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24 Feb 2004 : Column 385W—continued

Economic Inactivity

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures are in place to address the causes and effects of economic inactivity; and if he will make a statement. [152938]

Mr. Browne: Nearly three quarters of people of working age are in work—not just in one year but year-on-year. High levels of employment are not enough. Active labour market policies ensure people can take advantage of the many job opportunities coming up all the time. This is especially true for those most disadvantaged including the long-term unemployed, lone parents, people with disabilities and older workers.

There are a number of measures in place to tackle the causes of inactivity. For example, where people lose, or risk losing, their jobs due to illness, injury or disability, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is working to help employers, in partnership with their employees, to prevent long term sickness from turning into unemployment.

There are a number of programmes and initiatives aimed at helping people find and remain in work. The New Deal Programmes aim to help different groups of people who have been out of work to move into work or improve their prospects of doing so, through for example job search and skills training. The national minimum wage, tax credits and various other financial incentives ensure that people who do take up opportunities and find work are better off in work.

For example the New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP) available to all lone parents who are not working or working less than 16 hours per week offers lone parents advice with job seeking, training, in-work benefits and child care.

For people on incapacity benefit we are piloting reforms to support a return to work. More information is available in 'Pathways to Work: Helping people in employment; CM 5690'. This sets out the strategy for encouraging and assisting people with health problems and disabilities to return to work, and enable them to become and remain independent and enjoy the personal, social and financial benefits that having a job brings.

More help is also being provided for those who face the greatest barriers to work, for example former drug mis-users, the long-term unemployed and people from

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minority ethnic communities. In particular areas of labour market disadvantage Action Teams provide individually tailored, innovative ways to help jobless people overcome the barriers to work they may face. This might include, for example, debt counselling or help with work clothes and child care costs.

Health and Safety

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place an obligation on companies to publish, within their annual report, a statement containing (a) their health and safety policy and (b) initiatives that have been taken to implement these policies. [155820]

Jacqui Smith: I have been asked to reply.

The Government have no plans to place an obligation on companies to publish within their annual report a statement containing their health and safety policy.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to lift Crown immunity with regards to health and safety legislation. [155821]

Mr. Browne: The requirements of health and safety legislation apply to Crown bodies, but they are immune from statutory health and safety enforcement.

The Government will seek a legislative opportunity, when parliamentary time allows, to remove this immunity.

In the meantime the Health and Safety Executive uses non-statutory arrangements to enforce health and safety requirements in Crown bodies', including censuring Crown bodies in circumstances, where but for Crown immunity, prosecution would have been justified.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the budget was in (a) cash and (b) real terms of the Health and Safety Executive for each year since 1997; and what the forecast budgets for the next three years are. [155822]

Mr. Browne: The annual budgets allocated to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) from 1997–98 to 2005–06 are set out in the table.

HSE's annual budgets
£ million


(7) The budget for HSE in 2006–07 will be confirmed by autumn this year as part of the 2004 spending review exercise.


1. Budget figures are the total amount voted by Parliament to HSE. HSE's budgets up to and including 2000–01 were based on the Grant in Aid (cash) voted to the organisation. From 2001–02, Government replaced 'cash' allocations with Resource Accounting and Budgeting (RAB) arrangements. Under RAB, HSE bids for resources and produces accounts on an accruals basis, which include costs for depreciation, the cost of capital and provisions for liabilities. The 'cash' and 'RAB' figures are not directly comparable.

2. Rounded to the nearest £100k.

3. Following the Cullen Inquiry additional ring-fenced funding was allocated to HSE to spend across years 2002–03 to 2004–05 to improve rail safety. This is not shown in the annual budget figures.

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Post Office Card Accounts

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans the Government has to promote the use of Post Office card accounts in Scotland. [155473]

Mr. Pond: Our nationwide direct payment information campaign has an important role to play in the way we take customers through the associated changes.

When it is their turn to change customers are being provided with all the information they need on all of their "account options". This information lists all the accounts, which can be accessed at post office branches and sets out how to apply for a Post Office card account. It will be for customers themselves to decide which

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account will best meet their needs and circumstances. Any benefit or pension customer who wishes to open a Post Office card account will be able to do so.


Alcohol Duty

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the level of duty is in (a) the UK, (b) France and (c) Spain on (i) beer, (ii) wine and (iii) spirits; [155234]

John Healey: Alcohol duty rates in European Union member states are published in the European Commission's 'Excise Duty Tables—Alcoholic Beverages'. The table gives figures for the UK, Spain and France from the tables published in December 2003, converted to pounds sterling from euros using the average exchange rate for December 2003 as published by the Office for National Statistics in Table 7.1A of "Financial Statistics", and converted to pounds per hectolitre per cent. of alcohol (where necessary) using an approximation of 12.5° Plato to 5 per cent. alcohol by volume (ABV).

SpiritsBeer Still Sparkling
Exciseduty rate£/litre of alcohol£/h/1 per cent. alcoholABV£/hlABV£/hl
>2 per cent. <-4 per cent.48.91>5.5 per cent. <8.5 per cent.  166.70
UK19.6012.22>4 per cent. <-5.5 per cent.67.25
>5.5 per cent. <-15 per cent.158.69>8.5 per cent. <-15 per cent. 220.54
15 per cent. to 22 per cent.211.58

The second table shows the cost in excise duty and VAT revenue forgone if the UK were to apply the excise duty rates applicable in France in December 2003. These figures are derived from the HM Treasury alcohol demand model published in May 2003 1 , which is used to estimate associated effects on demand. This shows that the total cost of equalising excise duty rates for beer, wine and spirits with those in France would be more than £6 billion, equivalent to a 1.5 per cent. increase in the standard rate of VAT or around 2p extra on the basic rate of income tax.

Revenue Forgone

£ billion

1 Further technical details relating to this econometric model can be found in Government Economic Service Working Paper No. 140.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many days on average his Department took in Session 2002–03 to give a substantive answer to a parliamentary question for ordinary written answer; and what the greatest number of days taken to answer such a question was. [155915]

John Healey: In the 2002–03 Session, Treasury Ministers answered ordinary written questions substantively in an average of just under six working days. 2,548 of 3,343 questions concerned (76.2 per cent.) were answered within a week of tabling.

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