The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): This Government are determined to ensure that all individuals pay the proper amount of tax on their employment income, other non-employment income and capital gains. Despite the Government's focus on tackling tax avoidance schemes, there are a minority who continue to seek ways to avoid paying an appropriate share of tax, which is unfair on the majority of taxpayers and can undermine funding of public services.
The Government have continued to see evidence of schemes that use partnerships to generate losses that can be offset by individuals against other income or capital gains using sideways loss relief. HMRC's compliance activity in this area and the disclosures that have been received, following the extension of disclosure rules to cover loss creation schemes from 1 August 2006, have highlighted that this type of avoidance activity is still widespread. Despite the introduction of extensive anti-avoidance legislation in this area, scheme providers are continuing to devise and operate more contrived schemes.
Prompt and decisive action is required to ensure that all taxpayers pay their fair share of tax. The Government are therefore announcing with effect from today two changes to the rules for sideways loss relief.
Currently, the amount of a partnership's trading losses for a tax year for which a non-active partner can claim sideways loss relief is restricted broadly to the amount of capital that the partner has contributed to the partnership. The Government propose to introduce new legislation to exclude certain capital contributions from this amount. The capital contributions to be excluded will be those paid by non-active partners on or after 2 March 2007 where the main purpose, or one of the main purposes, for contributing the capital to the partnership is for the partner to obtain a reduction in tax liability by means of sideways loss relief.
The Government also propose to introduce an annual limit of £25,000 on the amount of trading losses for a tax year for which an individual who is a non-active partner in a partnership can claim sideways loss reliefs. The new limit will apply to trading losses sustained as a non-active partner on or after 2 March 2007.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The 2007 Report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has now been published. I wish to express my thanks to the Chairman and members of the Review Body for their Report. I am pleased to confirm that the AFPRBs recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2007.
In line with the AFPRB recommendations, the basic military salary for officers and all other ranks will increase by 3.3 per cent. In addition, a restructuring of Pay Range 1 will see those on the lowest pay level, some 13,000 servicemen and women, receive a total pay increase of 9.2 per cent. A further 6,000 service personnel on the next lowest level will receive 6.2 per cent.
The Government have also accepted the AFPRBs recommendation to introduce additional targeted Financial Retention Incentives for Royal Marine and Infantry Other Ranks, and an extension to the Aircrew Financial Retention Incentive, in order to meet specific challenges in retaining our experienced people.
Also, the AFPRB have confirmed their support for the introduction of the tax-free Operational Allowance, which I announced to the House on 10 October 2006, Official Report, column 175, and has so far been paid to around 31,000 servicemen and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans; and the removal of the 100 day initial qualifying period for the Longer Separation Allowance. Together these measures demonstrate this Governments commitment to provide special recognition for those serving their country on operations.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 5 March in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs. Margaret Beckett) and I will represent the UK.
The Council will discuss the draft agenda for the Spring European Council on 8-9 March including climate and energy security, Better Regulation and the Lisbon Agenda. The Spring European Council will be an opportunity for the EU to show global leadership in tackling climate change.
The Council will discuss support for the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (AMIS). The Presidency is leading an initiative to secure further EU funds for the African Union, both bilaterally and through the Commission. We will be indicating our support for this initiative and will join the Presidency in encouraging member states who have not yet committed significant funds to do so.
We also expect the Council to adopt Conclusions calling on the Sudanese Government to give explicit consent to the UN Heavy Support Package for the peacekeeping force condemning Sudanese non-cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council and reiterating the need for an inclusive political process under the African Union-UN initiative.
We expect the Council to focus on the EU's response to the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG). The Commission is likely to brief partners on proposals for an International Mechanism for Support to the Palestinian people. We support the Commission's efforts.
The main focus of discussion is likely to be Bosnia. We expect the Council to adopt Conclusions welcoming the outcome of this week's Peace Implementation Council, which is likely to extend the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and the Bonn Powers.
The Council is expected to adopt Conclusion deploring Iran's non-compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737, underlining the Security Council's intention to adopt further measures and reiterating EU support for a negotiated solution. We will also brief partners on the E3+3 senior officials' meeting in London on 26 February.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): We shall lay before Parliament regulations to increase National Health Service charges in England from 1 April 2007. There will be a cash increase in the prescription charge of 20p from £6.65 to £6.85 for each quantity of a drug or appliance dispensed.
The cost of prescription prepayment certificates will rise to £35.85 for a four-month certificate and £98.70 for an annual certificate. These offer savings for those needing more than five items in four months or 14 in one year.
In order to continue to provide help with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses to children, people on low income and individuals with complex sight problems, optical voucher values will rise by an average of 2.7 per cent.
In due course, we shall lay regulations to make 12 month pre-payment certificates (PPC) available from July 2007 via direct debit instalments and replace the four-month PPC with a three-month PPC at a fee of £26.85.
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Twenty-second Report of the Review Body for Nursing and Other Health Professions (NOHPRB), Cm 7029, and the Thirty-sixth Report of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB), Cm 7025, which were laid before Parliament yesterday. The reports have been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office. I am grateful to the chairs and members of the Review Bodies for their hard work.
The NOHPRB has recommended an increase in the agenda for change pay rates of 2.5 per cent from 1 April 2007. The NOHPRB has also recommended that the minimum and maximum high cost area supplements should be increased by 2.5 per cent.
The DDRB has recommended that the basic rate of pay for junior doctors should be increased by £650 (equivalent to about £1,000 when the banding multiplier is applied) and of all other hospital doctors by £1,000. The DDRB has also recommended that the top and bottom of the salary range for salaried general medical practitioners should be increased by £1,000. In addition they have recommended a zero increase in GP pay and an increase of 3.0 per cent. in the gross earnings base for general dental practitioners. The DDRB calculate that their recommendations will increase the NHS medical and dental pay bill per head by just under 2.0 per cent.
The review bodies pay recommendations are being accepted. However, to ensure consistency with the Government's inflation target, and in line with other parts of the public sector, the awards will be staged. All
awards which represent an increase up to and including 1.5 per cent. will be paid in full from 1 April. But all awards which represent an increase above 1.5 per cent. will be paid in two stages, with 1.5 per cent from 1 April and the balance from 1 November. The Government recognise that the staff affected will be disappointed that their award is not being paid in full from 1 April. But we believe that this approach is fair for staff, consistent with the Government's inflation target and affordable for the NHS.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The sixth report of the independent Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) on the pay of Governing governors and other operational managers, prison officers and related support grades in England and Wales in 2007 has been published today and copies placed in the Library. I would like to thank the Chair and members of the PSPRB for their hard work in producing their recommendations.
The PSPRB has recommended a restructuring of the prison officer pay scale to a new seven-point scale and a restructuring of the pay ranges for Governing governors and other operational managers within a new 21-point spine, from 1 April 2007. The PSPRB has also recommended for those staff not affected by the restructuring (Principal and Senior prison officers, prison officers on the second long service incremental point and unified support grades) an increase in basic pay of 2.5 per cent. The recommendations will lead to a 2.8 per cent. growth in overall paybill to £888 million (excluding oncosts).
Whilst I have decided that the PSPRB's recommendations will be implemented in full, the Government have announced that all Pay Review Body awardsincluding Doctors, Dentists, Nurses and Judges, as well as prison officerswill be staged so as to be consistent with the Government's wider economic objectives to secure economic stability and steady growth.
(1) A restructuring of the prison officer pay scale to a new seven-point scale;
(2) A restructuring of the pay ranges for operational managers within a new 21-point spine;
(3) Required Hours Addition for operational managers to be uprated by 2.5 per cent;
(4) The Operation Tornado emergency response payment to prison officers to be uprated to £18 per hour;
(5) On Call allowances and dirty protest payment uprated by 2.5 per cent.
(6) A 2.5 per cent. increase to the basic pay rates of Principal and Senior prison officers, prison officers on the existing Second Long Service incremental pay point and unified support grades;
(7) All other allowances and ex-gratia payments to remain at their current levels.
Recommendations (1) to (5) will be implemented from 1 April. Recommendations (1) and (2) will benefit
those below the top pay scale by up to 10 per cent. Recommendation (6) will be paid in two stages; 1.5 per cent. will be paid from 1 April 2007 (in line with other Pay Review Bodies), with the balance to 2.5 per cent. paid from 1 November 2007. The cost of the award will be met from within the delegated budget allocation for the Prison Service.
The Government remain committed to the independent Pay Review Body process. They do not take decisions to stage recommendations lightly. This year's decisions do not provide any indication of future responses.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): Further to my statements to the House on Wednesday 10 and Tuesday 16 January 2007, I have placed in the Library of the House today the report of the Home Office internal Inquiry into the handling of notifications, by other European countries, of criminal convictions for UK citizens. The report reinforces the importance of the Home Office's reform programme, which I announced last July, and which is already addressing the issues raised in the report.
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