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14 Mar 2006 : Column 2129W—continued

Departmental Staff

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many jobs in his Department have been relocated to Wales since 2001. [57689]

John Healey: Since 1 April 2004, HM Revenue and Customs have relocated 111 full-time equivalent posts to Wales. Details for the years prior to April 2004 are not available.

The Office for National Statistics has relocated 193 full-time equivalent posts to Wales since 2001.

The Royal Mint relocated 12 full-time equivalent posts to Wales in 2002.

None of the posts relocated by the Treasury group or other Chancellor's Departments since 2001 has been to Wales.

Domestic Building Work (VAT)

Mr. Marsden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what recent discussions he and his officials have had with (a) other EU countries and (b) heritage, amenities and conservation groups on the proposal for a reduced rate of VAT on domestic building work; [58387]

(2) what estimates he has made of the impact on conservation of a reduction in VAT rates on domestic building work. [58388]


 
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Dawn Primarolo: EU Finance Ministers have discussed reduced rates of VAT many times at ECOFIN meetings, most recently on 24 January 2006. A written statement recorded the outcome of this meeting on 31 January 2006, Official Report, column 7WS.

The Government are aware of the views of heritage and conservation bodies and meets with many interest groups on tax issues including VAT. The issue of VAT on domestic building work has been raised with officials as part of an ongoing dialogue.

However the Government have only introduced reduced rates where they are convinced they offer the best-targeted and most efficient support for our key social objectives. We continue to keep this under review.

Any changes are considered by the Chancellor as part of the Budget process and in making these decisions the economic and social impact is taken into account.

Financial Ombudsman Service

Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what aspects of the Financial Ombudsman Service are covered in the two-year review process under the Financial Services and Market Act 2000 started in November 2003; and when the report of the review will be published. [58528]


 
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Mr. Ivan Lewis: As part of the two-year review of the Financial Services and Market Act 2000, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury asked the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to review:

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury announced the outcome of the Government's review of FSMA on 2 December 2004.

The responses to the joint FSA and FOS consultation paper and arrangements for dealing with wider implications cases were published in the joint Consultation Paper 05/4, March 2005.

Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many complaints have been received by the Financial Ombudsman Service in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement. [58530]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The following table outlines the number of complaints received by the Financial Ombudsman Service in each of the past three years.
Year ending 31 MarchNumber of new cases received
200497,901
2005110,963
2006(26)115,000


(26) Forecast.


Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps the Financial Ombudsman Service is taking to accelerate its decision-making processes; and if he will make a statement. [58568]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) is operationally independent of Government. The steps taken by the Financial Ombudsman Service to deal with the demands it faces are detailed in its Corporate Plan and budget 2006–07 published in January 2006.

Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures are in place to ensure the independence of the Financial Ombudsman Service from its private financial sector funders; and if he will make a statement. [58572]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Financial Ombudsman Service has a board of non-executive, public interest directors who are appointed by the Financial Services Authority under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The chairman of the board is appointed by the Financial Services Authority with the approval of HM Treasury.

The board's role is to take a strategic overview of the service and to ensure it is properly resourced and able to carry out its functions effectively, impartially and independently.

The board in turn appoints independent ombudsmen and internal procedures ensure that individual ombudsmen are not subject to conflicts of interest.
 
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The backgrounds of board members and of senior staff are published on the Financial Ombudsman Service website.

Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what procedures are in place to handle complaints about the performance of the Financial Ombudsman Service; and if he will make a statement. [58573]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Where users of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) are dissatisfied the matter is initially passed to the internal service review team for investigation. Where users remain dissatisfied the case is passed to the Independent Assessor whose role is to carry out a final review of the service provided by the FOS.

The Independent Assessor is authorised to make findings and recommendations for redress relating to the service standards of the FOS in cases where he believes it is justified. The Independent Assessor submits his annual report to the Board of the FOS. This report is published in full each year in the Annual Review of the FOS.

The Annual Review of the FOS includes operational as well as financial information. An independent assessment of the processes and outputs of the FOS was carried out in 2004 and a further such review is planned for 2007.

Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the mechanism is for lodging an appeal against a decision made by the Financial Ombudsman Service. [58574]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: An initial assessment of a complaint is made by an adjudicator. If this assessment is disputed, either the complainant or the authorised person can ask an Ombudsman to review the decision. An Ombudsman's final decision is the end of the process and there is no scope for appeal on the merits of the case within the procedures of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Complainants are able to pursue their complaints through the courts and both complainants and authorized persons may apply to the court for a judicial review of an Ombudsman's decision.

The Independent Assessor—appointed by and reporting to the board of the Financial Ombudsman Service—considers complaints about service standards.

Mr. Walker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of whether staffing levels at the Financial Ombudsman Service are adequate to meet demand; and if he will make a statement. [58575]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Staffing levels are the responsibility of the Board and management of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) approves the budget of the FOS and has a duty to ensure that the FOS is at all times capable of exercising its functions.

The FOS and the FSA are operationally independent of Government.
 
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GDP

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what gross domestic product per capita was in (a) the UK, (b) England, (c) Wales, (d) Scotland and (e) Northern Ireland in (i) 1979, (ii) 1997 and (iii) 2005. [58464]

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

Letter from Colin Mowl, dated 14 March 2006:


Table A: Gross Domestic Product per capita (£) 1979

Area1979
United Kingdom3,525
England3,019
Wales2,517
Scotland2,802
Northern Ireland2,334

Table B: Gross Value Added per capita (£) 1997, 2004

Area19972004
United Kingdom12,34717,258
England12,32417,188
Wales9,82213,292
Scotland11,95216,157
Northern Ireland9,74313,482




Notes:
1. Gross Value Added (GVA) is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) less taxes (plus subsidies) on products. Current price data are not adjusted for changes in prices over time.
2. Gross Domestic Product per head for 1979 is based on data from National Accounts Blue Book 1997. As the regional estimates of GDP and GVA are produced on a different basis, they cannot be used in conjunction to form a time series.





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