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Minimum Wage

21. Helen Jackson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of the minimum wage on average earnings. [141856]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government have asked the Low Pay Commission to follow up its February 2000 report by further monitoring and evaluating the impact of the National Minimum Wage, and to make recommendations. It will report by 2001.

Working Families (North-West)

22. Mr. Pike: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many working families he estimates in the north-west (a) pay no income tax and (b) pay tax only on the lowest band rate in the current financial year. [141857]

Dawn Primarolo: Some 180,000 working families are estimated to pay no income tax in the north-west and Merseyside in the 2000-01 financial year and some 300,000 individuals in that region are expected to have a 10p marginal rate.


23. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received on the impact of the level of the pound on manufacturing industry; and if he will make a statement. [141858]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor and other Treasury Ministers hold regular discussions with business on a wide range of issues.

Rare Species (Customs Seizures)

24. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what statistics HM Customs and Excise has available for the number of (a) rare animals and (b) rare plants seized over any period during 1999-2000. [141859]

Dawn Primarolo: The last period for which HM Customs and Excise have fully adjusted figures for seizures of endangered species is 1 October 1999 to 30 September 2000. During this period Customs seized:

2,720--Live animals and birds
1,586--Parts and derivatives of endangered species
2,810Capsules/PillsMedical preparations containing parts and derivatives of endangered species
58,483GrammesMedical preparations containing parts and derivatives of endangered species

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Widows Bereavement Allowance

25. Mr. Burstow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many men applied for the Widows Bereavement Allowance in the year April 1999 to March 2000. [141860]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue does not maintain records for the number of claims it has received from men for the Widow's Bereavement Allowance. There is no entitlement in UK law for widowers to claim this allowance.

Departmental Policies (Employment)

27. Jane Griffiths: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the impact of his Department's policies on the levels of (a) employment and (b) unemployment in the UK. [141862]

Dawn Primarolo: Over the past three and a half years, we have taken the tough decisions necessary to secure a platform of stability to help us attain our central objective of high and stable levels of growth and employment. Since the election employment has risen by over one million and unemployment has been cut by over 500,000.

Family Support

28. Ms Keeble: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what tax measures he has introduced to support the family. [141863]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government's tax and benefit reforms mean that by 2001 families with children will be on average £850 a year better off, and the direct tax burden on a family on average earnings with two children will be at the lowest level since 1972. The Children's Tax Credit, due to be introduced in April 2001, will reduce the tax burden by up to £442 a year for five million working families with children.

Small and Medium-sized Companies

29. Mr. Casale: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to strengthen the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies. [141864]

Mr. Timms: Economic stability is the only sound base for competitive enterprise and industry in a global economy. To this end, the Government have cut public borrowing, ensured low and stable inflation and achieved the lowest long-term interest rates for over 30 years. This sound policy platform has encouraged small and medium-sized businesses to invest for the long-term in the skills and infrastructure they require to compete and succeed. To strengthen further the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies, we have also introduced major reforms to ease compliance with regulation, boost the level of finance available and to improve the level of skills. By focusing on these areas the Government aim to make the UK the most competitive environment for business in the world.

Income Tax

30. Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much would be raised, in the current and

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each of the next four financial years, by raising tax to 50 per cent. for those earning more than £100,000 per annum. [141865]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) on 28 November 2000, Official Report, column 591W.

Lone Parents (Employment Prospects)

32. Mr. Best: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the impact of the Government's policies on the employment prospects of lone parents. [141867]

Dawn Primarolo: Improving the employment prospects of lone parents is a key priority for the Government. The lone parent employment rate has risen from 44 per cent. in 1997 to 50 per cent. in spring 2000--the highest rate for 20 years. Many more lone parents say that they would like to work and so the Government have set a new objective: that 70 per cent. of lone parents are in employment by the end of the decade. Policies such as the New Deal for lone parents, the Working Families Tax Credit and the National Childcare Strategy are already helping the Government to achieve this aim.

Youth Unemployment

33. Mr. Jon Owen Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the impact of measures taken by his Department to reduce youth unemployment. [141868]

Dawn Primarolo: Youth unemployment has fallen by over 80 per cent. since May 1997.

This Government announced in November that they had met their manifesto commitment of moving 250,000 young people into jobs during this Parliament.

By helping young people into work, the New Deal is not just addressing their needs today but seeking to ensure that their long-term employment prospects are more secure.

Climate Change Levy

34. Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received from businesses on the climate change levy. [141869]

Mr. Timms: The Government have developed the climate change levy in an open and consultative way. The levy was developed on the basis of the work of Lord Marshall's Task Force which examined "Economic Instruments and the Business Use of Energy". This was followed by an extensive consultation exercise following the announcement of the levy in Budget 1999. More recently, the Government have consulted on the draft legislation underpinning the levy, on support for energy efficiency measures and on "good quality" Combined Heat and Power.

During this process, the Government have received many representations from business and other interested parties and these views have helped to refine the design of the levy.

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Living Standards

35. Dr. George Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what impact he expects the measures contained in his pre-Budget statement to have on the living standards of the average family. [141870]

Dawn Primarolo: The living standards of a single earner family on average earnings with two children are expected to increase by 10 per cent. in real terms over the Parliament.

The children's tax credit, to be introduced from April 2001, will be worth at least £442 a year to this family. As the Chancellor announced in his pre-Budget statement, his aim is to increase it to £520 a year, equivalent to a cut in the basic rate of tax of 2½ per cent. for this family.

Social Exclusion

37. Ms Blears: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his assessment of the impact of his taxation reforms on social exclusion. [141872]

Dawn Primarolo: This Government believe that where work is an option, it remains the best route out of poverty and social exclusion. But those who cannot work have a right to security and support.

Over 1.1 million families are now receiving the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), nearly 300,000 more than its predecessor, Family Credit, at its peak. Families receiving the WFTC are receiving on average £30 a week more than under Family Credit. A lone parent on Income Support with two children under 11 is now £25 a week better off in real terms than in 1997, and a couple nearly £30 a week better off.

As a result of measures introduced in this Parliament it is estimated that more than one million children will be lifted out of poverty. And by next year the poorest pensioner households will be at least £800 a year better off in real-terms than in 1997.

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