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Personal Service Companies

Mr. Jack: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many personal service companies currently pay tax and national insurance; what was the yield of tax and national insurance from those companies; and what methodology was employed to calculate the current estimated shortfall of tax and national insurance receipts from personal service companies, in the current financial year. [100511]

Dawn Primarolo: The available information is contained in the Regulatory Impact Assessment on the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill published in October 1999. Estimates of the yield from the proposed measure to stop avoidance of tax and National Insurance Contributions using personal service companies were included in the Financial Statement and Budget Report published on Budget Day in March 1999.

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Tax Changes

Mr. Jack: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the quantifiable effect of tax changes made since May 1997 on (a) the UK economy, (b) business activity and (c) Treasury receipts and payments. [100515]

Dawn Primarolo: The revenue effects of the last three Budgets were published in table 2.2 of the July 1997 Financial Statement and Budget Report, and table 1.3 of the March 1998 and March 1999 Financial Statement and Budget Reports. Developments and prospects in the economy are shown in Chapter 3 of the July 1997 Financial Statement and Budget Report, and Annex A of the March 1998 and March 1999 Financial Statement and Budget Reports.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which changes to the tax system since May 1997 (a) have required primary legislation, (b) have been achieved by secondary legislation and (c) have been required as a result of European or other international agreements. [100514]

Dawn Primarolo: The answer is as follows:

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Sir Nicholas Lyell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library the instructions to Parliamentary Counsel to date for the drafting of the Financial Services and Markets Bill. [101133]

Miss Melanie Johnson: No. Drafting instructions represent only the beginning of the drafting process. The Government have published explanatory notes on the Bill, and Ministers explain the Government's policy in the course of Parliamentary proceedings.

Tax Credit

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many businesses in (a) Shrewsbury and

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Atcham and (b) Shropshire will benefit from the new research and development tax credit; and if he will make a statement. [101127]

Dawn Primarolo: The information is not available.


Benefit Payments

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the status is of the recent letter from the Benefits Agency to weekly recipients of Child Benefit encouraging them to opt for payment by automated credit transfers; and if he will write to all those who opted for automated credit transfer as a result of this letter to remind them of their continued option of payment through a post office. [99565]

Mr. Rooker: Letters have been issued to some Child Benefit customers who are currently receiving their benefit on a weekly basis where it appears that they, in fact, should have been paid four weekly. We are obliged to pay people at the frequencies set out in relevant legislation and we must put this right when errors are discovered. Child Benefit is a four weekly benefit except in certain circumstances. It is not normally a weekly benefit.

The letter explained that their Child Benefit would, when their current order book expired, be paid on a four weekly basis unless the customer contended that this would cause particular hardship.

As with all Departmental literature which refers to methods of payment, the letter explains to customers that they can receive benefits directly into their bank account by automated credit transfer (ACT). The wording in the letter has been in use since 1994 and is consistent with the words used in claim packs for benefit and advice pages contained in benefit order books.

The exercise that resulted in letters being issued to some Child Benefit customers has been completed. There are no plans to issue any further letters to these customers.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are (a) the annual costs of the production and distribution of order books and (b) his estimate of the annual running costs if printed order books are replaced by benefit payment cards. [99567]

Mr. Rooker: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is as follows.

The total annual cost of the production and distribution of order books and girocheques is £45,068,487. Order books will not be replaced by benefit payment cards pursuant to the answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 24 May 1999, Official Report, column 21W.

Post Office

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will list the principal activities of his Department and its agencies which provide business for (a) Crown post offices and (b) other post offices; if he will assess whether the level of business generated in each

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case is likely to increase or decrease over the next five years; and which new areas of business for post offices are likely to be developed by his Department and its agencies over the same period; [99555]

Mr. Rooker: Our principal activity, which provides business for Post Office Counters Ltd. (POCL), is the encashment of pensions and allowances (together with supporting administration and accounting functions). This activity is fully available in both Crown and other post offices.

Current trends indicate a decline in this activity between now and 2003. This is due to the reduction in the number of people generally depending on benefit and the steady growth in customer preference for payment direct to bank accounts. From 2003 ACT will become the normal way of paying benefits and, as a result, the rate of decline in current order book and girocheque activity on behalf of the Department will accelerate.

It is envisaged that the migration of benefit recipients from paper based methods of payment to more efficient and secure payment direct to bank accounts will take place over a two year period from 2003 to 2005. Between now and 2003 the Department will work with POCL to ensure that a wide range of banking services are available over post office counters.

Officials from the Department have already met with representatives from the Post Office to discuss the mutual development of strategies which will ensure that benefit recipients continue to have access to cash at post office counters.

Currently order book and girocheque pay 65 per cent. of all benefit customers.

External Consultants

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what has been spent by his Department on external consultants and advisers since May 1997 funded from (i) his Department's programme provision and (ii) his Department's running costs. [99492]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 24 November 1999]: The Department's programme provision funds benefit payments only.

Information in respect of the Department's expenditure on consultants is in the table.

Departmental expenditure on consultants
£ million

Financial yearExpenditure on management consultantsExpenditure on IT consultantsTotal expenditure
April 1997 to March 199811.68.319.9
April 1998 to March 199913.014.227.2
April 1999 to October 199913.15.618.7


1. Figures rounded to nearest 100,000.

2. The expenditure has been incurred on a number of major IT and change initiatives.

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