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Financial Services Authority

Mr. Chope: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what comments the Treasury made to the Remuneration Committee of the FSA on the reputation of the FSA after consultation, prior to the decision of the FSA to reduce the chairman's bonus in January; [12847]

Ruth Kelly: It would not be appropriate to disclose any information, opinions and assessments given in confidence in relation to public employment.

Inland Revenue

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer under what circumstances an employee of the Inland Revenue is permitted to make an inquiry about a person whose tax affairs were dealt with by another Inland Revenue office. [13216]

Dawn Primarolo: There are many circumstances in which an Inland Revenue officer may need to make inquiries about a taxpayer, some of whose affairs are dealt with by another office. For example, an officer dealing with a company's tax affairs may need information about individual directors. Or a formal inquiry into a tax return may be carried out at a different office from that which issued the return, depending on the availability of staff.

Staff are prohibited from making inquiries or searching for data about any taxpayer except in the performance of their official duties. But those duties may often take them across the boundaries of different offices.

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer under what circumstances an Inland Revenue inquiry about a person's financial circumstances is entitled to lead to further inquiries about that person's immediate relatives (a) generally and (b) in respect of their financial affairs. [13215]

Dawn Primarolo: In a formal inquiry into a tax return, an officer is statutorily entitled to ask for information which he requires in order to determine whether the return is incorrect and, if so, to what extent. Information about relatives may be relevant to that inquiry. For example, in a case where the business records are incomplete, the best way to measure the true level of income may be to estimate the taxpayer's expenditure. In that case, information about the cost of maintaining dependent relatives and their contribution to household expenses may be relevant, and may be legitimately required by the investigator.

The results of any inquiry into one family member may show that there is a risk of tax evasion by another. There is no bar on the Inland Revenue using that information in deciding whether to inquire into the tax affairs of the second family member.

Princess Diana Memorial Fund

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the loss recorded in the Royal Mint annual report for 2000–01 includes a sum which is owed to the Princess Diana Memorial Fund. [12536]

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Ruth Kelly: The loss recorded in the Royal Mint annual report for 2000–01 does not include any proceeds owed to the Princess Diana Memorial Fund.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sum from the proceeds of the minting of £5 coins in 1999 in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales has been paid over to the Princess Diana Memorial Fund. [12537]

Ruth Kelly: The sale of commemorative and collector coins in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales raised £7,393,000 by 25 July 2001. This will be used to offset voted expenditure on projects put forward by the Diana Memorial committee. It was never intended to pay the proceeds into the Princess Diana Memorial Fund.

The main projects are: a playground in Kensington Gardens, opened in July 2000; a walkway running through London's Royal Parks—Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James' Park; a fountain in Hyde Park by the Serpentine, due to be built by summer 2003; and the establishment of eight Diana Nursing Teams, each led by paediatric nurses trained in palliative care, to work in the community providing support to children with life limiting conditions, and their carers, as an alternative to hospital based care.

The total cost of the park projects to date is £6,000,000. The Diana Nursing Teams cost £2,000,000 in 1999–2000 and £2,000,000 in 2000–01, and further expenditure is intended to continue and expand the programme in future years.

Royal Mint

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason the Royal Mint directed banks not to accept £5 commemorative coins from their customers, but to direct customers to the Post Office. [12336]

Ruth Kelly: A Royal Mint team was established in order to review the system for issuing and returning UK circulation commemorative crown coins. This was a result of growing concerns regarding the total volume of returns, a number of 25p (5 shilling) crowns mixed in with consignments of £5 crowns, abuse of the current distribution system and to monitor any counterfeits.

In order for the Royal Mint to log and analyse the returns we agreed with the UK banks and the Post Office that for ease of handling, processing and payment, all commemorative crowns should be returned via the Post Office. So, the UK banks were advised to refer customers wishing to repatriate crowns to their nearest post office whereby they can exchange them for goods and services.

Despite this agreement we continue to receive a small number of these crowns from some banks however, we are trying to encourage them to channel all returns via the Post Office.

This exercise is currently on-going and for the reasons outlined above we would not want to change the arrangement in the immediate future.

Social Security (Scotland)

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the level of social security

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contributions in Scotland over each of the last five years (a) in total and (b) as a percentage of the United Kingdom total. [12173]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 2 November 2001]: Estimates of social security contributions relating to residents of Scotland can be found in the Scottish Executive publication "Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland, 1998–99".



Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to encourage compliance by the fireworks industry with the voluntary code of practice on the sale of fireworks prior to 5 November. [11507]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We have held discussions with representative bodies of the fireworks industry and some larger retailers to agree dates for this year's voluntary sales period and to consider its effectiveness. In addition we have asked LACOTS (Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards) to remind trading standards departments of the voluntary code. We intend to review the effectiveness of the agreement after the fireworks seasons, and I would be interested in any evidence about how well the code is working.

Sub-Post Offices

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is proposing to prevent more sub-post offices closing in the next 12 months. [12592]

Mr. Alexander: Implementation of the performance and innovation unit recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Government, will help to modernise and sustain the whole post office network. The Government are committed to providing transitional financial assistance to rural post offices and decisions on this will be taken following advice from the Postal Services Commission, which is expected later in the autumn. In addition, we have made available a £2 million fund to support volunteer and community initiatives to maintain or reopen post office facilities in rural areas where traditional services would otherwise close. £15 million of ring-fenced money has been earmarked for the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to help sustain and improve post offices in deprived urban areas.

Universal Bank

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on progress on the universal bank. [12589]

Mr. Alexander: Progress is being made on the detailed implementation for universal banking services and they remain on schedule for introduction when benefit payment migration begins in 2003.

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Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the respective responsibilities are of her Department and the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to the universal bank. [12389]

Mr. Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is co-ordinating the work to modernise the payment of pensions, benefits and tax credits along with the introduction of universal banking services. The DTI retains shareholder responsibility for Consignia and responsibility for sponsorship of the post office network.

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