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Ruth Kelly: For some time the Government have actively encouraged innovation in the annuity market to improve benefits for customers. As a continuation of this, the pre-Budget report on 27 November announced its intention to publish a consultation document on increasing flexibility and competition in the annuity market.
This consultation document, called 'Modernising Annuities', was issued on 5 February and is intended to stimulate discussion on annuity issues. The consultation period will run until 5 April and the Government will then consider the responses carefully before deciding how to proceed.
As stated in the document "Tackling Indirect Tax Fraud" I have asked HM Customs and Excise to consider the imposition of tougher penalties, including civil penalties, against those engaged in the supply of fuels for illicit purposes, or for those found using those fuels in road vehicles.
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Dawn Primarolo: The Government have introduced the landfill tax escalator, which increases the rate by £1 per tonne each year until 2004. Despite the escalator, receipts from the landfill tax are lower than the value of the 0.2 percentage point cut in employers' national insurance contributions that accompanied the landfill tax.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is his policy that the proposed scheme for a research and development tax credit for larger companies should incorporate environmental criteria. 
Dawn Primarolo: The objective of the proposed tax credit is to raise the level of research and development in the UK, leading to improved competitiveness and quality of life. Qualifying expenditure will include environmentally beneficial research and development.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the (a) conferences, (b) seminars, (c) workshops, (d) exhibitions and (e) press conferences which have been sponsored by his Department and which took place on non-departmental premises in each of the last four years giving the title, purpose, date and cost of each. 
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the statutory instruments issued by his Department in the last 12 months, indicating (a) the purpose of each and (b) the cost of each to (i) public funds, (ii) businesses and (iii) individuals. 
Dawn Primarolo: The Treasury, HM Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue made 168 instruments in the 12-month period up to January 2002. Many of the instruments introduced were of a routine nature, for example approving annual fee increases. The HMSO SI Registrar ([email protected]) can provide a list of statutory instruments which have been issued by individual Government Departments. Instruments which have been originated by Departments but eventually made by the Privy Council are only listed under the Privy Council Office.
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The costs associated with regulatory proposals are considered at the policy development stage. A regulatory impact assessment is completed for regulatory proposals unless there are no or negligible costs. HM Treasury, HM Customs and HM Inland Revenue have produced 19 final RIAs in this period. These are available from the House Libraries and are available on departmental websites.
Mr. Andrew Smith: The Troika scheme, which provides temporary replacement third party insurance for aviation terrorist risks, charges premiums in accordance with European Commission guidelines. The guidelines are reviewed at monthly meetings of a European Commission ad hoc group on the market for aviation insurance. The guidelines have set premiums for insurance for airports under member state schemes at 33 per cent. of the premium charged under the primary policy to which insurance premium tax (IPT) applies.
Mr. Andrew Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the answers given by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 26 February 2002, Official Report, columns 113334W, which set out the level of MOD spending on Afghanistan.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what methods he uses to assess whether legitimate traders applying to register for VAT are being unduly inconvenienced by checks carried out by HM Customs and Excise. 
Dawn Primarolo: Customs work to a Charter Standard for the processing of applications for VAT registration. This requires Customs to process 95 per cent. of properly completed applications within 15 working days of receipt. As at January 2002 (latest data compiled), the Charter Standard for processing VAT registration applications was being achieved.
Customs selectively apply extended checks aimed at identifying fraudulent applications. These cases are monitored on an individual basis to ensure a balanced approach between facilitating business and protecting the revenue.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of checks carried out by VAT registration centres were carried out manually in the last year for which figures are available. 
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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the target times to complete and process VAT registrations and deregistrations are; and how many applications to register and deregister and what proportion of all such applications are dealt with within those time scales. 
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