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Government Debt

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department has met its performance target of reducing the yield differential between (a) British and (b) German long-term Government debt; and if he will make a statement. [69089]

Mr. Boateng: The differential between yields on UK and German 10-year Government bonds at the start of May 1997 was 1.7 per cent. The Treasury Departmental Report 2002, published in June, reported that this differential had averaged 0.14 per cent. over the year to publication. The differential is currently 0.16 per cent. (8 July 2002).

Resource Accounting

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether comprehensive departmental resource accounts were fully in place in 1999–2000; and if he will make a statement. [69091]

Mr. Boateng: As part of the implementation of resource accounting and budgeting, Government Departments prepared resource and pension scheme accounts in parallel with the related appropriation accounts for 1999–2000. These accounts were laid before the House by the Treasury and published by Departments. All were subject to audit and examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Thirty nine of those accounts were laid before the House under the terms of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921 by the statutory deadline of 31 January 2001 and the remaining 10, with the agreement of the Treasury and the National Audit Office, were laid by 4 April 2001. Therefore these represent a comprehensive set of accounts for that period.

Housing Market

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what studies he has commissioned into sudden falls in the housing market in parts of the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [68330]

Mr. McNulty: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested has been placed in the Library of the House.

PISA 2000 Survey

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 1 July 2002, Official Report, column 117W, if he will make a statement on the timing of the test in relation to GCSE exams. [67863]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: I have been asked to reply.

In England, the OECD PISA survey was conducted between 1 March 2000 and 14 April 2000, on a date chosen by each participating school. GCSE examinations were held in May and June 2000.


Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer since the international coalition began freezing ZANU-PF members' assets, what activity has occurred within each of the accounts. [67134]

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Ruth Kelly: European Council Regulation 310/2002 does not allow for the disclosure of details regarding individual accounts and amounts frozen, beyond the information already made available to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) on 15 April 2002.

Actions taken by other Governments in respect of individuals in Zimbabwe are a matter for those Governments. Within the European Union, it is for each member state to ensure that the terms of the regulation are implemented.


Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the (a) date, (b) purpose and (c) cost of each reception held at No 11 Downing Street since 7 June 2001; and if he will make a statement. [66279]

Ruth Kelly [holding answer 4 July 2002]: A list of all receptions held at 11 Downing Street since 7 June 2001 has been placed in the Library.

The total cost to the Treasury for all official receptions held in the relevant period is £8,453 in 2001 and £6,505 in 2002. There is no cost to the Treasury or public funds for any private reception.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the value of contraband brought into the UK through (a) canalised, (b) non- canalised ports of entry and (c) in total (i) in sterling and (ii) as a percentage of the total through each of (a)-(c) in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [69018]

John Healey: I regret that this information is not available in the format requested but I am able to refer the hon. Member to some sources of information on the subject that he may find of interest.

The latest information about excise smuggling can be found in the documents "Measuring Indirect Tax Fraud and Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud" (HM Customs and Excise, November 2001). Details and results of Customs activities to counter other types of contraband smuggling are published in the Customs and Excise Annual Report 2000–01 (March 2002). Copies of all of these documents have been placed in the House of Commons Library.


Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce a VAT refund scheme for charities; and if he will make a statement. [68877]

John Healey: Charities already benefit from a range of special VAT reliefs, but the Government recognise that irrecoverable VAT still represents a problem for some charities.

While we remain alive to opportunities to modernise and update the VAT system for charities wherever possible, this remains a difficult issue. The 1999 Review of Charity Taxation gave careful consideration to a scheme to refund charities' irrecoverable VAT, but concluded that for reasons of principle and cost this should not be pursued.

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Exchange Rate

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with which currencies sterling has maintained greatest exchange rate stability since 1997; and how that is measured. [69020]

Ruth Kelly: There is no unique measure of exchange rate stability. One possible measure is the co-efficient of variation. Since the start of 1997, of the currencies comprising sterling ERI, the Swiss franc-sterling exchange rate has had the lowest co-efficient of variation.


Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the five economic tests will include an assessment of the short-term and long-term consequences for public spending and fiscal policy of joining the euro. [69065]

Ruth Kelly: The Government have said they will complete an assessment of the five economic tests within two years of the start of this Parliament. All relevant economic issues will be dealt with as part of the assessment.

Poor Nations (Imports)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he has taken, and what progress he has made, towards securing the support of EU Governments for the lifting of barriers to imports from the poorest nations. [69019]

Ruth Kelly: The Government are working closely with our EU partners for a successful resolution of the new WTO 'development' trade round, including the commitments in the Doha Ministerial Declaration of 14 November 2001 on market access for agricultural and non-agricultural products. And we are strongly encouraging other industrialised countries to follow the EU lead by granting duty and quota-free access to the least developed countries for all exports except arms, and by financing capacity building in developing countries so they can participate fully and effectively in the forthcoming negotiations.


Mr. Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many representations the Inland Revenue has received about the valuation of cars in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [69457]

John Healey: For the purposes of calculating the tax charge on the benefit of a company car, the "price" of the car is based on the UK list price. Information about the number of representations received on this issue is not available.


Mr. Coleman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the rate of unemployment is in each Government office region. [68900]

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

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Letter from John Kidgell to Mr. Iain Coleman, dated 11 July 2002:

ILO unemployment rate(1) by Government office region; February to April 2002, seasonally adjusted
Per cent.

Yorkshire and the Humber5.2
East Midlands4.7
West Midlands5.6
Northern Ireland5.7
United Kingdom5.2

(1) ILO unemployed people aged 16+ as a percentage of the economically active.

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