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28 Nov 2002 : Column 461W—continued

Child Tax Credit

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received regarding changes that may be necessary to the child tax credit claim form. [83951]

Dawn Primarolo: The new tax credits claim form has been developed in consultation with a wide range of organisations and has been through extensive usability testing. The Inland Revenue continue to consult widely on a range of tax credits issues, including information materials.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which body will be responsible for dealing with (a) working tax credit and (b) child tax credit appeals. [83952]

Dawn Primarolo: Tax credits form part of the tax system and appeals will therefore be heard in the same way as tax appeals. However, tax credit claimants form a new client group for the tax appeals system. Consequently, appeals by claimants will continue to be heard by the Appeals Service for a transitional period, while the necessary changes are made to allow them to be dealt with effectively under the tax appeals system.

Customs and Excise Seizures

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many seizures were made of (a) species and (b) other material listed under the CITES regime the last year for which figures are available; how many prosecutions were pursued; and what the outcomes were of those prosecutions. [80870]

John Healey [holding answer 20 November 2002]: In the year 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002 Customs made 337 seizures of imports or exports subject to EU legislation on endangered species. The goods seized were:

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In the same period Customs prosecuted six persons for endangered species related offences of which five were convicted.

Sue Doughty: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements are in place to ensure that cars seized by Customs and Excise have documentation to enable the return of such cars to their owners. [83447]

John Healey: Vehicles used to smuggle goods into the UK or used to transport such goods within the UK are liable to seizure. In certain circumstances Customs will offer to restore the vehicle for a fee. Normally such a restoration offer is made on-the-spot immediately after seizure and vehicle registration documents are not transferred. Vehicles seized that have been used in large scale or repeated smuggling attempts are not normally offered for restoration. Customs always seek to notify the owner of a seized vehicle of that seizure where they are not present at the time of seizure.

Sue Doughty: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much compensation has been paid to owners of cars seized by Customs and Excise when the decision has been overturned on appeal. [83448]

John Healey: Customs have had the powers to seize means of transport used in smuggling attempts since the 19th century. Customs do not hold central records on the amount of compensation paid to owners of cars seized by Customs when the decision has been overturned on appeal.

In the last two years 1,586 seizure cases have been appealed to magistrates courts of which less than 1 per cent. were overturned.

Sue Doughty: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many cars seized by Customs and Excise in the last year were disposed of before an appeal to a tribunal. [83449]

John Healey: Customs' policy is not to dispose of seized vehicles until any appeal against seizure to a magistrates court has been heard. The time limits for such an appeal are specified in law. Once the time period for such an appeal has elapsed or the magistrates have rejected the appeal, it is Customs' policy to dispose of the vehicle as efficiently as possible.

An appeal to a tribunal may be made when Customs decide not to offer restoration. There is no time limit for restoration requests to be made and tribunals often take place many months or even years after the seizure. In the past two financial years,75 per cent. of vehicle seizures have not been appealed. Where a request has been made for restoration of the vehicle, Customs' decision has been upheld in 97 per cent. of the cases. Customs do not hold central records of the number of seized cars that were disposed of before an appeal to a tribunal.

Debt Relief

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the level of funding of the hold in trust policy for those countries yet to secure debt relief due to civil wars. [83193]

John Healey: The latest data show that the UK has been holding in trust a total of 1,057,200 for six countries still to secure debt relief because of civil wars,

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external conflict or the absence of a poverty reduction programme. We continue to use international and bilateral meetings to urge other creditors to follow our lead on this policy.

Insolvency Service

Mr. Reed: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he received the new pay and grading system for the Insolvency Service Submission; and when he will make an announcement. [83336]

Mr. Boateng: The Insolvency Service have been discussing the details of their proposals with us for some time. We would hope to be able to conclude the process shortly.

Landfill Tax (Moray)

Angus Robertson: To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce a temporary suspension of the landfill tax for the flood victims of Moray. [83589]

John Healey: The Government has no plans at present to introduce a temporary suspension of landfill tax.


Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) building societies, (b) banks and (c) other banking institutions offer mortgages without checking independently the salary of applicants for mortgages; and if he will make a statement. [83906]

Ruth Kelly: Information concerning lending decisions by mortgage lenders is not available to the Government, as these are purely commercial decisions. However, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) will be regulating mortgage business with effect from October 2004. As part of this process, the FSA has been consulting on rules in respect of responsible lending. In future, lenders will need to be able to show that account is taken of the consumer's ability to pay before entering into a mortgage contract.

Overseas Development Assistance

Mr. Caton: To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he estimates that the UK will achieve the UN target for overseas development assistance as a proportion of national income by 2015; [83363]

John Healey: The Government remains fully committed to reaching the UN 0.7 per cent. ODA7GNI target. In the 2002 Spending Review the Government set out its spending plans for the next three years up to 2005–06 and has made substantial increases to the aid budget. The UK's level of overseas development assistance will reach 0.33 per cent. of GNI by 2003–04 and 0.40 per cent. by 2005–06, up from 0.26 per cent. in 1997. This will place us well above the current G7 country average of 0.19 per cent. and the current OECD average of 0.22 per cent.

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Any timetable beyond 2005–06 for reaching the UN target would properly be a matter for future parliaments. For this reason we believe that it is important to look at what has actually been achieved and what is firmly budgeted for—rather than any aspirational timetable—as the critical test of our commitment.


Pension Credit

Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his estimate is of the percentage of pensioners in the Kettering constituency who will benefit from the pension credit to be introduced in October 2003. [80419]

Mr. McCartney: Estimates of pension credit entitlement are not available at constituency level due to the insufficient sample cases in the survey data used.

As at May 2002, there were 2,700 MIG recipients in the Kettering constituency.

Carers Benefit

Mr. Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when new carers over the age of 65 will be eligible to apply for Carers Benefit. [80133]

Maria Eagle: As part of the benefit changes which are providing some £500 million over three years in extra help for carers, the upper age limit on claims for Invalid Care Allowance was abolished on 28 October 2002. This change means that new carers aged 65 and over can now claim the benefit. The overlapping benefit rules mean that only those with no, or with a low rate of State Pension, are likely to receive the benefit. However, carers with underlying entitlement to Invalid Care Allowance can gain access to the carer premium in income-related benefits such as the Minimum Income Guarantee, resulting in a significantly higher award of benefit. Invalid Care Allowance is to be renamed XCarer's Allowance" in April 2003.

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