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Welfare Tax Credits: Overpayments

Mr. Betts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people have received correspondence from HM Revenue and Customs threatening court action over the repayment of tax credit overpayments; and how many have (a) subsequently become the subject of a court case and (b) been convicted. [118635]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 6 February 2007]: HM Revenue and Customs issue at least two written applications for repayment of tax credit overpayments and where possible attempt to make personal contact with the customer, including by telephone, before taking court action.

A court summons is always the last resort. It is estimated that less than 2.5 per cent. of direct recovery of tax credit overpayment cases will proceed to court action. In the financial year to end of January 2007 some 37,000 court actions were initiated by the issue of a summons and these are at various stages of the court process.

Alistair Burt: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much tax credit was overpaid in each of the last three financial years; what percentage of the value of total payments made this represented; how many overpayments were made in each year; and what percentage of payments made this represented. [119430]

Dawn Primarolo: Information on value of payments made, number of recipients, number and value of overpayments in 2003-04 and 2004-05 is available in the Trust Statements of the Inland Revenue Annual Report and Accounts 2003-04 and Department of Inland Revenue 2004-05 Accounts “Child and Working Tax Credit Statistics. Finalised Annual Awards 2003-04” and “Child and Working Tax Credit Statistics. Finalised Annual Awards 2004-05” and “Child and Working Tax Credit Statistics. Finalised Annual Awards 2004-05. Supplement on payments in 2004-05”.

Information on overpayment of tax credits in 2005-06 is not available until May 2007, when family circumstances and incomes are finalised.

Constitutional Affairs

Coroners: Post-mortems

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs under what circumstances the brain of a deceased person may be retained by a coroner; for how long body parts may be retained; what procedures are in place for informing families that body parts of a deceased relative have been retained; and whether body parts may be retained by a coroner without informing the deceased’s family. [121634]

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Bridget Prentice: A brain, other organs and tissue may be retained following a post-mortem examination in order to enable the pathologist to provide the coroner with an accurate determination of the cause of death. It may also occasionally be necessary to retain organs and tissue for evidential purposes in criminal cases.

Prior to the Human Organs Inquiry in 2002, families were not routinely informed about retention of organs or tissue following a post-mortem examination. The current procedure in Northern Ireland is that families are contacted by a liaison officer from the Coroners Service immediately following the conclusion of a post-mortem examination and informed about the retention of organs or tissue. Once the organs or tissue can be released, a liaison officer will contact the family to arrange for the return or disposal of the retained material.

Religion: Discrimination

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer to question 119001, what restrictions are not related to accession to the throne. [121076]

Bridget Prentice: There are some differences in the requirements that must be met for marriages of different religions to be legally recognised. Most religious marriages, other than Church of England, Society of Friends or Jewish marriages, must be solemnised in a registered building and by an authorised person. Where this does not happen, a civil marriage will be necessary.

Witnesses: Young People

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what support is provided for young witnesses in the criminal justice system; and if she will make a statement. [120680]

Ms Harman: The Government have launched a number of initiatives which demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our society, including young people, have access to justice. These include the provision of £30 million per year to Victim Support to provide services for victims and to run the Witness Service (including some special provision for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses); the roll-out of 165 witness care units across England and Wales, providing tailored support for witnesses once a charge is made; and the introduction of special measures, such as screens and video links, under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, designed to make the experience of giving evidence in court less intimidating. Specific additional support for young witnesses includes the provision of a young witness pack and other information resources such as a video, DVD and pop-up court, as well as improved facilities for child witnesses in court, for example newly decorated waiting rooms with books, games and DVDs.


Admiralty House

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost to public funds was of the telephone use of the right hon. Member for Ashfield from his official
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ministerial residence in Admiralty House in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06. [113982]

Derek Twigg: The cost to the Ministry of Defence for telephone services in Admiralty House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) was £1,346.33 for the period 1 March 2004 to 28 February 2005 and £200.18 from 1 March 2005 to 31 May 2005. The bulk of these costs were for the provision of secure communications and a fax line. Following his appointment as Leader of the House of Commons after the general election the Ministry of Defence ceased to have responsibility for the telephone services.

Afghanistan: Peace Keeping Operations

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many extra (a) helicopters, (b) armoured vehicles and (c) artillery guns will be deployed to Afghanistan as part of the April roulement. [121496]

Des Browne: As I set out in my written statement of 1 February 2007, Official Report, column 19WS, the force package for Afghanistan is kept under continual review. We have proven processes in place to deliver changes to military capabilities, whether through regular conduct of force level reviews (FLR) or through the urgent operational requirements (UOR) process. Following an FLR in early summer, I announced an uplift to helicopter flying hours in Afghanistan and the deployment of two additional Chinook helicopters. Since then, commanders on the ground have made clear that they have sufficient helicopter assets to conduct operations, and no additional helicopters will be deployed as part of the roulement.

There will be minor increases to armoured vehicle numbers and artillery light guns as part of the 12 Mechanised Brigade roulement. We are also delivering significant enhancements to the protected mobility equipment available through the UOR process. This includes the forthcoming deployment of Mastiff, which is a well-protected, wheeled patrol vehicle with a less intimidating profile than our tracked vehicles. We are rapidly procuring 108 of these vehicles for use in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We are also deploying 100 Vector, our new Pinzgauer-based protected patrol vehicle, for Afghanistan, on top of the 62 already on contract. Vector provides better protection and increased mobility and capacity compared with the protected Land Rover known as Snatch. This makes it very suitable for the rugged terrain and long patrol distances in Afghanistan. Vector and Mastiff are not specifically part of the roulement, but will be delivered to theatre from February and March 2007 respectively.

Agency Personnel: Scotland

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people are employed by the Queen Victoria School; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are expected to be in 2006-07; and what they were in 2005-06. [107936]

Derek Twigg: Queen Victoria School (QVS) employs 69 full-time staff and 10.5 part-time staff full-time equivalents—(31 October 2006 figures). In addition, QVS currently employs four GAP students, one foreign language student and one teacher via the Head Masters
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Conference Projects in Central and Eastern Europe scheme. All permanent staff—full-time and part-time—are contracted as MOD civil servants and employed in Scotland.

Personnel costs for 2005-06 were £2.628 million; costs for 2006-07 are expected to remain broadly similar.

Queen Victoria School ceased to be an agency on 1 April 2005. The school continues to be managed and run by the Ministry of Defence.

Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether former service personnel who receive a payment under the new Armed Forces Compensation Scheme will be treated in an analogous manner to ex-servicemen and women who have received a war pension in regard to priority treatment on the NHS. [121490]

Derek Twigg: Priority treatment in the national health service is available to former service personnel for conditions accepted as due to service under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme on the same terms as for the war pension scheme.

Armed Forces: Casualties

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when his Department received from the US Administration the CD recording of the attack which resulted in the death of Lance Corporal of Horse Matthew Hull; under what conditions the CD was given to the Department; which sections of the Department received copies of the recording; how many copies were received; whether any further copies were made; which individuals have had possession of a copy of the recording; what the security classification was of the recording; and what the consequences of this classification were for its handling and disclosure. [121239]

Des Browne: The handling of the CD recording in question is currently being investigated. I will write to the hon. Member when the investigation is complete and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces: Firearms

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints have been made by personnel serving in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq about the (i) SA-80 rifle, (ii) light machine gun, (iii) general purposes machine gun and (iv) heavy machine gun in the last 12 months. [119277]

Mr. Ingram: There are a number of ways that personnel can give feedback on equipment issues including, via the chain of command, through the GEMs suggestion scheme and via equipment failure investigation teams. Specific information relating to the number of complaints raised through the various routes is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

If, however, the user of a particular piece of equipment formally raises an issue because they believe that the equipment or one of its components has failed
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unreasonably early in its life, or that it exhibits a design, handling or safety problem, then an equipment failure report (EFR) will be logged. The following table shows the numbers of EFRs logged for each of the four weapons systems, in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the period January 2006 to January 2007 inclusive.

January 2006 to January 2007
Weapon type EFRs raised in Iraq EFRs raised in Afghanistan

Heavy machine gun



Light machine gun



General purpose machine gun






It should be noted that the table includes malfunctions of weapon ancillaries (e.g. ammunition magazines) and therefore may not be due to the weapon itself failing.

Armed Forces: Housing

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with the Department for Communities and Local Government on the housing needs of serving and former members of the armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [119670]

Derek Twigg: Discussions between the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Communities and Local Government about the housing needs of armed forces personnel have taken place on a regular basis. One outcome of these meetings was the decision to grant key worker status for armed forces personnel.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department has received from Annington Homes under the profit-sharing scheme from the proceeds of sales of former Ministry of Defence housing and land (a) nationally and (b) at Colchester in each year since the scheme began. [121099]

Derek Twigg: Under the terms of the 1996 sale agreement with Annington Homes Limited (AHL), the Exchequer receives a percentage of any profit the company makes on the subsequent disposal of houses and land returned to it.

The amounts received over this period are:

Financial year £ million





















(1)1 April to 31 December 2006

This information is only held on a national (England and Wales) basis, and is not readily available for individual areas.

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Armed Forces: Schools

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) percentage and (b) number of occasions was where the time taken for transfer of student records between UK schools and service children's education schools exceeded 15 days in each year of the last three years. [121497]

Derek Twigg: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However in response to the HCDC report on the education of service children, the Government recently acknowledged the Committee's concerns that some service children are being disadvantaged when they move school because some schools fail to transfer the pupils' records on time. The Government will continue to do all that they can to explain and publicise the 15-day transfer rule to all schools to ensure that they meet this target and will continue to use Teachernet, Schoolsweb and Spectrum to do this.

Armed Forces: Transport

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are (a) to order and (b) to lease additional Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft. [119885]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 8 February 2007]: The Department announced in August 2006 that it had signed a contract to purchase the four C-17 aircraft it currently leases from Boeing at the end of the current contract in 2008. At the same time, we also placed an order for a fifth C-17 aircraft that is expected to be delivered in 2008. Beyond this, the Department currently has no plans to order or lease additional C-17s.

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