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Monterrey Conference

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions took place at the Financing for Development Conference in Mexico regarding the achievement of the UN target for spending national income on overseas development assistance and the effect this would have on achieving the 2015 development goals. [46654]

Mr. Boateng: Discussions at the Financing for Development conference in Monterrey covered all aspects of development finance, focusing on the UN target for developed countries to give 0.7 per cent. of national income as official development assistance, as a means of financing the Millennium Development Goals. The UK delegation, led by the Secretary of State for International Development, played a central role in these discussions. Countries attending the conference agreed principles representing a new partnership for development; reaffirmed the UN target, and strengthened their commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

In preparation for the conference, EU member states agreed to raise their development assistance to an average of 0.39 per cent. of national income by 2006. The UK was instrumental in securing this agreement by the EU, which will mean an additional $7 billion each year for poor countries by 2006. Together with the US announcement of an additional $5 billion, the additional resources announced at Monterrey will total $12 billion per year after 2006. These announcements of substantial additional aid, and the broad consensus reached on the measures required by all Governments to secure more, and more effective finance for development, helped to ensure a successful conference.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions took place at the Financing for Development Conference regarding his Department's Hold in Trust policy on debt repayments for countries which have not yet reached decision point within HIPC. [46655]

Mr. Boateng: The Government continue to press other countries to follow the UK's Hold in Trust policy. While there were no formal discussions scheduled on this issue at the UN Financing for Development Conference, there was agreement reached on the need to keep debt sustainability under review, and to take into account any external shocks when updating debt sustainability at Completion Point.

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Scotch Whisky Duty

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much tax was raised by duty on Scotch whisky in each of the last 10 years. [46980]

Mr. Boateng: Information on total duty receipts from spirits can be found in HM Customs and Excise "Spirits Factsheet", a copy of which is available in the House of Commons Library. Information on duty receipts from Scotch whisky is not collected separately.


Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will raise the age at which it becomes mandatory to purchase an annuity from 75 to 80 years. [47765]

Ruth Kelly: The consultation document, "Modernising Annuities", issued on 5 February, makes it clear that the Government continue to believe that, in the current circumstances, age 75 should remain the upper limit for turning pension savings into retirement income.

Tax Returns

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of businesses submitted their indirect tax returns correctly at the first attempt in (a) 1999–2000 and (b) 2000–01. [47667]

Mr. Boateng: Customs VAT systems perform automated checks once a VAT return has been received.

(a) Within the financial year 1999–2000 Customs received approximately 7.3 million VAT returns of which 98.2 per cent. were processed satisfactorily at the first attempt.

(b) For 2000–01, Customs received 7.3 million VAT returns of which 98.1 per cent were processed satisfactorily at the first attempt.

Credit Unions

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to ensure that the Financial Services Authority helps credit unions meet the new regulatory framework. [48632]

Ruth Kelly: The FSA recognises that transition to the new regulatory environment will be challenging for some credit unions. That is why, last autumn, Sir Howard Davies outlined to me a strategy for facilitating transition through a Credit Unions Support Programme: a proposal to which I gave my full support, and one which FSA has now brought to fruition.

Forest Stewardship Council

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will increase taxation on wood imported into the UK that does not meet standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council or equivalent credible and international certification systems. [48154]

Mr. Boateng: All options for taxes are kept under review as part of the Budget process.

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Objective 1

Adam Price: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will award the National Assembly funding to cover the match funding of Objective 1 projects in Wales; [48215]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Additional provision of some £272 million was made available to the National Assembly in the 2000 spending review to ensure funding of the EU share of its Objective 1 needs.

State Aid

Paul Flynn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the gross contribution was from public funds in 2000 and 2001 to (a) manufacturing and (b) farming. [46278]

Mr. Andrew Smith: According to the European Commission's Ninth Survey on State Aid in the European Union, total state aid to the manufacturing sector in the UK in 1999 totalled 1,238.8 million euro (in 1999 prices). 1999 is the latest year for which State Aid Survey figures are available.

According to the latest available figures, DTI spending on the promotion of enterprise, innovation and increased productivity was forecast to be £867 million in 2000–01, and £983 million in 2001–02. A significant proportion, though not all, of this money will have benefited manufacturing directly or indirectly.

Total public expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy and on national grants and subsidies for farming was £3,043 million in 2000–01, and is forecast to be £5,255 million in 2001–02.


Aggregate Dredging

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria and what time scale is being used by her Department for the issuing of aggregate dredging licences for the Brucey's Garden Area of the NW Dogger shipping area of the North sea; and if she will make a statement. [46397]

Ms Keeble: I have been asked to reply.

Marine aggregate dredging licences are issued by the Crown Estate which owns nearly all of the seabed out to the UK 12 mile territorial limit and has rights to all minerals within the UK share of the European Continental Shelf. It issues licences only if the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions first issues a favourable 'Government View' on the proposed dredging.

The Crown Estate has received no dredging licence applications for the Brucey's Garden Area of the North West Dogger shipping area of the North sea but has received applications from two nearby areas, called North West Rough and Southernmost Rough. No applications in those areas have yet been submitted to the Secretary of State for a Government View.

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If they are, as in all other cases, they will be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment, including a Coastal Impact Study, and wide consultation with other Government Departments, relevant coastal local authorities and other bodies having responsibilities for the protection of the marine environment. The Secretary of State would not issue a favourable Government View unless he was satisfied that there will be no adverse impact on the coast and no unacceptable effect on the marine environment that could not be mitigated through the observance of conditions attached to the licence.

Time scales for the issue of marine dredging licences are a matter for the Crown Estate. Suggested time scales for processing and determining applications for a Government View are set out in the former DETR/WO publication "Government View: New Arrangements for the Licensing of Minerals Dredging" dated May 1998.

Home Energy Efficiency Scheme

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what priority the home efficiency scheme gives to (a) the elderly and (b) low-income priority groups. [22890]

Mr. Meacher: The Government's main programme for tackling fuel poverty in the private sector in England is the home energy efficiency scheme (HEES), which is now marketed as 'The Warm Front Team'.

HEES has been developed to help tackle the problem of fuel poverty, which is caused by a combination of energy inefficient housing and low incomes. Certain people are particularly vulnerable to cold-related ill health—the old, families with children, the disabled and the long term sick. HEES is targeted at these priority households, providing two levels of financial assistance for the installation of insulation and heating measures dependent upon the needs of the householder and property type.

All applications to the scheme are treated equally in terms of priority.

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