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Kerosene and LPG: Climate Change Levy

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Kerosene is not subject to Climate Change Levy, and liquid petroleum gas will be subject to the levy at the same rate as natural gas.

Insurance and Genetic Testing

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government has established the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC) as an independent review body. Its remit is to evaluate the use of genetic tests results in underwriting decisions made by insurance companies. The members of the Association of British Insurers have undertaken to abide by GAIC's future conclusions about whether any of these specific tests are suitable for use in underwriting insurance.

Training Courses: VAT

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Educational, professional and vocational training courses provided by schools, colleges and public bodies are not subject to VAT. Vocational training funded through approved government training schemes is also exempt. In addition, tuition supplied by an individual teacher working in a personal capacity or in partnership is exempt if the tuition is in a subject ordinarily taught in a school or university. Courses or qualifications supplied by commercial providers are taxable at the standard rate of VAT.

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European Union Petrol Taxes

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the percentage of tax on a litre of petrol in each of the European Union countries.[HL170]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Information on petrol taxes and prices in European Union countries is produced regularly by the European Commission. Figures on tax as a percentage of price are shown in the Department of Trade and Industry publication, the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics. The latest edition is for 1999 and the data requested are shown in table 9.19. The definition of tax includes both excise duty and VAT.

Research Council, 2 December

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Research Council held in Brussels on 2 December; and if they will make a statement.[HL378]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): I attended the Research Council of 2 December, which 1. Concluded bilateral scientific and technological co-operation agreements with Argentina and China and approved a decision to sign a similar agreement with Russia; 2. Adopted Conclusions on the preparation of future Community RTD Framework Programmes; 3. Adopted a Resolution on developing a coherent European space strategy; 4. Adopted Conclusions concerning waste management and decommissioning obsolete nuclear installations of the Joint Research Centre (JRC); 5. Adopted a Decision approving a supplementary programme for the High Flux Reactor at Petten in the Netherlands; 6. Received information from the Commission on the implementation of the Fourth and Fifth Framework Programmes including the participation of associated CEECs and Cyprus, on women and science in light of the recent European Technology Assessment Network (ETAN) report and from the Presidency and the Commission on the ASEM Ministerial Conference of 14-15 October 1999. There was also a discussion on the possible co-ordination of various member states' "Science Week" activities with a European Science Week.

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Takeover Panel

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the German Government's proposals to amend the draft takeover directive and the Spanish Government's reservation in relation to Gibraltar, they remain confident that they will be able to preserve the long-term independence of the United Kingdom's Takeover Panel at the meeting scheduled in Brussels for 7 December, and thereafter.[HL172]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government successfully negotiated changes to the proposed takeovers directive designed to allow the UK system of takeover supervision administered by the Takeover Panel to remain undisturbed following adoption and implementation of the directive. It has made absolutely clear that these changes are a prerequisite to its support for the directive as a whole. The German Government has not made any proposals to amend the current text of the directive. Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Spain have been negotiating a solution to Spain's reservation concerning the application of the directive to Gibraltar. An agreement between the UK and Spain would not affect the UK Takeover Panel.

Takeovers: Draft Directive

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current state of play concerning the proposed European 13th Company Law Directive on takeovers.[HL173]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Political agreement was reached on the proposed 13th Company Law Directive at the Internal Market Council in June this year, with the exception of one point, a Spanish objection concerning the application of the directive to Gibraltar. Since then Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Spain have been negotiating a solution to this question.

Colombia: Displaced People

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to encourage and support an increased UNHCR presence in Colombia to respond to the accentuated crisis of displaced people.[HL228]

Baroness Amos: We are concerned by the plight of displaced people in Colombia, and have provided assistance through a number of organisations, including Oxfam, SCF, ICRC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR). We have not taken any specific steps to encourage UNHCR to increase its presence in Colombia, though we strongly support its mandate to protect refugees,

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and endorse its efforts to assist internally displaced persons in countries where it has a proven comparative advantage and an international mandate to do so.

Prison Service: Quantum Project

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce the outcome of the Invitation to Tender for the Prison Service's Quantum project.[HL379]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Invitation to Tender for the Quantum Project, for an information technology infrastructure service, joint development of a strategy for information technology-based business change and an agreed mechanism for implementing business change on a partnership basis, was issued on 25 September. The short-listed companies provided their submissions in response to the invitation to tender on 8 November. Following thorough evaluation against commercial and, separately, qualitative criteria, Martin Narey, Director General of the Prison Service has selected the tender of Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as the one which is the most economically advantageous to the Prison Service based on the best combination of deliverability, quality, risk transfer and cost. The Prison Service and EDS will now commence preferred supplier negotiations with a view to award of contract.

Rough Sleepers and Hostel Bedspaces

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is (a) the estimated average number of people sleeping on the streets at night; (b) the estimated number of hostel beds; and (c) the estimated average number of unfilled hostel beds each night, in (i) London and (ii) Birmingham; and what is the population of each city.[HL145]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): (a) In June 1998 estimates based on single night street counts recorded 621 people sleeping rough in Greater London and 56 in Birmingham, on any one night. Further counts were undertaken in June 1999, and the results will be published shortly.

(b) (i) The London Hostels directory contains listings for around 26,000 hostel bedspaces. This covers a wide range of supported accommodation schemes. Only a fraction of these, probably fewer than 3,000, are in what are described as direct access hostels. These provide emergency, short-term accommodation, which is theoretically accessible to people who have slept rough. The Rough Sleepers Unit has recently commissioned an audit of provision for rough sleepers in London. This will provide a

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breakdown of the level and type of provision available, and will be published in the New Year.

(ii) There are over 1,000 hostel bedspaces in Birmingham, of which 520 are in direct access hostels.

(c) (i) Robust information does not exist on levels of vacancies in hostels in London. Indications, however, are that occupancy rates are at around 96 per cent, with the remaining 4 per cent (around 800 beds) accounted for by beds which are closed for redecoration and refurbishment, as well as vacancies. For direct access hostels in London, the audit of provision will provide more detailed information on vacancy levels. Indications, however, are that vacancies on any one night are generally in single figures, representing an occupancy rate of over 99 per cent.

(ii) For direct access hostels in Birmingham, there are, on average, 10 vacancies each night, representing an occupancy rate of over 98 per cent. Information is not available on levels of vacancies in other hostels.

The population of London in mid-1998 was recorded as 7,197,300 and of Birmingham as 1,013,400.

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