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6 Feb 2003 : Column 396W—continued

Stock Market

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the value of the FTSE 100 index. [94392]

Ruth Kelly: No country can be insulated from fluctuations in the world economy and the fall in the FTSE 100 share index since its peak at the end of 1999 reflects declines in global equity prices. The best basis for long-term sustainable increases in wealth remains a strong economic policy framework, delivering a platform of low inflation and sound public finances.

Tax Loopholes

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what plans he has to close tax loopholes; and if he will make a statement; [95430]

John Healey: The Government are committed to tackling fraud and closing loopholes in the tax system which allow some people to avoid paying their fair share of tax, increasing the burden on other taxpayers and giving those who use avoidance schemes an unfair advantage. The Government have acted every year since

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1997 to close unfair loopholes. For example, the 2002 pre-Budget report included measures to counter the avoidance of tax and national insurance through the abuse of Employee Benefit Trusts, legislation to prevent businesses unfairly claiming accelerated capital allowances, changes to the controlled foreign companies rules to prevent avoidance of UK tax on profits from extended warranties, and action to prevent companies avoiding the payment of VAT on the sale of freehold buildings. In addition the pre-Budget report launched a strategy to tackle losses in the VAT system, which is designed to produce £2 billion a year in additional revenues by 2005–06.


Broadband Access

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what proportion of (a) GP surgeries, (b) hospitals, (c) primary care trusts, (d) health authorities and (e) the criminal justice system have broadband access; and what the target date is for full broadband access. [92344]

Mr. Timms: I have been asked to reply.

The Statistics for existing connections are as follows:

(a) GP practices—157 out of 8,519 connections— (0.02 per cent.)

(b) Hospital Trusts—345 out of 726 connections— (47 per cent.)

(c) Primary Care Trusts—77 out of 284 connections—(27 per cent.)

(d) Health Authorities—108 out of 562 connections—(19 per cent.)

These figures relate to connections only, not directly to the organisations themselves, as it is common for Health Authorities and Trusts to have multiple connections. These can be for connections between different sites or multiple connections to the same sites. Information broken down by specific Trust or Health Authority is not collected centrally.

(e) 100 per cent. of police forces and 100 per cent. of Crown Prosecution Service offices have broadband access through their connection to the Criminal Justice Extranet and Government Secure Intranet services; and 90 per cent. of the Prosecution Service has access to broadband via their connection to the Government Secure Extranet.

Targets for future broadband connectivity are as follows:

Under the existing framework contracts with the NHS net suppliers, connections to GP practices in England are being upgraded to 256 kbps where they do not already have it. Trust and Health Authority connections are being upgraded to 2 Mbps where they do not already have it, or better. The Target for completion of this exercise is March 2004.

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As part of the Government 21st Century IT strategy for the NHS, it is planned to replace the existing networking arrangements with a new national broadband infrastructure for the NHS England in 2006–07.

The target date for full broadband access for 100 per cent. of the core criminal justice agencies (the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Courts, Probation Service and Prison Service) is 2006. However, magistrates courts and the Probation Service plan to achieve this during 2003 and the Prison Service plan to achieve it by 2004.

Performance Indicators

Mr. Allen: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will create new performance indicators and a table of rankings for (a) Departments and (b) Ministers. [93391]

Mr. Alexander: There are no current plans to create tables of ranking for Departments or Ministers. The performance of each Department is assessed against the stretching delivery targets agreed and published in their Public Service Agreements. These are specific to each Department. Progress against PSA targets is reported every spring in departmental reports, with an update in the Autumn Performance Reports. Links to these documents are available on the HM Treasury website. Many of the indicators are also subject to regular statistical release.

Each Department is scrutinised in public by the relevant Select Committee and this is complemented by the National Audit Office's programme of value-for-money studies.


Civil Servants

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many civil servants have been employed by (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies and non-departmental bodies in each year from 1994–95 to 2002–03; and if he will make a statement. [92391]

Dr. Moonie : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 22 January 2003, Official Report, columns 333–34W, by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office.

External Consultants

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much (a) his Department and (b) each agency and non-departmental public body spent on external consultancy in each year from 1995–96 to 2002–03 (planned); and if he will make a statement. [92258]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence expenditure on External Assistance (EA), of which external consultancy is a part, is available in the Libraries of the House for the years 1995–96 to 2000–01. This includes expenditure broken down by Departmental Top Level Budget Holders and Trading Funds. However,

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expenditure on external consultancy is not recorded as a specific category of EA and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The return for 2001–02 will be published shortly and figures for 2002–03 will be published once the current financial year has ended.

Fraud and Theft

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much money has been lost by his Department and its agencies and non-departmental public bodies through (a) fraud and (b) theft for each year since 1996–97. [92465]

Dr. Moonie: The reported estimated cost to the Department including its agencies and non-departmental public bodies of fraud and theft in each financial year since 1996–97 is as follows:


YearFraud Theft

No abatement is made for subsequent recoveries. The figures relate to a combination of suspected and proven non-procurement and procurement frauds and thefts with estimated values refined from time to time as investigations, sometimes lasting a year or more, reach a conclusion. A major element of estimated cost relates to 'at risk' estimates applied to suspected procurement fraud cases, incorporated here in reported totals from 1999–2000, and are often resolved as 'no crime' or have a proven value lower than original estimates.

Gulf Forces

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many personnel on their way to the Gulf are on S-type contracts. [95908]

Mr. Ingram: Five soldiers serving on S-type engagements are presently serving in the 'Gulf Region'.

Although units for possible operations in the Gulf have been identified not all personnel posted to those units will deploy and others may be attached to bring them to full establishment. It is not therefore possible to identify at this stage the total number of personnel on S-type engagements who could ultimately deploy to the region.

For this answer the 'Gulf Region' includes all Gulf Coastal States.


Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has had with NATO partners about the use of the Alliance in future operations in Iraq, following the formal US request for assistance on 15 January. [95410]

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Mr. Hoon: None, although discussions continue in the Alliance on the tasking of contingency planning in support of Turkey.

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