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20 Jun 2006 : Column 1855Wcontinued
David Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will keep separate records of the amount spent annually on alcohol for hospitality purposes in (a) the Department and (b) his private office. 
John Healey: The information requested is not recorded separately. The Treasurys expenditure on official entertainment is incurred in accordance with the principles of Government Accounting as well as the Departments own internal guidance, which provides that expenditure on official entertainment should be incurred in moderation and also be compatible with the occasion and the standing of guests.
David Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff in (a) his private office and (b) the Department are (i) under and (ii) over 55 years of age. 
John Healey: As at 1 April 2006, 51 staff in the Treasury were 55 years of age and over, including one member of the staff of the Chancellors private office. Of the 1,061 staff under the age of 55, 12 were working in the Chancellors office.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how fixed-odd betting terminals are taxed in (a) betting shops and (b) casinos; and what estimate the Government have made of the tax revenue from such terminals in the last 12 months. 
John Healey: Takings from fixed-odds betting terminals have been within the scope of VAT from 6 December 2005 when they were also removed from the scope of General Betting Duty. They will be liable to Amusement Machine Licence Duty from 1 August 2006. Fixed-odds betting terminals cannot be offered outside of a licensed bookmaker.
In Budget 2006 we estimated that revenue would increase by £25 million in 2006-07 from aligning the taxation of gaming machines with the Gambling Act. This includes the increase in revenue from fixed-odds betting terminals.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment the Government have made of the effect on tax revenues of the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005. 
John Healey: The Government have not made an assessment of the overall effect on tax revenues of the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many submissions have been received on the Planning Gain Supplement in response to the consultation. 
John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 16 March 2006, Official Report, column 2417W.
Anne Milton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department and its agencies have taken following the launch of the Government's Small Change Big Difference campaign. 
John Healey: The Treasury and its agencies support the Government's Small Change Big Difference campaign.
We have an on-site low-cost fitness centre, our staff restaurants have healthy eating options on menus, and we provide facilities for on-site low-cost therapies such as shiatsu massage.
We support fitness activities run by staff such as a yoga club, running club, football and other sporting teams. There is an annual sports day in July each year. In addition we work with our occupational health providers to seek other ways of encouraging healthy living and will be holding a well-being day in June 2006.
We provide a number of family friendly policies to promote work-life balance such as the opportunity for all staff to request varied working patterns and not just those who are statutorily entitled to seek alternative working arrangements.
We will be introducing a smoking ban in the Treasury building before the end of 2006 and providing help-line contacts for those who wish to stop smoking.
In common with other Government Departments we will continue to work with the Department of Health to promote further awareness of healthy life style options among our staff.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the merits of introducing six monthly fixed awards for tax credits; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: As the 2005 pre-Budget report stated (Para 5.23), the Government will continue to listen to the case for a system of fixed awards, but believe on balance that it is preferable to maintain the current system that flexibly responds to changing circumstances.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many calls to the tax credits helpline were (a) received, (b) handled, (c) engaged and (d) abandoned in each month from December 2005 to May 2006; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: I have already provided much of this information and would refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave him on 5 June 2006, Official Report, column 187W. Table 1 sets out the number of calls received and table 2 provides those figures for calls handled, engaged and abandoned that did not form part of my answer on 5 June.
|(1) Where the caller selected an option from the call steering menu and was put in a queue to speak to an adviser.|
|(1) Where the caller spoke to an adviser. (2 )Where the caller selected an option from the call steering menu and was put in a queue to speak to an adviser but the call was terminated before the caller spoke to an adviser. (3 )Call attempts where the caller was played an engaged tone, before they were placed in a queue to speak to an adviser.|
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many tax credit overpayments have been written off in each quarter since April 2003 because HM Revenue and Customs could not reliably match the payment of manual cheques to claimants; what the value was in each quarter; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: For 2003-04, I refer the hon. Member to NAO report, 2004-05. This represented an estimated 134,000 payments made during 2003-04. HM Revenue and Customs has not written off any such manual payments made in 2004-05 or 2005-06.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations (a) he and (b) the Paymaster General have received from the Citizens Advice Bureau about the complexity of tax credit award notices; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: Treasury Ministers regularly receive representations on various aspects of the administration of the tax credits system.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of (a) the intra-year volatility of the incomes of low income households and (b) its implications for the design of the tax credits system; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: To improve its understanding of short-term changes in income, HMT and HMRC partly funded research on income variability by Professor John Hills and others at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics. This was also part-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The report, Tracking Income: How Working Families Incomes Vary Through the Year was published in March 2006, and is available on the LSE and HMRC websites.
The research showed that many families experience instability in their incomes over time and, while recognising the challenges posed by administering a responsive annual system, said that basing tax credit payments solely on previous levels of income would be rough justice.
As the 2005 pre-Budget report stated (para. 5.23), the Government will continue to listen to the case for a system of fixed awards, but believe on balance that it is preferable to maintain the current system that flexibly responds to changing circumstances.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether overseas students, with the right to work for 20 hours a week, can claim tax credits; what guidance is given to tax credit staff to check that the limit of work is being observed; and if he will place in the Library copies of written guidance to staff on the eligibility of overseas students for tax credits and the checks to be carried out; 
(2) whether asylum seekers with the right to work can claim tax credits; what guidance is given to tax credit staff on asylum seekers' eligibility; and if he will place in the Library copies of such guidance. 
Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 19 June 2006]: Apart from specified exceptions, set out in the Tax Credits (Immigration) Regulations 2003, persons subject to immigration control, including asylum seekers and overseas students, are not eligible for tax credits.
Guidance for staff on dealing with claims from people subject to immigration control is available on the HMRC website: www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/ntcmanual/eligibility_residency/ntc0350000.htm.
Mr. Willis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent steps he has taken to improve UK competitiveness. 
John Healey: The Budget report provided an assessment of all areas of the UK economy, and action needed by Government to provide the right environment for businesses competing in the global environment.
The Governments strategy for advancing productivity growth is based, first on providing macroeconomic stability to allow firms and individuals to invest in the future, and second, on making microeconomic reforms to ensure that markets function efficiently and that barriers to productivity growth are tackled.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what war debt repayments have been made by the
USA to the UK in respect of military assistance provided in conflicts over the last 30 years; 
(2) how much, in todays prices, has been paid to the USA in respect of (a) First World War and (b) Second World War debt; 
(3) what sums are outstanding in relation to war debt repayments to the US; and on what dates repayments are due; 
(4) whether the USA has offered to cancel the UKs outstanding liability for repayment of Second World War debt. 
Ed Balls: I refer the hon. Member to the answers the former Financial Secretary (Ruth Kelly) gave him on 30 October 2003, Official Report, column 317W; 14 October 2003, Official Report, column 150W; 28 February 2002, Official Report, columns 1439-41W; the answer given by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) on 17 December 2002, Official Report, columns 679-80W and the answer given by the Economic Secretary to my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Anne Moffat) on 8 June 2006, Official Report, columns 858-59W.