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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 7 January 2004



Kevin Brennan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he will take to improve competition in the market for bulk-buying of index linked annuities; and if he will make a statement. [145727]

Ruth Kelly: The operation of the market in bulk annuities is a commercial matter for the companies and pension schemes concerned.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what matters relating to BCCI and (a) the Bank of England and (b) his Department are outstanding; whether any of these matters could carry a liability to the public purse; and if he will make a statement. [146359]

Ruth Kelly: The Bank of England's position on the impending legal proceedings relating to BCCI, including an indication of costs already incurred, is set out on pages 35–37 and 91 of its 2003 annual report. A further update will be given in this year's annual report.

The Treasury are not a party to these proceedings.

The Treasury are considering a request unrelated to the legal proceedings against the Bank of England for the release of a BCCI-related document. This has no implications for the public purse.

Child Trust Funds

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what information will be provided to (a) children and (b) parents to show them how different investment scenarios will affect the return on their child trust funds, with particular regard to how (i) equities, (ii) cash and (iii) bonds are likely to perform. [145697]

Ruth Kelly: The Government want parents to engage actively with the child trust fund (CTF) and recognise that, for many parents, this may be their first investment product. We will provide resources to ensure parents are helped to make choices about their child's CTF, including an information pack, which will be issued alongside the CTF voucher and a dedicated CTF website.

Information will include illustrations of investment returns, which will also be of interest to children as they grow older. Annual statements issued by providers to all children, and teaching and learning resources for use in the classroom, will also help children engage with their accounts and develop an understanding of how different investments could affect returns.

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Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the implications for those on non-family benefits should they wish to make contributions to child trust funds. [145700]

Ruth Kelly: Money held in children's child trust fund (CTF) accounts will not affect family benefits claimed by a child's household.

The Government will keep under review the treatment of capital in income-related benefits so that a sensible balance is struck between providing state support and not unfairly penalising those who have acted responsibly by saving. As a first step, the Government announced on 15 December 2003, Official Report, column 1344 that, from April 2006, the £3,000 threshold above which savings reduce eligibility to income support, jobseeker's allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit will be increased to £6,000 in line with pension credit.

The pension credit rules include protection against capital deprivation to deal with cases where the real reason behind disposing of savings is to access pension credit or increase the amount of pension credit payable.

Whether payment into a CTF is treated as a deprivation of capital will depend on all the circumstances of the case. However, in most cases it is unlikely that modest contributions to a CTF would be treated as deprivation of capital.

Civil Servants (Disabilities)

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made in meeting targets for the proportion of people with disabilities in senior posts in his Department. [146002]

Ruth Kelly: Statistical information about senior civil servants with disabilities is available on the civil service statistics website at http://www.civil-service.gov.uk/statistics/documents/pdf/disability-oct03.pdf.

This information is also made available in the Library of the House. The latest statistics show staffing data as at 1 April 2003. The data shows that in my department there are no senior civil servants who have declared a disability. The Treasury target for the proportion of people in senior posts who have declared a disability is 3 per cent.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many senior civil servants in his Department are disabled, expressed in (a) numbers and (b) as a percentage of whole-time equivalents. [144984]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested is available on the Civil Service Statistics website at: http://www. civil-service.gov.uk/statistics/documents/pdf/disability-oct03.pdf

This information is also available in the Library of the House. The latest statistics show staffing data as at 1 April 2003. The data show that:

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Equity Release Schemes

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research his Department has undertaken to assess the benefits consumers perceive if financial products, with particular reference to equity release policies, are regulated by the Government. [145717]

Ruth Kelly: A regulatory impact assessment was published on 5 June 2003 that set out the costs and benefits of giving the Financial Services Authority (FSA) responsibility for regulating mortgages, including mortgage-based equity release schemes. This is available from the Treasury website: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk

The purpose of the consultation paper, "Regulating Home Reversion Plans", is to arrive at a more in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits of the regulation of home reversion equity release plans. A draft regulatory impact assessment was included as Annex B to that document and we look forward to receiving views on that, as well as other aspects of the consultation.

European Investment Services Directive

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what discussions he has had with business organisations about the impact the European Investment Services Directive will have on their companies, with specific reference to the impact that the end of execution-only sales will have; [145706]

Ruth Kelly: The Government were disappointed with the position adopted by the European Council of Ministers on the proposed new Investment Services Directive. We believe that in several areas the Council text misses opportunities to create a competitive, integrated European financial market and instead will harm competition.

An area of particular concern for the Government during negotiations was the treatment of "execution-only" business in the Directive. We believe that it is important to ensure that execution-only business is not compromised by unnecessary regulation. Such business can provide low-cost access to share trading, for example, for a wider range of investors.

During negotiations, the Government successfully ensured that execution-only business will be exempt from full "suitability testing" obligations.

The Government will work hard with the Financial Services Authority to ensure that the provision relating to execution-only business is not implemented in the UK in a way which restricts normal marketing activity or direct offer promotions.

The Investment Services Directive is one of the topics discussed when Treasury Ministers meet members of the financial services industry.

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At official level, the Treasury has frequent contact with representatives of financial services businesses, trade associations and consumer groups. Recent contacts have involved discussions of the potential impact of the Directive on activities including on execution-only sales of financial instruments.

Financial Education

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what tax incentives are available to companies providing free financial education for (a) children and (b) adults; and how these fit into the Government's policy to reduce financial illiteracy. [145710]

Ruth Kelly: There are no specific tax incentives in place aimed at encouraging companies to provide free financial education to children or adults.

Improving basic financial literacy is a key element of the Government's strategy to reduce social and financial exclusion, while tackling over-indebtedness, and promoting saving. We are doing this across government to help people identify and meet their financial needs. Key initiatives include:

We also work closely with the Financial Services Authority, which has rightly taken the lead in developing a national strategy for financial capability.

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