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3 Feb 2005 : Column 1051W—continued

Welfare to Work

16. Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his assessment is of the effectiveness of welfare to work policies. [213430]

Mr. Boateng: This Government's labour market policies—including New Deal and a successful macro-economic framework—have seen 2 million more people in work since 1997, real advances in skills and training, and a tax benefit system that ensures that work pays.

International Finance Facility

18. Mike Gapes: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made in representations to the IMF and World Bank on the international finance facility. [213432]

Mr. Timms: Good progress has been made in promoting the International Finance Facility (IFF) with other governments, international institutions, the business community, NGOs and faith groups. It now has the support of all the European members of the G7—the UK, France, Italy and Germany—as well as Sweden, which recently announced its support, and almost 50 emerging market and developing countries. In their recent reports on the IFF, the World Bank and the IMF have stated that the IFF is technically feasible" and the most advanced proposal to frontload aid".
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20. Mr. Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect of the level of taxation on the state of the economy. [213434]

Dawn Primarolo: Since 1997 the Government have consistently delivered macroeconomic stability with strong growth and low inflation, thus establishing a track record that has been internationally acknowledged. The Government's approach to taxation balances the need to finance better quality public services, deliver fairness and promote sustainable development and economic activity while at the same time ensuring that the UK benefits from the advantages of being a lightly taxed economy.

Tax Credit Overpayment

22. Sir Archy Kirkwood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the current level of tax credit overpayment. [213436]

Dawn Primarolo: Overpayments of tax credits are established after the end of the tax year, when final income and circumstances for the previous year are known and the award can be finalised.

Analysis of the numbers of families with over or underpayments for 2003–04 and the values of these cannot be known until all awards have been finalised. For families who previously provided estimates the deadline for reporting final 2003–04 income was 31 January 2005. All awards can now be finalised. Statistics on over and underpayments will be published in spring 2005 under National Statistics.

Small Shops

23. Dr. Pugh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will reduce the tax burden on small shops. [213437]

Dawn Primarolo: This Government's commitment to small businesses has been clearly demonstrated by our actions—we have:

The integrated HMRC will be working to minimise compliance burdens on small businesses by improving the service they offer.

But every profitable business must pay its fair share of tax.

Government Staffing Levels

24. Mr. Mackay: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the influence of central Government staffing levels on the level of taxation. [213438]

Mr. Boateng: The Government have delivered sustained increases in public spending in order to deliver significant improvements in public services. As part of
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this, we expect to see an increase in the size of the front line service delivery work force—in particular for key public services like health and education.

As part of the Government's Efficiency Programme, Departments are implementing reductions in civil service posts, with extra resources being focused on the front line.

The 2004 Spending Review set administration cost limits for Departments which will reduce central Government running costs as a proportion of total spending to a record low.

25. Angela Watkinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect of public spending increases on levels of central Government staffing. [213439]

Mr. Boateng: Government are committed to increased investment in health, education and criminal justice services, allowing for up to 250,000 new staff by 2008 to help deliver these key front line services. At the same time, the Government remain committed to achieving over £20 billion of efficiency savings, as identified by the Gershon Review. In all, this will lead to a gross reduction of 84,000 civil service administrative and support posts across UK Government Departments.

Stolen Assets

Ms Drown: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department is planning to ensure that assets stolen from poor countries, held in bank accounts abroad, are returned. [213435]

Mr. Timms: The Government will continue to play a leading role in promoting high international standards, aimed at increasing financial transparency and accountability worldwide.

These efforts include strong support for robust anti-money laundering standards to help identify and report the proceeds of corruption; technical assistance aimed at building capacity in developing countries to tackle corruption; and domestic measures to identify and recover the proceeds of crime.

Civil Servants

John Thurso: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many civil servants have (a) been relocated and (b) been agreed for relocation in the last 12 month; and to which areas of the United Kingdom, broken down by Department. [213273]

Mr. Boateng: The Chancellor announced progress towards relocation targets in the pre-Budget report in December 2004. Further progress will be announced in Budget 2005. The destination of relocations away from London and the south east is a matter for individual departmental business plans.


Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to answer the letter of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, dated 17 January, regarding the tax credits of his constituents, Mr and Mrs Newnes. [213520]

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Dawn Primarolo: I understand that the Inland Revenue will be writing to my right hon. Friend shortly. They aim to reply to 80 per cent. of correspondence within 15 working days, and 95 per cent. within 40 working days.

The Revenue have not been able to deal with all customers' queries about their tax credit overpayments as quickly as they would have liked. Each case has to be reviewed on Its own merits and this inevitably takes some time. However, the Department have recently increased the staff deployed on this work and streamlined their procedures.

Education Expenditure

Linda Gilroy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received on spending plans for education. [213431]

Mr. Boateng: The Government regularly receive representations on spending plans for education.

This Government are taking forward a programme of high investment in education and skills. From being £36 billion in 1996–97, the education and skills budget for the UK stands at £63 billion in 2004–05, and is set to rise to £76 billion by 2007–08.

Health Expenditure

Mr. McCabe: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his estimates for projected levels of public expenditure on health. [213428]

Mr. Boateng: As a result of the Government's policy in successive spending reviews, by 2008 public expenditure on health will have risen by 90 per cent. in real terms since 1997, to nearly £110 billion across the United Kingdom. That is the biggest-ever sustained increase in national health service funding.

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