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12 Dec 2002 : Column 473W—continued

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer [pursuant to his answer of 28 November 2002, Official Report, columns 466–67W], on the post office card account, what alternative arrangements will be available in April 2003 for child tax credit recipients who will not be able to use the PIN number associated with a post office card account. [86989]

Dawn Primarolo: Customers receiving direct payment of child tax credit will be able to choose from a range of account options. For some people the post office card account may not be the most suitable option and they may prefer to use an account with a cheque book or pass book.

Customers who would like a post office card account will, in April 2003, initially be paid by girocheque for the reasons given by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in his answer of 3 December. When the card account comes into use for tax credits, those customers who are unable to use a PIN and card will be able to nominate someone else to collect their money for them. In these cases, a second card will be issued. Alternatively they may nominate someone to deal with all their tax credit affairs.

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It has always been recognised that there may be a small number of people who are unable to operate any kind of bank account. In these circumstances, tax credits claimants will receive their direct payments of tax credits by girocheque.


Mr. Weir: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how much will be ring fenced for recycling programmes in (a) Scotland and (b) the UK in each year from 2002–03 to 2006–07; [86760]

John Healey: Responsibility for environment policy is a devolved matter. Decisions about expenditure on recycling in the Devolved Administrations are a matter for the respective administrations. In England, ring-fenced funds for recycling total #50 million in 2002–03 and #90 million in 2003–04.

As announced in the pre-Budget report, final decisions on additional public expenditure on waste for the 2002 Spending Review period will be made as part of the Budget process. The Devolved Administrations, including the Scottish Executive, will be responsible for their respective expenditure allocations.

Tax Credits

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further action he intends to take to promote the take up of new tax credits in April 2003. [85277]

Dawn Primarolo: The publicity campaign for the two new tax credits—Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit began in September. An 'announcement' TV advertisement designed to set the scene generally was followed by a second wave of TV adverts aimed at existing tax credits claimants. The current, third, phase of the campaign takes a number of families that together represent the broad range of people entitled to the new tax credits. This phase includes TV, radio, press and online advertising.

A further phase of advertising will begin mid January and run until the end of the month. This will remind claimants of the changes taking place in April, and in particular of the way support for children will be redirected from the pay packet, to the person in the family mainly responsible for the children.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Inland Revenue has completed its study of the 3,250 tax credit cases identified by the NAO to assess the level of fraud; and if he will place a copy in the Library. [86714]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 19 September 2002 to the hon. Member for Hertsmere, Official Report, column 207W.

Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Inland Revenue has completed its analysis of the take-up of tax credits using the Family Resources Survey; and if he will place a copy in the Library. [86715]

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Dawn Primarolo: I refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) on 24 July 2002, Official Report, column 1191W.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people have applied for the higher children's tax credit paid to families in the year of a child's birth. [86740]

Dawn Primarolo: Claim forms for children's tax credit have been included in Xbounty packs" given to new mothers around the time of their baby's birth. To 5 December the Inland Revenue has received 85,000 applications for children's tax credit for babies born on or after 6 april 2002.

Taxation and Savings (Draft Directive)

Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the likely impact of the EU draft directive on taxation and savings on UK overseas territories. [83216]

Dawn Primarolo: The EU draft directive on taxation of savings seeks to combat cross-border tax evasion on savings income by EU residents. The adoption of this Directive is conditional on the EU receiving sufficient reassurances that relevant dependent or associated territories will adopt the same measures. The impact of adopting such measures will depend on a range of factors, including the volume of underclared savings income that EU residents hold in these jurisdictions.

Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) which overseas territories will have to comply with the EU draft directive on taxation and savings; [83230]

Dawn Primarolo: The dependent and associated territories listed in the conclusions of the European Council of Santa Maria da Feira in June 2000 are the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and EU Member States' dependent or associated territories in the Caribbean. These were the dependent and associated territories, together with six named third countries, that EU Ministers decided sufficient reassurances should be obtained from before deciding on the adoption of the Directive. EU Ministers also agreed in the same conclusions that Xexchange of information, on as wide a basis as possible, shall be the ultimate objective of the EU in line with international developments."

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of recipients of the working families tax credit who are paid below the minimum wage; and what recent work his Department has undertaken to prosecute firms paying below the minimum wage. [86914]

Dawn Primarolo: The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 contains a number of provisions empowering enforcement officers to take civil action against non-paying employers and the Inland Revenue always uses these in the first instance.

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Since the national minimum wage was introduced in April 1999 the Inland Revenue has issued around 450 enforcement notices requiring employers to start paying the minimum wage and make good any arrears, and identified over #11 million in arrears. A minority of disputed cases have been considered by employment tribunals. To date there have been no criminal prosecutions in relation to underpayment of the minimum wage.


Drug Action Team

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what independent audit is made of statistics compiled by the Drug Action Team. [86698]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Drug Action Teams (DATs) use information gathered from a variety of sources including statutory agencies such as the police, central Government (e.g. census surveys) and local service providers. The information is then used to inform the DAT's planning and reporting processes.

DAT plans are analysed by regional teams consisting of Home Office officials, National Treatment Agency representatives and representatives of other Government Departments who sit in the Government office. They give careful scrutiny to all the information provided. Any quantitative information is rigorously checked to ensure its accuracy. If there is any doubt, the DAT—and the agency that provided it—is asked to verify that information.

DAT annual returns are monitored in the same way, except that the information is scrutinised at central Government level. At the same time, Home Office representatives in the regions are able to provide an independent view of the DAT's report.

Animal Experiments

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in implementing the Government's commitment to reduction, refinement and replacement of animals in experiments. [86752]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Home Office has developed and put in place a strategy to ensure that policy on the use of animals in scientific procedures is reviewed continuously as scientific and ethical considerations evolve, checking that the costs to animals are minimised and remain outweighed by the potential benefits of the work.

We are continuing to work to ensure that the highest possible standards of welfare are applied to animals used in scientific procedures and that they are used only where it is fully justified—where the benefits outweigh the costs and where there are no suitable alternatives. To this end we are promoting the fullest application of the 3Rs—the replacement of procedures with others which do not use animals, the reduction of the number of animals used and the refinement of procedures to minimise pain and suffering.

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The use of animals in regulated procedures is prohibited by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in cases where a scientifically valid non-animal alternative is available. In deciding whether to grant a licence for any regulated procedure, the 1986 Act requires that the likely benefits of the programme are weighed against the likely adverse effects on the animals concerned (the cost/benefit assessment) and that there are no alternatives which either replace animal use entirely, reduce the number of animals needed or refine the procedures to minimise suffering (the 3Rs). We must also be satisfied that the procedures are likely to achieve the stated objectives. There are usually negotiations between the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate and the applicant to ensure that the 3Rs are rigorously applied in every case.

The Government advocates the 3Rs strategy believing that the most immediate prospects are for reducing the number of animals used through better science and better experimental design, and refining procedures so that the suffering of any animals necessarily used is minimised. The long-term hope of eliminating the need for live animal experiments altogether lies in the proper development, validation and acceptance of replacement alternative methods.

In addition to the rigorous application of the 3Rs we have gained the endorsement of Government Departments of the principle of data sharing and agreement that UK regulatory agencies should encourage industry to extend the scope for sharing animal test data in the field of regulatory safety testing. An inter-Departmental concordat has therefore been developed as a first step in this process and should enable Government Departments to help eliminate the risk of duplication of tests on animals.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to introduce an administrative centre to check that the commitment to reduction, refinement and replacement in experimentation is being adhered to; [86802]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: These matters are the subject of recommendations in the report published on 24 July 2002 by the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures. The report contained a total of seven conclusions and 31 recommendations, including the proposal to establish a Centre for the Three Rs. All of the recommendations are being carefully and thoroughly considered. The Government has six months to respond to the report, and there will then be a debate in the House of Lords. It would meanwhile be inappropriate for Ministers to offer detailed comment.

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