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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many calls have been taken on the Stamp Duty Office Helpline in each quarter since 1 December 2003; what the average time taken to answer a call was in each quarter; how many operators on average staff the Helpline at any one time; what plans he has to improve the service; and if he will make a statement. 
|December 2003 (one month only)||38,789|
|Quarter end March 2004||165,057|
|Quarter end June 2004||107,972|
|Quarter end September 2004||110,910|
|Quarter end December 2004||97,450|
|Quarter end March 2005||116,500|
|Quarter end June 2005||115,751|
|Quarter end September 2005||126,648|
HMRC receive many calls to the Helpline on a variety of subjects and call length and time taken to answer varies. There have been delays in answering calls but they are currently answering calls within five minutes. Each call lasts on average between three and four minutes. Staffing levels have varied and figures are not available for the period requested. There are currently approximately 25 to 30 staff on the Helpline each day. Since 1 December 2003 HMRC have constantly monitored the Helpline and made various improvements. In June 2005 a new interactive voice response (IVR) options system was introduced to route calls to the operator most able to assist.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average time taken by the Stamp Duty Office to process submissions was in the last period for which figures are available; and what the average time was immediately before 1 December 2003. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
In November 2003, 29.4 percent. of stamp duty applications were processed within two working days, 50.9 percent. between three and five days and 19.74 percent. over five days. Our August 2005 statistics covering the returns received onto our database show that 71.2 percent. were processed within two working days, 20.2 percent. between three and five days and 8.6 percent. over five days. Once included on our database, our system triggers the printing of certificates or requests for further information at our output handling centre for dispatch to our customers and their agents as appropriate.
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Mike Penning: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on challenges to the (a) stamp duty exemption scheme and (b) business premises renovation allowance under state aid rules. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The European Commission approved the stamp duty exemption scheme for non-residential property in disadvantaged areas as a state aid compatible with the common market on 20 January 2003. Following announcement in Budget 2005, the scheme was ended for property transactions on or after 17 March 2005. The business premises renovation allowance scheme was notified to the European Commission as a state aid in late 2004 and will be introduced once approval has been obtained.
(3) what he has identified as the most significant sustainable development impacts in relation to the operation of his Department's estate pursuant to the framework for sustainable development on the Government Estate; 
John Healey: The Treasury's Sustainable Development Report and Action Plan, which include the Department' s performance against the Framework targets set, were published on the Department's website in March of this year.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will list the meetings at which his Department has been represented regarding the delivery of sustainable development across Government co-ordinated by the Ministerial Sub-committee of Green Ministers; 
John Healey: Following the General Election in May, the Cabinet Sub-Committee of Green Ministers (ENV(G) was replaced by the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Sustainable Development in Government (EE(SD) whose members are departmental Sustainable Development Ministers. I am the Treasury's Sustainable Development Minister.
Treasury Ministers regularly meet a wide range of individuals and organisations as part of the process of policy development and analysis, including on sustainable development and environmental issues. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's usual practice to provide details of all such meetings. Treasury meetings are conducted in accordance with the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Code, as appropriate.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what remit relating to sustainable development is (a) required and (b) undertaken by the bodies for which his Department is responsible; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what regulatory systems are in place to ensure the good governance of Swiss banks operating in the UK; and what systems are in place to ensure they are not used for (a) money-laundering and (b) criminal purposes. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Financial Services Authority regulates all banks operating in the UK and its handbook includes provisions to guard against money laundering. All banks operating in the UK are also subject to the Money Laundering Regulations 2003 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The Government are committed to protecting the tax system against tax avoidance when and where necessary, ensuring that all taxpayers pay their fair share, protecting revenues for essential public services. Since 1997, the Government have taken a series of steps to prevent abuse of the tax system through structural reforms that make the system less vulnerable,
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closing loopholes in the law and improving the way HM Revenue and Customs delivers its compliance function. The Government continue to keep this under review.
Mr. Gauke: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many tax avoidance schemes have been notified to Revenue and Customs to date under Part 7 of the Finance Act 2004 and related regulations; 
(2) what estimate he has made of the tax revenue which has been lost to date as a result of tax avoidance schemes which have been notified to Revenue and Customs under Part 7 of the Finance Act 2004 and related regulations. 
Dawn Primarolo: Up to 30 June 2005 there had been 524 direct tax disclosures under Part 7 of the Finance Act 2004. In some cases substantially the same scheme may have been disclosed more than once by different promoters, but it is not always possible to establish this before investigations into the scheme users' tax returns have been undertaken. The number of promoters who made disclosures in that period is 100. These figures attest to the success of the disclosure rules.
Promoters of schemes are not required to notify HM Revenue and Customs how much tax a scheme is designed to avoid. Moreover, the disclosure rules are designed to help HM Revenue and Customs prevent such loss. The disclosure rules are a success, and disclosures have informed a number of anti-avoidance measures in this year's Finance Bills.
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