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15 Sep 2008 : Column 2154W—continued

Import Controls

David Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of crates imported to the UK were screened or searched at UK ports by HM Revenue and Customs in 2006-07. [223591]

Angela Eagle: This information is not available. HMRC does not centrally record the number of crates imported into the UK.

Northern Rock: Repossession Orders

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many homes Northern Rock has (a) repossessed and (b) initiated action to repossess in the last six months. [223626]


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Kitty Ussher: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given to the hon. Member for Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price) on 21 July 2008, Official Report, column 728W.

Public Buildings: Empty Property

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of maintaining empty public buildings in the last 12 months; and what estimate he has made of the amount by which this figure will change following the removal of empty property rate relief. [223538]

Angela Eagle: Over the last 12 months the average actual vacancy rate on the Government civil estate was 1.6 per cent. of the total estate. In June 2008 this was 1.43 per cent. This compares well with the private sector, where vacant space can be four times greater.

The cost of maintaining empty buildings on the civil estate for 2007-08 is estimated to be approximately £39.5 million. The removal of empty rate relief is likely to increase this cost in the current financial year to approximately £47.2 million, on the assumption that a similar amount of property remains empty.

Public Expenditure

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table showing public expenditure per head of population for each year since 1997, broken down by parliamentary constituency and ranked from highest to lowest ratio. [223587]

Yvette Cooper: Public expenditure figures by parliamentary constituency are not available but we do publish figures on a regional basis in the Country and Regional Analysis (CRA) section of Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA). These can be obtained for the years 2002-03 up to 2007-08 from the following link:

Figures for earlier years are not available on a comparable basis due to changes to the definition of expenditure that can be identified as benefiting a particular region, and changes to the methodology Departments use when allocating expenditure to regions.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Simon Hughes: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to extend the suspension of stamp duty announced on 2 September 2008 for all properties up to the value of £175,000 to cover the whole of the 1 per cent. stamp duty band. [223484]

Kitty Ussher: The stamp duty holiday is limited to transactions up to the value of £175,000 in order to provide support to those homebuyers who need it most.

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the evidential basis is for his statement that the suspension of stamp duty on the purchase of residential properties costing £175,000 or less will cost more than £600 million; [223539]


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(2) what his estimate is of the number of residential property sales at prices between £125,000 and £175,000 that will take place in the year commencing 3 September 2008 (a) with and (b) without the suspension of stamp duty, broken down by Government Office region. [223540]

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the (a) number and (b) proportion of residential properties that will be exempt from stamp duty as a result of the recent change in thresholds in each Government region in each of the next 12 months. [223565]

Kitty Ussher: The estimate of the cost of the suspension of stamp duty land tax on the purchase of residential property costing £175,000 or less is based on a number of factors, including estimates of future transactions, house prices and behavioural effects. The Treasury does not publish forecasts of house prices or transactions.

Stamp duty rates and thresholds apply uniformly throughout the UK. It is estimated that around half of all purchases in the UK are for properties worth £175,000 or less.

Tax Credits

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many recipients of tax credit renewal packs were subsequently found not to be eligible for tax credits in the latest period for which figures are available; [223207]

(2) what procedures are in place to discontinue the distribution of tax credit renewal packs to former tax credit claimants when they have ceased to be eligible for tax credits. [223208]

Jane Kennedy: The statistical information is not available in the format requested.

HMRC is statutorily obliged to send annual declaration and renewal notices requiring claimants to provide or confirm details of their income and circumstances, and any changes in their circumstances. That information is necessary to determine their entitlement in the tax year just ended.

HMRC does not send annual declaration and renewals packs to customers where they have not been in receipt of tax credits over the past year and when HMRC is certain that the customer is no longer eligible for tax credits.

Taxation

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the cost to the public purse arising from the introduction of credit card processing fees for tax bills paid by telephone by credit card. [223541]

Jane Kennedy: There is not expected to be any additional cost to the public purse for receiving telephone credit card payments in respect of amounts paid to HMRC.


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Taxation: National Lottery

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent estimate his Department has made of the effect on (a) prize levels, (b) good causes revenue and (c) taxation revenues of a change to the taxation regime for the National Lottery from lottery duty to gross profits taxation. [223477]

Angela Eagle: At Budget 2008, the Government announced that they would consider the case for moving lottery duty to a gross profits tax and would announce their plans at pre-Budget report 2008.

Officials from both HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs have been in discussions with the national lottery operator to help determine the impact of such a change.

Tobacco: Smuggling

David Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the excise duty lost on tobacco products due to smuggling in tax year (a) 2003-04, (b) 2004-05, (c) 2005-06, (d) 2006-07 and (e) 2007-08. [223663]

Angela Eagle: Estimates for the revenue loss to the Exchequer (duty plus VAT) associated with illicitly supplied cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco are estimated separately for 2003-04 to 2005-06 and are reported in "Measuring Indirect Tax Losses - 2007" published by HMRC in October 2007, which is available in the House of Commons Library.

Estimates for 2006-07 are expected to be published alongside the 2008 pre-Budget report. Further, the 2007-08 estimates are expected to be published alongside the 2009 pre-Budget report.

David Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what analysis has been undertaken of the potential cost to the Exchequer of introducing a track and trace system for tobacco products (a) exported to and (b) manufactured in the UK. [223664]

Angela Eagle: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has not undertaken an analysis of the cost of introducing a track and trace system for tobacco products exported to the UK or manufactured in the UK. However, HMRC keeps abreast of developments in track and trace technology through its regular contacts with tobacco manufacturers and customs authorities in other EU member states.

International Development

Afghanistan: Education

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding his Department has allocated to support the training of accountants in Afghanistan; what support his Department has provided to the Afghanistan Society of Accounting Technicians; and if he will make a statement. [223582]


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Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Department for International Development (DFID) does not provide financial support for the training of accountants nor for the Afghanistan Society of Accounting Technicians. The objective of our economic management programme is to support the Afghan Government's capacity to manage and expand the formal economy and promote wider reform of governmental systems.

In 2008-09 DFID will contribute £74 million towards this objective; over half the total Afghanistan programme. This support is aligned to Government of Afghanistan priorities and includes £60 million channelled through the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The 2008 external review of the ARTF found that is has helped improve the Government's capacity to manage its finances.

DFID is helping the Government of Afghanistan to improve their public spending practices with a £9.8 million programme of support to the Budget Department in the Ministry of Finance. This has led to year on year improved use of resources in the delivery of basic services to the Afghan population.

Africa: Overseas Aid

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on what projects his Department is collaborating with the African Development Fund; at what cost in 2008-09; and what programmes the African Development Fund is operating to financially stabilise fragile states. [220382]

Gillian Merron: During negotiations on the eleventh replenishment of the African Development Fund (AfDF 11), donors agreed to establish a Fragile States Facility and set aside 7.5 per cent., of AfDF 11 resources (about £330 million) for this. The new facility will provide countries emerging from conflict and crisis with additional resources to rebuild infrastructure and re-establish services for example, as well as helping them qualify for debt relief.

Department for International Development (DFID) country teams collaborate with the AfDB in the field. In Sierra Leone, Zambia, Ghana, Malawi and Mozambique AfDB and DFID provide budget support under a common framework with a number of other donors to enable the governments to implement their poverty reduction strategies. In Zambia, DFID will provide about £26 million in budget support and AfDB will provide £30 million. In Ghana, DFID will provide about £50 million in budget support and AfDB will provide £25 million. In Malawi, DFID will provide about £22 million in budget support and AfDB will provide £14 million. In Mozambique, DFID will provide about £42 million in budget support and AfDB will provide £15 million. Other donors will of course also contribute to budget support operations.

There is also strong collaboration between AfDB and DFID in Malawi and Mozambique on water and sanitation. In Malawi, AfDB plans to provide about £24 million towards the water sector over the next five years (and £6.5 million in 2008-09) and DFID is planning to match this with £25 million for the next three years through the Africa Catalytic Growth Fund. In Mozambique, DFID will provide about £500,000 in 2008 and 2009 for water, and the AfDB will contribute about £8 million.


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Finally, DFID and the AfDB work closely on improving road infrastructure in Mozambique. In 2008 and 2009, DFID will contribute £4 million and AfDB will contribute just under £15 million.

African Development Bank

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what influence the UK has over the way the African Development Bank uses the UK's contribution of funding; and what assessment he has made of the key areas to which this aid should be directed. [213264]

Gillian Merron: The African Development Fund (AfDF) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) provides grants and concessional loans to around 40 African countries. The AfDF is replenished by donor countries every three years, and during the negotiations, AfDB management and donors agree how the resources will be spent. New approaches and policy changes are also agreed as part of the replenishment discussions. All donor contributions to the AfDF replenishment are governed by the agreements and resources are pooled; no donor can earmark their contribution to the AfDF for particular countries, sectors or projects.

The latest AfDF negotiations concluded in December 2007. It was agreed that the AfDF could make the best contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa by concentrating on supporting countries’ efforts to accelerate economic growth. Building infrastructure is an important part of this, and around 60 per cent. of resources are likely to be used in this way. New approaches were agreed on how the AfDF would promote regional integration, which is important for growth in Africa, and assist fragile states, particularly those emerging from conflict. The agreed policy changes included how the Bank would adjust its approach to assist countries to tackle climate change and how it would ensure its assistance made a more effective contribution to improving the lives of African women and girls. The UK was instrumental in securing these agreements, and committed £417 million to the AfDF over the next three years. A copy of the replenishment agreement, known as the AfDF 11 Deputies Report, has been placed in the Library of the House.

The UK is also providing funding to assist the AfDB to build its capacity and improve the effectiveness of its assistance. These funds are focused in six areas: infrastructure, climate change, governance, water and sanitation, knowledge and statistics, and institutional strengthening.

Asylum

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his latest estimate is of refugees flows to neighbouring countries in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [215593]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government continue to work with agencies such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to protect and resettle refugees. In 2007 DFID funding of £19 million helped UNHCR assist some 4.5 million refugees of whom 730,000 returned to their country of origin.


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Current figures available from UNHCR indicate that there were an estimated 11.4 million refugees world-wide in 2007. We are unable to break down this figure into those that sought sanctuary in neighbouring countries and those that went beyond the initial border.

Burma: Overseas Aid

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of British aid to Burma in 2008-09 will (a) be used to enhance logistic capacity for aid delivery and (b) support early recovery and livelihood regeneration activities; and if he will make a statement. [220702]

Mr. Malik: The UK's current commitment for Burma in 2008-09 is £45 million towards the Cyclone Nargis relief effort, in addition to the £12 million regular programme through the Department for International Development (DFID) which had been planned before the cyclone struck.

So far £6.4 million (14 per cent. of the £45 million for cyclone relief) has been allocated for strengthening the logistical capacity for aid delivery. This funding has included grants to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Red Cross, the secondment of staff to support WFP's air operations, and the direct provision of flights, flat-bottomed boats and other items of equipment.

DFID has allocated £5.6 million (12.4 per cent. of the £45 million for cyclone relief), so far, to early recovery and livelihoods work being undertaken by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN HABITAT and International Development Enterprises (IDE). This funding includes the provision of seeds and agricultural tools to enable farmers to resume rice planting. We are reviewing new proposals and expect to make further contributions towards early recovery and livelihoods, including disaster risk reduction, from the £45 million for cyclone relief.

DFID is also supporting rural livelihoods across Burma from our regular programme, primarily through projects carried out by UNDP and IDE. Spending on these projects is expected to comprise about 12 per cent. of the £12 million allocated this year.


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