Previous Section Index Home Page

15 May 2007 : Column 689W—continued

Departments: Sick Leave

David Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people took sick leave for stress in his Department in the last 12 months; and what percentage of the total staff number this represents. [135463]

John Healey: In the 12-month period ending 31 March 2007, 27 people took stress-related sick leave, representing 2.4 per cent. of the total staff number.

Departments: Transfer of Questions

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many questions tabled by hon. and right hon. Members to other Departments for written answer have been transferred to his Department since May 2006; [137045]


15 May 2007 : Column 690W

(2) how many questions tabled by hon. and right hon. Members to his Department for written answer have been transferred to other Departments since May 2005. [137046]

John Healey: 624 written questions have been transferred from the Treasury to other Departments since May 2005. Treasury Ministers answered 9,147 written questions in the same period.

Information relating to the number of questions transferred from other Departments to the Treasury is not available. However, officials believe transfers in to be roughly in balance with transfers out.

Gift Aid

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what percentage of Gift Aid payments were made to overseas development charities in (a) 2003-04, (b) 2004-05 and (c) 2005-06; [137007]

(2) what methodology his Department used to measure the effectiveness of Millennium Gift Aid in 2000 in raising money for overseas development charities. [137008]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 14 May 2007]: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) do not record the type of charity for Gift Aid claims. The information requested on the percentage of payments made to overseas development charities is not available and could not be obtained without disproportionate cost.

No evaluation has been produced of the Millennium Gift Aid (MGA) scheme and HMRC do not retain separate statistics for MGA donations.

Members: Correspondence

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to answer the letter to him dated 26 March from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Mr. L. Rowe. [137328]

Ed Balls: I have replied to the right hon. Member.

Tax: Self-Assessment

Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 26 April 2007, Official Report, column 1319W, on tax: self-assessment, for what reason the figure for penalties paid for the year to end October 2006 is not available; when he expects the data to become available; and if he will publish the data once available. [136307]

John Healey: The Debt Management and Banking annual accounting figures go through a validation process which for the 2006 figures will be complete by the end of June 2007.

Once this process is completed HMRC will release the requested information.


15 May 2007 : Column 691W

Taxpayers: Charitable Donations

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of individual donations received by all UK charities in (a) 2003-04, (b) 2004-05 and (c) 2005-06 was given by UK taxpayers. [137005]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 14 May 2007]: The information requested can not be provided as HM Revenue and Customs only collects data on those donations which qualify for tax relief. It is estimated that about one-third of donors to charities used Gift Aid in 2004-05.

VAT: Care Homes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will bring forward proposals to change the application of VAT rules on the new build of care facilities. [137313]

John Healey: VAT is not chargeable on the construction of new buildings used for a relevant charitable purpose or for the provision of residential care to elderly or disabled people. Similarly, the construction of a hospice for a charity is zero-rated. However, should a care home be intended for use as a hospital or similar institution, VAT is chargeable at the standard rate of 17.5 per cent.

A reduced VAT rate of 5 per cent. applies to the conversion of a non-residential building into a communal residential building, such as a care home, if the care home is not intended for use as a hospital or similar institution.

Under agreements with our European partners, entered into by successive Governments, we are not able to extend existing VAT zero rates or introduce any new ones. While the application of VAT reliefs and reduced rates is also limited by these agreements, all taxes are kept under review and any changes are announced by the Chancellor as part of the Budget process.

Welfare Tax Credits

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people claimed tax credits in each of the last five years, broken down by occupational group; and what proportion of total claims each group represented. [137233]

Mr. Timms: New tax credits were introduced in April 2003 and have just entered their fifth year of operation. Information on the number of people claiming tax credits in 2003-04 and 2004-05 is available on the HMRC website at:

Figures for 2005-06 are due to be published on 22 May. Information on the number of claimants broken down by occupational group is not available.


15 May 2007 : Column 692W

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Afghan government on its proposed legislation on immunity from prosecution. [137140]

Mr. McCartney: We are monitoring the situation closely with our EU and international partners and have agreed a policy of quiet diplomacy over the implementation of the Act itself. We will also be using appropriate opportunities to clearly set out our position on human rights to ensure the Afghan population and government is in no doubt where the EU stands on important human rights matters.

The amended Act, unlike the original Bill, does not affect the right of victims and their families to bring criminal claims against persons “with respect to individual crimes”.

Canada

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she last met the Canadian high commissioner; and what the subjects of discussion were on that occasion. [136682]

Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met the Canadian high commissioner informally at the Lord Mayor’s Easter banquet reception on 18 April, where they discussed a range of international issues including climate change, recent developments in Canada, UN and Afghanistan.

Chechnya

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she is having with her Russian counterpart on the latest developments in Chechnya. [137326]

Mr. Hoon: The situation in Chechnya, and the wider North Caucasus, remains an issue of importance in our ongoing bilateral and EU discussions with Russia. With EU partners, we last discussed the latest developments in Chechnya with the Russian Government at the EU/Russia Human Rights Consultations on 3 May.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [136650]

Mr. McCartney: The political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has yet to settle since the elections of 2006. A new government and parliamentary institutions are in place, but have yet to tackle meaningfully the multiple challenges which face DRC, particularly ongoing conflict in the east, poverty reduction and security sector reform.


15 May 2007 : Column 693W

The needless violence in Kinshasa in March and the lack of space for the political opposition shown by the new government have dented the population’s confidence in the democratic process. That confidence must be restored.

We make clear to the government that there should be sufficient political and legal space in which the opposition can operate, and that freedom of expression should be widened and respected. We are also working closely with DRC parliament to help it fulfil its role of ensuring accountability and respect for constitutional government. I met with a group of Congolese parliamentarians from a cross-section of political parties in March when they visited the UK to see how the opposition works. They learnt about our procedures, systems and financing, in order that they use the ideas to develop their own legislation and procedures.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Politics and Government

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with her counterpart in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the political situation in that country; and if she will make a statement. [136804]

Mr. McCartney: We have regular discussions with President Kabila and the new Congolese Government regarding the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not had any recent discussions with the newly appointed Congolese Foreign Minister.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development met President Kabila, Foreign Minister Nyamwisi and Prime Minister Gizenga during his visit to the DRC on 22-24 April. He stressed to them that during this critical time for the DRC they need to strengthen their fledgling democracy, including through tolerance of peaceful political opposition and respect for freedom of expression, and eschew the path of violence.

Diplomatic Service: Security

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she expects to announce the outcome of the review which is considering options around replacing armed forces’ close protection teams protecting diplomatic staff with private sector security companies. [137099]

Mr. Hoon: No such review is taking place beyond the normal processes of ensuring that long-term services continue to provide value for money. This applies to all services, including close protection, provided by the Government and the private sector.

Embassies

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost was of running and maintaining the UK embassies in each of the last five years. [132742]


15 May 2007 : Column 694W

Mr. Hoon: The following table outlines the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) total overseas cost over the last five financial years. Total overseas costs consist of salaries, other direct costs, local and central overheads and programme. These totals are therefore “running costs plus”. We are not currently able accurately to disaggregate these figures. FCO programme costs include expenditure on the BBC World Service that supports FCO strategic priorities throughout the world.

The table also includes the FCO’s total administrative budgets from the latest FCO departmental report, published May 2007. The current reporting system provides a consolidated figure for UK and overseas administration (running) costs. Copies of the FCO departmental report are available in the Library of the House.

£
Financial year Total overseas costs( 1) Administrative budget for the FCO

2001-02

562,950,417

662,000,000

2002-03

687,751,006

703,000,000

2003-04

697,971,352

706,000,000

2004-05

800,380,982

746,000,000

2005-06

838,487,330

815,000,000

(1) Consists of: salaries; other direct costs, local and central overheads and programme.

Estonia

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of recent attacks on Estonian Government websites; and if she will make a statement. [136965]

Mr. Hoon: I am aware of recent media reports on cyber attacks on Estonian Government websites. Our embassy in Tallinn has been following the situation closely.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her counterpart in Estonia on (a) the removal of the Bronzed Warrior and (b) desecration of war graves in Tallinn; and if she will make a statement. [137026]

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed the Bronze Soldier issue with the Estonian Foreign Minister. The relocation of the Bronze Soldier and associated war graves was an internal Estonian issue. We recognise the right of the Estonian Government to relocate war memorials and war graves and we note that this has been done with due sensitivity and respect. Our embassy in Tallinn has been following events closely.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made to the Russian Government on relations between Russia and Estonia; and if she will make a statement. [136966]

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not made any recent representations to the Russian authorities on Estonia-Russia relations. The Government fully support the EU presidency
15 May 2007 : Column 695W
statement of 2 May and the NATO statement of 3 May following a dispute over the relocating of a war memorial in Tallinn, which expressed grave concern over the safety of the Estonian embassy and its staff in Russia and urged Russia to address the dispute through dialogue. We recognise the right of the Estonian Government to relocate war memorials and war graves and see this as an internal matter for Estonia.

Human Rights Council

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the UK Government's position is on the candidacy of Belarus for the 17 May elections for the UN Human Rights Council. [136524]

Margaret Beckett: We continue to have deep concerns at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, including Belarus' failure to co-operate with the UN human rights mechanisms; its failure to conduct free and fair elections, including the detention and arrest of political and civil society activists; and persistent reports of harassment and closure of non-governmental organisations, national minority groups, independent media outlets, religious groups, opposition political parties and independent trade unions.

We do not consider that countries whose human rights situations continue to be of deep concern fulfil the criteria for membership of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

The UN General Assembly resolution establishing the HRC in March 2006 sets out clear expectations of the Council's members, including that they "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights". We fully support these expectations of the Council's members. We urge all members of the General Assembly, responsible for electing the HRC membership, to take candidates' performance against these standards fully into account when casting their votes. European Union member states have publicly committed only to support those states who meet these standards, and who contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.


Next Section Index Home Page