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26 Jan 2006 : Column 2263W—continued

Public Sector Pay

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received on public sector pay. [45835]

Mr. Des Browne: Treasury Ministers receive a wide range of representations, in different forms, from different groups, bodies and individuals. There are
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different pay setting processes across the public sector and it is the responsibility of the relevant decision-making body to consider any representations that have been made.

Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his Department received the application to
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approve the private finance initiative contract for the Queen Alexandra hospital, Portsmouth; and when approval was given. [46034]

John Healey: Department for Health Ministers submitted the application for the private finance initiative contract for the Queen Alexandra hospital, Portsmouth on 15 November 2005. The Chief Secretary provided Treasury approval on 9 December 2005.

Real Estate Investment Trusts

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the merits of introducing unlisted real estate investment trusts; and what representations he has received on this. [46178]

John Healey: As set out in the 2005 pre-Budget report, the UK Real Estate Investment Trust regime will be open to qualifying property companies that are publicly listed on a recognised stock exchange as defined for tax purposes. The Government have consulted extensively on Real Estate Investment Trusts, and summaries of responses to these consultations were published
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alongside the 2005 Budget and pre-Budget report. Draft legislation to establish Real Estate Investment Trusts was released for consultation on 14 December 2005. Updated draft legislation, including clauses relating to groups of companies, will be published tomorrow. Copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and on HM Revenue and Customs' website, The Government continue to consult extensively with representatives of the property and investment industries.

Special Compliance Office Staff

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many full-time equivalent staff have worked in the Revenue's special compliance office in each month of the last five years; how many and what proportion of them have worked on tax credits in each of the last three years; and what the administrative cost was of the special compliance office in each of the last five years. [38698]

Dawn Primarolo: The table shows, on a monthly basis for each of the last five years, the number of full-time equivalent staff working in the special compliance office of the Inland Revenue and HMRC.
Monthly staff in post for the past five years


It is not possible to identify the proportion allocated to tax credits work.

Cost information on the special compliance office is available only for 2001–2004, as follows:
Administrative cost on special compliance office (£ million)

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what funds have been returned to (a) individuals and (b) businesses as a refund of interest charges on late payments of stamp duty land tax in each year since 1997. [45936]

Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs announced on 5 September 2005 that it had discovered a deficiency in its legal powers to charge interest on late payments of stamp duty land tax for the period from 1 December 2003 to 25 September 2005 inclusive, and that it would identify and repay (with supplementary interest) charges levied in error for this period. The total amount of interest wrongly charged was £1.5 million. HMRC started to make refunds in November 2005 and will complete all repayments by the target date of 31 January 2006. Refunds are made directly to the purchaser or lessee concerned. Information breaking down refunds to individuals and businesses is not collected.


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the unemployment rate was in (a) England, (b) Wales, (c) Scotland and (d) Northern Ireland in each year from 2003 to 2005; and what the employment rate was in each as a percentage of the working age population. [45202]

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

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 26 January 2006:

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People in employment and those who are unemployed by country of residence: United KingdomFour quarter average

Unemployment 16+
Northern Ireland70868.3435.5
Northern Ireland70767.7374.9
Northern Ireland72368.9374.7

(7) Includes men aged 16–64 and women aged 16–59.
(8) In employment as a percentage of all persons of working age in each country.
(9) Unemployed aged 16 and over as a percentage of economically active aged 16 and over in each country.
Data based on average of four quarters each year. (2003: four quarters of period March 2003 to February 2004; 2004: four quarters of period March 2004 to February 2005; 2005: four quarters of period December 2004 to November 2005).
ONS—Labour Force Survey

VAT (Commemorative Headstones)

John Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to exempt commemorative headstones for graves from VAT. [45812]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) on 15 December 2005, Official Report, column 2275W.

VAT Fraud

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he intends to bring forward legislation to combat missing trader intra community, or carousel, VAT fraud as a consequence of the European Court of Justice judgment in the joined cases of Optigen Limited, Fulcrum Electronics Limited and Bond House Systems Limited; [45395]

(2) what estimate HM Revenue and Customs has made of its total liability for VAT refunds as a consequence of the European Court of Justice judgment in the joined cases of Optigen Limited, Fulcrum Electronics Limited and Bond Houses Systems Limited; [45398]

(3) what the implications are of the European Court of Justice judgment in the joined cases of Optigen Limited, Fulcrum Electronics Limited and Bond Houses Systems Limited; and if he will make a statement. [45399]

Dawn Primarolo: The Government note the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and will, of course, follow the guidance it has given. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will now consider the detail of the ruling in order to determine the extent to which it applies to their previous decisions. The amounts claimed as recoverable VAT by the three traders total almost £40 million.

It is not possible to give a precise figure of the total amount that may be repaid to all traders affected by the decision, as the status of each case is being reviewed in the light of the ECJ's guidance and other action to protect the revenue may be taken.

The Government remain determined to tackle Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) VAT fraud and the criminals perpetrating it. HMRC is intensifying its operational activities throughout the UK and its co-operation with other countries to combat this fraud.

In order to strengthen further our strategy to combat VAT fraud, the Government have made an application to the European Commission (EC) for a derogation from the provisions of the EC sixth VAT directive to enable it to introduce a reverse charge procedure for
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transactions between VAT-registered businesses in certain goods. The Government consider this measure to be a proportionate response to MTIC fraud. This is only one facet of a comprehensive strategy designed to thwart MTIC fraud by taking the criminal profit out of the transaction.
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This measure will be targeted on those goods used in MTIC fraud, in particular mobile telephones, computer chips and some other similar electronic items. However, the Government will also be monitoring very closely how those carrying out this fraud react to this measure and will not hesitate to act to prevent any further threats to the tax system.
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