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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 13 November 2001


Customs and Excise

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average rate of sickness absence was in HM Customs and Excise in (a) 1999–2000, (b) 2000–01 and (c) 2001–02 to the latest date for which information is available. [9177]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 19 October 2001]: No accurate figures are available for the average rate of working days lost to sickness absence in 1999–2000 and 2000–01.

The average rate of sickness from 1 April 2001 to 30 September 2001 was 4.6 working days.

Terrorism (Financing)

Mr. Howard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will provide a breakdown of the expected cost to Her Majesty's Government over the current financial year of the measures to combat the financing of terrorism which he announced on 15 October 2001, Official Report, columns 940–42. [10009]

Mr. Andrew Smith [holding answer 25 October 2001]: The costs of setting up the Terrorist Finance Unit are modest, but the benefits in terms of cutting off the resource available to the perpetrators of acts of international terrorism potentially immense.

Impounded Vehicles (Smugglers)

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what legal basis Customs and Excise sell the impounded vehicles of individuals who have used them to breach their personal allowances for the importation of tobacco and alcohol. [12195]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 5 November 2001]: Where a vehicle has been used for the carriage, handling, deposit or concealment of anything liable to forfeiture, that vehicle is itself liable to forfeiture to the Crown under s141(1)(a) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. Any such vehicle is forfeit once a month has passed and no appeal has been received, or where there is an appeal and the Magistrates find in favour of Customs and Excise. The Commissioners of Customs and Excise will dispose of forfeit vehicles on behalf of the Crown in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

People travelling to the UK from other EU countries are entitled to bring into the UK, without charge, alcohol and tobacco which they have purchased tax-paid elsewhere in the EU, if it is solely for their own use. Customs do not enforce any absolute limits on such purchases, but travellers bringing in goods in excess of

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the Minimum Indicative Levels, set out in EC Directive 92/12/EEC, may be required to satisfy Customs that the goods are for their own use.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much revenue was derived from selling vehicles impounded by Customs and Excise because they were used to breach personal allowances for the importation of tobacco and alcohol; and how many of such impounded vehicles have been sold, in each year for the past four years. [12218]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 7 November 2001]: The information is available only in respect of the sale of vehicles seized for all types of Customs offences. The revenue from the sale of such vehicles for the last four years was:


The number of vehicles sold is not recorded.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many motor vehicles were seized on the grounds that they were being used for the illegal importation of spirits, wines, beer or tobacco products in 2000; and what the total proceeds of sale were. [13264]

Mr. Boateng: Customs record the number of vehicles seized for all Customs offences on a financial year basis. Figures for the number of vehicles seized in 2000–2001 were published in the Government's response to the independent report by John Roques into "The Collection of Excise Duties in HM Customs and Excise" (House of Commons command 5329, July 2001), a copy of which was placed in the Library on 19 July.

The total proceeds of sale from those seized vehicles which were subsequently sold in 2000 was £523,951.

Departmental Underspending

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 30 October 2001, Official Report, column 642W, on departmental budgets, if he will provide a breakdown for each listed Department of the main items of intended expenditure that were not spent, comprising each of the annual underspend totals. [13201]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The allocation of budgets within Departmental Expenditure Limits is normally a matter for individual Secretaries of State. Under this Government's system of full End-Year Flexibility, unspent provision is available for use in future years. Departmental Appropriation Accounts break down outturn by section of the Vote.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he plans (a) to introduce corrective procedures for underspend of Final Department Expenditure Limit and (b) to examine the financial procedures in the (i) Department of Health, (ii) Department for Education and Skills, (iii) Ministry of Defence and (iv) Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. [13200]

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Mr. Andrew Smith: Under this Government's system of full End-Year Flexibility, unspent provision can be carried forward by Departments for use in future years. This removes the incentive, which applied under previous arrangements, to use up budgets wastefully at the end of the financial year. The allocation and management of budget within Departmental Expenditure Limits are in general a matter for individual Secretaries of State.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health regarding under-spend in the Department of Health. [13204]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Treasury Ministers meet regularly with the Secretary of State for Health to discuss aspects of the Department of Health's performance and plans.

Public-private Partnerships

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the projects in his Department which have been considered as potential public-private partnerships since 1997 which have not been undertaken because the public sector comparator had a lower net present value than the public-private partnership proposed; and if he will make a statement. [13453]

Mr. Andrew Smith: In our 1997 reforms of PFI, the Government abandoned the requirement to submit all capital projects to PFI testing. Accordingly, it will be concluded at a very early stage in the option appraisal process whether a PPP approach is likely to deliver value for money (vfm); where it is not, a public sector comparator (PSC) will not be constructed. Only when it is concluded, following careful consideration, that PPP is likely to offer vfm, will a PSC normally be developed.

Against this background, and with the maturing of the PPP process and the PPP market, it is likely that a high proportion of projects which do embark on the PPP route will contract on that basis, with competition helping to secure value for money and the PSC acting as a quantitative aid to informing judgment.

PPP deals continue to account for only a small proportion of the total sums invested to improve the delivery of public services. Public sector gross investment is projected to rise from £19 billion in 2000–01 to £35.2 billion in 2003–04. Over the same period, capital investment by the private sector through PFI will be about £3 billion annually.

So far as the Treasury as a Department is concerned, there have been no projects within the terms of the hon. Member's question.

Private Consultancy Expenditure

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much the Government have spent on private consultancy since 1997; and what review of such expenditure has been conducted to assess its value for money. [13907]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The information requested is not held centrally.

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The National Audit Office published a report in April 2001 (HC 400 Session 2000–01) entitled "Purchasing Professional Services". This set out the results of their examination of Departments' expenditure on professional services including consultancy.

Individual Departments are responsible for ensuring that their expenditure on consultancy represents value for money.

VAT (Nursing Homes)

Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about the impact of the charging of VAT on the residential costs of nursing home care. [12123]

Mr. Boateng: The Government are of the clear view that the care of vulnerable people provided in all residential homes should not be subject to VAT. In May, the VAT Tribunal confirmed that the care provided in residential nursing homes was exempt from VAT. However, the Tribunal also ruled that care provided by a commercial body was not exempt, and Customs and Excise are currently appealing against that ruling. Whatever the outcome of that appeal, the Government will take steps to ensure that residents of care homes and their families do not face increased costs as a result of VAT.

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