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25 July 2006 : Column 1388W—continued


Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecoms

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what agreements exist between the Government and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication; [86453]

(2) whether tracking financial transactions involving British citizens by counter-terrorism officials through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication programme has been legally reconciled with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998; [86499]

(3) how many financial transactions have been tracked (a) in total and (b) by counter-terrorism officials using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication programme in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement; [86501]

(4) how many UK bank accounts have been frozen by his Department (a) as a counter-terrorism measure and (b) for other reasons as a result of financial transactions tracked using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication programme in each year since 1997; [86502]

(5) to what UK financial regulation the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication programme is subject; [86503]

(6) what discussions the Government have had with its US counterparts to ensure the privacy of UK citizens who may have had their financial transactions viewed as part of US counter-terrorism investigations in conjunction with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. [86504]

Ed Balls: A total of 388 individuals and 181 entities are legally prevented from raising, moving or using funds in the UK pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 (1999), 1333 (2000) and 1390 (2002)
25 July 2006 : Column 1389W
relating to the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network and UNSCR 1373 (2001). A total of 152 bank accounts in the UK have been frozen pursuant to the UK's international obligations under these Resolutions.

It has been the policy of successive governments not to comment on specific security matters.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is an industry owned cooperative. It is headquartered in Belgium. I refer the hon. Member to the statement posted by SWIFT on its own website some years ago on compliance (www.swift.com/index.cfm?item_id=6149) and the statement more recently on 23 June 2006 (www.swift.com/index.cfm?item_id=59897) which stated that "In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, SWIFT responded to compulsory subpoenas for limited sets of data from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Department of the Treasury." The UK Government are aware of the arrangement between the US Government and SWIFT.

Tax Credits

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in how many cases where there has been a successful prosecution for tax credit fraud the sum involved was less than (a) £1,000, (b) £5,000, (c) £10,000, (d) £25,000, (e) £50,000, (f) £100,000, (g) £500,000 and (h) £1,000,000; and what proportion of successful prosecutions for tax credit fraud each figure represents. [83798]

Dawn Primarolo: It is not possible to provide the information in the format requested.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many direct recovery tax credit overpayment cases were outstanding as at 31 May; and if he will make a statement. [75842]

Dawn Primarolo: At 31 May 2006 there were some 759,000 households with direct recovery overpayments outstanding. Claimants subject to direct recovery are offered the facility to pay back overpayments over a 12 month period with some repayment arrangements exceeding 12 months.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many staff have been employed on tax credit compliance in each quarter since 2001-02; how many are planned to be employed up to 2007-08; and if he will make a statement; [76421]

(2) how many claimant compliance officers have been working on tax credits in each quarter since April 2002; and if he will make a statement; [78375]

(3) how many full-time equivalent staff have worked in the Tax Credit National Intelligence Analysis Team in each quarter since April 2003; [83794]

(4) how many staff in his Department have been engaged in detecting and assessing tax credit fraud in each month since July 2005. [76996]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 15 June 2006]: I refer the hon. Member for Yeovil to my reply of 16 February 2006, Official Report, column 2420W.


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Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff have been dealing with disputed tax credit overpayments in each quarter since 2001. [76480]

Dawn Primarolo: The number of full-time equivalent staff dealing with disputed overpayments each quarter between quarter ending June 2004 and quarter ending June 2006, was around;

Quarter ending Number of staff

June 2004

120

September 2004

150

December 2004

300

March 2005

350

June 2005

500

September 2005

950

December 2005

1,000

March 2006

1,000

June 2006

1,050


Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the merits of increasing tax credits and benefits for the poorest families in areas where the cost of living is higher. [76809]

Dawn Primarolo: There are currently no plans to set varying tax credit rates across regions.

The main costs which vary locally are housing and child care. Both the child care element of working tax credit, and housing benefit are directly related to the actual costs individuals face. As such they already offer greater support to those in areas where the cost of living is higher.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what meetings he has had on reducing tax credit fraud and error since April 2005; and if he will make a statement; [78160]

(2) how many reports on tax credit compliance (a) he and (b) the Paymaster General received in each quarter from April 2003 to May 2006; and if he will make a statement. [78407]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 16 June 2006]: Treasury Ministers and officials have a number of meetings and receive reports on a wide range of subjects, including tax credits, as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people received a tax credit payment twice due to an error made by the Tax Credit Office in each month since January 2003; what the Department’s policy is in relation to such payments; and if he will make a statement. [78385]

Dawn Primarolo: This information is not available.

HMRC’s approach to the recovery of overpayments is set out in its Code of Practice 26 “What happens if we have paid you too much tax credit” available at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/leaflets/credit.htm.


25 July 2006 : Column 1391W

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what results were achieved by the tax credits office in Northern Ireland in reducing fraudulent cases of living together as husband and wife; and if he will make a statement. [78405]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC have a range of approaches to tackle non-compliance. All claims, for example, are subject to an automated risk assessment process which looks at the features of a claim against known risks.

In 2005-06 the number of compliance interventions settled in HMRC favour where an undeclared partner was established by the claimant compliance team in Northern Ireland was 59.

Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many tax credit overpayments were (a) disputed and (b) successfully disputed in Northern Ireland in each month of the last two financial years. [78763]

Dawn Primarolo: A total of around 16,000 households in Northern Ireland disputed an overpayment in 2004-05 and 2005-06. A monthly breakdown of this figure is not available. HM Revenue and Customs centralised its work on disputed overpayments in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in January 2006 and has not kept a separate count of disputes received from Northern Ireland households since the end of November 2005.

The number of overpayments remitted, in full or in part, because of Official Error in each month, from July 2004 was around:

Number of payments written off( 1)

2004-05

July

5

August

10

September

10

October

20

November

10

December

10

January

10

February

10

March

20

2005-06

April

10

May

2,150

June

3,900

July

1,300

August

3,000

September

1,800

October

1,100

November

400

December

100

(1) Figures represent the numbers of remissions made and are therefore net comparable with the figures for the number of households disputing overpayments.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what anti-fraud packages were designed for the tax credits system; whether these are (a) enabled and (b) operational; and if he will make a statement. [81149]


25 July 2006 : Column 1392W

Dawn Primarolo: It is not appropriate to give specific details of anti-fraud packages as to do so could provide assistance to those engaged in criminal activity.

Information of a more general nature can be found in “Tackling error and fraud in the Child and Working Tax Credits” available on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/index.htm.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance has been given to tax credit contact centres in relation to giving out the addresses of HM Revenue and Customs Enquiry Centres for claimants needing emergency payments; and if he will make a statement. [81152]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC’s guidance tells Tax Credit Helpline advisers to provide details of Enquiry Centre addresses local to the claimant’s area when an emergency payment is requested.

Anne Main: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff have been employed on tax credit helplines (a) for the general public and (b) exclusively for the use of hon. Members and their staff in each year since they were created. [81524]

Dawn Primarolo: For the number of staff employed on dedicated tax credits helplines in April 2003, April 2004 and April 2005 I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 28 November 2005, Official Report, column 81W, and to the answer given on 19 June 2006, Official Report, column 1628W.

At April 2006 there were 3500 full-time equivalent staff, this includes staff from Northern Ireland who became part of the tax credit virtual network in November 2005.

(b) The number of FTE staff (Advisers) available to answer calls to the MP Hotline, are shown as at June 2003 (the first date for which number are available) and in April of each year thereafter and are around:

Number of staff( 1)

June 2003

20

April 2004

33

April 2005

36

April 2006

32

(1) Full-time equivalent

Anne Main: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he has taken to reduce errors in payments of tax credit payments. [81525]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the HMRC publication “Tackling error and fraud in the Child and Working Tax Credits” available at www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/index.htm.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what financial provision has been made to date by his Department to cover losses from tax credit fraud since 2003; and if he will make a statement. [81753]

Dawn Primarolo: Financial provisions are set out in HM Revenue and Customs’ accounts.


25 July 2006 : Column 1393W

HM Revenue and Customs 2005-06 Accounts: The Comptroller and Auditor General’s Standard Report is available at http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/05-06/05061159.htm.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many overpayments of tax credits in the last 12 months have been due to administrative errors; and what steps are being taken to reduce such errors. [82435]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the HMRC publication “Tackling error and fraud in the Child and Working Tax Credits” available at www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/index.htm and to HM Revenue and Customs 2005-06 Accounts: The Comptroller and Auditor General’s Standard Report, Part 2, available at http://www.nao.org.uk/pn05-06/05061159.htm.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any bonus payments have been made to staff dealing with tax credits since 12 December 2005; and if he will make a statement. [82887]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 10 July 2006]: The information is not available. Staff in various parts of HM Revenue and Customs, not only the Tax Credit Office, may be deployed to tax credits work or deal with tax credits in addition to other work. It is not possible to isolate those in receipt of bonus payments.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many prosecutions there have been for (a) tax credit fraud and (b) tax credit fraud over £250,000 in each month since January 2004; and if he will make a statement. [63040]

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people were prosecuted in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06 for tax credit fraud; how many were found guilty; how much money was fraudulently obtained in each such case where proceedings are complete; and if he will make a statement. [77590]


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