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Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people he estimates faced combined marginal tax and benefit deduction rates of (a) over 50 per cent., (b) over 60 per cent. and (c) over 70 per cent. in (i) 199697, (ii) 200304 and (iii) 200405; what estimate he has made of the figures for 200506; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: Forward-looking estimates of numbers of working households facing high marginal deduction rates have been published each year in the Budget and pre-Budget reports. Each estimate is based on the best information and methodology available at the time, but the numbers published in different reports are not necessarily comparable.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost of reducing marginal deduction rates for taxes and benefits to 50 per cent. or less for all those on tax credits; and if he will make a statement. 
Marginal deductions rates depend on the combined impact of income tax, national insurance contributions, tax credits, housing benefit,
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council tax benefit and, for some people working fewer than 16 hours a week, also on income support and jobseeker's allowance. It is not possible to calculate the cost of guaranteeing that nobody receiving tax credits faced marginal deductions rates above a particular level without making detailed assumptions on changes to each of these factors.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will re-state Table 4.2, page 88, of the November 2004 pre-Budget report (Cmnd 6408) to include figures for the marginal deduction rates of over 50 per cent. and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: The table shows estimates of the numbers facing marginal deduction rates (MDRs) in excess of 50 per cent:
|Before budget 1998||200506 system of tax and benefits|
Figures are cumulative. This table shows marginal deduction rates for working households in receipt of income related benefits or tax credits, where at least one person works 16 hours or more a week and where higher earnings would lead to reduced benefits or tax credits. They include the marginal effects of income tax and national insurance contributions, and the withdrawal of housing benefit and council tax benefit.
This analysis does not take into account the way in which the new tax credits will respond to rises in income. The new tax credits only respond to rises in income in the current year of more than £2,500, disregarding the first £2,500 of any risk. This means that recipients will not see their tax credits reduced as soon as their income rises, so reducing the effective marginal deduction in any one year.
As a result of the Government's reforms, almost half a million fewer low-income households now face marginal deduction rates in excess of 70 per cent. than did so in April 1998. The increase in the number of households facing marginal deduction rates of between 40 and 70 per cent. is primarily due to the introduction of tax credits, and more recently the extension of support to workers aged 25 or over without children.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many individuals in the Province were receiving (a) disability living allowance, (b) incapacity benefit and (c) severe disablement allowance in the last period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Spellar: The figures shown in the following table are the payload of the benefits requested. That is those who are receiving benefit, this excludes people with entitlement where payment has been suspended for example, because they are in hospital.
|Benefit||Date||Number of people|
|Disability living allowance||November 2004||164,067|
|Incapacity benefit||August 2004||70,608|
|Severe disablement allowance||August 2004||13,189|
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average time taken by the Northern Ireland Child Support Agency is in respect of new applications under the new child support scheme to (a) acknowledge applications for child support, (b) issue maintenance enquiry forms to non-resident parents, (c) issue an interim maintenance assessment and (d) issue a final maintenance assessment; and if he will provide disaggregated figures to show the respective performance of the (i) Northern Ireland operations and (ii) Eastern Business Unit. 
Mr. Spellar: It has not been Child Support Agency practice to acknowledge receipt of applications because of the sheer volume of material and its constantly changing nature. I have asked my officials in the Northern Ireland Child Support Agency to consider whether some form of acknowledgement would be practicable.
Information on the average time taken to issue maintenance enquiry forms to non-resident parents is not held. Again I have asked my officials in the Northern Ireland Child Support Agency to review the adequacy of management information.
Under the new child support scheme there are no interim maintenance assessments. The average time taken for a case to reach calculation is 15 weeks for Northern Ireland cases and 20 weeks for Eastern Business Unit.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many telephone calls were made to the customer help line of (a) the Eastern Business Unit and (b) the Northern Ireland Operations of the Northern Ireland Child Support Agency (i) in 200304 and (ii) in 200405 to date; and how many such calls were abandoned. 
Mr. Spellar: The information is as follows:
In 200304 around 770,000 telephone calls were received in the part of the Child Support Agency's national helpline that is situated in Belfast. Many of these calls represent the same customer redialling because of delays in making a connection. In 200304 around 350,000 of these calls were abandoned. We
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considered this performance unacceptable and invested additional resources in the National Helpline. The year-to-date figures for 200405 are around 800,000 received and around 170,000 abandoned. Against the Agency's target of no more than 20 per cent. of telephone calls to be abandoned" Eastern Business Unit's year to date performance is 20.19 per cent. Work is continuing in this area to further improve performance.
In 200304 there were around 86,000 telephone calls to the Northern Ireland customer help line and around 15,000 abandoned calls. The year to date number of calls in 200405 is around 87,000 and the number of abandoned calls is around 14,500. Against the Agency target of no more than 20 per cent. of telephone calls to be abandoned" the Northern Ireland year to date performance is 16.8 per cent.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much has been spent on congestion (a) charges and (b) penalty charge notices by the Department since the commencement of the congestion charging scheme. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: The Northern Ireland Office (excluding its agencies and NDPBs) has spent the following since the commencement of the congestion charging scheme:
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many vacancies there are in community dentistry in the Province. 
Angela Smith: Information requested is provided in the table.
|Medical Technical Officer 3||1||0.80|
|Senior Dental Nurse(48)||2||2.00|
|Senior Dental Officer||2||1.30|
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