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Equity Release

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Government's approach to equity release, with particular reference to maintaining older people in their homes. [41503]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Property is the most important and sometimes only significant asset of elderly people. The Government's approach to equity release schemes is to ensure that all homeowners, including older people, are able to make informed choices when purchasing these products, to offer suitable consumer protection, and to ensure that there is a level regulatory playing field in the equity release market.

There are two main types of equity release schemes: lifetime mortgages and home reversion plans. The Financial Services Authority regulates the sale and administration of first charge mortgages on primary
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residences, including lifetime mortgages. Following extensive consultation, the Regulation of Financial Services (Land Transactions) Act gained Royal Assent on 19 December 2005, bringing home reversion plans into regulation. The Government will consult further on the detail of the changes in due course.

EU Agriculture Budget

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the EU's agriculture budget was spent on (a) direct payments, (b) market price support, (c) input subsidies and (d) export subsidies in the last period for which figures are available. [40948]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: In 2004, the EU spent a total of €43.7 billion under the Agriculture" heading of the Financial Perspective. €29.9 billion (68 per cent.) was spent on direct payments and €8.5 billion (19 per cent.) on interventions in agricultural markets", which broadly corresponds to market price support, of which €3.3 billion (8 per cent.) was for export subsidies (export subsidies are one of the tools used to support market prices). Input subsidies are not separately identified in the budget, but the OECD estimates that €14 billion was spent in the EU in 2004 on payments based on input use and input constraints in 2004, some of which was nationally funded, out of a total of €108 billion support provided to EU farmers by EU taxpayers and consumers.

The EU's agriculture budget accounts for only part ofEL market price support, the bulk of which is paid for by consumers. Fuller analysis can be found in DEFRA and HM Treasury's recent paper, A Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy", in particular in Chapter 2.

HM Revenue and Customs

Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff are employed in Southend by HM Revenue and Customs, broken down by (a) sex and (b) grade. [41756]

Dawn Primarolo: The following table shows the current breakdown of HMRC staff in Southend on Sea by grade and sex.
Grade 661117
Grade 7152439
Senior Officer (SEO)116206322
Higher Officer (HEO)245255500
Officer (EO)322168490
Assistant Officer (AO)380154534
Admin Assistant (AA)263134397

Identity Cards

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate has been made by his Department of the total cost to the Exchequer of introducing a national
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identity card scheme; what approval for such expenditure has been given by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [41505]

Mr. Des Browne: The Treasury has not conducted any separate estimates of the costs of creating and maintaining a national identity card.

However, as with other policy formulation, the Treasury contributed to the cross-government estimates of the costs and benefits of ID card scheme led by the department leading the policy area, in this case the Home Office. The estimates for the global costs for the scheme were set out in the Regulatory Impact Assessment. This can be found at: impact.pdf

The Government announced it would proceed with the ID cards scheme in November 2003. At the time it was agreed that all costs will be met from existing departmental budgets and charging. This remains the case, as the Home Secretary reiterated to the House on 13 October 2005.

Income Tax (Self-assessment)

Mr. Bone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what criteria are used to determine which taxpayers are required to fill in a self-assessment income tax return. [40926]

Dawn Primarolo: The criteria used to determine which taxpayers are required to make self assessment returns are published on the HMRC website at and in other HMRC guidance.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many self-assessment tax returns were issued in each year since 1997. [40931]

Dawn Primarolo: The total numbers of self assessment tax returns issued in each financial year are detailed as follows. The figures for the financial year 1997–98 are not available.

Return year

Year issued
Total number issued (million)

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to answer questions 19721, 19172, 19285, 19180, 19290, 18639, 19720, 19719, 20015, 20442, 20441, 20440, 20692, 23571, 23294, 23573, 24587, 24586, 24547, 24542, 24506, 25243, 25250, 25253, 25249, 25248, 25242, 25252, 29703, 29704, 29706, 29984, 30662, 30008, 30661, 30567 and 33747, tabled by the hon. Member for Yeovil. [40852]

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Dawn Primarolo: Most of the questions concerned have already been answered and I hope to be in a position to answer the remainder soon.

Treasury Ministers attach importance to answering Parliamentary questions promptly. Responding to questions which are tabled in very large numbers (the Treasury has received 373 written questions from the hon. Gentleman since the May 2005 General Election) seeking information on issues where extensive documentation has already been provided to Parliament, or where it cannot easily be established whether the information is actually available and capable of being assembled reasonably quickly without incurring disproportionate cost, can, however, be a time-consuming business and delays are almost inevitable.

Population Statistics (London Boroughs)

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the current population of each London borough based on (a) the 2001 census, (b) electoral rolls and (c) health service users; and what projections he has made for the next five years. [39923]

John Healey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 12 January 2006:

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