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Finance: Disadvantaged

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department is taking to
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promote financial literacy among socially excluded groups. [143859]

Ed Balls: The Government have taken significant steps to promote financial literacy for socially excluded groups. For example, in November 2006, the Department for Education and Skills revised the Sure Start Children’s Centre good practice guidance to encourage Children’s Centres to offer more financial education for parents. The Government also promotes financial skills for adults with poor literacy and numeracy through its ‘Skills for Life’ strategy and through the National Reducing Re-offending Delivery Plan, which has a commitment to address financial literacy for offenders.

Integrating financial literacy across a range of public services, particularly those aimed at the most vulnerable, is one of the Government’s long term aspirations set out in “Financial Capability: the Government’s long-term approach”, which was published in January 2007.

The Government have also asked Otto Thoresen, Chief Executive of AEGON UK, to design a national approach to generic financial advice. The Thoresen review terms of reference place particular emphasis on meeting the needs of those most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial decision-making, including socially excluded groups.

The Government will publish an action plan on financial capability, including the outcome of the Thoresen review, early next year.

The Government also continues to tackle financial exclusion—promoting access to banking and other financial services, affordable credit and money advice. As part of the Government’s financial inclusion strategy, the Department of Work and Pensions’ £5.4 million “Now Let’s Talk Money” campaign is working through trusted intermediaries—such as housing associations, community groups and charities—to provide financially excluded people with the information, advice and support they need to take up financial services products.

HM Revenue and Customs: Correspondence

John Hemming: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the extent of the backlog is in dealing with correspondence and other contacts at HM Revenue and Customs. [143250]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC has received over 26 million items of correspondence from customers in the last 12 months. At the end of May 2007 it is estimated that around 76,000 items are more than 40 working days old.

Home Information Packs

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he had with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on delaying the implementation of home information packs until 1st August 2007. [143752]

John Healey: The two Departments have discussed Home Information Packs as part of the regular process of policy development within Government.


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Home Responsibilities Protection

Steve Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many calls his Department has received on the 0845 302 1479 inquiry line since it was established; and how many of these calls have resulted in the issuing of form CF411 to claim home responsibilities protection. [142800]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 14 June 2007]: Information in terms of volumes is not available prior to 10 April 2005. Between 10 April 2005 and 31 May 2007 inclusive this line received around 1.4 million calls.

Data are not available on the number of calls that resulted in the issue of form CF411.

Immigration

Stephen Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the chief executive of the Office for National Statistics on the impact of the change of calculation methodology for estimating the number of international migrants to the UK. [143011]

John Healey: As Minister responsible for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have regular meetings with the National Statistician, which cover all areas of ONS business.

Inheritance Tax

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department has estimated the revenue that would be lost to the Exchequer if principal residences were exempt from inheritance tax. [143283]

Dawn Primarolo: Exempting principal residences from inheritance tax from 2008-09 onwards would incur a full year cost of around £1.7 billion.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost to the Exchequer of raising the inheritance tax threshold to £500,000. [143341]

Dawn Primarolo: Raising the inheritance tax nil rate band to £500,000 from 2008-09 would incur a full year cost of around £2 billion.

Landfill Tax

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate the Government have made of the proportion of landfill tax which is paid by local authorities and their contractors. [143667]

John Healey: Reliable estimates are not available for the proportion of landfill tax revenue from local authorities and their contractors. Registered landfill site operators pay the tax to HMRC and information on the source of the waste and the customer is not recorded on the landfill tax return.


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Local Government: Reorganisation

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library a copy of the letter sent by the Treasury Chief Secretary to the Department for Communities and Local Government in March in relation to local government restructuring. [143648]

Mr. Timms: It would be inappropriate to place a letter from ongoing correspondence between Ministers in the public domain.

Lord Bhattacharyya

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to which posts he has appointed Lord Bhattacharyya since 1997. [141293]

John Healey: The Chancellor has not appointed Lord Bhattacharyya to any posts.

Minimum Wage

Dr. Kumar: To ask Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of people and percentage of the workforce who receive the national minimum wage (a) in the UK and (b) in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. [143428]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I have been asked to reply.

Based on data from the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2006, the DTI estimates that, in the UK, between 430,000 and 440,000 jobs (less than 2 per cent. of the UK total) were paid at the national minimum wage in April 2006.

Data at the parliamentary constituency level are not available. However, the DTI estimates that between 10,000 to 50,000 jobs (1 per cent. to 5 per cent. of the total) held in the north-east were paid at the national minimum wage in April 2006.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of the minimum wage. [143429]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I have been asked to reply.

National minimum wage rates are set following recommendations by the independent Low Pay Commission. The Commission undertakes wide-ranging consultation and analysis before making its recommendations. Copies of the most recent Low Pay Commission report are available in the Libraries of the House.

Revenue and Customs: Informers

Mr. Gray: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer under what powers HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reward informers; and what procedures HMRC has for informing Ministers of the use of such powers. [144041]


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Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs are empowered to pay rewards by virtue of section 26 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005.

HMRC has unlimited delegated authority to make these payments, subject to the condition that the department makes regular internal assessments of its expenditure on rewards, and reports to the Treasury to request authority if any novel or contentious payments are anticipated.

The Treasury are notified of amounts paid in rewards prior to any publication in the Department’s annual report or elsewhere.

Revenue and Customs: Telephone Services

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) where the call centres are located which handle calls to the national helpline of HM Revenue and Customs; [141560]

(2) whether the telephone system used by the national helpline of HM Revenue and Customs is capable of recording (a) the average waiting time before a call from a member of the public is answered and (b) whether a call has been automatically terminated before being answered; and if he will make a statement; [141561]

(3) what benchmarks he uses to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the national helpline of HM Revenue and Customs in providing a service to the public. [141562]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC do not operate a single “national helpline” and the information is therefore not available in the format requested. HMRC operate a network of contact centres at some 22 separate locations throughout Great Britain and this network currently supports over 30 separate helplines and lines of business.

The management information available on helpline operations depends on the line of business that the helpline supports.

Students: Loans

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how frequently HM Revenue and Customs makes payments to student loan companies. [144125]

Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs transfers student loan repayments remitted by employers each month, along with pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax and national insurance contributions (NIC) deducted from employees’ earnings, to the Treasury’s consolidated funds overnight following the date of receipt. No sums are retained or transferred to the Student Loans Company (SLC) from HMRC at any stage.

Taxation: Rented Housing

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the tax revenue arising from buy to let property. [143751]


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John Healey: This information is not available. The tax system does not recognise properties bought to let as a distinct category of property.

Taxation: Self-assessment

John Hemming: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will instruct HM Revenue and Customs not to take enforcement action against those affected by the backlog in self-assessment. [143285]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC only takes enforcement action on returns that they have not received or on debts that have not been paid.

Terrorism: Finance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what investigations his Department has made into Riggs Bank in relation to the possible funding of terrorist operations on or after 11 September 2001; and if he will make a statement. [144118]

Ed Balls: The investigation of specific allegations of financial crime, including the financing of terrorism, are a matter for law enforcement authorities and, where appropriate, the Financial Services Authority. No such investigation has been carried out by this Department.

Unitary Councils

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what role his Department will play in the assessment of the bids to the Department for Communities and Local Government for unitary local government status. [143642]

John Healey: Following stakeholder consultation, all 16 unitary proposals will be assessed against the five criteria the Government set out when we invited local authorities to submit their proposals. Decisions on those bids which will proceed toward implementation will be taken collectively by all Ministers.

Ministerial Travel

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the Cabinet Office publication Overseas Travel by Ministers 2004-05, of how many days duration his trip to the United States in December 2004 was. [137064]

John Healey: All ministerial visits are conducted in accordance with the “Ministerial Code” and “Travel by Ministers”. Since 1999, the Government have published on an annual basis, a list of overseas travel by Cabinet Ministers costing in excess of £500 and the total cost of all ministerial travel. The Chancellor’s meetings in New York and Washington were between 16 December and 21 December. He spoke at the UN Council on Foreign Relations and met Jean Ping, President of the General Assembly He also met US Treasury Secretary, John Snow, the President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, Managing Director of the IMF de Rato, Secretary of State, Dr. Rice and former Chairman of the Federal Reserves, Alan Greenspan. The Chancellor stayed on at his own cost until 23 December.


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Valuation Office Agency: Freedom of Information

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests the Valuation Office Agency has received in each year since that Act came into force. [143750]

Dawn Primarolo: The Valuation Office Agency received 216 requests under Freedom of Information Act 2000 during the 2005 calendar year. There were 211 such requests during the 2006 calendar year.

Valuation Office Agency: Hong Kong

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost to the public purse was of the Valuation Office Agency’s representatives’ visits to Hong Kong in the last 24 months. [142171]

Dawn Primarolo: The visits to Hong Kong were made at the request of the Rating and Valuation Department, Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region). The Valuation Office Agency has been providing valuation advice to the Rating and Valuation Department. As the agency charged for the work undertaken there was no net cost to the public purse.

VAT

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library the legal advice he has received in relation to his Department’s inquiry into VAT and Low Value Consignment Relief. [143723]

Dawn Primarolo: It would not be appropriate to release the legal advice concerned, as it is confidential and subject to legal professional privilege.


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