Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

6 Jun 2000 : Column WA143

Written Answers

Tuesday, 6th June 2000.

EU External Aid Programme

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the shortcomings in the European Union External Aid Programme have only recently been discovered; why the Audit Office was not involved sooner; and whether they will seek to ensure that the sum pledged for clearing the Danube at Novi Sad and restoring full navigation is promptly and efficiently spent. [HL2501]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have long been aware that the European Community's External Aid Programme is not living up to its potential. We produced a strategy in December 1998 for improving its effectiveness and efficiency and are currently taking this strategy forward in co-operation with the European Commission.

Audit for EC development programmes is the responsibility of the European Court of Auditors, who produce a report in November each year. The National Audit Office scrutinises this report for Parliament in spring the following year.

Ensuring that EC pledges are promptly and efficiently spent falls outside the remit of the National Audit Office. However, we fully support Commissioner Patten's recommendation that efforts should be made to speed up implementation of this proposal.


The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will summarise the support they are giving this year to drought affected areas of Rajasthan; and through which organisations.[HL2656]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Department for International Development has already committed nearly £3 million for relief projects in response to the drought which is currently affecting regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India--including Rajasthan. £2 million of this support is being channelled through the World Food Programme for its regional response, and £500,000 through Oxfam for its activities in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Two DFID humanitarian specialists have recently returned from India and we are currently considering a further response in light of their assessments.

In addition, unconnected with the drought situation, DFID has also committed funds for two innovative projects with the Rajasthan Government which aim to promote universal primary education in the state, including areas affected by the current drought.

6 Jun 2000 : Column WA144

Electronic Trade and VAT

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they make available to businesses as to their VAT liability on sales of information in electronic form over the Internet, and, in particular, as to how it should be established that "goods" have been exported outside the United Kingdom for VAT purposes; where a member of the public may find such advice; and whether the VAT enquiry lines provide the answers to the previous questions.[HL2647]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are no special rules for supplies over the Internet. Goods ordered over the Internet and delivered physically are treated like any other supply of goods; and supplies delivered electronically are treated as supplies of services. Information on supplies of goods and services are contained in the VAT General Guide (Notice No. 700). Information about supplies of services traded internationally is covered in Place of Supply of Services (Notice No. 741). Information on VAT and the export of goods is published in Exports (Notice No. 703). Proof of export will normally be satisfied through commercial documentation.

Public Notices and information on the whole range of VAT issues are freely available from Customs & Excise Business Advice Centres. In order to assist businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. HM Customs & Excise are in the process of developing a site on the Internet which will provide a wide range of information to help business understand the VAT implications of trading electronically.

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they make available to businesses as to their VAT liability on sales of books where the selling price of the book includes a right of access to the same information on the Internet; where a member of the public may find such advice; and whether the VAT enquiry line provide the answers to the previous questions.[HL2648]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Printed books are zero-rated for VAT purposes. If the rights supplied are incidental to the supply of the book, the whole supply will be zero-rated. A separate supply of rights would take its own liability.

Information on VAT is available through local Customs & Excise Business Advice Centres.

Budget Press Releases

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they respond to the observations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants that press releases and related materials issued by the Treasury in the context of this year's Budget "are being given a political slant which obscures vital technical

6 Jun 2000 : Column WA145

    issues"; and whether the Budget press releases improve public understanding of the tax system.[HL2653]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have implemented a transparent and open framework for fiscal policy, and believe it is important to explain the reasons for tax changes and how they will work in practice. The Budget press releases and related materials, including the Financial Statement and Budget Report, the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report, and technical notes provide full, clear and accurate information about the Government's policies. They are both informative and objective.

Clean Vehicles Task Force: Report

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force will publish its final report.[HL2714]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Cleaner Vehicles Task Force, which was set up by the Department in 1997 to look at practical ways of reducing vehicle emissions is publishing its final report, The way forward--the final report of the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force today. The report covers five main areas:

    Transforming the market and achieving lower environmental impacts from vehicles in use through government incentives, development of technology, and through better public awareness;

    The role of fleets in improving environmental performance of current and new vehicles;

    Cleaner fuels and technologies--both conventional and alternative fuels and technologies;

    The role for low emission zones; and

    Making sure everyone plays their part--the importance of enforcement in maintaining improvements.

There has already been progress on the Task Force's interim recommendations, published in the 1999 report Driving the Agenda. For instance, we announced in March that we would be spending £6 million this year on a Cleaner Vehicles Programme to take forward the Task Force's recommendations on retrofitting. Industry has acted too, with the motor industry adopting a label providing information about emissions on all new cars. We look forward to seeing rapid progress on the recommendations contained in this report.

Copies of the final report, along with a background paper published by the Task Force on the environmental impacts of vehicle production and disposal and the reports of the Technology and Testing and Alternative Fuels sub-group, are available in the House Library.

6 Jun 2000 : Column WA146

London Underground: Escalator Repairs

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to reduce the delays in repairs to broken escalators at London Underground stations; and how many of these escalators have been out of operation (a) for over three months and (b) for over six months.[HL2434]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: This is an operational matter for London Underground.

To minimise service disruption, London Underground has carried out temporary repairs where possible, with the approval of Her Majesty's Railways Inspectorate. All stations are now open. Permanent repairs will be carried out as quickly as possible.

On 16 May, 30 escalators had been out of operation for over three months, 12 for over six months.

GM Trials: Bee-keepers and Fruit Growers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consulted representatives of bee-keepers and fruit growers before approving sites for trials of genetically modified crops; and, if not, why not.[HL2520]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): There has not been any specific consultation with representatives of bee-keepers or fruit growers about the siting of farm scale evaluations of GM crops. This is because the assessment of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment ascertained that the release would have no adverse effects on bees or the consumers of honey or fruit containing GM pollen.

Mobile Concrete Pump Vehicle Licensing

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice is being given by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency regarding the correct taxation class for a vehicle used to pump concrete or other building materials at a building site, when the vehicle is not used to carry any materials other than water used in conjunction with the machinery.[HL2427]

Lord Whitty: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has in recent years advised operators of mobile concrete pumps that their vehicles should be licensed in the mobile crane tax class, on the basis of legal advice. However, the DVLA is currently considering the implications of R v Reilly Concrete Pumping Limited, in which an operator was convicted under Section 37 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 after registering his vehicles in that class, to consider what advice it should now issue to operators of concrete pumps to ensure that their vehicles are correctly licensed.

6 Jun 2000 : Column WA147

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page