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Disabled Persons Tax Credit

Mr. Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the proportion of those he expects to claim the disabled persons tax credit who will be paying (a) no national insurance contributions and (b) contributions of less than 25 times the lower earnings limit in each of the next five years. [85509]

Dawn Primarolo: It is estimated that about 25 per cent. of DPTC recipients will pay no national insurance contributions in 1999-2000. The percentage actually paying no contributions in subsequent years will be higher, because of the increase in the thresholds announced in the Budget. However, contributions on earnings between the lower earnings limit and the new threshold will be notionally paid with no loss of benefit entitlement. The proportion earning less than the lower earnings limit is expected to remain at about 25 per cent.

I regret that no information is available on the proportion of DPTC claimants paying contributions on earnings of less than 25 times the lower earnings limit in a year.

Independent Adjudicator for the Inland Revenue

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the position of Independent Adjudicator for the Inland Revenue was established; how this position is advertised and appointed; how many complaints in each year since its establishment have been referred to the Independent Adjudicator for the Inland Revenue; how many were (a) upheld and (b) dismissed; and what

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representations he has received concerning parliamentary scrutiny of the appointment of the Independent Adjudicator for the Inland Revenue. [85350]

Dawn Primarolo: The Office of the Revenue Adjudicator was established in May 1993 to introduce an element of impartiality into the Revenue's complaints system.

The post is advertised in the national press and appointment made through open competition.

The Adjudicator's Office received 14,322 complaints in the six year period to 31 March 1999. Of these, 11,644 were resolved without the need for full investigation.

Of the 2,434 complaints investigated, 1,106 were upheld, 1,194 not upheld and 134 withdrawn.

Bates Report (PFI)

Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) when he will publish the Bates report on the private finance initiative; and if he will make a statement; [84993]

Mr. Milburn: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) on 27 April 1999, Official Report, column 122.

Inflation Target

Mr. Jack: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reasons 2½ per cent. remains his inflation target; and if he will make a statement. [85349]

Ms Hewitt: The Government's inflation target is 2½ per cent., defined by the 12-month increase in the RPI excluding mortgage interest payments (RPIX). Low inflation is an essential precondition for achieving the Government's objectives of high and sustainable levels of growth and employment.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes to current economic policy would be required to achieve a 2 per cent. inflation target by the end of 2000. [85348]

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to introduce legislation to change the measure of inflation used by the Bank of England to define progress towards achieving the Government's target rate of inflation; and if he will make a statement. [85384]

Ms Hewitt: In his last Budget on 9 March 1999, the Chancellor confirmed the Government's inflation target is 2½ per cent. defined by the 12-month increase in the RPI excluding mortgage interest payments (RPIX). This target was reaffirmed in a recent letter from the Chancellor to the Governor of the Bank of England, setting out the remit for the Monetary Policy Committee. A copy of this letter has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what consultations he has had with the Governor of the Bank of England with regard to the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices; [85385]

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Ms Hewitt: The Chancellor and Treasury officials meet regularly with Bank of England officials to exchange views on a wide variety of issues.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the current and future use of the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices as a measure of inflation in the United Kingdom. [85387]

Ms Hewitt: The Government's inflation target is 2½ per cent. defined by the 12-month increase in the RPI excluding mortgage interest payments (RPIX). This target was reaffirmed in a recent letter from the Chancellor to the Governor of the Bank of England, setting out the remit for the Monetary Policy Committee. A copy of this letter has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Secondary Markets

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the Government's policy on the functionality of secondary markets in financial services; and what plans he has to ensure that consumers are made aware of the existence of secondary markets in financial services. [85124]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 24 May 1999]: The Government aim to ensure that all parts of the financial services markets operate as efficiently and fairly as possible. The Financial Services and Markets Bill will give the Financial Services Authority a statutory objective of consumer protection and public awareness.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Dry Rooms

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make it his policy to de-regulate dry rooms in bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation. [85115]

Janet Anderson: The Government's new tourism strategy aims to create a regulatory framework in which tourism-related businesses, including accommodation businesses, can prosper. My Department is working with other Departments to review regulatory burdens on the tourism industry, with a view to removing those which are unnecessary. I understand that the Home Office will be looking at the question of dry rooms as part of its general review of liquor licensing law.

Britain Visitor Centre

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what are the funding arrangements for the Britain Visitor Centre; and what will be its annual running costs. [85299]

Mr. Chris Smith [holding answer 24 May 1999]: The Britain Visitor Centre is funded by the British Tourist Authority, partly through rental payments by sub-tenants and partly from grant-in-aid. The annual running costs for

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1999-2000 are expected to be £975,000, of which £625,000 is covered by rental payments and £350,000 by grant-in-aid.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Mr. McNulty: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will publish the funding agreements which his Department has concluded with its sponsored bodies following his Department's Comprehensive Spending Review. [85819]

Mr. Alan Howarth: I have today placed in the Libraries of the House copies of 33 agreements that the Department has concluded with its Non-Departmental Public Bodies and Next Steps Agency.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Winter Fuel Allowance

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate how many pensioner households in Shrewsbury and Atcham will receive the £100 winter fuel allowance. [84865]

Mr. Timms: From an examination of the number of eligible pensioners identified in the post code areas for Shrewsbury and Atcham for the winter of 1998-99 we estimate that around 57,000 individual pensioners in over 42,000 households will benefit from Winter Fuel Payments next winter.

Fraud

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate what the fraud savings from the automation of benefit payments at post offices would have been had the project been completed on schedule. [85229]

Mr. Timms: Fraudulent payments associated with paying benefits through giro cheques and order books were estimated to stand at around £180 million per annum when the project was initiated in 1996. The payment card, when fully in place, was estimated to cut out 90 per cent. of such fraudulent payments.


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