Customs and Excise (Suspensions)

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Customs and Excise officers have been suspended since 1 January; and in which areas of the country they were based. [2831]

Mr. Boateng: The following table shows a summary of the number of officers who have been suspended since 1 January 2001 and the area of the country they were based.

Officers suspended within HM C and E since 1 January 2001

RegionDisciplineWork areaNumber
ScotlandDetectionLaw Enforcement1
NorthernInvestigationLaw Enforcement1
CentralDetectionLaw Enforcement2
LondonSupport ServicesBusiness Services and Taxes2
InvestigationLaw Enforcement3
DetectionLaw Enforcement1
IntelligenceLaw Enforcement1

London Underground

Bob Russell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last travelled on the London Underground in the course of his official duties. [3673]

Ruth Kelly: Treasury Ministers use a variety of modes of transport during the course of their official duties.

VAT (Housing)

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the percentage change in the number of housing units built annually if VAT on new housing were increased to (a) 5 per cent., (b) 7.5 per cent. and (c) 17.5 per cent.; and if he will make a statement. [4398]

Mr. Boateng: The Government have no plans to put VAT on new housing.

National Statistics

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which statistical series National Statistics ceased (a) collecting, (b) calculating and (c) publishing in financial year 2000. [4399]

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Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Matthew Taylor, dated 20 July 2001:

VAT (Nursing Home Fees)

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost would be to HM Customs and Excise of treating fees paid by individuals to nursing homes and registered residential homes for the elderly as VAT zero rated; and if he will make a statement. [4640]

Mr. Boateng: Details of such costs are not readily available. The Government are of the clear view that care of vulnerable people provided by residential homes should not be subject to VAT. At present, fees charged by nursing homes and registered residential homes for the elderly are exempt from VAT. European Community agreements prevent us from extending the zero rate of VAT to residential care.

Weatherall, Green and Smith

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) which organisations and individuals were consulted by Weatherall, Green and Smith in undertaking its work for HM Treasury on the planning system; [4637]

Mr. Boateng: HM Treasury has not commissioned any research on the planning system from Weatherall, Green and Smith. An employee of the company is currently seconded to the Treasury to help with the Department's work in this area.

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Private Finance Initiative

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the guidance issued by the Office of Government Commerce on PFI contracts. [4475]

Mr. Andrew Smith: General guidance on standardisation of PFI contracts, produced by the Treasury task force was published in 1999. A supplement on information technology was published in 2000. Copies are available in the House of Commons Library.

The Treasury task force also published a number of policy statements and technical notes on PFI issues. These are available on the OGC website (

The complete list is as follows:

Additional guidance to Departments on refinancing PFI projects which was issued in 2000 is also on the OGC website.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the economic penalties imposed on private sector firms in each of the last five years for failures to deliver in relation to key performance indicators in projects involving the private finance initiative; and if he will make a statement. [5729]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The information is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

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