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Ministerial Responsibilities

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what record she keeps of correspondence about the Department's responsibilities received by her Ministers from recent business acquaintances; [5624]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 27 June 1997]: All correspondence received by Ministers is recorded on receipt by their Private Officers. Such records are not categorised according to whether or not Ministers are acquainted with the correspondent. All Ministers are under a duty to ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests; where necessary, Ministers must delegate their responsibilities for particular decision to another Minister to avoid such conflicts. Guidance is provided in Questions of Procedure for Ministers, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Arms Sales (Saudi Arabia)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what additional measures she intends to put in place to ensure that arms sold to Saudi Arabia are not passed on to third countries with which Her Majesty's Government would not wish to trade. [5688]

10 Jul 1997 : Column: 603

Mr. Spellar: Most defence exports to Saudi Arabia are the result of Government to Government arrangements. I am withholding specific details of these arrangements under Exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. However, it is normal practice to include a clause in memoranda of understanding which prohibits the transfer of material to third parties without the approval of the UK Government.

For exports, to all countries, not covered by Government to Government arrangements, the risk of diversion to third countries is taken into account in considering export licence applications. Where appropriate, the Government asks for end-user undertakings to ensure that goods will not be re-exported. We are committed to strengthening the monitoring of the end-use of defence exports to prevent diversion to third countries and to ensure that exported equipment is use only on the conditions under which the export licence has been granted. Work is in hand to take forward this commitment.

TREASURY

Windfall Tax

6. Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about the proposed windfall profits tax. [6182]

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson: The windfall tax will fund the New Deal for the young and long-term unemployed, lone parents and schools announced by the Chancellor in his Budget speech. It is a one-off tax which puts right the bad deal which customers and taxpayers got from the privatisation of the utilities.

18. Mr. Stott: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he plans to allocate the revenue from the windfall levy. [6196]

Mr. Darling: The Windfall Tax on the excess profits of the privatised utilities will finance measures to equip Britain for our long-term future and to modernise the welfare state. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a New Deal for the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, and lone parents. We provided extra help with childcare. We were able to finance capital investment in our schools, including investment in IT, and to kick-start our University for Industry. We are also able to fund the measures we will bring forward to help people on Incapacity Benefit into work.

24. Mr. Singh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for the allocation of the revenue raised from the windfall levy. [6202]

Mr. Gordon Brown: The Windfall Tax on the excess profits of the privatised utilities will finance measures to equip Britain for our long-term future and to modernise the welfare state. I announced a New Deal for the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, and lone parents. I provided extra help with childcare. I was able to finance capital investment in our schools, including investment in IT, and to start up our University for Industry. I am also able to fund the measures we will bring forward to help people on Incapacity Benefit into work.

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Mr. Colvin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the advice given to him by the regulators of the privatised companies affected by the windfall tax, relating to prices, investment, service standards and employment prospects; and if he will make a statement.[7576]

Mr. Robinson: The Government consulted the regulators fully on the design of the windfall tax. In accordance with normal practice, we shall not be publishing their advice because it was confidential and contained some observations that are commercially sensitive.

Public Sector Borrowing Requirement

17. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he intends to introduce an annual review of the proposed PSBR by the National Audit Office.[6195]

Mr. Darling: As part of the opening up of economic decision making, the Chancellor intends that there should be a continuing role for the National Audit Office in subsequent Budgets. But future arrangements are not yet settled.

23. Mr. Rhodri Morgan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his estimate of the level of the public sector borrowing requirement in the present and next financial year. [6201]

Mr. Darling: Excluding the temporary effects of the windfall tax and spending on Welfare to Work, the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement is forecast to be £13¼ billion in 1997-98 and £5½ billion in 1998-99.

Interest Rates

19. Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received from exporters about the level of interest rates. [6197]

Mr. Darling: Interest rates are set to deliver the Government's inflation target. Low inflation and economic stability are in the interests of any successful business. I want a stable and competitive pound and the action my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I have taken to tighten fiscal policy should help rebalance the economy.

28. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what advice he has received from the Governor of the Bank of England about the reasons for the recent increase in interest rates; and if he will make a statement. [6206]

Mrs. Liddell: The Bank of England is responsible for setting interest rates to meet the Government's inflation target.

In its press release of 6 June, the Bank of England stated that its decision to raise interest rates " . . . offers the best chance of achieving continued growth in output and employment at a sustainable pace."

Full minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting, including a record of the voting, will be published on 16 July.

10 Jul 1997 : Column: 605

Investment

20. Mr. John Cryer: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received from small business relating to levels of investment.[6198]

Mrs. Liddell: The Chancellor received many representations about investment from small businesses and took action in this Budget to encourage more investment in small and medium sized enterprises.

Inland Revenue Offices

21. Mr. Rendel: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his plans to close Inland Revenue offices. [6199]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue has now completed four years of its 10 year programme to restructure its network of local offices. As part of the planning process, the Department is reviewing those outline proposals which could result in the closure of the only office in a town.

Welfare-to-work Strategy

22. Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about his welfare-to-work strategy. [6200]

27. Dr. Starkey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about his welfare-to-work strategy. [6205]

Mr. Brown: My Budget set out detailed proposals to help the young and long-term unemployed, and the first serious national effort to help lone parents find jobs. I intend to extend this approach to other groups excluded from the labour market, including those on incapacity benefit. We will also streamline and modernise the tax and benefits so they promote work, reduce poverty and dependency, and strengthen community and family life.

Pension Misselling

25. Mr. Tipping: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on progress towards compensation for victims of pension misselling.[6203]

33. Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further meetings he intends to have with representatives of the pensions industry to discuss the selling of pensions. [6211]

Mrs. Liddell: I refer my hon. Friend to the Written Answer I gave to the hon. Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms) on 9 July, column 477.


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