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Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) when staff at the tax credit office first raised the issue of internet fraud with (a) managers, (b) the head of the Inland Revenue and (c) Ministers; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his Department first became aware that an organised fraud of the tax credit system was being perpetuated via one HM Revenue and Customs website; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 10 January 2006, Official Report, columns 55051W, on tax credit, whether the Paymaster General was presented with the option of closing down the online tax credit portal in June 2005; and what the average award of tax credits was to families with (a) one child, (b) two children and (c) three children in the last year for which figures are available. 
In June 2005 HMRC were satisfied they could continue to manage the balance between providing the internet service for genuine claimants against the risk posed from fraud. HMRC continued to closely monitor this and the decision to close the e-portal was taken in December 2005 after the threat had deemed to have changed.
24 Jan 2006 : Column 2049W
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what dates (a) he and (b) senior HM Revenue and Customs officials have met the (i) police, (ii) National Criminal Intelligence Service and (iii) National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre to discuss tax credit fraud. 
Dawn Primarolo: HMRC are currently undertaking a programme of work on finalised 200304 awardsthe first year of working tax credit and child tax creditto provide more information on the level of claimant error and fraud. This is due to be completed in spring 2006.
John Healey: The most relevant measure of the UK trade in goods and services balance for comparative purposes is not the absolute figure, but the trade balance as a percentage of GDP. As quarterly figures can be volatile, it is more informative to look at annual figures. In 2004, the UK trade balance was in deficit at 3.3 per cent. of GDP, compared to 4.1 per cent. of GDP in 1989. The current account deficit was 2.0 per cent. of GDP over the same period, less than half the peak of 5.1 per cent. of GDP in 1989, and is readily financeable.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many excess winter deaths of people aged over 65 years there have been in (a) West Lancashire, (b) Lancashire and (c) England in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking how many excess winter deaths of people aged over 65 years there have been in (a) West Lancashire, (b) Lancashire and (c) England in each year since 1997. (45151)
Figures available since 1997 on excess winter deaths (the excess number of deaths each winter compared to the average during other months of the year) for West Lancashire local authority, Lancashire and England are included in the table below.
The latest available figures for England are for 2004/2005; These are provisional and are not available for areas smaller than Government Office Regions. The latest available figures for smaller areas are for 2003/2004.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the additional transport costs which may be incurred by jobseekers as a result of the benefit agency office closure programme; 
(2) what steps he is taking to help jobseekers in rural areas with additional transport costs incurred as a result of the benefit agency office closure programme. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions concerning what estimate he has made of the additional transport costs which may be incurred by jobseekers as a result of the Jobcentre Plus office closure programme; and the steps he has taken to help jobseekers in rural areas with additional transport costs so incurred. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency.
We do not maintain a central record of actual additional costs incurred by jobseekers as a result of changes in the configuration of our office network. This is because any changes in transport costs will vary between individual jobseekers and individual locations. Furthermore the levels of Jobseeker's Allowance already take account of the costs of transport for jobsearch-related activities (which includes the requirement to attend our offices on a regular, usually fortnightly, basis).
However, in developing the plans for their Districts, each District Manager took account of the availability, frequency and costs of transport links to our offices. In the case of jobseekers in rural areas, it is open for Managers to make arrangements for jobseekers to sign on by post, rather than attend the office in person. The general rule for allowing postal signing is where:
Jobcentre Plus Business Managers may also use some discretion in offering the postal facility to other customers, even if their journey is possible within the time limits stated above, For example, if the customer would have to use a form of transport which they could not be expected to use on a fortnightly basis, such as an Intercity train, a ferry or a plane.
Occasionally customers are asked to attend a Jobcentre Plus Office or Jobcentre on a day when they are not usually due to attend to sign on (to see an Adviser for example). In these cases travel expenses are classed as additional and are reimbursed.
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