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17 Jul 2000 : Column WA63

Written Answers

Monday, 17th July 2000.

Departmental Cars

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 15th June (WA 209), what type and make of cars the Government Car and Despatch Agency provides to the Treasury for Ministers and senior officials; and[HL2938]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 15th June (WA 209) on the type and make of cars used by the Treasury, what types, makes and numbers of cars are supplied to the Treasury by the Government Car and Despatch Agency; and who has the use of these cars.[HL3166]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Treasury leases the following cars under contract with the Government Car and Despatch Agency.

MakeTypeNo of cars
Vauxhall Vectra2 litre GLS automatic3
Rover Sterling8001
Rover Sterling8251
Ford Mondeo2 litre GLX1

Third World Debt

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in writing off third world debt since the G8 summit in Cologne; and what progress they anticipate before the end of this year.[HL3182]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Eight countries have so far reached their decision points and are receiving debt relief under the enhanced HIPC initiative (Bolivia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal, Uganda, Honduras and Burkina Faso). By the end of the year a total of 20 countries are expected to have reached decision point and, therefore, be receiving debt relief (Mali, Malawi, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Guinea, Chad, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Zambia, Guyana, Cote d'Ivoire, Benin and the eight already mentioned).

Pound and Euro Exchange Rate

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What, on the basis of purchasing power parities, they calculate the correct exchange rate should be between the pound sterling and the euro and the pound sterling and the dollar. [HL3196]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government do not produce estimates of purchasing power parity exchange rates nor estimates of what a "correct" sterling exchange rate should be.

Taxpayers: Privacy

Lord Donoughue asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what are the procedures in the Inland Revenue to protect citizens having details of their private tax situation published to outsiders;

    (b) whether these procedures were followed when the details of Lord Levy's taxes were revealed to outsiders, and, if not, why not; and

    (c) what action is being taken to ensure that this occurrence is not repeated. [HL3224]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: (a) The Inland Revenue issues a range of guidance materials and instructions to staff which emphasises the need to be extremely vigilant when dealing with taxpayers, especially over the telephone. It also issues periodic reminders to reinforce this important message and provides advice on the checks that should be carried out to establish and verify a taxpayer's identity.

(b) The caller who contacted the Inland Revenue purporting to be Lord Levy possessed information which would normally only be known to the taxpayer. The Inland Revenue is satisfied that the staff concerned followed official instructions but were misled by a sophisticated and determined bogus caller.

(c) The Chairman of the Inland Revenue has recently written to all staff reminding them of the need to take extreme care when handling telephone calls. Additional instructions and guidance were also issued to reinforce the material already given to staff.

European Investment Bank: Nominations for Vice-President

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any pressure has been exerted by the Government of the Republic of Ireland on the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank to appoint Mr Hugh O'Flaherty as a vice-president of the Bank; and[HL3264]

    What qualifications in banking and finance (or both) Mr. O'Flaherty possesses that would make him a suitable candidate for a vice-president of the European Investment Bank; and[HL3265]

    Why vacancies in the posts of vice-presidents of the European Central Bank are not advertised; and[HL3266]

    Whether they will seek to defer the appointment of Mr O'Flaherty as a vice-president of the European Investment Bank until proceedings in the Irish courts seeking an injunction to prevent his appointment have been decided.[HL3267]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Nominations for posts of vice-president of the European Investment Bank have traditionally been matters for the nominating member state.

Trident

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions were held prior to the reported decision to launch a fourth Trident submarine later this year and whether this decision would be consistent with their policy on nuclear disarmament.[HL3194]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): In the Strategic Defence Review we rigorously re-examined our nuclear deterrence requirements. The review was made as open as possible to outside views. One factor of many that we considered was the size of our Trident submarine fleet. We concluded that we need a fleet of four Trident submarines to ensure that our minimum deterrent remains effective. The review also reported the planned launch of HMS "Vengeance", our fourth Trident submarine. She was launched on 19 September 1998; it is planned that she will enter service next year.

At the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the nuclear weapon states gave an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals--the most explicit pledge ever to work for global nuclear disarmament. The Government have clearly demonstrated their commitment to further international progress on non-proliferation and disarmament; the constructive role we played at the conference has been widely recognised and welcomed, as has been the contribution we have already made by reducing our deterrence posture to the levels announced in the Strategic Defence Review.

Higher Education: Contribution to Economy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have undertaken to evaluate the contribution by universities and higher education to the future economic and social viability of the United Kingdom; and what was the outcome of such studies.[HL3258]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We have undertaken studies that show graduates undertake many of the higher added value jobs in the economy and have high average earnings; there is a good rate of return to degrees of 8 to 10 per cent; the wider benefits include graduates' greater involvement in community and voluntary associations; and publicly funded research is important for industrial innovation. Collectively these studies show that higher education is vitally important to the future well-being of the country.

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Higher Education: Funding

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to prevent an acute shortage of funding resulting in a reduction in the quality of human resources available to ensure the effectiveness of teaching and research in universities and higher education throughout the United Kingdom.[HL3259]

Baroness Blackstone : Since April 1998 the Government have increased planned funding for higher education in England by just over £1 billion, an uplift of 11 per cent in real terms over four years. Following the Joint Infrastructure Fund, the Government announced on 5 July 2000 support for research infrastructure amounting to a total of £1 billion over two years from 2002-03, jointly with the Wellcome Foundation. These are substantial sums which will enable universities to maintain the quality of both teaching and research.

Higher education elsewhere in the United Kingdom is the responsibility of the devolved administrations.

Renewable Energy

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they will take to ensure that development of newer forms of renewable energy proceeds and, in particular, to promote the use of biomass by ensuring that outlets for willow to be used as a renewable energy source will be available within a reasonable timescale.[HL3220]

The Minister of Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government are taking powers through the Utilities Bill to place a new obligation on electricity suppliers to supply a set proportion of their electricity supplies from renewable sources. This will create an assured market for renewable energy, initially to 2025.

The Government have increased the budget for their new and renewable energy research and development programme to a total of £32 million over this and the next financial year. Work supported includes a commercialisation programme designed to bring new technologies closer to the market. The Government also fund the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council which spends £3.5 million each year on research into new and renewable forms of energy. In addition, the Government are considering the scope for more specific support for offshore wind and energy crops.

The reforms to the common agricultural policy which we obtained last year in Agenda 2000 include a new rural development regulation which, among other things, enables us to provide support for the development of energy crops. The Minister of Agriculture announced last autumn that he planned to introduce a new energy crops scheme under the England Rural Development Plan, costing around

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£29 million over the six-year life of the plan. The main element is a planting grant which will be available, inter alia, for short-rotation willow coppice. This is subject to the outcome of Spending Review 2000.


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