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7 July 2008 : Column 1254W—continued


Treasury

Banking Services: Construction

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps (a) his Department and (b) the Office of Government Commerce is taking to promote the use of project bank accounts. [214033]

Angela Eagle: OGC, an independent Office of HM Treasury, together with the Public Sector Construction Client's Forum (PSCCF) and key industry stakeholders, developed and published the Guide to best “Fair Payment” practices on 19 September 2007. The use of Project Bank Accounts (PBA) is one of a number of approaches recommended in that document to facilitate improved payment practice.

Since the start of January 2008 all new central Government projects have been required to adhere to the OGC guidance and have a Fair Payment charter in place (that payments are made within 30 days). Whether this is achieved through the use of a Project Bank Account, or by other means, will need to be considered by clients on a case-by-case basis.

OGC funded the development of training on the use of Project Bank Accounts and promoted their use at a series of roadshows around the country. OGC is encouraging Departments to identify suitable projects where Project Bank Accounts could be used effectively. OGC will be monitoring the take-up of Project Bank Accounts until 2010 and will publish its findings soon after.

Child Benefit

John Hemming: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average time for new applications for child benefit to be processed was in the last period for which figures are available; what assessment he has made of trends in the average time; how many applicants have not had their child benefit payments activated; and what estimate he has made of the amount outstanding for payment. [213997]

Jane Kennedy: Information on average times is not available.


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In 2007-08 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) processed around two-thirds of all new child benefit claims within five working days and over 90 per cent. within 36 working days.

As of the end of May 2008, about 90,000 child benefit claims were on hand.

Child Tax Credit

Ms Buck: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families received child tax credit in (a) England, (b) each region and (c) each London local authority area in (i) 2003 and (ii) 2008. [216664]

Jane Kennedy: Estimates of the average number of recipient families with tax credits, by country, region and local authority for 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 are available in the HMRC publications “Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics Finalised Annual Awards. Geographical Analyses”, for each relevant financial year. These are available on the HMRC website at:

The same information for 2007-08 is not yet available because awards have not yet been finalised. However, estimates of the number of recipient families with tax credits, based on provisional awards, as at 5 April 2008, are available in the HMRC snapshot publication “Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics. Geographical analyses. April 2008”. This is also available on the HMRC website at the same address.

We do not produce these statistics separately for child tax credit and working tax credit.

Children: Day Care

Ms Buck: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families have taken up childcare vouchers in each year since the scheme’s inception. [216665]

Jane Kennedy: There are no official data collected in relation to the number of employers who offer child care voucher schemes or the number of employees or families who receive them. Employers who offer child care vouchers are not required to provide these data to HMRC. This is consistent with the wider objective of reducing burdens on business.

HMRC commissions periodic research into the level of uptake among employers and employees. The latest research was the survey conducted by the National Centre for Social Research who published their report in December 2006.

This research estimates that 36 per cent. of employees have access to employer supported child care.

The full report can be seen on the HMRC website at the following link:

Departmental Billing

Andrew George: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will ensure the Office of Government Commerce publishes the names of central Government construction clients who do not pay their suppliers within 30 days. [215866]


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Angela Eagle: Each Department should publish such performance data, for all its procurement activity, in its annual report and accounts.

OGC does not keep a central record of departmental performance across central Government.

Andrew George: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of central Government construction clients pay their suppliers within 30 days. [215867]

Angela Eagle: OGC does not hold a central record of departmental performance across central Government. However, Departments are required to publish a summary of their payment performance for all their procurement activity in their annual report and accounts.

Andrew George: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) monitors the implementation of the fair payment initiative’s commitment to more efficient payment procedures by central government construction clients; and when the OGC intends to report on the matter to his Department. [215868]

Angela Eagle: To measure progress in implementing the fair payment initiative OGC has commissioned an independent body to report on progress through to 2010, as announced in July 2007 and available at:

OGC will subsequently publish the findings.

Departmental ICT

Bob Spink: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff have access to his Department’s IT infrastructure at their home. [216384]

Angela Eagle: Our records show that 564 staff are able access the Treasury’s IT infrastructure from their homes.

Economic and Monetary Union

Ms Gisela Stuart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what provisions in domestic legislation enable the UK to take action pursuant to measures adopted by the Council of Ministers under article 59 of the Treaty establishing the European Community to safeguard the operation of economic and monetary union from serious difficulties caused by movements of capital to and from third countries; whether (a) the UK, (b) the Channel Islands and (c) the Isle of Man are considered third countries for the purposes of this article; what voting provisions will apply to this article in the Council of Ministers following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon; if he will make it his policy to oppose any proposed measure under this article which would affect the liquidity and competitiveness of the UK’s financial system; and if he will make a statement. [203260]

Kitty Ussher: The Government are committed to promoting economic prosperity by maintaining financial stability, internationally and in the UK, promoting global prosperity, and promoting a fair and efficient financial sector. The Government would take these objectives into consideration before they opposed or accepted any proposed measure.


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The Enterprise Act 2002 covers a range of enterprise measures aimed at strengthening the UK’s competition framework, including monitoring and control of inwards investment from third countries. This builds on competition and inward investment controls for third countries laid out in the 1998 Competition Act through specific measures to act upon anti-competitive agreements, cartels and abuses of a dominant position.

Neither (a) the UK, (b) the Channel Islands nor (c) the Isle of Man are considered third countries for the purposes of article 59 of the treaty establishing the European Community.

Article 66 of the treaty of Lisbon concerns the functioning of the European Union. Under this Article, the Council of Ministers would act by qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Central Bank.

Equality

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to establish a strategy to tackle age discrimination and promote age equality in the provision of goods and services (a) by his Department and (b) within the sectors for which he has policy responsibility; and if he will make a statement. [210462]

Angela Eagle: The Government set out their plans for taking a power to ban age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on 26 June 2008.

To help business and public authorities prepare, and to make sure the law does not prevent justified differences in treatment for different age groups, there will be further consultation on the design of the legislation and a transition period before the new legal protections from age discrimination are implemented.

Within HM Treasury, officials are currently developing a Single Equality Scheme that will include details on how the Department will promote age equality for all its employees. This will be published in due course.

Financial Action Task Force

Mr. Hague: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library a copy of the UK, Brazil and the Netherlands joint paper presented to the June 2008 plenary of the Financial Action Task Force. [216218]

Kitty Ussher: The UK, Brazil and Netherlands joint paper that was presented at the June 2008 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary is an internal FATF paper and not publicly available.

Financial Services Authority

Mr. Dunne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department has the power to require the Financial Services Authority to undertake consultations. [215258]

Kitty Ussher: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is operationally independent of Government. This statutory independence means that the Government does not have any control over the day-to-day running of the organisation.


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Government Departments: Procurement

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the Office of Government Commerce review on procurement to be published. [216900]

Angela Eagle: OGC carries out a number of reviews on procurement.

Housing: Valuation

Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 7 May 2008, Official Report, column 913W, on housing: valuation, if he will place in the Library a list of the unique numbers given to each live locality within each billing authority area. [211668]

Jane Kennedy: The VOA has developed a capability to retrieve this information at reasonable cost and so a list, giving the position on 4 April 2008, has been placed in the Library.

Insurance: Fees and Charges

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will meet representatives of the Association of British Insurers to discuss the level of administrative and cancellation fees charged by the insurance industry. [215712]

Kitty Ussher: Insurance firms are regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which was established by the Government in 2001 to act as the UK’s independent financial regulator. As part of their supervision of insurance firms, the FSA is responsible for ensuring that customers are treated fairly.

Customers who are unable to resolve complaints with insurance firms regarding administrative and cancellation fees can make a complaint free of charge to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service.

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will meet members of the Competition Commission to discuss the fees charged by the insurance industry. [215713]

Kitty Ussher: The Competition Commission was set up by the Government in 1999 to act as an independent body to help ensure healthy competition between companies in the UK.

The Competition Commission only initiates inquiries after referral from another body such as the Office of Fair Trading.

Meat: Smuggling

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much bush meat was seized on arrival into the United Kingdom in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [215818]

Jane Kennedy: There is no precise definition of bush meat, which is generally understood to be the meat of wild animals hunted for food. Central Government statistical records of illegal meat seizures do not separately identify bush meat. HM Revenue and Customs record
7 July 2008 : Column 1259W
seizures of illegally imported meat and animal products as “bush meat” where this was how the owners described the meat to customs officials. Their central records show the total quantities of such meat seized on arrival in Great Britain for each of the last five financial years:

Weight seized (k g)

2003-04

1,748

2004-05

2,812

2005-06

2,534

2006-07

3,399

2007-08

1,506


Money Laundering

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what consultation was undertaken on the process of listing Chartered bodies who are able to regulate their members under the money laundering regulations; [216131]

(2) what criteria were used to determine whether Chartered bodies could be added to a list of those bodies able to regulate their members under the money laundering regulations; who devised the criteria; and who decided who would be eligible for the list; [216132]

(3) for what reasons the Certified Public Accounts Association has not been recognised as regulator for its members under the new money laundering regulations. [216133]

Kitty Ussher: HM Treasury undertook two public consultations, in July 2006 and January 2007, on the implementation of the EU’s Third Money Laundering Directive in the UK. These included information on proposed supervisory arrangements for the new Money Laundering Regulations, which came into force in December 2007.

The Third Money Laundering Directive requires that bodies supervising compliance with a member state’s money laundering regime must have adequate powers to do so, including the power to compel the production of any information in order to monitor such compliance and to perform checks. The directive also requires that supervisory bodies must have adequate resources to undertake the task. HM Treasury officials assessed the applications of potential supervisors against these requirements, taking into account a range of criteria, such as a body’s experience of standard setting, compliance monitoring, and disciplining members; as well as their membership size, resource capacity, public interest objectives and relationships with other relevant bodies. Both the previous Economic Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Normanton (Ed Balls), and I approved the final supervisory arrangements. The Certified Public Accountants Association (CPAA) did not apply for supervisory status during either consultation period.

Since their coming into force, HM Treasury have sought to avoid altering the new regulations, or the supervisory regime, in order to allow business adequate time to get used to the new requirements. As a matter of good practice, the Treasury intends to review the supervisory arrangements in 2009, once the regulations have been in force for a reasonable period.


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