§ Mr. Mackinlay
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will meet(a) the CBI, (b) the Institute of Directors and (c) other representative bodies to discuss the practice of employers paying staff offshore in order to avoid making payments to the National Insurance Fund; 
(2) what estimate he has made of the cost in each of the past 10 years to the National Insurance Fund of the practice of employers paying staff offshore; and what plans he has to limit this practice; 
(3) when he plans to meet the Chairperson and other directors of (a) Cable and Wireless and (b) P and O to discuss the payment of staff offshore and its impact on the National Insurance Fund; 
(4) what representations he has received from operators of services on the Channel Tunnel about competitors' practice of paying some employees offshore to avoid employees' contributions being paid to the National Insurance Fund. 
§ Mr. Timms
We are aware of the increasing use being made of offshore employment contracts by British shipping operators as a means of avoiding employers' National Insurance contributions for British resident seafarers. The issue of seafarers National Insurance contributions is one of a number of matters being considered in the context of the Government's strategy for reviving the shipping industry as announced in the White paper on the Future of Transport.
We have not received any representations from the operators of Channel Tunnel services about the use of offshore employment contracts by shipping operators; nor are there any plans to meet the CBI, the Institute of Directors or the Chairperson and other directors of Cable & Wireless and P&O about this matter.
The information requested about the National Insurance Fund could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what consideration his Department has given to taking the value of subsidised works canteens and refectories into account when assessing National Insurance contributions; 961W
(2) what assessment he has made of the views contained in the First Report of the Low Pay Commission in relation to luncheon vouchers remaining free of National Insurance contributions; 
(3) what safeguards are proposed to ensure that the impact of bringing luncheon vouchers and other non-cash vouchers into Class 1 National Insurance liability will not result in such benefits being consolidated into pay for those whose incomes are below the proposed national minimum wage; 
(4) what assessment has been made of the impact on low-pay workers of the proposal to bring luncheon vouchers into Class 1 National Insurance liability; and if he will make a statement; 
(5) if the consultation timetable and procedure embarked on on 13 August in relation to the draft regulations to bring non-cash vouchers and luncheon vouchers into Class 1 National Insurance liability, meets the requirements of the Better Regulation Guidance advice published on 10 August. 
§ Mr. Timms
We announced on 22 July 1997,Official Report, columns 789–90, at second reading of the Social Security Bill our intention to bring non-cash vouchers into liability for Class 1 National Insurance in the same way as cash vouchers. The key principles of the proposals are to bring about greater alignment of tax and National Insurance and to bring greater fairness in the National Insurance treatment of earnings. We are currently considering our response to the points raised in the public consultation which ran from 14 August to 14 September.
We propose to continue to mirror the tax treatment of the value of subsidised works canteens and refectories.
The First Report of the Low Pay Commission suggested that the national minimum wage should not include non-cash vouchers. We are considering this point alongside other issues in the consultation exercise.
The vast majority of low paid workers do not receive luncheon vouchers and are therefore liable for National Insurance on all their earnings.
An explanatory and financial memorandum and a regulatory appraisal covering non-cash vouchers were published alongside the Bill in July 1997. A copy of that regulatory appraisal accompanied the consultation paper on the draft regulations issued in August. The four weeks consultation period should not be looked at in isolation as Ministers' intentions to introduce changes to the National Insurance Contributions liability on non-cash vouchers were clearly suggested in the passage of the Social Security Bill. We shall in due course present the draft regulations before the Social Security Advisory Committee as part of the Department's legislative consultation process.