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Mr. Timms: The Treasury has received a number of representations from business, including comments from the Institute of Directors that the Budget shows that the Government believe in the enterprise culture.
Miss Melanie Johnson: The IMF has committed to providing $2.3 billion of debt relief (in net present value terms) under the enhanced HIPC initiative. In the context of assisting countries to prepare their Poverty Reduction Strategies and ensuring progress on delivering the enhanced debt relief, the IMF will work together with the World bank and the HIPC countries themselves to ensure that the benefits of this debt relief go to reducing poverty.
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Mr. Andrew Smith: Plans for expenditure on education and training were set out by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 18 July in the Spending Review White Paper. Expenditure on education and training in England will rise from £38.8 billion this year to £42.1 billion in 2001-02, £45.6 billion in 2002-03 and £49.2 billion in 2003-04--an average real increase of 5.6 per cent. across the three years.
Mr. Timms: The new 100 per cent. capital allowances on computer and IT investments will encourage small businesses to acquire the means to exploit the opportunities offered by e-commerce. These opportunities include access to markets that were previously inaccessible and potentially lower business transaction costs. Small businesses are targeted because they are less prepared for e-commerce than larger businesses. This measure complements other Government initiatives to encourage e-commerce, including investing £60 million to provide advice and planning to help small and medium-sized businesses get on line.
26. Mr. Baldry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the percentage of GDP which was accounted for by net taxes and social security contributions in (a) 1996-97 and (b) 1999-2000. 
Mr. Andrew Smith: The Treasury updates its fiscal and economic forecasts, and the ratio of tax receipts to GDP, twice a year in the Budget and Pre-Budget Report, and most recently in the Budget Red Book, where it shows the share falling from 37 per cent. of GDP last year to 36.9 per cent. of GDP this year and 36.7 per cent. of GDP in 2003-04.
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As the Chancellor said on Tuesday, the combination of a stronger economy leading to higher revenues and £4.5 billion lower spending meant that the net debt repayment last year was not £11.9 billion, as we said at the time of the Budget, but £18.1 billion.
Mr. Timms: Since 1997, the Government have cut the average corporation tax bill for small companies by nearly 25 per cent., transformed the capital gains tax system and introduced enhanced capital allowances, including 100 per cent. capital allowances for investment by small companies in ICT equipment.
The Spending Review builds on this by substantially increasing the resources available to the Small Business Service and Regional Development Agencies. This represents a comprehensive approach to improving the climate for enterprise and innovation.
Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue issues a range of guidance material to staff which emphasises the need to be extremely vigilant when dealing with people over the telephone. They also issue periodic reminders to reinforce this message.
32. Angela Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect his Department's policies have had on levels of employment in the eastern region since May 1997. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: In the east, as in the rest of the UK, we have created a sound and credible platform of economic stability that will help us attain our objective of high and stable levels of growth and employment. Since the election, employment in the east has risen by 134,000 and unemployment has fallen by 59,000.
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor announced a range of measures in Budget 2000 which build on existing employment programmes. These policies are all set out in Chapter 4 of the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report, which outlines progress made towards the Government's aim of providing employment opportunity for all--the modern definition of full employment.
Macroeconomic stability is a prerequisite for achieving this aim, and the microeconomic policies announced, reinforced by reforms in the tax and benefits systems, are designed to help people move from welfare into work, and to ensure that employment is rewarding, that there is
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a secure transition into work, and that there is the chance to gain skills which will help progression up the earnings ladder.
One of the new measures in the Budget was the introduction of Action Teams. These will work to match long term unemployed people in areas with high unemployment to nearby vacancies. As revealed last week, Lewisham is to be an Action Team area.
34. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received following the abolition of the Married Persons Tax Allowance; and if he will make a statement. 
The abolition of the Married Couples Allowance for couples aged under 65, and associated reliefs, was part of a package of reforms designed to focus more support on families with children. By April 2001, we will be spending an extra £7 billion a year on support for children. As a result of all our measures, families with children will on average be £850 a year better off.
Mr. Ruane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment he has made of the impact of bank closures on financial activities and investment levels in communities that have experienced bank closures; and if he will make a statement; 
Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 7 July 2000]: The Government have challenged banks to develop new products and delivery channels--including working closely with the Post Office on its plans for a Universal bank--to meet the financial services needs of deprived communities.
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