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The improvements made to the administration of the tax credits system have significantly reduced overpayments, increased the flexibility of the system and provided certainty to families. Overpayments of tax credits have fallen by £700 million since 2005-06 and are now less than half the level they were in 2003-04.
Jane Kennedy: HMRC operates two 0845 helplines to deal with tax credits inquiries: the tax credits helpline for the general public and an intermediaries helpline. Advisers working on other HMRC helplines may also receive a small number of tax credits inquiries, but these are incidental to their main work, and the number is not recorded.
I refer my hon. Friend to the answers given by the then Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Dawn Primarolo) on 14 March 2006, Official Report, column 2137W, on 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 1857W and on 25 June 2007, Official Report, column 418W, in which the number of calls received by the tax credits helpline in each month in the last three years to April 2007 has been provided. The following table brings this information up to date for 2007-08.
|Tax credits helpline|
|Number of calls received( 1) to the nearest thousand|
|(1 )Where the caller selected an option from the call steering menu and was put in a queue to speak to an adviser|
|Tax credits intermediaries service|
|Number of calls received to the nearest thousand|
Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether staff in (a) his Department and (b) the Central Office of Information who are entitled to travel on a business class or first class airfare on official business are permitted to travel in a cheaper class; and what (i) financial and (ii) other benefits staff are permitted to accrue from any saving. 
Phil Hope: As part of recent policy changes designed to reduce its expenditure on official travel, the Cabinet Office requires all air travel by officials to be undertaken by economy class. The only exceptions when premier economy or business class may be used are if the journey time exceeds four hours, or the journey involves an overnight flight, or if no economy seats are available and there are no alternative practical travel options. First class air travel is not permitted. The Central Office of Informations policy on travel for staff is in line with that of the Cabinet Office and civil service guidelines are observed. Travel by Ministers and accompanying staff is governed by the requirements of the ministerial code.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how frequently the Cabinet Office makes a payment to the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund; and whether the calculation of the cost of the offsetting is made by the Cabinet Office or the Offsetting Fund. 
Phil Hope: Cabinet Office has made two payments to the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund covering the periods 2005-06 and 2006-07. Data is currently being collected for the 2007-08 reporting year and will be available later in the year. The calculation of the cost of the offsetting is made by Cabinet Office using methodology provided by DEFRA.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will review salary negotiations for public sector employees in organisations within the Cabinet Offices responsibility to reflect the rise in the consumer price index to a point above 3 per cent. 
Mr. Watson: The Governments pay policy is guided by the following principles. Public sector pay settlements should be consistent with maintaining the necessary levels of recruitment, retention and staff engagement needed to support service delivery; ensuring that total pay bills represent value for money and are affordable within Departments overall expenditure plans; and consistent with the achievement of the inflation target. Timing of pay decisions for a particular work force depends on pay-setting arrangements for that work force.
Phil Hope: There has been one review of regulation in the Cabinet Office since July 2007. The Office of the Third Sector (OTS), located in the Cabinet Office, conducted a review of financial thresholds in charities legislation jointly with the Charity Commission, and published de-regulatory proposals for public consultation in December 2007. This fulfilled a commitment made in Parliament during debate on the Charities Bill.
Mr. Watson: The Cabinet Office is committed to ensuring equal opportunities in all of its processes. We conduct equality monitoring of secondees to the Department as part of our monitoring of the overall work force.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the Answer from the Prime Minister of 18 June 2008, Official Report, column 920W, on departmental security, whether records are kept of (a) the number of lost passes in the Prime Ministers Office and (b) the reasons for losses. 
Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what contracts the Cabinet Office has with mobile telephone operators for the provision of mobile telephones for (a) staff and (b) ministerial use. 
Within the Cabinet Office, mobile phones for official use by staff and Ministers are procured through two contracts with Vodafone, both of which
were facilitated through the provisions of an Office of Government Commerce buying solutions (OGCbs) negotiated agreement.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will place in the Library a copy of the schedule of charges levied for minor works under the Cabinet Office facilities management contract with Ecovert FM. 
Phil Hope: The contract with Ecovert FM currently incorporates a threshold with all works completed under this threshold being paid as part of the fixed fee element of the contract. To obtain details of all such minor works would incur disproportionate cost.
Phil Hope: Futurebuilders is an active research programme which tests the theory that if unbankable third sector organisations can access investment finance at reasonable cost, they can then compete for and win public service delivery contracts, and that public service delivery will improve as a result. The programme is being independently evaluated by Sheffield Hallam University. Their interim report, published in April 2008, is available on the Sheffield Hallam website at:
Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many staff worked in the Office of the Third Sector in April 2008; and what plans there are for the number of staff which will be in place in April 2009. 
Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the estimated cost to the public purse, including office costs, is of employing the five policy officers for the Office of the Third Sector in 2008-09. 
Phil Hope: The OTS is in the process of recruiting five additional policy officers. The salary band published in the job advert was from £26,712 to £32,283 (with the potential to rise to £34,612 through performance-related pay).
All office costs are included in the overall OTS administration budget as published in the Central Government Supply Estimates 2008-09Main Supply Estimates (HC 479), available online at the following address:
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the average mean full-time (a) male earnings and (b) female earnings were in each local authority area in Great Britain in the most recent period for which figures are available. 
As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what the average mean full-time (a) male earnings and (b) female earnings were in each local authority area in Great Britain in the most recent period for which figures are available. (217939)
Levels of earnings are estimated from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), and are provided for employees on adult rates of pay, whose pay for the survey period was not affected by absence. The ASHE, carried out in April each year, is the most comprehensive source of earnings information in the United Kingdom.
Results for Local Authorities can be obtained from Table 7 in the ASHE publications available from the National Statistics website at:
Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on how many occasions since 1 June 2007 (a) focus groups have been consulted and (b) polling surveys have been undertaken; and what subject was in question in each case. 
Mr. Watson [holding answer 8 July 2008]: For information regarding public participation events, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) on 3 April 2008, Official Report, column 1142W.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in what ways the Cabinet Office monitors effects on volunteer car and minibus drivers of fluctuations in the price of fuel; and what estimate he has made of the effects of recent rises of the price of fuel on the number of such volunteers. 
Phil Hope: The Cabinet Office is committed to addressing barriers to volunteering. Officials from the Office of the Third Sector regularly meet with representatives from the sector to discuss a range of issues.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer from the Secretary of State for International Development to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) of 30 June 2008, Official Report, columns 596-7W, on Afghanistan: asylum, on how many occasions security for humanitarian agencies delivering aid has been provided by (a) the International Security Assistance Force and (b) other forces since January 2008; and if he will make a statement. 
Des Browne: Since January 2008, there are no recorded instances in which UK military personnel have provided security for humanitarian agencies delivering aid in Afghanistan, nor are there any recorded instances in which such assistance has been requested.
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