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15 Dec 2004 : Column 1090W—continued

Staff Gyms

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many gyms are available to staff in the Department; and what the cost of providing them was in the last year for which figures are available. [204373]

Mr. Timms: Inland Revenue (incorporating the Valuation Office Agency) and HM Customs and Excise have a total of 75 gyms available to staff, of which one is a shared facility with HM Treasury.

Identifying the costs of providing the IR and C&E facilities would incur disproportionate costs. Members' subscriptions to the various civil service sports associations help to fund equipment for use in these facilities.

Management and equipment costs of the shared facility at 1 Horse Guards Road in Westminster are met from membership subscriptions.
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Tax Credits

Tim Loughton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many recipients of working tax credit have been credited for underpayments in the last 12 months and subsequently told that the underpayment recalculations were wrong. [203214]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to my reply to him of 14 October 2004, Official Report, column 347W.

Third World Debt

Mr. Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what representations he has made to (a) G8 and (b) Paris Club Nations on following the UK's lead in paying 10 per cent. of the debt service owed by highly indebted poor countries to the World Bank and African Development Bank; [204277]

(2) whether the UK will pay debt service on behalf of the world's poorest countries to the International Monetary Fund; and if he will make a statement; [204280]

(3) what representations he has made to (a) the International Monetary Fund, (b) the World Bank and (c) regional development banks to (i) cancel debt owed to them by the world's poorest countries and (ii) revalue gold reserves to finance cancellation. [204281]

Mr. Timms: The UK is proposing that the international community—including the G8, Paris Club and the EU—provide up to 100 per cent. relief on the debt owed by poor countries to the World Bank and African Development Bank. In order to avoid reducing aid elsewhere, or running down the resources of the international institutions, this should be funded through new commitments from all donors.

The UK is leading the way by paying its share of debt payments owed to the World Bank and African Development Bank, not just for HIPC countries but for all low income countries, as long as they can ensure debt relief is used for poverty reduction.

The UK will continue to call for the relief on debts owed to the IMF to be funded through more efficient use of IMF gold reserves.

University Donations

Chris Grayling: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his most recent estimate is of the total cost in a year to the Exchequer of tax reliefs provided on donations to universities. [204002]

John Healey [holding answer 13 December 2004]: Universities, along with other charities that are registered with the Inland Revenue, are able to reclaim gift aid on qualifying donations. The amount the charity reclaims is equivalent to approximately 28 per cent. of the value of the donation.

It is not possible to ascertain the amount repaid in gift aid in relation to universities, because Inland Revenue records do not distinguish amounts repaid to charities according to type of charity. The available information relates to all charities and is published in Table 10.2 of Inland Revenue statistics at
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Blue Badge Parking Scheme

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment he has made of the report from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Team on the Blue Badge Parking Scheme; and if he will make a statement; [203668]

(2) what plans he has to reform the Blue Badge Parking Scheme to ensure that (a) local authorities are more circumspect in issuing Blue Badges and (b) there are sufficient disabled parking spaces to accommodate Blue Badge parking holders; [203669]

(3) what steps he is taking to prevent abuse of the Blue Badge Scheme; [203670]

(4) what discussions he has had with local authorities regarding (a) reform of and (b) abuse of the Blue Badge Scheme; [203671]

(5) what plans he has to ensure greater security of the Blue Badge Scheme. [203672]

Charlotte Atkins: The information requested is as follows:

Review of the Blue Badge Scheme

Careful and detailed consideration was given to the report and each of the recommendations made by the Disabled Persons' Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) following the review of the scheme. We accepted the majority of their 47 recommendations.

Work is in hand to take forward the recommendations. Changes need to be made to primary and secondary legislation, further research needs to be carried out and revised guidance issued to local authorities. On the latter, we will be issuing new guidance to local authorities on all aspects of the scheme, including assessment of applications to encourage consistency in the issue of badges.

We have already secured the necessary slots for the primary legislation. We intend to consult on changes to the regulations and draft guidance by spring 2005.


Theft of blue badges and abuse of the Blue Badge Scheme is of concern to the Department. Measures exist to tackle abuse as follows:

We are also taking forward a number of additional enforcement measures following the review. These include an important power for the police, traffic wardens and local authority parking enforcement officers to inspect badges to check details and the photograph of the badge holder. We have already made provision for this in the Traffic Management Act 2004
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and we aim to bring that power into effect by commencement order in the spring next year. This will allow time to produce and consult on the guidance that will be needed by those who will be exercising the new power. We are also looking at the feasibility of establishing a national database of badge holders; the introduction of smartcard technology; increasing penalties for abuse and misuse of the scheme and re-introducing a hologram onto the blue badge as an additional security measure.

Interaction with local authorities

Local authorities were involved throughout the review process and were able to feed in their views and make representations to the Department on all aspects of the scheme. In taking forward the remaining recommendations we will continue to involve and consult local authorities.

Provision of disabled person parking spaces

The provision of parking spaces is a matter for local authorities. They have a wide range of powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to provide parking places, including designated bays for disabled people. The decision to provide such bays is ultimately for the local authority.

Bus and Cycle Lanes

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many miles of new cycle lanes have been provided using public funds since 1997, broken down by local authority; [202770]

(2) how many and what length of (a) bus lanes and (b) cycle lanes have been designated on roads in each of the last 10 years, broken down by local authority. [202771]

Charlotte Atkins: Information on bus and cycle lanes in England for the financial years 2001–02, 2002–03 and 2003–04 is set out in the tables which have been placed in the Libraries of the House. A full set of data for the years required are not available.

The information is provided by local authorities on an annual basis as part of their Annual Performance report on the Local Transport Plans. It is not verified by the Department. Responsibility for the accuracy of the data rests with individual authorities. The data are incomplete and include estimates.

A breakdown of cycle lanes by London borough is not available. TfL estimates that there are approximately 300 km of on-road cycle lanes.

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