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Mr. Pelling: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many visits by (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department have been made to casinos in (i) the UK and (ii) the rest of the world since 1997; [149990]

(2) what recent discussions he has had with representatives from the casino industry; and what plans he has for further such discussions. [149991]

Angela Eagle: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not had any recent discussions with the casino industry. However, as part of the normal Budget process Ministers and officials have been in periodic contact with representatives of the casino industry since 1997.

Debts: Developing Countries

Ann McKechin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what processes and consultations his Department (a) has undertaken and (b) plans to undertake to promote the proposed G8 Charter on Responsible Lending; and what timetable is planned. [149857]

Kitty Ussher: The UK has been a leading actor in the substantial progress made by the international community to deliver debt relief. The multilateral debt relief initiative (MDRI) and the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative have already delivered irrevocable debt relief to 22 countries, releasing resources to fund country-owned strategies for poverty reduction. Key to sustaining these benefits is to ensure that developing countries' debt management is strengthened and that all creditors' lending is responsible.

This is why the UK has been leading efforts with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to get export credit agencies (ECAs) to agree firm guidelines on responsible lending to poor countries. In April this year we were successful in persuading OECD countries to extend the scope of the OECD statement of principles on unproductive expenditure beyond just heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) to also cover all IDA-only countries. As a result, at least 26 extra developing countries will now be covered by this agreement on responsible lending.

We are now taking this work forward with G8 partners, who share our commitment to ensuring responsible lending and borrowing. It is of course critical that all large official creditors, including those outside the G8, engage in this process. We will continue dialogue on this issue in the international fora in which we participate, including the OECD, the Paris Club and the G20.

Departments: Standards

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff in his Department were formally reprimanded for failing to follow departmental procedures in relation to calculating the (a) income tax and (b) national insurance liabilities of individuals in each of the last five years for which data are available; and if he will make a statement. [150890]

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Angela Eagle: HM Revenue and Customs has procedures in place for tackling poor performance wherever it occurs. Information on disciplinary proceedings related to tax and national insurance calculations is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Financial Services: Disadvantaged

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the membership is of the ministerial working group to determine detailed priorities for financial inclusion policy, announced on page 10 of the Financial inclusion: the way forward; and if he will place in the Library copies of the agendas of the group’s meetings; [150168]

(2) what the membership is of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce. [150169]

Kitty Ussher [holding answer 17 July 2007]: The ministerial working group for financial inclusion is chaired by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and includes ministers from the following Departments:

The first meeting of the group took place on 12 June 2007. The agenda for the meeting focused on building the evidence base for policy options to achieve the Government’s objectives for financial inclusion—to ensure that everyone has access to appropriate financial services, enabling them to:

The membership of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce is as follows:

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Further information on the Financial Inclusion Taskforce can be found at:

Insurance: Freight

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer further to the publication of ‘Deregulating freight forwarding resource: Summary of responses, June 2007’, when he plans to bring forward the final text of the statutory instrument; and when he expects its provisions to come into force. [149557]

Kitty Ussher: This measure will remove the insurance activities of freight forwarders and storage firms from the scope of Financial Services Authority regulation. The measure will be implemented by Statutory Instrument (SI) 2007/1821, which will come into force on 20 July 2007, subject to parliamentary approval. The SI is available from the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.

Members: Correspondence

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 6 June 2007 (PO Reference: 5/02209/2007) from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire. [150765]

Kitty Ussher: I have replied to the hon. Member.

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 5 June 2007 (PO Reference: 5/02199/2007) from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire. [150766]

Kitty Ussher: I have replied to the hon. Member

Tax Allowances: Married People

Emily Thornberry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of whether a transferable tax allowance for married people would be compliant with the gender equality duty for public bodies. [150151]

Jane Kennedy: The gender equality duty is a legal obligation on public authorities which came into force in April 2007. It is not applicable to tax policy.

Taxation: Care Homes

Natascha Engel: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to enable the cost of residency in a care home to be set against the tax liability of the payer; and if he will make a statement. [149847]

Jane Kennedy: Since the introduction of the National Assistance Act 1948 people have had to contribute towards the cost of their residential care. The Department of Health is committed to providing affordable care for all who need it, but those who can afford to are asked to pay.

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Taxation: Invalid Vehicles

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether mobility scooters are to be classified as leisure vehicles and will be liable to extra import duty and VAT if manufactured outside the EU; and if he will make a statement. [149877]

Jane Kennedy: Electric mobility scooters have been classified in the same tariff heading for customs purposes as some leisure vehicles, since at least 2002 when the World Customs Organisation published its ‘Classification Opinion’ on the subject. The World Customs Organisation is the international authority responsible for tariff classification. The European Union has set an import duty of 10 per cent. for these vehicles.

VAT and Customs are separate regimes. Classification for import duty purposes under the Customs regime has no direct bearing on VAT liability, which is determined by VAT law.

For VAT purposes, mobility scooters for disabled people may qualify for the zero-rating that can apply to equipment specifically designed to meet their needs. The Government have no plans to change the scope of this VAT relief.

Following industry representations officials from HM Revenue and Customs are advising the industry on the options available to pursue a change to this classification.

Departments: Taxation

Tim Loughton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what his policy is on treating employee assistance programmes as taxable benefits; [151073]

(2) what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions on taxation of employee assistance programmes operated for that Department’s staff. [151074]

Jane Kennedy: All benefits in kind provided by employers to their employees are chargeable to tax unless covered by a specific exemption. Employee assistance programmes are not normally tax exempt as they often include taxable benefits in kind.

Treasury Ministers and officials have discussions with a wide range of organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such discussions.


Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the extended verification by HM Revenue and Customs on Pars Technology Ltd, Unit 4, Newmarket Court, Chippenham Drive, Kingston, Milton Keynes, Bucks MK10 0AQ (vat number 608 7403 41) to be completed; what assessment he has made of the financial impact on the company of the time taken to complete this verification; and if he will make arrangements for interest to be paid on the amount owed to the company. [150775]

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Jane Kennedy: HMRC has a statutory duty of confidentiality which restricts the use and disclosure of the information it holds relating to the tax affairs of individuals, companies and other bodies.


Human Trafficking

15. Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made by the Crown Prosecution Service on improving prosecution rates in cases of alleged human trafficking. [150579]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS is working to improve the number of prosecutions, and the number of offences prosecuted under human trafficking legislation is increasing year-on-year. Together with other Departments, the CPS is implementing the UK Action Plan on trafficking which should improve prevention, investigation, enforcement and prosecution.

BAE Systems Inquiry

18. John Barrett: To ask the Solicitor-General what discussions she has had with the Attorney-General, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on the request for co-operation with the US Department of Justice’s BAE Systems corruption inquiry; and if she will make a statement. [150582]

The Solicitor-General: The Home Office, which has central authority for these purposes, has received a request for mutual legal assistance from the United States in connection with its investigation. That request will be considered in the usual way.

Transnational Bribery

19. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Solicitor-General how many cases of alleged transnational bribery are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. [150583]

The Solicitor-General: The Serious Fraud Office is currently investigating 11 cases where there are allegations of transnational bribery, as well as fraud. It is not possible for operational reasons to give details of all these cases, but they include an investigation into Energy Financing Team Ltd. in Bosnia, an investigation into Kellogg Brown and Root in connection with Nigeria and a number of other countries, an investigation into the construction of the Unesco-financed Bibliotecha Alexandria in Egypt and an investigation into reinsurance involving the National Insurance Institute in Costa Rica. A number of other cases are currently being considered for investigation in the vetting process.


Mr. Evennett: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the role of the Law Officers in relation to the conduct of prosecutions. [150578]

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The Solicitor-General: The Law Officers have a statutory duty to superintend the main prosecution authorities. That duty incorporates the expectation that we will be briefed on all serious or sensitive cases. During the period of consultation on the role of the Attorney-General we will not make any key decisions in individual criminal cases unless national security or the law requires it.

Prosecutions: Smoking

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions have been brought for breach of the smoking ban; and if she will make a statement. [150814]

Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.

Although data are not yet available from enforcement authorities, the Department understands that due to high compliance there have not been any prosecutions brought in England for any of the offences set out in Part 1, Chapter 1 of the Health Act 2006.

The Department will routinely publish data on levels of compliance with smokefree legislation. The first report will be published in August 2007 on the Smokefree England website at:

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