The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr. David Miliband): I am pleased to announce that today the Cabinet Office is launching its new "Public Bodies' Database", to replace the previous annual publication. It can be found on the Civil Service website at:
The database lists the public bodies sponsored by central government, with contact details, information about their remit and about the membership of their boards. The figures are broken down between male and female members for individual bodies, and summaries are provided at departmental level for the proportions of board members who have declared they have a disability or come from a minority ethnic background.
The database also includes information about the government's taskforces, ad-hoc advisory groups and reviews, giving a more complete picture of the bodies and groups working to deliver the Government's objectives.
Initially it contains data as at 31 March 2004, consistent with previous years' publications. A selection of statistical reports is available now, and enhanced reports will become available in due course. Users who wish to print out an individual record will be able to do so using standard internet print facilities. We will place a complete printout of the database contents in the parliamentary Libraries as soon as the full range of data is available and validated; and make a portable document format (.pdf) file of that available for public download from the website.
A recent decision by the special commissioners on the detailed application of the double taxation rules has the effect of putting a significant amount of tax at risk. The Government are taking action from today to ensure that tax is not lost through avoidance schemes that would seek to exploit the decision. Today's announcement will
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only apply to those who take part in deliberate tax avoidance. This action will not affect those who conduct their affairs on normal commercial principles.
From today, tax avoidance schemes that are put in place deliberately to create foreign tax credits to reduce total tax liabilities will be blocked. The amount of credit for any foreign tax paid on or after today's date will be limited to the amount of UK tax on the profits (if any) arising from the transactions making up the avoidance scheme.
A number of avoidance schemes have been disclosed to the Inland Revenue which aim to generate capital losses using corporate capital redemption bonds. From today, where one of these bonds is disposed of by a company, no capital loss can arise.
Further disclosures under the new disclosure rules introduced in the Finance Act 2004 mean that the Government will close a loophole which allows certain losses to be carried forward despite the obvious intention of Parliament that they should not be. From today, where there is a change in ownership of a company that would otherwise cause the loss buying rules to operate, any non-trading loss on debt allocated to the period ending before the change will not be carried forward to a post-change period.
Legislation will be included in the Finance Bill to stop these avoidance schemes. Further details about each of the proposals and draft clauses which cover corporate capital redemption bonds and the loss buying changes are available on the Inland Revenue website.
This order reflects The Electoral Commission's recommendations of 12 January 2005 on the maximum amounts of candidates' election expenses at a parliamentary general election in the United Kingdom and at local government elections in England and Wales, as detailed in their report: "Variation of election expenses limits for candidates at UK parliamentary and local government elections".
The recommendations have been agreed by both the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and the First Secretary of State in respect of their separate and distinct responsibilities for electoral matters. The Department for Constitutional Affairs broadly takes responsibility for national issues, in particular parliamentary and European parliamentary elections. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister broadly takes responsibility for local election matters.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): At Defence Questions on 29 November 2004, Official Report, column 354, I announced that the Ministry of Defence would investigate the rejections of war pension cases referred to by Lord Lloyd of Berwick in his report into Gulf veterans' illnesses which was published on 17 November 2004.
One of the recommendations referred to: "Some 272 claimants who have had their claims rejected [and] should have those claims reviewed in the light of this report". Of these cases, more than half related to diagnosed disorders such as traumatic physical injuries, low back pain, or coronary disease which we would expect to find in any group of service personnel and which certainly do not relate to anything that might be construed as a "Gulf war illness". This investigation therefore concentrated on the remaining 100 or so cases that may or do relate to Gulf veterans' illnesses.
This work is now complete and revealed some form of irregularity in six of the 110 cases. Otherwise, procedures on claims, reviews and appeals have been properly followed, and the outcomes reflect the evidence and contemporary understanding, and would not have been affected by subsequent developments in the understanding of symptoms and illnesses occurring amongst Gulf veterans. In considering the rate of irregularities, account needs to be taken of the complexity of many claims from Gulf veterans, often involving multiple conditions or symptoms and repeated requests for the addition of further conditions.
One involved a procedural error, involving failure to implement a decision that the individual was suffering from an illness attributable to service in the Gulf. Arrangements are being made to pay the arrears as soon as is practicable.
In all these cases, the relevant decisions are being formally reviewed and will be notified to the claimant, with an appropriate notice of award or rejection. Any decision taken on review will carry a full right of appeal.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin):
Following an open competition which attracted a strong field of applicants, I am pleased to advise the House of the appointment of eight new members and the reappointment of two members to the National Employer Advisory Board (NEAB).
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They join the other five members of the board, which is chaired by the noble Lord Glenarthur, and which continues to provide appropriate support in conjunction with the SaBRE campaign to reservists and their employers. I take this opportunity to thank NEAB for its work which is very much appreciated by the Ministry of Defence.
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