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20 Jan 2004 : Column 1113W—continued

Household Incomes

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the income thresholds were for each decile of the household income distribution in (a) 1997–98 and (b) the most recent available 12-month period. [149640]

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

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Jim Cousins dated 20 January 2004:

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Income decile1997–982001–02


Office for National Statistics, based on the analysis 'The effects of taxes and benefits on household income', published on the National Statistics website and in Economic Trends.

Inland Revenue

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to produce an Inland Revenue leaflet covering all the Inland Revenue help available for those with special needs. [148385]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue are researching the most appropriate methods, including leaflets, of effectively publicising the help available to those with special needs and have been working closely with the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group.

Ministerial Meetings

Keith Vaz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met (a) Sir Eddie George and (b) Mr. Brian Quinn. [149497]

Ruth Kelly: Ministers and civil servants have meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals as part of the process of policy development and analysis. As with previous Administrations, it is not this Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings. All such contacts are conducted in accordance with the Ministerial Code, the Civil Service Code and Guidance for Civil Servants: Contacts with Lobbyists, as appropriate.

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National Savings

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his plans for the National Savings Ordinary Account as they effect (a) existing and (b) potential new account holders. [149483]

Ruth Kelly: National Savings and Investments will shortly launch a new savings account in response to changing customer needs. The new account will replace the Ordinary Account, which was introduced in 1861 and has not kept pace with changes in the savings market. The Ordinary Account is expensive to run and therefore only offers modest returns to savers.

The new account has been designed to meet these changing customer needs and will be straightforward and simple to operate, offering customers greater flexibility in the way they manage their savings. They will be able to make deposits at post offices, by telephone and by post and they will be given an account card which will allow cash withdrawals at post offices or ATMs in the LINK network. This means the new savings account will be cheaper to run compared to the Ordinary Account and the savings will be passed onto the customer in the form of better interest rates.

The new savings account will be available on 29 January 2004 and new Ordinary Accounts will not be available after 28 January 2004. In order to give existing Ordinary Account customers plenty of time to consider what to do with their savings, they will be able to continue using their account in the normal way until 31 July 2004. After that date, no further deposits can be made and any withdrawal will have to be for the full balance to close the account. In the meantime, National Savings and Investments will be writing to Ordinary Account customers explaining their options, including information about the new account and a simple transfer form for those wishing to transfer their savings into the new account.

Public Expenditure

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last conducted a needs-based review of public expenditure levels in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland. [149454]

Mr. Boateng: Public expenditure of UK Government Departments has been reviewed in each spending review. The funding for the Devolved Administrations has been determined using the Barnett formula. Details were published in the Statement of Funding Policy in July 2002.

Spirits (Duty)

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful prosecutions there were for evading duty on spirits in the most recent year for which figures are available. [147324]

John Healey [holding answer 12 January 2004]: In 2002–03, there were 24 prosecutions for evading duty on spirits. Of these, 21 were successful and three were unsuccessful.

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Additionally, 62 prosecutions were brought for cases involving the evasion of duty on mixed excise goods, some of which may have included spirits.

Figures for the current and future years will be reported on an annual basis by HM Customs and Excise in their Annual Report.

Statutory Sick Pay

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people employed in his Department have claimed statutory sick pay for (a) less than one week, (b) one to three weeks, (c) four to six weeks, (d) seven to 12 weeks, (e) 13 to 20 weeks and (f) 21 to 28 weeks in each year since 1997. [148622]

Ruth Kelly: The information is not available and could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.

The Treasury, Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise pay full pay for six months and a further six months at half pay for staff who are absent due to sickness. SSP is paid only when employees are not receiving full pay. SSP is paid for up to 28 weeks.

There are very few payments of SSP made due to the sick absence scheme we operate.


Flying (Health)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the implications for human health of travelling in passenger aircraft at altitudes in excess of 30,000 feet. [148588]

Mr. McNulty: Although scheduled passenger aircraft routinely fly at altitudes of between 30,000 and 37,000 feet, the cabin is pressurised to the equivalent of between 6,000 and 8,000 feet to compensate for the reduction in atmospheric pressure. The Government are actively examining the effects of air travel on the health of passengers, notably in relation to the incidence of deep vein thrombosis and cabin air quality. In conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Radiological Protection Board, the Department has also issued advice on limiting airline crew's exposure to cosmic radiation in accordance with Article 42 of Council Directive 96/29/Euratom.

Shipping (Accidents)

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) injuries and (b) fatalities there were caused by accidents involving personal transfer baskets used in British waters in each year since 1997. [148501]

Mr. Jamieson: The Marine Accident Investigation Branch of DfT has no record of injuries caused by accidents involving transfer baskets used in British waters since 1997.

Air Transport

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what advice he received from the National Air Traffic Service on the feasibility of the proposals

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contained in the White Paper on "The Future of Air Transport" (a) prior to publication of the White Paper and (b) subsequently; [149044]

Mr. Darling: The studies that preceded "The Future of Air Transport" included a high-level assessment of airspace issues by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the body responsible for the planning and regulation of UK airspace, and National Air Traffic Services (NATS). This work concluded that the necessary airspace capacity could, in broad terms, be provided safely through the redesign of airspace and the introduction of enhanced air traffic techniques and systems. Copies of the relevant report have been placed in the House Libraries. Both organisations also responded to the consultation that preceded the White Paper. In their response, NATS supported the need for new runways in the South East and expressed a preference for development at existing airports.

Paragraphs 12.25–12.27 of "The Future of Air Transport" set out the Government's expectation that the CAA will make early progress in bringing forward a programme of work, involving other key bodies including NATS, for the redesign of airspace to accommodate forecast growth in air traffic.

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