§ Matthew Taylor
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 1 May 2002,Official Report, column 886W, on stamp duty, how many properties in financial year 1999–2000 were sold in designated wards where the consideration did not exceed £150,000; and if he will make a statement. 869W
§ John Healey
The stamp duty relief for disadvantaged areas came into force on 30 November 2001. Since that date we have exempted from stamp duty properties in qualifying areas where the consideration or premium for a lease does not exceed £150,000. We estimate the number of properties sold in 1999–20000 for a consideration of less than £150,000 in the subsequently qualifying wards to be in the region of 120,000 (of which about 40,000 are estimated to have a consideration of greater than £60,000).
§ Ms Shipley
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the European Commission investigation into stamp duty relief for deprived areas; what steps are being taken to ensure a speedy resolution of the investigation; what impact the continuation of the investigation has on the implementation of his policy on stamp duty relief for deprived areas; and if he will use other forms of financial support for development in these areas. 
§ John Healey
The extension of the stamp duty relief for disadvantaged areas for non-residential property above the £150,000 limit is currently subject to a state aid investigation by the Commission. Such investigations are normal for an innovative scheme such as this which does not conform precisely with any existing Commission guidelines. The investigation is necessary to establish whether the measure will adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest and it gives interested parties, including other member states, a chance to comment. We are working closely with the European Commission to progress matters as quickly as possible. Those purchasing property for amounts up to £150,000 in the areas which qualify for the relief are already benefiting from the measure. In addition to the stamp duty relief, the Urban White Paper fiscal measures package provided a cut in VAT to 5 per cent. to encourage renovation and conversion of existing property; 100 per cent. capital allowances for creating flats over shops, 150 per cent. accelerated tax credits to help clean-up contaminated land; and the Government are now implementing the Community Development Venture Fund which will also support enterprise and regeneration in these areas.