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12 Nov 2008 : Column 1257W—continued

Higher Education: Admissions

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what discussions he has had with the Higher Education Funding Council for England on altering the number of additional students each university may accept in each year. [235315]


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Mr. Lammy: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wrote to the chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on 29 October 2008 regarding additional student numbers in 2009-10. It is for HEFCE to determine the funding allocation to each individual institution.

Sector Skills Council

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) what the timescale is for the consultation process on the re-licensing of Sector Skills Councils; which stakeholders will be consulted; and what form the consultation will take; [229006]

(2) what plans he has to consult professional bodies as part of the consultation process for the re-licensing of Sector Skills Councils. [229007]

Mr. Simon: The consultation process for the relicensing of Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) is part of an assessment of their performance being undertaken by the National Audit Office. SSCs are being assessed by the NAO in five groups of five between now and August 2009. Each SSC has been asked to provide a stakeholder map to the NAO which includes sector specific stakeholders such as trade associations, employer forums and professional bodies and where appropriate sector specific awarding bodies. The NAO will then as part of the evidence gathering process use the map to consult with the identified key stakeholders. The consultation is an inclusive process and any organisation which wishes to input evidence on any SSC can submit their views to the NAO. This includes professional bodies, regulatory bodies, awarding bodies, funding bodies and regional partners, as well as individual employers.

Organisations wishing to submit comments are asked to present information using the four key themes in the assessment framework. These are a well run SSC; SSC core products and services; SSC sector specific solutions; and SSC results and impacts.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills has a website which contains details of the SSC timetable for consultation for each SSC, as well as explaining the process for consultation for employers, professional bodies and stakeholders.

Technology

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much his Department spent on technology strategy activities in (a) the most recent year for which figures are available and (b) in each of the previous five years, broken down by main budget heading. [232395]

Mr. Lammy: The Department (and formerly DTI) has funded support for technology development and use under the Technology Strategy Board since November 2004. It also funds support for technology under the budgets for the National Measurement System and Space.

The spend on these activities by main budget heading was:


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£ million
Technology Strategy NMS Space

Programme Budget Capital budget Programme Budget Capital Budget Programme Budget Capital Budget

2004-05

113

Nil

68

16

39

Nil

2005-06

140

Nil

69

2

38

Nil

2006-07

130

10

62

18

28

Nil

2007-08

213

12

67

10

50

Nil


Treasury

Corporation Tax: Small Businesses

Justine Greening: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate his Department has made of the revenue to the Exchequer from the small companies rate of corporation tax in each of the last four years; and what he expects it to be in (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11; [229740]

(2) what estimate his Department has made (a) of the number of companies paying the small companies rate of corporation tax in each of the last four years and (b) the likely number in (i) 2008-09, (ii) 2009-10 and (iii) 2010-11; [229741]

(3) what estimate his Department has made of (a) the number of company liquidations among companies paying the small companies rate of corporation tax in each of the last four years and (b) the likely number in (i) 2008-09, (ii) 2009-10 and (iii) 2010-11. [229742]

Mr. Timms: National Statistics showing the number of companies paying at the Small Companies' Rate and the total tax charge are available for 1998-99 to 2006-07 at

Corporation tax receipts are forecast on an aggregate basis and published in the Budget and pre-Budget reports. It is not possible to provide a separate forecast for the number of companies paying at the small companies rate, or the number of liquidations among those companies.

Departmental Buildings

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the value of the property held by (a) his Department and (b) associated public bodies was at the most recent date for which figures are available. [212887]

Angela Eagle: Details of the net book value of the land and buildings held at 31 March 2008 by the Treasury are shown in Note 11 to the 2007-08 Resource Account, HC 539. No land or buildings were held at 31 March 2008 by either the Debt Management Office or the Office of Government Commerce.

Economic and Monetary Union

Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he next plans to publish an assessment of whether the UK has met the five economic tests to join the euro; and what preparatory work his officials are undertaking for such an assessment. [234488]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 10 November 2008]: The Chancellor announced in Budget 2008 that the Government did not propose a euro assessment to be initiated at the time of this Budget. The Treasury will again review the situation at the Budget next year as required by the then Chancellor’s statement in 2003.

Financial Markets

Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment his Department has made of the effect on financial markets of US (a) Government policy and (b) banking practices on lending standards; and if he will make a statement. [229505]

Ian Pearson: It is not the practice of the Government to provide assessments of the policies of overseas Governments or institutions.

Government Assistance: Disadvantaged

John Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to support families with incomes less than 60 per cent. of median income and with family members with autism who are experiencing difficulties as a result of the credit crunch and the recession. [234676]

Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) on 15 October 2008, Official Report, column 1311W, and the answer given by my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Angela Eagle) to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) on 14 July 2008, Official Report, column 140W, and the answer by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland (Dr. Kumar) on 17 July 2008, Official Report, column 631W.

Disabled people have access to a range of benefits in recognition of their extra support needs. The employment and support allowance offers financial help and personal support to disabled people who are out of work, and disability living allowance provides a contribution towards the extra costs arising from disability. The disability premium in income-related benefits is also paid in recognition that the least well-off disabled people need additional help.

Revenue and Customs: Contracts

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with HM Revenue and Customs on its decision to invite bids from the private sector to take over the physical security arrangements at various sites in Northern Ireland. [234034]


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Mr. Timms: As part of its Departmental Transformation Programme, HMRC is looking at ways it to improve the delivery and value for money of internal support and make a significant contribution to the Department’s overall efficiency targets.

HMRC’s manned security guarding services are currently provided through a mixed model of in-house and outsourced security guards, with over 60 per cent. of security guards already provided by external suppliers (primarily Mapeley) under contractual arrangements. In Northern Ireland, 15 HMRC sites are already manned by private security guards, with HMRC employing security guards directly at just two sites.

In August 2008 HMRC launched a fully competitive procurement exercise through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) to explore the option of outsourcing its remaining in-house guarding services across the UK. I expect HMRC to make further recommendations and to have further discussions once the procurement process is complete.

Stamp Duties

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the estimated cost to the public purse is of the stamp duty threshold extension; and what his estimate is of the number of housing transactions that will be affected by the extension. [235095]

Ian Pearson: I refer the right hon. Member to the letter from the Chancellor to the right hon. John McFall MP, Chairman of the Treasury Committee, on 2 September 2008, deposited in the Library of the House, and to the answer given on 15 September 2008, Official Report, columns 2155-56W.to the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond).

Tax Havens

Jim Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether HM Revenue and Customs has tax information-sharing agreements with (a) the Crown Dependencies, (b) Monaco, (c) Liechtenstein and (d) Andorra. [233664]

Mr. Timms: The Government signed a new Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the Government of the Isle of Man on 29 September 2008. This agreement is not yet in force. However, the United Kingdom already exchanges information for certain direct tax purposes with the Crown Dependencies under the terms of our bilateral double taxation arrangements with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. The Crown Dependences also have agreements with the United Kingdom under the framework of Council Directive 2003/48/EC. Those agreements provide for exchange of information by the UK and a withholding tax on savings income or disclosure of information by the dependencies.

In addition, the Isle of Man exchanges information to enable a correct assessment of VAT with the United Kingdom, as well as with other EU member states, in accordance with the provisions set out in EC Regulation 1798/03 on Administrative Co-operation in the VAT field. These arrangements apply to the Isle of Man by virtue of undertakings given in the 1979 UK-Isle of Man Customs and Excise Agreement and Article 7(2)
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of VAT Directive 2006/112/EC, the effect of which is to bring the Isle of Man within the EC's VAT fiscal territory.

The United Kingdom does not have a tax information exchange agreement with Monaco, Liechtenstein or Andorra.

Valuation Office: Conferences

Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 29 September 2008, Official Report, column 2307-8W, on the Valuation Office: travel, if he will place in the Library copies of the presentations, handouts and speeches made by representatives of the Valuation Office Agency at (a) the Malaysia valuation conference, (b) the Canadian Valuation Symposium and (c) the Polish valuation conference. [232855]

Mr. Timms: A copy of these presentations, made by a Valuation Office Agency representative, has been placed in the Library.

Working Tax Credit

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what checks HM Revenue and Customs makes with child care providers to ensure that tax credit claimants are paying for and using child care services. [234380]

Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 6 November 2008, Official Report, column 680W.

Written Questions: Finance

Mr. Vara: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the cost limit above which Ministers may decline to answer parliamentary questions on the ground of disproportionate cost was last revised. [235703]

Angela Eagle: The disproportionate cost threshold (DCT) was set at its present level (£700) in November 2006, (Official Report, 28 November 2008, column 87WS. The threshold is advisory, not obligatory. Ministers can answer written questions substantively regardless of cost if they consider it in the public interest to do so.


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