§ Mr. Banks
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) for what reason it was decided to dispose of items of silver originally ordered for the Privy Council; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) if he will withdraw from sale the Privy Council silver due to be sold at public auction on 30 October; and if he will make a statement;  (3) if he will list the (a) silver, (b) paintings, (c) sculptures, (d) books and (e) other works of art disposed of by his Department at auction or by private treaty in each of the last five years; 
(4) of which assets held by his Department he plans to dispose; 
(5) if the Privy Council silver which is up for sale was offered to public institutions before the decision to dispose of the items at public auction; 
(6) if he will make it his policy to penalise Government Departments which do not dispose of assets that do not produce a return. 
§ Mr. Laws
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans his Department has to sell off(a) silver candlesticks, (b) silver candle snuffers, (c) silver trays, (d) silver meat-skewers, (e) paintings, (f) antiques, (g) fine wines and (h) furniture; if he will list such items (i) sold by his Department since May 1997 and (ii) planned to be sold by his Department over the next two years; if he will list the age and value of each item; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Ruth Kelly
[holding answer 24 October 2001]: The introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting is encouraging a number of Departments, including HM Treasury, to reduce their asset holdings in order to focus public resources where they are most needed. That process will continue.522W
The Government remain of the view that HM Treasury is not the most appropriate long-term owner of the four lots of silver items made for the Privy Council and referred to in the question. However, they recognise the case which has been made for ensuring that those items are available to be seen by the UK public.
A number of possible future owners of these items have come forward. To allow discussions with those parties to proceed, the items have been withdrawn from auction. Any further proposals which may come forward will also be explored.