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19 Jun 1998 : Column WA155

Written Answers

Friday, 19th June 1998.

Listed Building Repairs and VAT

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make a greater effort to persuade the European Commission to allow the discontinuance of VAT at high-rate on repairs to listed buildings, to avoid degradation of those buildings.[HL2192]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have no plans to pursue with the European Commission any changes to the rate of VAT on repairs to listed buildings. We believe that the maintenance and preservation of our built heritage is a most worthy cause and support is already given by way of grants.

Duty Free Sales Allowance

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the duty free allowance on imported cigarettes and alcoholic drinks from European Union countries was last increased for United Kingdom residents travelling by train or in their own vehicles; what are the current quantities and cash limits; and how many prosecutions have been brought against offenders during the last three years.[HL2211]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The last general increase in limits on duty free sales was 1 January 1979; the still wine limit was increased in July 1985. Under EC law, duty free and tax free shops cannot sell a traveller on each journey more than:

    200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250 gms of tobacco;

    2 litres of still table wine;

    1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent. volume or 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs;

    600cc/ml of perfume and 250cc/ml of toilet water; and

    £75-worth of all other goods, including gifts and souvenirs.

Within the last three years 1,357 prosecutions have been brought against those caught smuggling unlawful amounts of duty free and duty paid goods into the UK. Customs' records do not detail the means of travel used by those offenders, nor do they show whether the goods concerned were duty free or duty paid.

Imported Works of Art: VAT Rate

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 1 June (WA 10-11),

19 Jun 1998 : Column WA156

    whether, as well as participating in the European Commission's re-examination of the effect of VAT on imported works of art and other factors affecting the competitiveness of European Community art markets, they will seek to amend the policy set out in the Written Answer.[HL2199]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Under the terms of EC law governing VAT on the importation of certain works of art, antiques and collectors' pieces, the UK is obliged, after 30 June 1999, to raise its rate of VAT from the present 2.5 per cent. to at least the normal minimum 5 per cent. which all other member states must presently comply with.

This was a condition agreed by the UK during negotiations on the relevant EC Directive. But the Government are aware of art trade concerns about both the present rate of VAT and the possible consequences for them of an increase. They will therefore ensure that this features among the issues which are considered during the forthcoming European Commission review of the effects of VAT on imported works of art and the competitiveness of the Community art markets.

Motorway Service Areas: Inspections

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a table, noting dates, names and ownership of motorway service stations in the United Kingdom and the routes and locations on which they occur, stating:

    (a) how often health and safety inspectors made inspections at all sites in each of the last two years and providing full details in respect to hazards detected in:

    (i) the condition of food preparation and the serving areas; and

    (ii) the condition and maintenance of toilet facilities; and

    (b) on what dates subsequent re-inspections were made at each location; and[HL2279]

    How many service stations have been subject to inspection and on which dates and found to be below European Union standards in each of the last five years; and what subsequent checks have been required, with dates, at those sites that were found to have been below standard.[HL2280]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): There are no specific EU standards relating to motorway service areas (MSAs). MSAs, like all other restaurants, are subject to periodic inspections by local authority environmental health departments. Records of the food premises inspections at MSAs are not held separately, and the information requested could only be supplied at disproportionate cost.

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