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17 May 2007 : Column 834W—continued

Excise Duties: Alcoholic Drinks

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department made an assessment of the potential for fiscal incentives to contribute to the promotion of responsible drinking prior to the 2007 Budget. [137202]

Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer he was given on 20 April 2007, Official Report, column 866W.

Gift Aid

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the cost was to the public purse of administering Gift Aid in (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07; [137009]

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost to UK charities of administering Gift Aid claim returns in (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07. [137010]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 14 May 2007]: Gift Aid is one of a number of charitable reliefs and activities administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). HMRC does not distinguish the costs of processing Gift Aid from its other activities in relation to charities and charitable giving and does not have information available to identify the cost of processing Gift Aid by charities.

However, the HMRC Charities business stream brings together most policy, technical and operational work in relation to charities for both direct and indirect taxes. The total operational cost of this business stream was £3,342,594 (2005-06) and £3,690,339 (2006-07). These figures include the paybill costs of staff, but exclude departmental overheads such as accommodation.

Members: Correspondence

John Penrose: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 19 March from the hon. Member for Weston-Super-Mare, on the child tax credit system. [137375]

Mr. Timms: I have replied to the hon. Member.

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Paymaster General will respond to the letter from the hon. Member for Spelthorne dated 26 February about a constituent’s tax credits problem (Treasury reference PO REF: 4/29817/2007). [137502]

Mr. Timms: I have replied to the hon. Member.


17 May 2007 : Column 835W

Migration

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his most recent estimate is of future net migration for the purpose of determining a long-term trend economic growth rate. [137277]

John Healey: HM Treasury’s latest projection of migration and its contribution to trend growth are set out in “Trend Growth: new evidence and prospects”, published alongside the 2006 Pre Budget Report (CM 6984).

Office of Government Commerce: Manpower

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) full-time, (b) part-time and (c) external staff the Office of Government Commerce employed in each of the last five years. [136999]

John Healey: The information is given in the table:

Full-time Part-time

April 2007

285

10

April 2006

420

10

April 2005

435

15

April 2004

370

10

April 2003

370

20


Pensions

Jeremy Wright: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the potential effect on costs arising from arranging for the pension policies held with different employers of one individual to be dealt with by a single tax office. [137637]

Ed Balls: HMRC have no plans to bring together how they deal with employer and occupational pension records into a single office. No work has been done to identify the costs or the impact on the handling of pension policies.

However, in 2008 HMRC will bring together individual’s PAYE records, both employment and pension records, onto a single database to improve the standards of customer service and deliver cost efficiencies throughout the department.

Public Sector Net Cash Requirement

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) total amount and (b) percentage of GDP was of public sector net debt for the UK in each year since 1996. [137124]

John Healey: These public sector net debt series are published monthly in tables A7 and A8 of the Public Finances Databank, the latest version of which can be found at:


17 May 2007 : Column 836W

Research and Development Tax Credit

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the amount of tax relief wrongly claimed under the Research and Development Tax Credit Scheme; and whether he has set up a special unit to investigate abuses of the Scheme. [137048]

John Healey: Since the introduction of the relief in April 2000 no companies have been convicted of making fraudulent claims to relief.

HMRC adopts a risk-based approach to the interventions it undertakes. As with other elements of companies’ tax returns and computations, claims for R and D tax credits are subject to risk assessment procedures. Where significant risks are identified they are pursued through a variety of interventions one of which involves opening an inquiry into the company tax return or claim.

In response to consultation HMRC opened seven specialist R and D units in November 2006. The units will improve the consistency of dealing with claims and their role is to encourage and help companies to make claims to R and D relief while ensuring that any instances of non-compliance are effectively and efficiently handled.

Taxation: Emergency Services

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 8 May 2007, Official Report, columns 189-90W, on taxation: emergency services, what his Department’s policy is on the treatment for tax purposes of the use of emergency vehicles between home and workplace which may also be used for private journeys. [137002]

John Healey: The statutory exemption that removes the tax charge that would otherwise arise where members of the fire, police, ambulance and paramedic services take their vehicles home, applies where the individual driving the emergency vehicle is on call or engaged in on call commuting. If the vehicle can be used for private journeys at any other time, a tax charge will apply if it is used for such journeys, including journeys between home and workplace.

Welfare Tax Credits

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what (a) underpayment and (b) overpayment there has been of (i) pension credit, (ii) working tax credit and (iii) child tax credit in each year since their introduction. [136404]

Mr. Timms: Pension credit was introduced in 2003. It is designed to ensure that no pensioner falls below a minimum level of weekly income, and also rewards those who have saved for their retirement.

The amount of pension credit estimated as overpaid in each year due to fraud, customer error and official error is published as National Statistics. The amount estimated as overpaid in each year since the introduction of pension credit is shown in the table, together with the percentage of pension credit expenditure for the relevant period.


17 May 2007 : Column 837W

17 May 2007 : Column 838W
2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
£ million Percentage £ million Percentage £ million Percentage

Overpayments

270

5.4

280

4.6

270

4.1

Underpayments

85

1.7

121

2.0

100

1.6


Figures for 2003-04 are available only for a combination of pension credit and the minimum income guarantee (the system which pension credit replaced).

Child and working tax credits is a flexible system which responds to changes in family circumstances. Therefore, overpayments and underpayments are part of the system and can be caused by income rises from one year to the next, families overstating the extent to which income has fallen, delays in reporting changes in family’s circumstances, and provisional payments made at the start of the year which are based on out-of-date information. They are not therefore, comparable with over and underpayment arising from the pension credit.

Estimates of the number of families with tax credits awards in 2003-04 and 2004-05, including information on overpayments and underpayments (based on finalised family circumstances and incomes for 2003-04 and 2004-05) are available in the publication: “Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics. Finalised Awards 2004-05. Supplement on payments in 2004-05”. This is available on the HMRC website at:

We do not produce statistics separately for child tax credit and working tax credit. Figures for 2005-06 are due to be published on 22 May 2007.

Scotland

Local Government: Elections

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many spoiled ballots there were in the local authority elections held in Scotland on 3rd May. [137567]

David Cairns: The conduct of local authority elections in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Executive.

Communities and Local Government

Carbon Emissions

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will publish carbon dioxide milestones that can be used in conjunction with the standard assessment procedure and the planning process to ensure that appropriate building services and local renewables are specified. [135863]

Angela E. Smith: The Government have proposed changes to building regulations energy efficiency requirements so that by 2016 all new homes will need to be zero carbon as calculated by the Standard Assessment Procedure. The Government have also proposed interim milestones so that in 2010 and 2013, building regulations energy efficiency standards will be 25 per cent. and 44 per cent. higher respectively, compared with 2006.

The Government’s draft Planning Policy Statement on Climate Change has set out the need for development plan documents to set policies on the provision of low carbon and renewable sources of energy to provide the platform necessary for complementing the increasingly high levels of energy efficiency standards required by Building Regulations.

The proposed changes to building regulations together with the draft Planning Policy Statement on Climate Change will create opportunities for the use of appropriate building services and local renewables.

Departments: Official Engagements

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the diary engagements were for each member of her ministerial team for 23 April. [136840]

Angela E. Smith: For 23 April diary engagements for each member of the ministerial team were as follows:

Engagement

Ruth Kelly

Internal meetings only.

Phil Woolas

Internal meetings, a presentation from REACH, and a meeting with UNISON to discuss RSG issues.

Yvette Cooper

Internal meetings and a speech to 9(th) Hertfordshire Housing Conference.

Meg Munn

Opened exhibition in Bristol to mark bicentenary of abolition of the slave trade.

Angela Smith

Internal meetings and discussion with National School of Government regarding staff development strategy.

Baroness Andrews

Internal meetings and discussion with Patrick Hall MP regarding Milton Keynes


We do not release details of internal discussions as this would prejudice the frank exchanges of views between Ministers and officials which are necessary to policy development.

Housing: Standards

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many (a) houses and (b) flats built in (i) 2003, (ii) 2004, (iii) 2005 and (iv) 2006 were found subsequently to have significant building defects; and if she will make a statement. [136727]


17 May 2007 : Column 839W

Angela E. Smith: The construction of all new dwellings is subject to building control but as this is a fully devolved service under the Building Act 1984, no central records are kept of contraventions of building regulations.

Non compliance with building regulations may result in the withholding of completion or final certificates, and possibly formal enforcement action by the local authority for more serious breaches. In addition, the vast majority of new dwellings are covered by home warranties which provide mechanisms for defects to be remedied. Officials work closely with warranty providers to ensure that these are effective.

India

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which Ministers in her Department have visited India in the last 12 months; on how many occasions each Minister visited India; and what the length was of each visit. [135543]

Angela E. Smith: No Communities and Local Government Ministers have visited India in the last 12 months.

This Government publishes an annual list of Cabinet Ministers’ travel overseas costing over £500 along with the total cost of all ministerial travel. Information for 2005-06 was published on 24 July 2006 and is available in the Library of the House. Information for 2006-07 will be published as soon as it is ready.

All travel is in accordance with the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers.


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