HC Deb 11 January 1996 vol 269 cc321-3
5. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received about his Budget statement. [7080]

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has received widespread commendation for a responsible Budget which will sustain economic recovery, help control inflation, and put money back into people's pockets.

Mr. Canavan

Is the Minister aware that the recent severe weather meant that many thousands of people throughout the country suffered from freezing or flooding in their homes, yet the Budget will make things even worse by imposing a cut of 31 per cent. on the home energy efficiency scheme, which will mean that at least 200,000 homes will not be properly insulated and more than 1,000 jobs will be destroyed? Will the Government therefore reverse that deplorable decision and also reduce the rate of VAT on domestic fuel, which is causing widespread hardship?

Mr. Waldegrave

On the latter point, the hon. Gentleman should address himself to hon. Members on his own Front Bench, who failed to table a motion that would have enabled a vote on VAT on fuel.

On the former point, it seems sensible that help should go to those people who need it, and not to pensioners and others who may be well able to afford it, so we should be aiming that valuable scheme at those who really need the help.

Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd

Has my right hon. Friend received representations from the bingo industry? In the recent Budget, general gaming duty was cut by 1 per cent. and pools duty by 6 per cent., but the bingo industry was excluded. That appears extraordinarily unfair to an industry that provides gambling with entertainment to millions of people, is well run and even in this day, when the national lottery is advertising throughout the country, is prevented from advertising its prize money to attract the public.

Mr. Waldegrave

I am aware of the worries that have been expressed by that industry. Especially, I believe that the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, which related to the possibility of deregulating the industry somewhat, perhaps on the advertising side, would touch a sympathetic chord in the Government. We shall examine those proposals closely.

Mr. Andrew Smith

Further to the Chancellor's remarks in his Budget statement about private finance, will the Chief Secretary tell the House how the Government are responding to the representations that Eurotunnel is making for Government guarantees to underwrite a bond to refinance its massive debt? Has a request been received by Ministers? How are the Government responding? Will they stick to their policy of no subsidy, and will the Chief Secretary give an undertaking to make a statement to the House before there is any change?

Mr. Waldegrave

There is no change in policy. There is a growing consensus between the two sides of the House on private finance in general. As the Labour party begins to understand the policy, I think that it is beginning to support it, although there are some exceptions among Labour Front Benchers.

Mr. John Greenway

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reduction of 1 per cent. in general betting duty has been warmly welcomed throughout the racing industry? Will he take this opportunity to encourage all elements of the racing industry—including bookmakers and the British Horseracing Board—to advance their already well-progressed discussions and reach an early conclusion on how the money should be distributed for the benefit of racing and bookmakers?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. We hope to help to broker such an agreement and to reach an agreement fairly soon. It would be sensible to achieve such an agreement.