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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Office of Government Commerce does not hold centrally details of contracts awarded by government departments and agencies for the provision of services or for the collection of data. This information could only be obtained from individual departments and agencies and they would need to consider the ability to supply such information in consideration of guidance on disproportionate costs.

Tobacco Task Force

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: None. The Tobacco Task Force was established in 1997 to advise and support governing bodies affected by the ban on

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tobacco sponsorship. It was never intended that the task force should become involved in commercial contractual negotiations between sport and possible sponsors. The task force last met in October 1999. My right honourable friend the Minister for Sport wrote to its members in May 2002 to suggest that it be reconvened. He stands ready to offer advice and support to affected sports.

National Debt and Balance of Payments

Lord Plumb asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the sum total of the national debt and the United Kingdom's balance of payments in each of the past five years.[HL4888]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician who has been asked to reply.

Letter from the National Statistician, Len Cook, dated 27 October 2003.

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent question on National Debt and the United Kingdom Balance of Payments. (HL4888).

The term "national debt" is no longer used to describe a formal measure. The current measure of public debt is Public Sector Net Debt. The table shows net debt at the end of each year. The UK Balance of Payments is represented by the International Investment Position, which shows the end-year level of UK net credit or debt to rest of the world.

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The relevant information for the last 5 years for which data are available is shown in the table below.

Public Sector Net Debt (£bn)Net International Investment Position (£bn)

Data are for the end of each year shown, and are not adjusted for inflation.

More detailed information is published on the National Statistics website. The appropriate reference for Pubic Sector Net Debt is:

and for Balance of Payments is:

Railways: Points Failure

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions, in the last 12 months for which figures are available, "points failure" has been the cause of recorded delays on the railways.[HL4836]

Lord Davies of Oldham: Network Rail recorded a total of 10,839 incidents of points failure which caused delays in the financial year 2002–03. The total number of incidents is not a reliable indicator of the extent of delays from this cause. Disruption arising from an individual incident can vary from a few minutes to several hours. A more detailed breakdown of the nature of each individual incident is not readily available.

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