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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This Government have already reduced the rate of VAT to 5 per cent for certain services where a price cut will have the greatest effect on the regeneration and renewal of the UK's housing stock. In Budget 2001, we introduced reduced rates for the renovation of dwellings that have been empty for at least three years and for certain residential conversions. These measures help to bring vacant homes back into use and encourage better use of existing housing stock. We keep under review the use of other reduced rates for construction work where these will help with regeneration and renewal but we believe that unemployment can be tackled more effectively by targeted schemes such as the New Deal. The outcome of France's tax reduction, and reduced rates generally, are due to be reviewed by the European Commission this year, and we will be monitoring that work closely.
Why there have been so few prosecutions of people caught bringing illegal meats into the United Kingdom in the last year; and[HL1575]
Whether they intend to prosecute people caught bringing illegal meats into the United Kingdom.[HL1576]
A decision to bring a prosecution before the courts is a matter for the enforcement authority. It would take into account a number of factors, including the weight of evidence to prove intent to break the laws in question and the ability to bring the offender before the British courts. These criteria may not be easy to satisfy in the case of air passengers bringing in meat illegally, especially where small quantities are seized.
In many cases, other penalties may be more appropriate. All seizures are confiscated and destroyed. We have been working with the Home Office to add details of repeat offenders to the warning index used by immigration officers.
Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have discussed with enforcement officers on a number of occasions the circumstances under which prosecutions might be brought against those importing meat illegally. We have made clear that prosecutions are an important aspect of deterrence which we would like to see used where there is clear evidence of a serious breach in the rules. We have also worked with the Magistrates' Association to raise awareness of the seriousness of illegal imports and to highlight the penalties available.
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