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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what is his intended timetable for allowing local authorities to receive permissive powers to allow agency and contractor staff to determine benefit claims. 
Malcolm Wicks: We will shortly begin informal discussions with local authorities with a view to introducing permissive powers from spring 2002. In addition to this we will fully consult with the Local Authority Associations and take account of any views expressed by other interested parties.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the effect will be on incapacity benefit entitlement where an incapacity benefit recipient applies for employment following a work-focused interview; and if the fact that the application has been made will have any bearing on the outcome of any future personal capability assessment; 
(3) what is the level of contact anticipated between a work-focused interviewer and a Personal Capability Assessment Medical Examiner for incapacity benefit claimants in pilot areas for the Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2001; and if records from work-focused interviews will be available to PCA examiners; 
(4) if the outcome of a work-focused interview for incapacity benefit claimants in pilot areas for the Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2001 will influence the timing of a claimant's next personal capability assessment. 
Malcolm Wicks: Work-focused Interviews will enable people receiving incapacity benefit to consider their work options and to hear about the practical and financial help that is available to them. An application for employment following a work-focused interview will have no effect on an individual's incapacity benefit entitlement and would
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not in itself have any bearing on the outcome of any future personal capability assessment. If a person subsequently took up employment, entitlement might be affected as there are limited circumstances in which people can work and receive incapacity benefit.
A person receiving incapacity benefit will be able contact their Personal Adviser at any time following the work-focused interview to seek further advice and guidance. They will also be able to take part in a review when they will have the opportunity to discuss the help and benefits available to them.
There will be no direct contact between the work- focused interview Personal Adviser and the personal capability assessment medical examiner. Records from the work-focused interview will not be available to personal capability assessment medical advisers.
The participation of a person in a work-focused interview will not generally influence the timing of their next personal capability assessment. However, if at the time their Personal Adviser considers it appropriate they may refer the case to a benefit decision-maker to consider if, in the light of all the available evidence, a personal capability assessment is required.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the number of integrated private schemes which take into account increases to the state pension after retirement age when calculating the amount of occupational pension payable; 
Mr. McCartney: The Government have no plans to introduce legislation on integration in the manner described because there is no evidence that UK occupational pension schemes take increases in the state pension into account once state pension age has passed and the scheme member's pension is in payment.
It is estimated that in 1995 there were approximately 7,200 private sector defined benefit occupational pension schemes which operated integration of some form to allow for the receipt of state pensions.
In general, the integration adjustment is applied at the time the pension is calculated at the date of retirement or at the date state pension age is reached. The resultant pension is then subject to increases according to the scheme rules. These rules also protect against the level of pension from being reduced once it has gone into payment.
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people who take part in (a) local exchange trading schemes and (b) time banks with specific reference to taxation. 
Mr. Boateng [holding answer 18 October 2001]: Local exchange and trading schemes and time banks are dealt with in accordance with normal tax rules. If a trader offers their goods and services through a LETS scheme then they will be liable to tax in the normal way. If a non-trader offers their goods and services through a scheme there should be no liability. Since both the form of these organisations and of members' activities within them can differ, anyone in doubt about the tax position, whether organiser or scheme member, should check the position with the local tax office.
Hugh Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate HM Customs has made of the amount of beer imported illegally into the UK in lorries and containers in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on exempting VAT on specialist wet suits for those agencies who operate in the area of emergency rescue. 
Mr. Boateng [holding answer 18 October 2001]: Those publicly funded agencies who operate in the area of emergency rescue are fully compensated for any VAT they may incur when purchasing specialist wet suits. In this respect such equipment does not require an exemption from VAT.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce relief from the Climate Change Levy for businesses which invest in processes which significantly reduce electricity consumption; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Boateng: To protect the competitiveness of UK industry, sectors covered by the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive Parts A1 and A2 are able to get 80 per cent. reductions in the Climate Change Levy in exchange for entering negotiated agreements with the Government to deliver specific energy reductions. These agreements cover the main energy intensive sectors exposed to international competition.
Any business may benefit from the levy-funded Enhanced Capital Allowances when they invest in approved energy efficient products or technologies. And they can obtain energy efficiency advice and audits through the new Carbon Trust. Businesses which reduce their energy consumption will of course pay less Climate Change Levy and reduce their level of environmental pollution.
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Mr. Boateng: To protect the competitiveness of UK industry, sectors covered by the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive Parts A1 and A2 are able to get 80 per cent. reductions in the Climate Change Levy in exchange for entering negotiated agreements with the Government to deliver specific energy reductions.
Mr. Boateng: In general terms improvements to domestic property constitute personal expenditure and are not tax deductible. In the case of a trader whether expenditure on a business asset constitutes an improvement or a repair for tax purposes is a question of fact and will depend upon the circumstances in each case.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason he decided that the rebates on vehicle excise duty for cars up to 1549cc would apply only to licences obtained after November 2000. 
Mr. Boateng: In the November 2000 pre-Budget report, the Chancellor proposed that he would extend the small car engine VED rate for cars first registered before 1 March 2001 from 1200cc to 1500cc, subject to consultation. The Chancellor also proposed that this extension should have immediate effect, as if starting in November 2000.
In Budget 2001, the Chancellor confirmed that following consultation, the Government would extend the small car engine VED rate from 1200cc to 1549cc. To deliver the commitment to ensure that the extension applied from November 2000, all motorists who took out vehicle licences between November 2000 and June 2001 inclusive have been invited to apply for rebates. Any new licences taken out from 1 July 2001 are charged at the new, lower rate.
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