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12 Dec 2005 : Column 1789W—continued

Pensions Commission

Lorely Burt: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the public expenditure implications of the proposals in the Pensions Commission's second report; and if he will make a statement. [35625]

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the affordability of the pension proposals made in the second report of the Pensions Commission; and if he will make a statement. [35695]

Mr. Des Browne: I refer the hon. Members to the answer given by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) on 8 December 2005, Official Report, column 1445W.
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Rent Costs

Mr. Weir: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how much was paid by his Department in 2004–05 in rent for properties in (a) total, (b) each (i) region and (ii) nation of the UK and (c) London. [35893]

John Healey: The Treasury paid £456,000 in rent in 2004–05, all for properties in London.

Self-invested Personal Pensions

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he plans (a) to prohibit investment by self-invested personal pensions directly into a residential property, (b) to prohibit such investments if they are for personal use and (c) to allow such investment only through an institutional fund. [36262]

Mr. Des Browne: The Chancellor announced at the pre-Budget report (PBR) that self invested personal pensions (SIPPs) and all other forms of self-directed pensions will be prohibited from obtaining tax advantages when investing in residential property, and certain other assets from April 6 2006.

The Government remain committed to encouraging investment in a range of assets as part of pensions saving and is therefore minded to allow SIPPs to invest in genuinely diverse commercial vehicles that hold residential property, such as the proposed UK Real Estate Investment Trust model (UK-REIT) that was outlined at PBR.

Adam Price: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the chronology was for the development of Government policy in relation to the use of self-invested pension schemes for investment in residential property over the last five years; [36074]

(2) how many (a) Treasury and (b) HM Revenue and Customs staff have worked on the new residential self-invested personal pension proposal over the last four years, broken down by grade; [36062]

(3) what assessment he has made on the likely effect of the changes to self-invested personal pensions announced in the pre-Budget report on (a) take-up and (b) anticipated cost of tax revenue contained in the relevant Regulatory Impact Assessment [36067]

Mr. Des Browne [holding answer 8 December 2005]: Like all policy developments, announcements on pension tax simplification have been made in pre-Budget reports and Budgets and a number of Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs staff have worked on the policy, The Regulatory impact Assessment focused on the impact of pension tax simplification of which self-invested personal pensions are only a small part.

Silent Calls

John Hemming: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 30 November 2005, Official Report, column 525W, on silent calls, what estimate the Inland Revenue made in 2004–05 of the number of silent calls made from its offices and those of its contractors using predictive dialler technology. [35054]

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Dawn Primarolo: Full information is not available on the number of calls where contact was made but operators were not available and it is therefore not possible to make meaningful estimates.

HMRC recognises that silent calls can cause people concern which is why, when using an outbound dialler, a caller line identity is always displayed so anyone missing a call would have the option of calling the number back. Additionally HMRC configures its predictive diallers to ensure the minimum of silent calls in line with Ofcom guidelines.

Tax Allowances

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the tax allowances that have been introduced since 1997; by what percentage each such allowance has changed since its introduction; and if he will make a statement. [36464]

Dawn Primarolo: The main rates and allowances are set out each year in the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report and Financial Statement and Budget Report. Copies of this are available in the House Library. More detailed information on individual tax allowances and reliefs with an estimate annual cost of at least £50 million can be found in the HM Treasury publication, Tax ready reckoner and tax reliefs". Recent versions can be found on the HM Treasury website and historic copies are held in the House Library.

Information on minor tax expenditures and structural reliefs where the costs are less than £50 million is published on the HMRC website. Historic versions are published in Inland Revenue Statistics".

Tax Credits

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1)how many tax credit overpayments were disputed in each month from January to October; and if he will make a statement; [19255]

(2) how many disputed cases of overpaid tax credits there were in (a) 2004–05 and (b) each month since January 2005; and if he will make a statement. [20013]

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answers to the hon. Member for Tatton of 12 September 2005, Official Report, columns 2385–86W, on tax credits, if he will update the tables to include figures for the months of August to November. [35339]

Dawn Primarolo: For the number of disputed
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overpayments of tax credits in 2004–05 and for the period 1 January 2005 to 31 May 2005, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 12 September 2005, Official Report, column 2385W to the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne).

The number of disputed tax credits overpayments in each month from June 2005 to October 2005 were around:

The number of disputed overpayment requests for June 2005 has been updated. The figure given in my previous answer only included receipts to the last Friday in the month of June rather than to 30 June 2005.

1information for November 2005 is not vet available.

For the number of appeals recorded against tax credits decisions in each month:
MonthNumber of appeals received (UK)

Rounded to the nearest five cases.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff at the Tax Credits Office have received bonus payments in each month from January 2003 to October 2005; what the total amount of bonuses paid has been; what has been the largest single payment; and if he will make a statement. [28212]

Dawn Primarolo: The (former) Inland Revenue introduced a Team Bonus scheme from 1 April 2003. Team Bonus payments were paid annually to directorates of the Inland Revenue which had contributed exceptionally towards achievement of the Department's PSA targets.

The Tax Credit Office (TCO) qualified for team bonuses in 2003–04 and 2004–05. The maximum amount each individual in the TCO could receive was set centrally for the inland Revenue, according to grade.

In 2003–04 all relevant targets were met and people received the maximum available bonus.

For 2004–05 the targets and achievement were:

Percentage of maximum bonus payment available for achievement of targetTarget to qualify for team bonusAssociated PSA Key TargetTCO Performance against Bonus Target
Decide 97 per cent. of claims, change of circumstances and renewals within 30 working days of receipt —excluding ceased household cases60979595.9
Deliver quality casework of which 90 per cent. is fully satisfactory or better than standard20909097
Decide 94 per cent. of claims, changes of circumstances and renewals accurately2094%9096.5

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As the first target was not met, bonus payments in 2004–05 were only 40 per cent. of the maximum available.

The number and value of Team Bonus payments made to staff who had worked or were working in the Tax Credit Office (TCO), in 2003–04 and 2004–05 was around:
Number of individual staff in receipt of annual team bonus paymentValue (£)Average payment (£)
31 July 20043,850938,542243
31 July 20053,755425,229113

The largest single annual payment made was £520, made in 2004.

The Director of TCO has the discretion to award special bonuses to recognise exceptional performance and the dates and values of payments made are:

Quarter endingTotal value of directors bonuses awarded

The total number of Director's Special Bonus awards for this period was 162, representing around 5 per cent. of staff working in the TCO. The average payment was around £300.

The largest single payment made during this period was £1,000.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average unit cost of processing new claims for tax credits including capital costs was in (a) 2003–04 and (b) 2004–05; and what it has been in 2005–06. [31544]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 24 November 2005]: The information requested is not available.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is his policy that money owed to members of the public through the tax credit system may be paid as a lump sum. [33592]

Dawn Primarolo: Yes.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what dates HM Revenue and Customs (a) requested and (b) received a written agreement from Electronic
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Data Systems to proceed with the compression of testing time for the new tax credit system; and if he will place this correspondence in the Library. [36219]

Dawn Primarolo: Electronic Data Systems (EDS) carried out a range of testing in the run-up to the introduction of the tax credits system on 7 April 2003, with the testing arrangements reviewed regularly. EDS provided a certificate on 4 April 2003 to confirm that the release of software was fit for purpose to deliver new tax credits.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will establish an independent inquiry into the introduction of the new tax credits following the settlement between HM Revenue and Customs and Electronic Data Systems. [36220]

Dawn Primarolo: There are no plans to set up an inquiry into the introduction of new tax credits.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the expected annual cost is of the measures announced by the Paymaster General for thereform of tax credits on 5 December. [36812]

Dawn Primarolo: The information requested is available in the Pre-Budget report 2005, Table 1.2, Estimated costs of pre-Budget report policy decisions and others announced since Budget 2005".

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