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Working Tax Credit

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many claim forms for (a) child tax credit and (b) working tax credit have so far (i) been issued and (ii) been returned. [94023]

Dawn Primarolo: There is a single claim form for these tax credits.

By 29 December 2002 about 4.7 million claim forms had been-issuedand just over 2 million claims received (including 165,000 on-line).

Accounting Practices

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to increase the powers and resources of the Financial Services Authority to investigate the accounting practices of companies. [94520]

Ruth Kelly: The powers of the Financial Services Authority are set out in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and the secondary legislation under it. In respect of the accounting practices of companies, my RHF the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced yesterday, in response to the recommendation of the Co-ordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues, that the FSA will play a greater role, in partnership with the Financial Reporting Review Panel, in the enforcement of accounting standards, particularly in identifying the risks to be investigated and the selection of company accounts for investigation.


Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Financial Services Authority will add income drawdown schemes to the comparative tables that it plans to publish on annuities. [93878]

Ruth Kelly: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) tell me that they do not propose to include income drawdown arrangements in their comparative tables.

The FSA annuity Comparative Tables will provide annuity rates for what are generally referred to as 'standards annuities' joint and single life, escalating and non-escalating, smoker and non-smoker rates. These are the annuities purchased by over 80 per cent. of annuitants.

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Baby Expenses

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what provision is available for poorer families to assist with expenses incurred in the arrival of a new baby, with particular reference to the purchase of new mattresses. [93475]

Ruth Kelly: The sure start maternity grant, worth £500, is available to people receiving income support, income-based jobseekers allowance, working families tax credit or disabled person's tax credit, to help cover the costs of a new baby. Claims can be made at any time from 11 weeks before a baby is due until three months after birth, or up to three months after the date of adoption or parental order. Those claiming must submit a certificate signed by a health professional confirming that health and welfare advice has been received.

From April 2003, the child tax credit will create a seamless system of income-related support for families with children. Paid on top of child benefit, the child tax credit will provide a family element of £545 a year for all families with incomes of less than £50,000, plus a child element of £1,445 for each child or young person in families with incomes of up to around £13,000 a year. In the first year of a child's birth the family element is doubled, to £1,090.

From April 2003, the sure start maternity grant will be available to all parents who receive more than the family element of child tax credit.

Budget Changes

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the principal components of the changes in the budget of HM Treasury from 2002–03 to 2005–06; and if he will make a statement. [92791]

Ruth Kelly: The largest components are a £34 million anticipated decrease in the utilisation of accounting provisions by the Office of Government Commerce relating to the vacant civil estate; and a £15 million reduction in expected OGC income from other Departments.

Business Investment

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the level of business investment was in each quarter since 1997. [94396]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Stephen O'Brien, dated 30 January 2003:

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent question concerning what the level of business investment was in each quarter since 1997. (94396)

The information is available in the January 2003 edition of Economic Trends (No. 590). This is a National Statistics publication and is available in the House of Commons Library. The data required are

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contained in "Table 2.7 Gross fixed capital formation" on page T10. The series identifier for seasonally adjusted constant price business investment is NPEL.

The most recent business investment data are also available from the business investment First Release which is available in the Library or from the National Statistics website "" under "more releases".

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research he has commissioned into the long-term effect of a drop in business investment on the (a) competitiveness, (b) productivity and (c) purchasing power parity of the UK economy. [94399]

Ruth Kelly: There is ample evidence that business investment is one of the essential drivers rising productivity and living standards. The Government's approach to raising competitiveness and productivity centres: on maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment conducive to individuals and firms investing for the long term; and implementing microeconomic reforms to remove any barriers that prevent markets from functioning effectively.

Business Property Refit

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will estimate the change in Government revenues from the abolition of Business Property Refit and Agricultural Property Refit; and if he will make a statement. [93718]

Dawn Primarolo: The costs of inheritance tax business property and agricultural property relief in 2002–2003 are forecast to be £110 million and £130 million respectively.

Capping each relief at £250,000 would reduce these costs to £50 million and £70 million respectively.

Capital Gains Tax

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the change in Government revenues from changing the capital gains tax regime simultaneously to abolish taper relief, reintroduce retirement relief and abolish the exemption of capital gains accrued but unrealised at death. [93717]

Dawn Primarolo: The full year yield, including the effect of likely taxpayer reaction, from simultaneously abolishing taper relief and reintroducing retirement relief is estimated to be £200 million in 2002–03 and £400 million in 2003–04.

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The latest available estimate of the current cost of Capital Gains Tax relief for gains accrued but unrealised at death is £500 million for 2002–03. However this takes no account of taxpayers reaction to such a major change. The yield from abolition of this relief may be significantly different due to changes in taxpayers' behaviour.

A reliable estimate of the total yield from all measures is only available at disproportionate cost.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he last met the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency to discuss progress on county court judgments, committal proceedings and the withdrawal of driving licences for non-payment of maintenance; and if he will make a statement. [89764]

Malcolm Wicks: Ministers have regular meetings with the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency to discuss, among other topics, the current performance of the Agency.

Civil Servants (Bonus Payments)

Mr. Lyons: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much was paid in bonus payments to civil servants in 2001–02 related to performance in his Department. [92950]

Ruth Kelly: During the financial year 2001–02 a total of £274,980 in performance bonus payments was paid to staff.

Clearing Banks

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to open (a) the banking money transmission service and (b) central clearing to all major clearing banks. [94380]

Ruth Kelly: The Government are closely monitoring developments in money transmission systems—otherwise known as payment systems—and will introduce legislation to give the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) new powers to promote effective competition in payment systems as soon as parliamentary time allows. It is envisaged that these new powers will include provisions designed to tackle potential restrictions on access to payment systems.

Progress has already been made through, for example, reforms to the governance structures of the main UK payment systems. The Government welcome these moves by payment system participants to address the competition issues identified by the Cruickshank report and urges the industry to continue with these reforms.

To promote its understanding of how payment systems operate, and to help pave the way for its prospective powers, the OFT announced on 27 November that it will conduct an empirical study into recent payment system developments, starting early in 2003.

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