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11 Mar 2003 : Column 130W—continued

Overseas Trips

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the overseas trips made by himself and other members of his ministerial team in 2002; and what the (a) purpose and (b) cost was in each case. [101483]

Ruth Kelly: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given by the Minister of State, Cabinet Office on 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 334W.


Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set out the yearly taxation revenue accruing from the taxation of occupational pension fund surpluses since the tax's inception. [102493]

Ruth Kelly: Available estimates from 1987–88 to 2001–02 are contained in the table.

Taxation on refunds by funds to employers in connection with pension fund surpluses

YearAmount of tax (£ million)

(1) Provisional

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) civil servants and (b) Ministers would have had a pension entitlement in 2001–02 in excess of the limit proposed in the consultation document Simplifying the Taxation of Pensions-Increasing Choice and Flexibility for All. [102492]

Ruth Kelly: The value of a person's pension funds will depend upon accrued entitlement both in an individual's current job, and in any previous employment. This information is not held centrally for civil servants and Ministers and the information could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

Research and Development

Mr. Spring: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of Britain's GDP was spent on research and development in the last year for which figures are available; and what assessment he has made of the average proportion of GDP spent on Research and Development in (a) the EU, (b) Japan and (c) the United States of America. [101479]

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John Healey: The most up-to-date figures taken from OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators 2002/2 for General Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) as a percentage of GDP are as follows:

Savings Products

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will make a statement about the future of saving products in the UK; [102110]

Ruth Kelly: Savings provide individuals with security, independence and opportunity throughout life. A number of barriers may prevent individuals, particularly those from low and moderate-income households, from making optimal saving decisions. These include factors such as lack of trust in financial services providers, complexity of products resulting in a costly system of advice and sales regulation, lack of clear financial information and the capability to process the information. The Government's saving strategy takes these factors into account and is focused on:

Progress has been made across all these fronts. For example:

All the high street banks now offer basic bank accounts that are free to open and run. Universal Banking Services will improve the environment for saving, with macroeconomic stability and an efficient and well regulated market in financial services; create the right incentives for saving, assisting those on lower incomes and ensure that taxes and benefits reward, rather than penalise, savers; empower individuals with financial information, improved access to advice, and simpler and easier to understand savings products; and

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develop saving products suitable for each stage in a person's life cycle. As the scale of saving increases, proceeds from one product may be rolled into the next, helping people to progress up the savings ladder.

Universal Banking Services, which will be operational from April 2003, will ensure that access to basic bank accounts will be available over Post Office counters.

Since their launch in 1999, Individual Savings Accounts have helped to make saving, and the benefits of saving, simple for ordinary investors to understand. Around 14 million people have an ISA. The Government is taking forward the recommendation of the Sandler review for the development of a suite of simple, low cost, risk-controlled 'stakeholder' investment products aimed at low and medium income investors and sold through a simplified sales regime.

Pilots for the Saving Gateway, an account designed to provide transparent incentives to save for low-income individuals, including those who may not own any other financial products, were launched in August 2002. Tailored financial information and education are provided alongside Saving Gateway accounts to help individuals make informed saving choices.

The Government is continuing to develop details of the Child Trust Fund, which will offer all families an account in which to save for their children, with every child receiving an endowment from the Government. The Child Trust will reinforce financial education delivered through the national curriculum and other channels.

The Government is consulting widely on the Pensions Green Paper proposals to enable those of working age to plan more effectively for a secure retirement. Related to this, the Government has set out proposals to simplify radically the taxation of pensions, which will enable people to make clearer and more confident decisions about retirement saving.

Statements on the progress of the Government's saving policies will be provided in the Budget.

Tax Revenues

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions officials from his Department have had with (a) the Governor of the Bank of England, (b) members of the Monetary Policy Committee and (c) representatives of the Bank of England concerning their assessment of the strength of the growth of tax revenues; and what the outcome was of these discussions. [102108]

Mr. Boateng: The Chancellor and the Governor meet regularly to discuss a wide range of issues. In addition, the Treasury representative to the MPC regularly briefs MPC members on fiscal issues.

Financial Sector Green Paper

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his Department began work on the Green Paper, "The Financial System and Major Operational Disruption". [101699]

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Ruth Kelly: The Green Paper, "The Financial System and Major Operational Disruption", marks the latest stage of one part of the on-going work that has been undertaken by my Department to help strengthen financial sector resilience since the events of 11 September 2001.


Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the possible implications for the British economy of involvement of the UK in a war in Iraq. [102500]

Mr. Boateng : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) on 24 February 2003, Official Report, column 216W.

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