|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the 2003-based sub-national population projections for England produced by the Office for National Statistics include population increases as a result of Growth Area expansions from the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub-Regional Spatial Strategy. 
The 2003-based subnational population projections are based on assumptions about local fertility, mortality and migration levels derived from the five-year reference period 1999 to 2003. They are demographic trend-based projections and take no account of any future growth or development policies of an area.
The effects of the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub-Regional Spatial strategy will be covered in future sets of projections when they are observed in the mid year estimates and historic migration estimates that are used to set the projection assumptions.
John Healey: The private sector contractor funds initial capital expenditure for PFI projects. Payment is made by the public sector over the life of a PFI project for services provided and is dependent on the contractor delivering those services to the quality specified. Capital investment represents one of the activities undertaken by the private sector in order to deliver these services and so is reflected in such payments.
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many litres of red diesel were distributed in (a) Great Britain and (b) Northern Ireland in the last five years for which figures are available; and what estimate he has made of the tax revenue foregone on red diesel compared with the standard rate of duty for diesel fuel. 
John Healey: Hydrocarbon oils clearance figures are published by Customs and Excise in the Hydrocarbon Oils Bulletin, a copy of which can be found on the UK Trade Information website www.uktradeinfo.com. However, this data is not disaggregated by geographical region, so the data do not distinguish between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Charging the standard rate of duty for diesel fuel rather than the rebated gas oil rate would imply the following revenue yields. However in practice the actual yield would be significantly lower than this because such an increase in the duty rate would considerably reduce the demand for rebated gas oil.
Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his latest estimate is of revenue lost due to the (a) cross-border purchasing and (b) smuggling of road fuels in Northern Ireland; and what his latest estimates are for the volume of legitimate fuel imports from the Republic of Ireland to (i) Northern Ireland and (ii) Great Britain. 
John Healey: The latest estimates of revenue loss in the hydrocarbon oils sector are published in 'Measuring Indirect Tax Loss-2005', which was published alongside the PBR. All estimates for Northern Ireland relate to total non-UK duty paid consumption rather than the illicit market. This is because it is not yet possible to split revenue losses between those resulting from the illicit market and those from legitimate cross-border shopping
Mr. Des Browne: No representations have been received by the Treasury from the Scottish Executive on the issue of fiscal autonomy. The funding arrangements for the devolved Administrations are set out in the Statement of Funding Policy published in July 2004.
Mr. Des Browne:
Details of the funding arrangements for the Scotland Office and Scottish Executive are set out in the Treasury publication Funding the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly". Details are also provided in the Scotland Office annual report.
10 Jan 2006 : Column 550W
Mr. Des Browne: Details of the comparability factors underlying the Barnett Formula can be found within the Treasury publication Funding the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly".
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the number of self-invested personal pensions that made off-plan purchases of residential property prior to 5 December 2005. 
(2) what representations he has received from representatives of the (a) financial services and (b) property sectors about the availability of transitional relief to self-invested personal pensions (SIPP) where a SIPP had bought a residential property off plan prior to 5 December 2005. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 9 January 2006]: No estimate has been made of the number of SIPPs who have purchased off-plan properties prior to 5 December 2005, nor have there been any representations about the availability of transitional relief for those purchasing off-plan properties.
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 13 December 2005]: HMRC assesses all tax credits claims for compliance risk whether they are made through the e-portal or on paper. As with any area in which the Government are distributing large amounts of money, there will be some people intent on defrauding the system and HMRC therefore has a number of sophisticated measures to help it detect fraudulent claims.
Over the last 12 months HMRC has detected an increase in the number of organised attacks on the tax credits system, predominantly via the internet. HMRC continued to monitor the situation closely and updated me in June 2005. A decision was taken to suspend the internet service from 2 December following an assessment by HMRC that the nature of the threat had
10 Jan 2006 : Column 551W
changed, which in turn changed the balance of judgment between maintaining the service for genuine customers and the need to protect revenues.
HMRC is currently undertaking a programme of work on finalised 200304 awardsthe first year of working tax credit and child tax creditto provide more comprehensive information on the level of claimant error and fraud. This is due to be completed in spring 2006.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families in each constituency in Northern Ireland have received (a) child and (b) working taxcredits since they were introduced; and how many have received incorrect payments due to computer problems. 
Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member of Swansea, East (Mrs. James) on 28 June 2005, Official Report, column 1430W. Regarding the second part of the question, this information is not available.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the costs have been of specialist advice outside the EDS contract on the capacity, structure and performance of the tax credit computer system since 1 January 2004. 
Dawn Primarolo: The tax credits IT system went live in 2002, under the (then) Inland Revenue's outsourcing contract with EDS. The EDS contract ended on the 30 June 2004, when it was replaced by a new contract with Capgemini. Between 1 January and 30 June 2004, HM Revenue and Customs did not receive any specialist advice outside of the EDS contract on the capacity, structure and performance of the tax credit computer system.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what letters of comfort were sought from EDS in (a) January, (b) February, (c) March and (d) April 2003; if he will publish them; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: In my statement to the Treasury Sub Committee of 26 October I explained that HMRC is taking forward objectives to create a more flexible IT system that will allow process improvements, such as changes to award notices, to be introduced much more quickly. However, having established the integrity of the IT system and significantly improved its performance, the priority must be to ensure that progress to more flexibility is done in a measured and orderly way.
Tax credits awards are initially based on a family's current circumstances and their income for the previous tax year. If a family's
10 Jan 2006 : Column 552W
circumstances do not change and there are no significant changes in income during the year, the initial award will run until the end of the tax year. Families are encouraged to report in-year changes of circumstances that can lead either to an increase or decrease in their award. At the end of the year, families are asked by the Tax Credits Office to confirm their details and their actual income for the year just ended.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of complaints from West Lancashire about tax credits have been responded to within 15 working days in each of the last 12 months; and how many cases remain unresolved after (a) 12 months and (b) 24 months. 
Dawn Primarolo: In my Statement to the Treasury Sub Committee of 26 October I explained that HMRC is taking forward objectives to create a more flexible IT system that will allow process improvements, such as changes to award notices, to be introduced much more quickly. However, having established the integrity of the IT system and significantly improved its performance, the priority must be to ensure that progress to more flexibility is done in a measured and orderly way.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the tolerance level over which the recovery of tax credit overpayments is not considered cost-effective; what factors were taken into account in arriving at the current figure; and whether it is being applied to all overpayments. 
Dawn Primarolo: No tolerance level is applied to on-going tax credits awards as the IT system automatically adjusts payments to recover overpayments. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does have tolerances which influence whether or not it collects overpayments from ceased tax credits awards. But HMRC believes that disclosing the level of those tolerances might prejudice its ability to enforce the law and recover monies properly payable in respect of tax credit overpayments.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment has been made of (a) the likely effectiveness of manual intervention in a tax credit case where an overpayment has been identified and automatic recovery has begun and (b) the likely impact this will have on the tax credit computer system; 
(2) pursuant to the Paymaster General's evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Sub-committee on 26 October, what the evidential basis was for her statement that manual attempts to stop the automatic clawback of tax credit overpayments would be less effective than an automated procedure. 
Dawn Primarolo: In my statement to the Treasury Sub Committee of 26 October I explained that, subject to testing, HMRC would be introducing interim procedures to prevent the automatic recovery of a disputed overpayment until the case had been examined. Final testing was completed successfully in early November and the Chief Secretary informed the House at Treasury Orals on 10 November that the new procedures had been implemented.
The interim procedures rely on a manual intervention to the existing computer system, which was not designed to enable automatic recovery of an overpayment to be suspended. HMRC is working to develop bespoke computer functionality to suspend recovery, but as I explained to the Treasury Sub Committee, having established the integrity of the IT system and significantly improved its performance, the priority must be to ensure that progress to a more flexible IT system is made in a measured and orderly way.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many times he has written off an overpayment of tax credits because (a) of official error where it was reasonable for the recipient to think the award was correct, (b) it would have caused hardship to have recovered all of the overpayment and (c) it would have caused hardship to have recovered part of the overpayment, in each month since April 2003. 
Dawn Primarolo: For details of the number of disputed overpayments written off as a result of official error up to and including June 2005, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave him on 10 October 2005, Official Report, column 282W. Between July and October 2005 (inclusive), HM Revenue and Customs wrote off around 75,000 disputed overpayments.
HMRC has procedures in place to help claimants who might suffer hardship as a result of an overpayment being recovered. Where there is no award in the current year the customer can pay back the overpayment in 12 monthly instalments if they wish. If they require more than 12 months, income and expenditure details are obtained and consideration is given to payment over an extended period of time. For cases where there is an ongoing award, reduced rates of recovery apply for those claimants on lower incomes.
Where there is an ongoing award reduced rates of recovery apply for those claimants on lower incomes. The maximum amounts by which HMRC would reduce payments to recover overpaid tax credit from the previous year are:
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the value of additional tax credits awarded in cases of hardship following the identification of an overpayment is added to the total overpayment to be recovered; and if he will give an illustration. 
Dawn Primarolo: The circumstances in which HM Revenue and Customs will make additional tax credits payments, and how this affects a claimant's overpayment of tax credits, are explained in HMRC's Code of Practice 26 'What happens if we have paid you too much tax credit?'.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the extent to which Northern Ireland claimants of tax credits are experiencing difficulties in accessing the tax credits helpline; what action is being taken to improve access to the helpline; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: There are no particular difficulties around accessibility to the tax credits helpline for Northern Ireland residents. The helpline is open 362 days a year from 8am to 8pm, closing on only Christmas day, Boxing day and new years day. In November 2005 the Northern Ireland tax credits helpline became part of the virtual network for tax credits calls. This has provided NI residents with access to a greater pool of resources, improving accessibility to the tax credits helpline.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) in how many cases HM Revenue and Customs, and its predecessor, (a) imposed a penalty under section 31 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 for making an incorrect statement or declaration or supplying incorrect information or evidence and (b) imposed a penalty under section 32(3) of the Tax Credits Act 2002 for failing to notify a specified change of circumstances in (i) 200304, (ii) 200405 and (iii) 200506 to date; and what the average penalty was in each case; 
(2) in how many cases HM Revenue and Customs and its predecessors applied to the Appeals Service under section 32(1) and (2) of, and Schedule 2 to, the Tax Credits Act 2002 for a summons against an individual for failing to provide information or evidence or failing to comply with a requirement regarding a final notice in (a) 200304, (b) 200405 and (c) 200506 to date. 
(a) The following table shows the total number of penalties imposed under sections 31 and 32(3) of the Tax Credits Act 2002 and the average penalty imposed for 200405 and 200506 to end November. No penalties were charged in 200304.
|Number of cases||Average penalty per case (£)|
|200506 to end November||1,348||363.15|
(b) To the end of October HMRC had made 10 applications in 200506 for a summons against an individual under section 32(1) and (2) of, and Schedule 2 to, the Tax Credits Act 2002. No such applications were made in 200304 or 200405.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is his policy, when writing-off overpaid tax credits caused by official error, to reimburse all overpayment recovered before the decision to write-off is made; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 12 December 2005]: Where a decision is taken to write-off all or part of an overpayment, any previously re-paid amount will be reimbursed either by a one-off payment, or by adjustments to future tax credit payments, or a combination of both.
Dawn Primarolo: Between April 2005 and November 2005, HM Revenue and Customs agreed that around 13,700 disputed overpayments of tax credits in Northern Ireland should be written off on the grounds of official error.
Dawn Primarolo: When tax credits claims are processed HM Revenue and Customs carries out a series of verification checks on claimant identity. Should further verification be required; birth certificates, passports and other forms of identification can be requested.
I would also refer the hon. Member to the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his pre-Budget report on 5 December 2005. The report announced measures to improve tax credits compliance by doubling the checks HMRC carry out on new claims for tax credits before payments are made.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what checks are made by advisers on the tax credit helpline on a caller's identity when a request is made to change a bank account for the payment of tax credits. 
Greg Clark: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what distribution of income increases was assumed in producing the Government's £800 million estimate of the additional final tax credit entitlement resulting from the £2,500 disregard in 200304; and what the statistical basis is for this distribution. 
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 20 December 2005]: The estimate of £800 million was derived by modelling the annualised level of entitlement at 5 April 2004, both with and without the £2,500 disregard, for a representative sample of tax credit awards current at that date.
Greg Clark: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his Department's estimate is of the additional final tax credit entitlement resulting from the change in the income increase disregard from £2,500 to £25,000; and what basic assumptions were made when making the estimate. 
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 20 December 2005]: Precise estimates of the change in entitlement resulting from the higher disregard from April 2006 will not be known until 200607 awards have been finalised in early 2008.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many full-time tax credit staff were working in (a) debt management and banking, (b) disputed overpayments, (c) bank liaison, (d) childcare provider checks, (e) complex cases, (f) employer liaison, (g) international claims, (h) persons from abroad, (i) post room, (j) specialist trace unit, (k) claims processing, (l) appeals, (m) complaints, (n) valuables and (o) tax credit hotlines in each month since January 2003. 
Chris Ruane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what (a) financial assistance and (b) help in kind his Department has offered to (i) Citizens Advice Bureaux and (ii) other voluntary advice agencies to help their advisers in tax credit cases. 
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs does provide financial assistance to a range of voluntary organisations including Citizens Advice Bureaux to assist the public on tax credit issues. Planned expenditure for 200506 is expected to be approximately £680,000.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average length of time was from receipt of a tax credit claim to payment of the credit to the claimant in Wales in each year since the tax credit system began; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: The information is not available in the format requested. For details of tax credits processing times I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and the hon. Member for Guildford (Anne Milton) on 2 November 2005, Official Report, column 1058W.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many tax credit overpayments have been made in Wales; what proportion of tax credits have been overpaid in Wales; what the total tax credit overpayments in Wales were in each year since the tax credit system began; and if he will make a statement; 
Dawn Primarolo: Information on the number and sizes of 200304 tax credits awards overpaid and underpaid at 5 April 2004, by region, are published in Child and Working Tax Credits. Finalised Awards 200304. Supplement on payments in 200304. Geographical Analysis." This publication and provisional estimates for the number of in-work families by region with tax credit awards as at selected dates in 200405 are available on the HMRC website at:
(4) what assessment he has made of whether tax credits have been targeted by organised criminals; and if he will make a statement; 
Dawn Primarolo: HMRC uses a number of sophisticated tools to help detect claims, which are fraudulent or wrong and wherever possible, this compliance activity is aimed at preventing these claims from being paid. HMRC are aware of persistent attempts by organised criminals to obtain tax credits by using stolen or fictitious identities and it monitors payments to detect organised fraud so that any payments can be stopped and followed up with those responsible. Figures relating specifically to such instances are only available from 2004.
In 200405 HMRC intervened on 17164 incorrect claims before the tax credit payments were made where fraud or error was suspected. Between April to end of November 2005 HMRC have made 38,924 such interventions, of which HMRC estimate over half have been as a result of organised attacks. From October 2004 to end of November 2005 HMRC also identified and stopped 22,284 tax credit claims in payment, where organised fraud was suspected.
Where fraud is detected HMRC may use its powers to charge a financial penalty orin the most serious casesinvestigate with a view to securing a criminal prosecution under the new criminal offence of tax credit fraud. HMRC prosecuted 153 individuals in 200405 and has prosecuted 159 in the current financial year to the end of November. Around 97 other cases are currently awaiting verdict.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|