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2 Dec 2004 : Column 199W—continued


John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans his Department has to fund the establishment and maintenance of the Central Point of Expertise on Timber. [201144]

Charlotte Atkins: The Department supports and welcomes the creation of a Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) which would provide much needed
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advice to suppliers and purchasers of timber. However, as a result of budget constraints, we are unable to provide funds towards its establishment although we expect to pay for its services when it has been created.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to how many written questions tabled in the last parliamentary session his Department had been unable to provide a substantive answer before the end of the session. [199645]

Charlotte Atkins: The effective handling of parliamentary questions is an issue to which I, and ministerial colleagues, attach great importance.

At all times Ministers make every effort to answer questions substantively before Prorogation. However this is not always possible. One question did not receive a substantive response before the House prorogued on Thursday 18 November. It is open to the hon. Member to re-table the question this session.


Band Aid (VAT)

Mr. Burns: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will authorise payment of a grant to the charity Band Aid equivalent to the sum to be paid in VAT by the end of the 2004–05 tax year from the sales of their new song. [201255]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer the Chancellor gave on 8 November 2004, Official Report, column 509W to the hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mrs. Lawrence)

Civil Service Jobs (Middlesbrough)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what change there will be in civil service jobs in Middlesbrough as a result of the merger of Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue. [201500]

Dawn Primarolo: We are currently working on detailed plans on where staff reductions will arise but it is still too early to say what effect the changes will have on any particular location.
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Economic Policies (Lewisham, Deptford)

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures he has introduced to improve the financial position of (a) parents and (b) pensioners in the Lewisham, Deptford constituency; and how many recipients there were of such measures in (i) 2001 and (ii) 2004. [201098]

Mr. Timms: Changes to the tax and benefit system made by this Government mean that, compared to the 1997 system:

in 2004–05 families with children are, on average, £1,350 per year better off and families in the poorest fifth of the population are, on average, £3,000 per year better off. These improvements have been delivered in particular through increased child benefit and the introduction of tax credits. In 2001, 11,280 families in Lewisham Deptford benefited from the increases in child benefit, 1,729 working families also benefited from working families tax credit or disabled person's tax credit and 3,700 non-working families benefited from the child allowances in income support and jobseeker's allowance. In 2004, 10,915 families benefited from child benefit, of these 6,000 also benefited from more than the family element of child tax credit and 1,800 benefited from the family element of child tax credit.

the average pensioner household was £11 per week better off in 2001–02 and is £26 per week better off in 2004–05. A key part of this has been financial support offered to the poorest pensioners by pension credit, introduced in October 2003. 3,200 pensioners in Lewisham Deptford are currently benefiting from pension credit with an average award of £57.30 a week.

Child Tax Credits/Benefits

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to apportion (a) child tax credits and (b) child benefits to non-resident parents. [201506]

Dawn Primarolo: Child benefit and child tax credit are awarded to the person with main responsibility for a child. Parents may choose which of them will receive the payments, but if no agreement is reached the Board of the Inland Revenue is responsible for determining entitlement, based on the facts of each case. There is no provision to allow the splitting of payments.

The Government have an ambitious long-term goal to eradicate child poverty by 2020, and have a PSA target to halve it by 2010. To meet this challenging target it is necessary to focus financial support in a way which enables the parent with main responsibility for the child to provide for the child's needs. Child poverty groups support this approach. Splitting tax credits and benefits could have far reaching risks and consequences. The Government will continue to listen to parents and representative groups about the best way to support families with children.

Public Spending

Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will make a statement on the change in public spending between 1997 and 2004. [201290]

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Mr. Boateng: Annex B of the 2004 Pre-Budget Report contains the latest historical series on total managed expenditure, including figures for 1996–97 and 2003–04.


Norman Lamb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the refurbishment projects that (a) are in progress and (b) will start in the next six months; what action is being taken to ensure that these will procure timber from legal and sustainable sources; whether guidance will be issued to contractors on each of these projects to ensure that the timber used on site during refurbishment also comes from legal and sustainable sources. [200724]

Mr. Timms: HM Treasury has no current or planned refurbishment projects which involve the procurement of timber.

The Inland Revenue, HM Customs and Excise and Valuation Office Agency outsourced works including refurbishments to a private company, Mapeley, in April 2001 under a 20-year contract. The Department's only current and planned refurbishment works are part of the Mapeley STEPS contract and are given as follows.

Due to the size of the estate, works have been grouped rather than giving line by line property data.
Number of projects
Roofs/windows doors6
Electrical and Mechanical5
H and S works/security and statutory compliance14
General building works82
Internal re-decoration/floorings blinds5
Planned to commence during next six months
Roofs/windows doors18
Electrical and Mechanical8
H and S works/security and statutory compliance14
General building works54
Internal re-decoration/floorings blinds35

The STEPS contract requires Mapeley and all contractors used by them, to comply with various environmental requirements, specifically that they must ensure all procurement follows environmental procurement guidelines (PUG 177/97). Further to this they must ensure all wood is from an independently verified sustainable source and must support the Government's vision of sustainable development. Contractors are required by contract to use timber on site during refurbishment from legal and sustainable sources. Lifecycle plans for other departmental PFI contracts are currently being compiled, all such contracts are bound by the same government guidance.
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Tax Credits

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place a copy of the results of his exercise to establish the extent of fraud and error in provisional new tax credit awards for 2003–04 in the Library. [201581]

Dawn Primarolo: Claimants have until 31 January to report 2003–04 incomes and finalise their 2003–04 awards. The extent of any non-compliance in 2003–04 tax credits awards can only be estimated when all such awards have been finalised.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many TC840 forms for requesting reconsideration of recovery of tax credits have been sent out during the current tax year. [201574]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer my right hon. Friend to my answer to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 19 October 2004, Official Report, column 666W.

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