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15 Oct 2002 : Column 609W—continued

Import Duties

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the revenue that would be lost to Her Majesty's Government if HM Customs were no longer able to stop any British citizen returning to the UK with cigarettes and alcohol on which no tax had been paid. [74343]

John Healey: Customs and Excise make no estimates of the potential loss of excise revenue if Customs were no longer able to stop British citizens returning to the UK with alcohol and tobacco products.

Government Accounts

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will bring forward proposals on who should sign the whole of Government accounts; and if he will make a statement. [74124]

Mr. Boateng: The first whole of government accounts, covering the results and financial position of central government for the year ending 31 March 2004, should be published in early 2005.

The Financial Reporting Advisory Board will be consulted in 2003 on who should sign the accounts.

Pension Schemes

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discount rate is used for public sector pension schemes in the accounts published for financial years (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02; and if he will make a statement. [74126]

Mr. Boateng: The discount rate for valuing the liabilities of defined benefit public service pension schemes in their accounts for 2000–01 and 2001–02 was set at 3.5 per cent per annum net of changes in retail prices. Bodies in the wider public sector which fall outside the Resource Accounting framework made disclosures using discount rates determined under accounting standards SSAP24 or FRS17 as appropriate.

Income Tax

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the full year yield of a 50 per cent. tax rate on (a) gross incomes and (b) taxable incomes of more than #100,000 a year for financial years, (i) 2002–03 and (ii) 2003–04; and if he will make a statement. [74132]

Dawn Primarolo: The full-year effects of making the changes are set out in the table.

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Income tax yield in 2002–03 (# billion)Income tax yield in 2003–04 (# billion)
(a) 50 per cent. rate
for gross incomes
over #100,0004.04.5
(b) 50 per cent. rate
for taxable incomes
over #100,0003.94.3

The estimates are based on the Survey of Personal Incomes and are consistent with the April 2002 Budget. These estimates exclude any behavioural response to the tax change.


Diesel

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he had made of the quantity of red diesel consumed at United Kingdom airports; and if he will make a statement. [74122]

John Healey: No information is currently available on which to make such an estimate. However, from 1 April 2003, as part of the package of measures announced in Budget 2002 to tackle oils fraud, those dealing in red diesel (rebated gas oil) and kerosene will need to register with, and provide certain information to, Customs and Excise about the supplies they make. While the main purpose of gathering this information is to help Customs target fraudsters, it will also provide management information about supplies and consumption trends generally.

Banking Services (Rural Areas)

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he has taken to ensure that banking services are available to those living in rural areas. [73987]

Ruth Kelly: Innovations in the financial services industry are providing new products and varied delivery channels to increase consumer choice in banking services. However, specific groups can still be vulnerable to financial exclusion and that is why the Government is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at increasing access to financial services. Rural areas in particular should benefit from a programme of work to deliver banking services through the Post Office. A number of banks already have agency agreements with the Post Office, allowing their customers to withdraw cash and make deposits at post offices—an extension of the coverage of banks and services provided is planned. The development of universal banking services at the Post Office, from April 2003, will also significantly increase the accessibility of banking services.

Productivity

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment he has made of the trends in productivity growth; and what the latest productivity growth figures are. [73746]

John Healey: The Government's most recent assessment of trends in productivity growth was set out in Budget 2002 (HC 592) and the accompanying paper ''Trend Growth: Recent Developments and Prospects''. We will publish an updated assessment in this year's Pre-Budget Report.

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Latest figures show whole economy productivity picked up strongly and grew at above trend rates between the first and second quarters of 2002, with output per job rising by 0.7 per cent and output per hour rising by 1.1 per cent.

Mortgages (Dual Rates)

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to require mortgage lenders who operated a dual rate to compensate borrowers who took out loans at the higher rate. [74762]

Ruth Kelly: It is for the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to consider any wider implications of decisions taken by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), whether on dual interest rates or in other areas of its responsibility.

Equitable Life

Bob Russell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to make an announcement on the Penrose report into the affairs of Equitable Life Assurance; and if he will make a statement. [74465]

Ruth Kelly: The Penrose Inquiry is independent of the Government and the timetable for conducting the Inquiry is a matter for Lord Penrose. No deadline for reporting has been set. The Inquiry's remit covers a long period of time and the issues involved are both broad and complex. A firm deadline was therefore felt to be an inappropriate constraint on the range and independence of the Inquiry.

Lord Penrose has, however, made it clear that he is keen to ensure that the Inquiry proceeds as quickly as possible consistent with rigorously establishing the facts, producing an authoritative account and thoroughly identifying the lessons to be learnt.

I look forward to receiving the report of Lord Penrose's Inquiry as soon as he is able to complete it.

EU Tax Harmonisation

Mr. Jack: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the economic impact on the UK of the harmonisation, in the EU, of taxes on diesel fuel at current fuel prices and taxation levels. [73825]

Dawn Primarolo: The European Commission has recently published a proposal to introduce a single harmonised diesel duty rate for commercial users of 350 euros per thousand litres of diesel in 2010. The proposal also sets out transitional regimes in the interim period. If this proposed duty rate were applied now, it would cost at least #2 billion a year in revenue. The Government will make it clear that we see no reason for a harmonised diesel duty rate.

Financial Aid

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been paid in (a) subsidies, (b) grants, (c) tax reliefs and (d) other financial aid to (i) the farming industry, (ii) other rural recipients,

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(iii) the black community and (iv) the gay community in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [74613]

Mr. Boateng: Government support for the farming industry, rural communities, black communities and gay communities takes a variety of forms and a full breakdown in the format requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

However details on subsidies received by the farming sector are published in Agriculture in the UK 2001 (available in the Library of the House). In 2001–02 public expenditure to the agricultural sector in the UK under the Common Agricultural Policy and national grants and subsidies was #5.3 billion. This includes #2 billion on foot and mouth compensation payments and associated disposal costs.

Details of the costs of the main tax reliefs can be found in table A3.1 in the Financial Statement and Budget Report 2002, (also available in the Library of the House). We are unable to analyse the cost of tax reliefs in the format requested.

Nuclear Industry

Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer against which departmental budget the funding for the proposed Liabilities Management Authority, set out in CM 5552, Managing the Nuclear Legacy, will be attributed. [73564]

Mr. Boateng: The costs will fall to the Department of Trade and Industry's budget.

Public Servants

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received regarding the level of salaries of public servants; and what the outcomes were of those representations. [73835]

Mr. Boateng: Although we receive some representations, it is for employers across the public sector, including departments individually within the civil service, to determine the level of salaries for their own staff. We would expect to make that point in response.


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