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Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment HM Customs has made of the volume of trade into the United Kingdom of bushmeat. [25809]

Mr. Boateng: Import controls designed to protect animal and human health are the responsibility of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, port, airport and local health authorities, and the Food Standards Agency. Customs supports and co-operates with these lead agencies both in joint exercises and by seizing illicit meat when discovered in customs checks. Customs statistics do not distinguish between bushmeat and other meat imports, but the total amount of illicit meat

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seized by Customs in the year ending 31 March 2001 was 2.655 metric tonnes. This does not include seizures by the lead agencies in joint exercises with Customs.

Tobacco Smuggling

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the Customs target for 2000–01 for asset seizures resulting from action against tobacco smuggling; what was the sum total of such asset seizures in that year; and if he will make a statement. [25739]

Mr. Andrew Smith: As part of the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy, Customs were set a target for the level of asset seizures for 2000–01 of £15 million. Customs' performance against this and other subsidiary targets of the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy will be set out in Customs annual report for 2000–01.


Mr. Todd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider the flexibility to cope with economic change of EU institutions and economies within the euro zone in his assessment of the economic tests for UK adoption of the euro. [25312]

Ruth Kelly: The Government have set out five economic tests which must be met before any decision to join can be made. An assessment of the five tests will be made within two years of the start of this Parliament. The assessment will be comprehensive and rigorous.

African Trypanosomosis

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the tax exemptions for research into diseases of the developing world announced in the 2001 Budget will include African trypanosomosis. [25263]

Mr. Boateng: The Chancellor announced consultation on a new tax credit to stimulate research into the development of vaccines and drugs to combat malaria, TB and strains of AIDS/HIV most prevalent in the developing world in Budget 2001. During the consultation period, a number of other diseases—including trypanosomosis—were suggested as suitable candidates for the proposed new tax credit. All such suggestions have been fully considered and an announcement on the scope of the proposed tax credit will be made in Budget 2002.

Companies undertaking research into trypanosomosis will be eligible for either the relief for research expenditure by small and medium sized companies (SMEs) introduced in Finance Act 2000 or for the new relief for research expenditure by companies other than SMEs to be introduced in Finance Bill 2002.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many written parliamentary questions to his Department in the past 12 months had not received a full answer within five weeks of the question being tabled. [25300]

Mr. Boateng: Treasury Ministers answered 3,070 written questions in the House of Commons in 2001, 73 per cent. on or before the due date. In 23 cases (0.7 per cent. of the total) full answers were not provided within five weeks of the question being tabled.

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Tax Fraud

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many investigations for tax fraud were carried out in each year since 1997; and what was the success rate of those investigations. [25301]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The Inland Revenue carries out inquiries, as opposed to investigations, into tax returns as part of its work in tackling non-compliance. At the outset of any inquiry there is no assumption as to whether a return is incorrect and/or incomplete and, therefore, no assumption about the existence or otherwise of fraud or negligence. While the majority of inquiries are undertaken on the basis of a perceived compliance risk this is not true of all inquiries and a successful inquiry is one that is carried out thoroughly and in accordance with appropriate codes of practice.

Detailed information about the number of inquiries undertaken in each year and the additional liabilities established as a result of the Revenue's work in tackling non-compliance is set out in the Inland Revenue annual report for each year, available in the House of Commons Library.

Treasury Publications

Mr. Howard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to make all Treasury publications available to hon. Members through the Vote Office. [25613]

Ruth Kelly: All significant documents which are published by the Treasury are made available to Members through the Vote Office and are also deposited in the Library of the House. Members can also obtain these and other Treasury publications from the Treasury, if they wish.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many VAT inspection visits are planned for (a) 2002–03 and (b) 2001–02. [24794]

Mr. Boateng: Customs plan to make 245,000 inspection events during 2001–02. These risk-based inspections may take the form of a visit, or contact by telephone and fax to resolve specific issues arising.

Plans for 2002–03 are not finalised.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer from how many businesses Customs and Excise have withdrawn use of the VAT cash accounting scheme in each of the last five years for which statistics are available; and how many businesses entering the scheme in each year have withdrawn from it at the order of Customs and Excise. [24802]

Mr. Boateng: Businesses do not require approval from Customs to use the cash accounting scheme. Customs may withdraw use of the scheme in cases of abuse or to protect the revenue, but these instances are rare. No record is kept of the number of businesses removed from the scheme.

Terrorist Organisations

Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will freeze the assets of organisations in

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the United Kingdom that finance (a) Hamas, (b) Fatah and (c) other Palestinian and middle east terrorist organisations. [25459]

Ruth Kelly: The Government are committed to the fight against terrorism and since the events of 11 September 2001 have led by example in issuing asset freeze lists against individuals and organisations. A total of £72 million has been frozen in connection with groups involved in financing terrorist activities.

The Government imposed a freeze on the assets held in the UK for the Holy Land Foundation, which is suspected of financing terrorist activities of Hamas, on 6 December 2001.

Where there are "reasonable grounds to suspect" that any organisation is involved in the financing of terrorism the Government will not hesitate to add their name to the 328 individuals and organisations who have already been targeted with assets freezes.

Earnings Statistics

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average earnings of full-time employees were in the Buckingham constituency in the most recent years for which figures are available. [24869]

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

Letter from John Kidgell to Mr. John Bercow, dated 9 January 2002:


Mr. Love: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the savings to the Exchequer which would result from restricting the tax relief to individuals on (a) defined benefit, (b) defined contribution, (c) group personal and (d) personal pensions to a level that would provide an income in retirement just above benefit levels; and if he will make a statement. [25736]

Ruth Kelly: The number of assumptions that would need to be made and the complexity of the modelling procedures involved means that a robust estimate could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

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