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21 Mar 2005 : Column 545W—continued

Departmental Teams

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) purpose and (b) functions of his Department's (i) local government team, (ii) housing and urban team and (iii) devolved countries and regions team are; and how many civil servants are employed in each. [220907]

Mr. Boateng: The purpose of all three teams is to work with ODPM, the devolved Administrations, regional institutions and local government to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of the public services they deliver consistent with agreed spending plans.

Domiciliary Care Workers (Leicester)

Mr. Gill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of unregistered paid domiciliary care workers in (a) Leicester and (b) Leicester, South in each year since 1997. [222195]

Mr. Timms: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Colin Mowl to Mr. Parmjit Singh Gill, dated 21 March 2005:

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Number of care workers(4) resident in the unitary authority of Leicester and Leicester, South parliamentary constituency

12 months ending
February each year
Leicester unitary authorityLeicester, South parliamentary constituency

(4)Care workers include care assistants and home carers only.
These estimates are based on very small sample sizes and are subject to a very high degree of sampling variability. Changes from year to year, especially, should be treated with caution.
ONS—Labour Force Survey


Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1)what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held on 17 February; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement; [218157]

(2) what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held on 8 March; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [221266]

Mr. Gordon Brown: At ECOFIN on Thursday 17 February Council Opinions on the Stability and Convergence programmes for Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Finland were all adopted.

The Council adopted a decision under Article 104(9) of the Treaty recommending measures for Greece to correct its excessive deficit. The Council extended the 2005 deadline to 2006. The Council welcomed the commitment of Greek authorities to continue with their fiscal consolidation effort.

Commissioner Almunia outlined the key components of the Commission's Strategy on Fiscal Statistics (adopted last December), which includes the building of the legal framework, improving the operational capacities of the relevant Commission services, and establishing European standards on the independence of national statistical institutes for the fulfilment of their mission. Conclusions were adopted.

Discussion of Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) reform options took place, on both the preventative arm and the corrective arm of the SGP. The UK highlighted that proper account needed to be taken of the economic cycle, of debt sustainability and of public investment.

An orientation debate was held on European Economic Reform ahead of the Spring European Council on 22 and 23 March 2005. Three items were discussed: draft Council Conclusions following the Commission's Implementation report on the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs); a Key Issues Paper put forward by the Presidency; and the Commission's Spring Report on the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy. The Conclusions on the BEPGs were adopted. The UK supported the Commission's call
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for a renewed focus on growth and jobs. The Presidency concluded that the momentum for the Lisbon Strategy had to be maintained, jobs and growth should be prioritised as Europe's relative performance is weak; and Lisbon National Action Programmes were important for increasing the implementation of reforms.

On Financial Perspectives for the period 2007–13 the Presidency set out a work programme with a view to political agreement in June.

At ECOFIN on Tuesday 8 March Council opinions on the Convergence Programmes for Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia and the UK and on the Stability Programme of Spain were all agreed.

A Recommendation (Article 104.7) to Hungary to correct its excessive deficit was agreed.

The Council examined the principle elements for reform of the Stability and Growth pact ahead of the Spring European Council on 22 and 23 March 2005. Further discussion is planned at a meeting of Ministers on 20 March 2005.

In the context of the Lisbon economic reform agenda, ECOFIN adopted its Key Issues Paper in preparation for European Council on 22 and 23 March 2005.

The Commission outlined the key points of member states' Annual Contributions to the Growth Initiative and informed Ministers that the European Investment Bank (EIB) would be undertaking a mid-term Review of the Initiative by 2007. Council conclusions were adopted. The Commission informed the Council that the Communication on Better Regulation would be published on 16 March. As part of this, the Commission indicated that the pilot projects on reducing the administrative burdens on businesses would be completed this year. I reiterated the need for the pilot phase to be completed by September and the Commission undertook to consider this.

The Council adopted Guidelines for the 2006 Budgetary Procedure and a Recommendation for Discharge of the 2003 EC Budget.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many occasions the UK Government have reported (a) fraud and (b) other irregularities to the European Anti Fraud Office in the last five years. [222389]

Mr. Timms: The United Kingdom has reported irregularities, which includes fraud, on a quarterly basis to the European Commission and the European Anti Fraud Office, as required under Regulations 1150/2000, as amended by Regulation 2028/2004 (Own Resources), 595/91 (Agriculture) and 1681/94 (Structural Funds). Details of the amounts involved and the number of cases can be found in the European Commission's annual Fight against Fraud" reports. The report, and its annexes, for 2003 was published on 30 August 2004.


Mr. Greenway: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the cost implications for general insurance policies arising from
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the recent European Court of Justice decision that outsourced services in the insurance industry do not qualify for VAT exemption. [222943]

Mr. Timms: HM Customs and Excise and HM Treasury officials are currently examining the European Court of Justice's decision in detail and discussing with industry representatives its likely impact on the insurance industry.


Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) of 31 January 2005, Official Report, columns 597–98W, what his most recent estimate is of how much has been transferred from the reserve to cover the costs of UK involvement in Iraq. [221203]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 10 March 2005]: In Budget 2003 the Chancellor set aside £3 billion as a special reserve to cover the cost of military operations in Iraq. £1 billion was drawn down by the Ministry of Defence in the spring supplementary estimate for 2002–03.

In the 2003 pre-Budget report, the Government carried forward the £2 billion unallocated special reserve into 2003–04 and added a further £500 million in 2003–04. £300 million was also added in 2004–05 as a prudent allowance against continuing commitments in Iraq and elsewhere in the war against terrorism. A further £520 million for the special reserve in 2004–05 was announced by the Chancellor in the 2004 pre-Budget report.

The Ministry of Defence drew down £1,539 million in the 2003–04 winter and spring supplementary estimates and £950 million in the 2004–05 spring supplementary estimate for the costs of military operations in Iraq.

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