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19 Jan 2004 : Column 1022W—continued

Consumer Education

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total cross-government spending is on education for consumers on (a) financial services and (b) consumer credit, broken down by Department. [149449]

Ruth Kelly: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

We are, however, seeking to inform the work of the Financial Capability Steering Group, which informs policy development work by the Financial Services Authority, with a survey of the financial education, information and generic advice work of the principal Departments involved.

Council Tax

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact on council tax increases for 2004–05 of the £406 million announced in the Pre-Budget statement for local authorities in Great Britain. [147714]

Mr. Boateng: The additional £406 million announced by the Chancellor includes £340 million for local authorities in England. This means that, including the additional resources announced at the time of the provisional local government finance settlement, the Government is making an additional £760 million in grant available for local authorities in England, over and above what the last spending review originally allocated. Total Government support next year will total £54.5 billion—up from £50.8 billion for 2003/04 on a like for like basis. That represents an increase, in real terms, of 30 per cent. in central government support since 1997 and is the second year in succession that all authorities have received an above inflation increase in government grant.

Taken together with the further £750 million reduction in ring fencing that we announced in November, the additional support being provided underlines the Government's commitment to ensuring that local authorities can provide decent local services without making excessive demands on local taxpayers.

The Government believes that next year local authorities can and should deliver council tax increases in low single figures. However, decisions on council tax levels are a matter for local authorities, in consultation with their local residents, not for the Government.

Decisions on local government funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the allocation of the additional resources provided by the Chancellor, are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Northern Ireland Executive, reflecting their own priorities and circumstances in the normal way.

Death Statistics

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of suicides in the UK in 2003. [148837]

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Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell to Mrs. Iris Robinson dated 19 January 2004:





Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many drownings there were in the UK in 2003. [148839]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell to Mrs. Iris Robinson dated 19 January 2004:





Economically Inactive Young People

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many economically inactive persons aged 18 to 24 there are; and what the number was in April 1997. [148851]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Colin Mowl to Mr. George Osborne, dated 19 January 2004:




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European Council of Finance Ministers

Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Ecofin meeting on 16 December 2003, including the Government's positions on the different issues discussed. [148614]

Ruth Kelly: The Ecofin meeting scheduled for 16 December 2003 was cancelled by the Italian Presidency.

Financial Services

Mr. Love: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what research has been commissioned on the impact of recent developments in the life assurance and pension industry on the capital structure of organisations offering such services; and if he will make a statement; [148759]

Ruth Kelly: The Financial Services Authority has developed a 'twin peaks' approach to the requirements for capital to support with-profits liabilities. This compares the capital required on a prudent regulatory basis with that needed on a realistic basis to meet payments made to policyholders, including terminal bonuses. The regulator will consider the impact on individual firms, including those that have a mutual structure, and on the industry as part of further development of its reserving proposals.

Mr. Love: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the impact that the Basel II accords on capital adequacy will have on mutual financial organisations; and if he will make a statement. [148760]

Ruth Kelly: The new Basel Accord will be an international agreement on prudential capital, applying mainly to internationally active banks. Implementation of the new Basel Accord in Europe will be through a new Capital Adequacy Directive, which is expected to have a broader scope covering credit institutions and investment firms (as was the case for the implementation of the existing Basel Accord). That broader scope will encompass some mutual organisations, for example building societies, although the detailed boundaries are yet to be determined. The Treasury will assess the European Commissions formal proposals in the usual way once they are issued.

Mr. Love: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what impact he estimates recent changes in the regulatory regime for insurance companies will have on (a) projections of future returns of policy holders and (b) the anticipated benefits of their mutual structure; and if he will make a statement. [148871]

Ruth Kelly: The rules governing projections for policyholders are set out in the Financial Services Authority Handbook under Conduct of Business. It is for individual companies to ensure that their projections are fair and not misleading. Recent changes to introduce

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a new realistic reporting regime are intended to provide the regulator with a better picture of the underlying financial strength of the industry, including mutuals.

Income Tax

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the additional revenue which would be raised from a 1p increase in (a) the standard rate of income tax and (b) the higher rate of income tax; [148711]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer my hon. Friend to the publication "Tax ready reckoner and tax reliefs December 2003" on the Treasury website: http://www. hm-treasury.gov.uk/media//AAB247pbr03 trr.pdf. The figures exclude any estimate of behavioural response to the tax change.


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