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Early Leavers

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with other departments on reducing (a) its level of early retirements and (b) the number of people leaving early on sickness or ill health grounds. [73713]

Mr. Boateng: (a) There has been no discussion with departments about reducing early retirements or ill-health retirement for the various public service groups. However, a recommendation in the report of the Treasury led review of ill-health retirement in the Public Sector (published in July 2000) was that high level targets should be set challenging employers to reduce ill health retirement by 2005 to a level consistent with or better than those at present achieved by the best quartile of employers.

(b) There is no centrally held data about people leaving early on sickness or ill health grounds. The monitoring of people leaving early on sickness or ill health grounds is a matter for the sponsor departments of the various public service groups.

Commemorative Coins

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans Her Majesty's Government have for the issue of commemorative coins next year. [74806]

Mr. Gordon Brown: Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve my recommendation that the following commemorative coins should be issued in 2003:

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Collector versions of these coins will be released early next year at a premium above face value and, during the course of the year, the coins will be also become available at face value from banks and post offices.

Financial Services Authority

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the performance and role of the Financial Services Authority over the last 12 months. [73738]

Ruth Kelly: The FSA is obliged under the terms of the Financial Services and Markets Act (2001) to produce an annual report assessing performance against its statutory objectives of maintaining confidence in the financial system, promoting public understanding of the financial system, securing an appropriate degree of protection for consumers and reducing the potential for financial firms to be used for financial crime. It is through this mechanism that the FSA is primarily held accountable to Ministers and Parliament.

The annual report for 2001/02 was published on 20 June 2002 (I refer you to my answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Ms. Follett) 20 June 2002, Official Report, column 454W) and Section 6 reports on performance against the statutory objectives. Copies of the report were supplied to the Treasury Committee and copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 20 June 2002 Official Report, column 447W, if he will set out the Financial Services Authority's proposed powers post-2004 in relation to the regulation of mortgages and general insurances. [74241]

Ruth Kelly: On mortgages, the Government published proposed powers for the Financial Services Authority (FSA) on 8 August. These can be obtained from the Treasury website— The Government will shortly be publishing for consultation draft legislation setting out FSA powers in respect of general insurance mediation.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what methodology was used to determine the targets in the Comprehensive Spending Review. [73770]

Mr. Boateng: The methodologies used varied between departments and targets.

Liabilities Insurance

Mr. Wray: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what Government assistance is available to companies that find it difficult to get affordable liabilities insurance. [74446]

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Ruth Kelly: The Government is working with trade associations, insurance bodies and organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses to try and maximise the availability of affordable cover.

The key to securing affordable liability insurance over time will be improving the risks posed by companies—particularly in terms of health and safety for employees and the public.

Child Poverty

Mr. Wray: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what recent discussions he has had with the (a) public, (b) private and (c) voluntary sectors in combining the effort to end child poverty; [74425]

Dawn Primarolo: The government has made a commitment to reduce the number of children in low-income households by at least a quarter by 2004, as a contribution towards the broader target of halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020. (''Low income'' is defined as having an equivalised household income of less than 60 per cent. of median income).

Progress will be reported against the 1998–99 baseline figures of 4.2m children after housing costs and 3.1m children before housing costs. Between 1997–98 and 2000–01 the number of children in low-income households fell by 300,000 after housing costs and by 400,000 before housing costs. So we are a third of the way in a third of the time towards meeting the 2004 target.

By April 2003 the government will be spending #8 billion more on support for children each year, in real terms, than in 1997.

Low income is of course central to poverty. But poverty of opportunity is also important. In Opportunity for All, the government's annual anti-poverty report, we report progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion against a range of indicators. In April 2002 the Department for Work and Pensions launched a consultation exercise to debate the best way to measure poverty in the long-term. Academics and representatives from the voluntary and community sectors and local government all actively engaged in the debate. Results of the consultation will be published after a full analysis of the responses and technical implications.

In working towards the common goal of eradicating child poverty within a generation, my right hon. Friend has had numerous discussions with representatives from all sectors. Only through a genuine partnership can we ensure that children and young people are given every opportunity to progress in life.

Our strategy document, Tackling child poverty—giving every child the best possible start in life, stresses the importance of voluntary organisations in the pursuit of

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our long-term goal of poverty eradication. The Chancellor also meets ministers from the devolved administrations to consider joint or coordinated action, and exchange information and best practice in tackling child poverty and social exclusion in deprived communities. And the Government is pursuing contacts with the financial sector in efforts to tackle financial exclusion.

Pension Tax Reliefs

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the most recent annual cost was in tax forgone of superannuation and other pension tax reliefs; and what proportion of this was to the benefit of higher-rate taxpayers. [74644]

Dawn Primarolo: Estimates of the cost of tax relief on pension contributions are contained in table 7.9 of Inland Revenue Statistics. The latest version is on the Inland Revenue website:

Of the estimated #6.4bn relief on contributions by employees and the self employed in 2001–02 around #3.7bn is in respect of higher rate taxpayers and on employer contributions of the total of #9.5bn around #5.4bn is in respect of higher rate employees.

The employers' component is estimated on the basis that under present arrangements, employer contributions are not taxable as a benefit in kind of the employees. The estimates assume that the proportion of total employers' contributions relating to higher rate taxpayers is the same as that observed for employee contributions. It is not possible to apportion the other elements of the total cost of tax relief between higher rate taxpayers and others.

Estimates are provisional and based on the Survey of Personal Incomes 1999–2000.

Benefits in Kind

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the yield of extending the base of employees' national insurance contributions to benefits in kind; and if he will make a statement. [74120]

Dawn Primarolo: Replacing the Class 1A National Insurance contributions liability paid by employers on benefits in kind, with a Class 1 liability paid by employees and employers would raise around #150 million for 2002–03, rising to #150 million for 2003–04. These estimates do not make any allowance for changes in behaviour.

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