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Mr. Gordon Brown [holding answer 12 March 2001]: Tackling financial exclusion is an essential part of the Government's strategy to tackle social exclusion. Details of the Government's progress with the agenda to reduce financial exclusion are set out in the "National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: Policy Action Team Audit report", which was published in January. A copy of this document can be found in the Library.
The Government are also keen that individuals do not take on debts that they cannot afford to repay. That is why the DTI has set up an industry taskforce specifically to address concerns about increasing levels of debt.
The joint ministerial committee on poverty was established to consider joint or co-ordinated action by the UK Government and the devolved Administrations to tackle poverty and social exclusion and to facilitate exchanging information and sharing best practice.
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As with all ministerial committees and as laid out in the memorandum of understanding and supplementary agreements on the joint ministerial committee, the proceedings of the joint ministerial committee and its sub-committees are confidential.
Mr. Timms: Duty receipts from bingo can be found in the HM Customs and Excise statistical bulletin "Receipts from Betting, Gaming and Lottery Duties", a copy of which is in the House of Commons Library. Details of the amount of VAT received from the bingo industry are not readily available.
Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 12 March was; what the Government's voting record at the Council was; and if he will make a statement. 
The Council discussed the wise men's report on regulation of European securities markets. The UK shares the analysis of the benefits of a competing single market in securities and the desire to speed up and prioritise completion of a single market in financial services. Welcoming the report, ECOFIN commissioned further work with the aim of sending conclusions to the Stockholm European Council.
The Council agreed a joint Council-Commission report on "The Contribution of Public Finances to Growth and Employment", which will be submitted to the Stockholm European Council. A short list of 12 structural performance indicators was also adopted from the list of 35 that the Council and the Commission agreed should be used in the synthesis report. Indicators enable member states to measure progress on structural reform, and the short list will give extra focus and momentum to the exercise.
The Council also agreed to forward to the Stockholm European Council: the Commission synthesis report; the Economic Policy Committee's annual report on structural reform; a report by the European Investment bank on the Innovation 2000 initiative; the presidency key issues paper for the broad economic policy guidelines (BEPGs); and the Commission report on the implementation on the BEPGs.
The Council recommended that the European Parliament give discharge to the Commission in respect of its implementation of the 1999 budget, and welcomed the Commission's proposal for an annual action plan to reduce errors.
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Dawn Primarolo: The Government announced in the Budget that they would be introducing a UK-wide grant scheme to help congregations with the cost of repairs and maintenance to listed buildings that are used as places of worship. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will be consulting on the details but the effect will be to reduce VAT costs to 5 per cent. on new work undertaken from 1 April 2001.
Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his proposals for a lower level of value added tax will apply to all buildings designated as places of worship irrespective of denomination and religion; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: The new grant scheme announced in the Budget for listed buildings that are used as places of worship will help all denominations and religions with the cost of VAT on repairs and maintenance.
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 16 March 2001]: There is as yet no statistically valid data available from which a meaningful estimate of the level of fraud in the recently introduced Child Care Tax Credit element of the Working Families Tax Credit can be made.
Applicants are required to supply evidence of child care costs from their provider in order to receive Child Care Tax Credit. The Inland Revenue carry out risk assessments of applications based on their experience of fraudulent claims, and can impose financial penalties where fraud is found to have taken place. These checks and sanctions apply to the child care tax credit in the same way as other elements of the Working Families Tax Credit.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what checks are in place to ensure that the child care expenditure covered by the Child Care Tax Credit has actually been incurred by the claimant and continues to be incurred for the duration of the claim. 
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 16 March 2001]: Applications for the Working Families and Disabled Person's Tax Credits are subject to risk assessments based on accumulated Inland Revenue and DSS experience.
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Specialist staff may inquire formally into applications identified as requiring further investigation. Child care providers confirm the level of charges they have agreed with parents and provide information as part of the application that can confirm that the service they provide is eligible for support through the Child Care Tax Credit component of the Working Families and Disabled Person's Tax Credits. WFTC and DPTC awards are based on the information supplied in the application and normally continue for the full 26 weeks of the award. As with other changes in circumstances, changes in child care arrangements will not normally alter awards.
Dr. David Clark: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many claimants of family credit there were in South Shields constituency in 1997; what the average benefit for a (a) full-time and (b) part-time worker was; how many claimants of Working Families Tax Credit there are; and what the average benefit is for a (i) full-time and (ii) part-time worker. 
For the other parts of his question, I refer my right hon. Friend to my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) on 13 March 2001, Official Report, column 552W. There are too few cases in the 5 per cent. sample used for the analyses of these awards to yield reliable separate estimates of average awards for South Shields; and for the same reason care should be taken when making comparisons over time in estimates of the number of awards.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set out with statistical information, relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effects on Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. 
Mr. Andrew Smith: Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is benefiting from the long-term action we have taken to build economic stability and secure high and stable levels of growth and employment. Since the general election, claimant unemployment in the constituency has fallen by 785, or 22 per cent., youth unemployment is down by 65 per cent., and long-term unemployment has fallen by 65 per cent.
Macroeconomic stability is being complemented at the microeconomic level by the Government's policies to ease the transition from welfare into work and to make work pay. To the end of December 2000, the New Deal for 18 to 24-year-olds had helped 1,589 young people in Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East constituency gain valuable skills and experience--791 (50 per cent.) of whom had moved into employment. The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), introduced in October 1999, is helping to make work pay for low and middle income families. In August 2000, 2,300 families in Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East constituency were benefiting from WFTC.
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The Government are also committed to policies which enable pensioners to share in the country's rising prosperity. All pensioners, including 16,900 in Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East will receive an above-inflation increase in the basic state pension from April 2001. Single pensioners will receive an extra £5 a week and couples will receive an extra £8 a week. All pensioners aged 75 or over have also been entitled to a free TV licence since November 2000--including around 10,100 in Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East.
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