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7 Sept 2004 : Column 1193W—continued

Civil Service Relocation

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to relocate civil service staff to the South West of England. [186547]

Mr. Boateng: In line with Sir Michael Lyons' recommendations contained in his report published in March this year and endorsed in the 2004 Spending Review, it will be for Departments and public bodies themselves to determine the destination of relocated activities from London and the South East. Departments' decisions will be based on their own business needs and priorities, taking account of the requirement to improve public services, secure greater efficiencies and value for money for the taxpayer as well as of local economic conditions. Departments will also take into account forthcoming locational guidance that will be issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
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In the course of the Lyons and 2004 Spending Reviews, some Departments, including the Chancellor's Departments and the Department for Work and Pensions, have identified the South West as a possible destination for public sector activity. As you know, the South West has already benefited recently following the significant relocation of the Meteorological Office from the South East to Exeter.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the reasons were for the delay by the Chief Executive of Inland Revenue in answering the letter to him from the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight dated 23 April concerning tax credit. [187507]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue aims to deal with letters from Members of Parliament and members of the public promptly and is targeted to deal with 80 per cent. of letters within 15 days. The Tax Credit Office is on line to achieve this target this year.

Unfortunately, although the Tax Credit Office dealt promptly with the points raised in the hon. Member's letter, there was a long delay in replying to the letter itself because of an oversight. The Tax Credit Office has apologised to the hon. Member for the delay.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) average and (b) upper decile delay by the Inland Revenue is in answering letters about tax credits from (i) hon. Members and (ii) members of the public. [187508]

Dawn Primarolo: This information is not available.

Debt Relief

Mr. Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has made to (a) the International Monetary Fund, (b) the World Bank and (c) the G8 regarding further topping up of highly indebted poor countries debt relief in the event of further oil price or other price shocks. [186785]

John Healey: The HIPC Initiative is delivering real benefits to participating countries. It is providing over $70 billion of debt relief, to the 27 countries that have reached decision point. It is helping increase annual social expenditures in countries receiving debt relief. Total social spending has increased by around $4 billion since 1999—equivalent to 2.7 per cent. of GDP. On average, health and education spending account for 65 per cent. of the use of HIPC debt relief.

But there are countries that are forecast to exit the initiative with debt-to- export ratios above the HIPC target of 150 per cent. because of factors beyond their control. The UK continues to push for additional relief to be granted to all these countries at completion point ('topping up' relief). We successfully campaigned for Niger and Ethiopia to receive such additional relief, resulting in over $800 million in additional relief for two of the world's poorest countries.

At the recent G8 Summit at Sea Island, the UK successfully pushed for Heads of Government to reaffirm their commitment to the provision of topping up relief for eligible countries at completion point. The
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UK also continues to lobby for a change in the topping up methodology to maximise the quantum of topping up relief.

The UK also believes that more must be done beyond the HIPC Initiative to ensure debt sustainability in the world's poorest countries. We are proposing that the international community review further debt relief for the poorest countries, including making better use of IMF gold using a revaluation or off-market transactions, so that, to match bilateral debt relief, which we provide at up to 100 per cent., we can begin to consider how we provide multilateral debt relief of up to 100 per cent. as well.

However, all low-income countries will need additional aid to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is why the UK has called for an examination of possible financing mechanisms to provide up to 100 per cent. multilateral debt relief for HIPCs, and continues to push the International Finance Facility (IFF), which could provide the much- needed substantial increase in aid—in the form of grants, concessional loans, or further debt relief—needed to attain the MDGs without threatening the long-term debt sustainability of the world's poorest countries.

Departmental Performance (Complaints)

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he is taking in response to the comments made by the Parliamentary Ombudsman regarding delays by his Department in responding to complaints under the Code of Practice on access to Government information in her review of departmental performance against requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding published on 30 June; and if he will make a statement. [186661]

Ruth Kelly: The Government takes any delays in responding to complaints under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information seriously.

The Government regrets that delays do unavoidably occur in a minority of complex cases. However, the Ombudsman's review of the first nine months of the Memorandum of Understanding (September 2003—May 2004) shows that in most cases the requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding were met.

In all cases, Departments endeavour to ensure that the time limit of three weeks for departments to respond to a "statement of complaint" from the Ombudsman is met. In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding, Departments aim to enter into dialogue with the investigating officer should there be any difficulty in replying by the date set by the Ombudsman.

Employment Statistics

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the change in numbers in employment was in each industrial sector in (a) 2002, (b) 2003 and (c) 2004, broken down by (i) sector, (ii) private sector and (iii) self-employment in each (A) region and (B) county. [186832]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.
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Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Cousins, dated 7 September 2004:

Financial Inclusion Fund

Mr Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will outline his plans for a financial inclusion fund referred to at paragraph 5.28 of the 2004 Spending Review; whether it will cover Leeds, West; where it will be piloted; what support the fund will provide to credit unions; and if he will make a statement. [186777]

Ruth Kelly: Further details of the Financial Inclusion Fund, announced in the 2004 Spending Review White Paper to support initiatives to tackle financial exclusion, will be published later in the year

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