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4 Dec 2003 : Column 135Wcontinued
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the original target date for the completion of work on surge capacity was; what the reasons were for the delay; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Caplin: We had planned to advise the Defence Committee of the results of the work on the need for a surge capability by the end of 2002. It took longer than anticipated to obtain all the relevant background information, but this meant that we were able to take account of the Ministry of Defence Police's experience in meeting extra commitments during Operation TELIC. The work resulted in recommendations for a modest increase in capability, including improved co-ordination and responsiveness.
Mr. Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research has been undertaken into the reasons for differences in the average cost of answering parliamentary questions between government departments. 
Ruth Kelly: No research has been undertaken into the reasons for inter-departmental differences in the cost of answering parliamentary questions. The Treasury update the averages cost figures annually, the basis of the calculation having been explained by the Chief Secretary in a written answer on 22 May 2002, Official Report, column 417W. Departments are not obliged to use the average cost figures and can use their own internal costing systems to determine the cost of answering parliamentary questions.
Mr. Woodward: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many families on average were entitled to claim the Working Families Tax Credit in (a) St. Helens, (b) Merseyside and (c) the North West region for each year since its introduction; and how many in each case are entitled to claim Working Tax Credit; 
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Dawn Primarolo: There are no estimates below the national level for the take-up rate of Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), or for the number of families entitled to claim it. For estimates of the number of families in each region who are expected to benefit from the Child and Working Tax Credits, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) on 17 December 2002, Official Report, column 733W. No estimates exist for local authorities.
For each quarter between May 2001 and November 2002, the number of families in each region and local authority receiving tax credits, and the average weekly award, appear in "Working Families' and Disabled Person's Tax Credit Statistics. Geographical Analyses". For earlier quarters, sample estimates for each region appear in the WFTC Quarterly Enquiries, but no estimates exist for local authorities. These documents can be found on the Inland Revenue website, at www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/stats/personal-tax-credits/menu.htm.
Brian Cotter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he is taking to ensure the maintenance of banking facilities in sole bank communities and those areas with limited access to bank branches. 
Ruth Kelly: Branch closures are commercial decision for banks to make and the Government does not intervene in such decisions. However, the Government expects banks, to consider whether disadvantaged communities have sufficient access to financial services, when making operational decisions.
Brian Cotter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received regarding the implementation of the revised Banking Code in relation to guidelines on notice periods for branch closures. 
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The Government first consulted on the Child Trust Fund in "Saving and Assets for AH", published in April 2001. The Government received a large number of responses from a wide variety of sources, including financial services providers, consumer organisations, academics, charities and other interested parties. Respondents broadly supported the principles underlying the Child Trust Fund, as reported in the follow-up document "Delivering Savings & Assets", which was published in November 2001. Both of these documents are available on the Treasury website.
Recent surveys by non-Governmental organisations have also shown that the Child Trust Fund is likely to be a popular initiative with families and has the potential to improve attitudes towards savings.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the impact of the Child Trust Fund on the incomes of the (a) poorest quintile of 18-year-olds, (b) the richest quintile of 18-year-olds and (c) other quintiles. 
Ruth Kelly: CTF funds are accessible on their holder's 18th birthday and they might have an impact on income at that point because of investment returns, or indirectly thanks to enabling young people to take up opportunities which enhance their incomes. The magnitude of the indirect impact on incomes would depend on a variety of factors.
Ruth Kelly: Eligibility for the Child Trust Fund is already back-dated from its expected launch date in April 2005 to 1 September 2002 to include as many children as possible in the school cohort being born at the time of the Budget 2003 CTF announcement.
There is already a wide range of savings and investments parents can make for older children. Extending particular aspects of the Child Trust Fund to children born before 1 September 2002 would create another savings product and the risk of confusion. Financial providers will also be in a position to respond to any demand for certain aspects of the Fund.
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Ruth Kelly: The Government understand that people may object to certain types of accounts because of their ethical or religious beliefs. In recent years there has been a growth in 'ethical' investment funds and there is increasing interest in funds compliant with Islamic Shariah law.
The Government would welcome CTF providers including products which are compatible with ethical or religious beliefs. We are not proposing to prohibit investment in non-ethical fundsas this would be hard to police, and consumers will be able to exercise their choice.
Ruth Kelly: The Saving Gateway is at the pilot stage and is being evaluated for its effect on savings behaviour. The final evaluation report is expected in February 2005 and an update will be provided following the pre-Budget report.
Ruth Kelly: Estimates of the cost in the first three years were published in Budget 2003 and will be updated in the pre-Budget report. The bulk of the cost to the Exchequer consists of the Annually Managed Expenditure for the initial Government endowments, which varies with birth cohort size and is therefore expected to be relatively stable after 200506. Costs to the Exchequer due to the tax loss from the small proportion of savings that would otherwise have been in taxable savings vehicles are negligible in the initial years and may then rise slowly, until the first accounts mature in 18 years. After this the cost of the tax loss is expected to remain stable. Tax loss will be small or negligible compared to the costs of the endowments. Estimates are not available for the cost of any further Government contributions at age 7 as the value of these has yet to be decided.
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The Government has commissioned research into how best to communicate information about the CTF and the financial decisions involved, with a view to addressing the needs in particular of parents with little or no experience of savings and investment.
Until this research is completed and the information programme is fully specified and finalised, it is not possible to provide an exact figure for the expected cost of this programme, although it forms part of current forecasts of the overall Revenue implementation costs for the CTF.
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