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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority: Annual Report

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has published its eighth annual report. The report has been laid before the House in accordance with the requirements of Section 7(3) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Copies have been placed in the Library.

Non-domestic Rates

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Businesses have overwhelmingly supported the need for a transitional relief scheme to phase in changes in business rate bills, as proposed in our recent consultation paper. Following that consultation, we are pleased that we can announce today limits on the size of annual increases over all five years of the new rating list.

Rate bills will fall for many properties, while others will see only modest increases. The transitional relief scheme will place maximum limits on any larger increases, with additional protection given to small properties.

The largest possible increase in bills for small non-domestic properties will be 5 per cent in real terms in 2000-01, rising to 7- per cent in each of the following four years. The threshold for these small properties will be increased to a rateable value of less than £12,000 (or £18,000 in London). The equivalent limits on bill increases for all larger properties will be 12- per cent in real terms in 2000-01, 15 per cent in 2001-02 and 17- per cent in each of the following three years.

Small properties will also be given preferential treatment on the limits on the amount by which rate bills can fall in any year. Their bills will be allowed to decrease by up to 5 per cent in real terms in the first two years, up to 10 per cent in the third, 12- per cent in the fourth and 25 per cent in the last year. Decreases for all larger properties will be limited to 2- per cent in real terms in the first two years, and 5 per cent in the third 7- per cent in the fourth and 15 per cent in the last year.

Revaluation does not mean that more money will be raised from the rates, since the rates multiplier (or poundage) will be reduced next year to take account of the increase in rateable value across the country. What it does mean is that the rate burden will be distributed more fairly, reflecting changes in the property market since 1995.

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A number of responses to the consultation paper called on the Government to review the current system of business rate revaluation. We agree that such a review is needed. This will not be a fundamental review of the business rate, but it will look for ways of improving the approach to valuation in order to increase stability, certainty and simplicity in the system, including changes to the frequency of valuations. The details of the review will be announced in due course.

Military Offences

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many cases of military offences were tried summarily over the last 12 month period for which figures are available in: (a) Colchester Garrison; (b) Tidworth Garrison; (c) Catterick Garrison; or (d) other convenient geographical or administrative areas, showing for each garrison or area how many cases attracted: (a) a period of detention; (b) a fine; (c) any punishment, admonishment or reprimand; or (d) an acquittal.[HL79]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Statistics for military offences dealt with summarily are not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Work has begun to set up the administrative machinery required to hold such statistics in the future.

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What behaviour or action which constitute military offences have been declared to be "prevalent" in: (a) Colchester Garrison; (b) Tidworth Garrison; and (c) Catterick Garrison; and[HL81]

    What is the effect in military law of a military offence being declared "prevalent".[HL89]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: None. The practice of taking into account the declared "prevalence" of offences was discontinued in 1997 in the implementation of military law. As military offences are no longer declared "prevalent", there is no effect on military law.

Millennium Start Date

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, for official purposes, the start of the twenty-first century is being celebrated ninety-nine years after the start of the twentieth century was celebrated.[HL50]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Millennium Commission was established in 1994, under the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, with a remit to assist communities both to mark the year 2000 and to celebrate the start of the third Millennium. The

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Government have always recognised that the new Millennium starts on 1 January 2001, but many people wish to celebrate during the year 2000, and the Commission has responded to this by funding projects throughout 2000 and into the new Millennium.

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