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28 Oct 2002 : Column 605W—continued


Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether the use of Digicerts supplied by Equifax to UK firms must comply with USA export law and regulations, with particular reference to those imposing trade sanctions on other countries; [77126]

John Healey: Customs and Excise's New Export System (NES) went live at all Maritime and Inland locations (including Inland Clearance Depots) throughout the UK on 27 October 2002. NES is an

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electronic-based system which enables exporters and agents to send their export declarations to Customs electronically.

It replaces the current paper-based system, facilitates legitimate trade and helps combat VAT and Excise fraud. NES provides a number of tailored models and procedures to meet the needs of different trade sectors. It will allow Customs to target their controls more effectively and therefore minimise disruption to legitimate trade; and there will be a reduction in the time it takes to process an export declaration.

The legal basis for the information supplied by exporters and their agents under NES is the Community Customs Code (Council Regulation (EEC) 2913/92) and the Implementing Regulation (Commission Regulation (EEC) 2454/93). Article 15 of the Community Customs Code imposes an obligation of privacy on customs authorities. NES complies with the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998.

The Paymaster General received one representation on NES from the British International Freight Association (BIFA) on 20 December last year, to which the Financial Secretary replied on 24 January 2002.

To operate the New Export System electronically a digital certificate may be required. Either an individual or an organisation may apply for a digital certificate.Customs require Level 2 Security to meet authentication and non-repudiation requirements for all non-European Community declarations made via the world wide web to their export declaration processing system.

The policy of the e-Envoy's Office is that Level 2 security requirements should be met by use of digital certificates. Customs have adopted the e-Envoy's Office's policy for Level 2. Agreements concerning digital certificates are a contractual matter between the issuer and applicant; the Electronic Communications Act 2000 and the EU Electronic Signatures Directive determine the general legal admissibility of digital certificates.

The Government do not approve or carry out audits of digital certificate providers, but it encourages them to seek approval from tScheme, a voluntary, not-for-profit, industry-led body or an equivalent approval scheme. Equifax is one of several digital certificate suppliers undergoing tScheme accreditation. tScheme is the organisation set up to create strict service criteria and to approve electronic trust services, including qualified certificate services. Any digital certificate provider that meets the tScheme requirements and is technically compatible is able to supply digital certificates that can be used with the Government Gateway. Other providers are ChamberSign and BT Trust Services (available from mid-November 2002).

The only contract between these digital certificate providers and the UK Government are a standard Xrelying party agreement". This contract ensures that each provider supplies up-to-date lists of all digital certificate holders so that the UK Government can verify their identities when transacting through the Government Gateway.

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The information supplied by applicants will depend on the certificate issuer and the intended use of the certificate. Any personal information provided and not intended for public access is covered by the DPA. It is not the Government's role to make assessments on the compliance of certificate issuers with the DPA but they are bound by its requirements.

Whether or not a digital certificate complies with US export laws is a matter for the firm and the issuer of the certificate, not the UK Government. The certificate policy should make clear the extent of any liability of the certificate issuer to the certificate relying party. This is a matter for the certificate issuer and the applicant.

Estate Sales

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what capital has been realised by the sale of the estates of each of HM Treasury and its agencies since 1997 and what is the estimated value of what remains. [75684]

Dawn Primarolo: Proceeds from estate sales for April 1996 to March 2002 amount to #165,954,000. These sales relate solely to the Office of Government Commerce. The estimated value of remaining property is #107,098,000.

Foot and Mouth Relief

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the Treasury over the impact of the taxation of foot and mouth relief for small businesses, with particular reference to those involved in tourism. [77307]

Dawn Primarolo: Both the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise Departments continue to provide help and support, on a case by case basis, to those businesses and individuals who still face financial difficulty because of the foot and mouth outbreak. The Revenue Departments have helped over 27,000 businesses by agreeing to defer over #264 million in tax, national insurance contributions and VAT.

Individual Tax Codes

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the accuracy of the Inland Revenue in determining an individual's tax code; and if he will make a statement. [77020]

Dawn Primarolo: Under Pay As You Earn a code number is used to ensure that about the right amount of tax is deducted from pay according to an individual's known circumstances. And, at the end of the year, the Inland Revenue checks to see that the correct amount of tax has been paid. The Inland Revenue issues approximately 26 million notices of coding every year and each is based on the latest information available.

The Inland Revenue computer systems automatically determine a code number for each taxpayer prior to the start of each tax year. During the tax year, some code numbers are revised by staff on receipt of information from a taxpayer or employer. The Inland Revenue undertakes annual reviews to monitor the accuracy of work in the Department. This shows that coding accuracy in 2001–02 was 94 per cent.

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Life Insurance

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the value of the tax exemption on the cost of charges and commissions included in life insurance products in the last 12 months. [77677]

Ruth Kelly: I regret the information is not available.

Money Laundering

Harry Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amendments are being proposed to the EU Directive on money laundering which allowed prior notification to the legal representatives of suspects; and if he will make a statement. [77217]

Ruth Kelly: The Second EC Money Laundering Directive was agreed in December 2001 and is not subject to amendment.

Network Rail

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Office for National Statistics will publish its joint letter with the National Audit Office concerning the accounting treatment of Network Rail; and if he will make a statement. [74769]

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

Letter from L. Cook to Mr. M. Taylor, dated 28 October 2002:

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