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19 Jan 2009 : Column 1104W—continued

St. Helena: Airports

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his most recent estimate is of the length of time which will be required for the proposed airport on St. Helena to be brought into service once approval has been granted. [244744]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: No decision has been made on the project. It would therefore be inappropriate to provide further information at this stage.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his most recent estimate was of the cost to the public purse of the proposed St. Helena airport before the pause in negotiations on the airport was announced. [246301]

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Mr. Douglas Alexander: It would be inappropriate to release any financial information, including cost estimates, relating to improving access to St. Helena as these could influence future negotiations.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when he plans to publish the environmental impact assessment of the proposed St. Helena airport development. [246313]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The environmental statement for the proposed St. Helena airport and supporting infrastructure was published in May 2008. It is available at:

Zimbabwe: Cholera

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. [246204]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate. The cholera epidemic is the biggest in Zimbabwe's history. The UN is predicting that as many as 60,000 could be affected in the coming weeks. DFID is funding a £10 million package to help fight the cholera outbreak and support life-saving health services.

Tackling this outbreak represents a major coordinated international effort, led by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF with support from a wide range of bilateral partners (including USAID, ECHO, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, France, Canada and Australia) and local and international NGO's. The response is co-ordinated in Harare and the UK is actively engaged.

Zimbabwe: Diamonds

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether it is the Government's policy to support calls for a suspension of Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process for diamonds. [246304]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Reports of violence and state-sponsored murder in and around Marange diamond mine are a major cause for concern. The UK Government, who are represented in the Kimberley Process by the European Union (EU), is working with their partners, the diamond industry and civil society groups, to investigate this illegal trade and stem the flow of illicit diamonds from Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe: Overseas Aid

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of distribution of humanitarian aid in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. [246158]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Deliberate aid obstruction (in the form of a government ban on NGO activities) was a feature of the election period in 2008. This coupled with long-term policy failures and economic mismanagement
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by the government of Zimbabwe means that the country is facing its largest ever cholera epidemic and over five million people—in this highly fertile country—are receiving international food assistance.

Occasional localised instances of humanitarian obstruction can never be entirely ruled out but, according to latest UN reporting, there have been no impediments to humanitarian access reported by partner organisations on the ground in recent weeks. The UN monitors this situation closely and is quick to respond to any problems with obstruction or political interference in aid delivery.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many UK humanitarian workers have been refused visas to enter Zimbabwe since November 2008; and if he will make a statement. [246300]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The UK Government generally do not consider the Government of Zimbabwe to be a credible development or humanitarian partner and we do not receive systematic reports on visa and other issues related to humanitarian work. However, there have been a number of reports of international NGO workers being refused or having difficulty in securing temporary employment permits which allow for longer stays.

This kind of behaviour is unfortunately symptomatic of a Government which has little or no regard for the welfare of its people. We are working as part of a co-ordinated international effort to tackle the worst cholera crisis in Zimbabwe's history, to provide food aid to over 5 million people and to meet other basic humanitarian needs. As part of this, any obstructive behaviour by the Government of Zimbabwe will be raised with them directly through UN channels.


Car Allowances

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the rate for approved mileage allowance payment was last set. [248685]

Mr. Timms: The current rates for approved mileage allowance payments were introduced in April 2002.


Bob Spink: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to which (a) charities and (b) voluntary organisations his Department has provided funding in the last five years; and how much funding was provided to each. [247370]

Angela Eagle: The Treasury does not provide any direct funding to charities or voluntary organisations. Government funding for a charity or voluntary organisation would be delivered through the Department with policy responsibility for the area in which the organisation operates.

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Child Benefit

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average period between approval of an application for child benefit and the first benefit payment was in the last period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [247321]

Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) on 12 January 2009, Official Report, column 328W.

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the average time taken to process applications for child benefit in the most recent period for which information is available; and what steps he plans to take to reduce that time. [248670]

Mr. Timms: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) on 12 January 2009, Official Report, column 328W.

Churches: Repairs and Maintenance

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will publish the names of those on the inter-departmental working group set up to look into the repair of church buildings and the bodies they represent. [248146]

Yvette Cooper: Following the commitment made in Budget 2007 to examine how the Government can help churches and heritage buildings, officials and Ministers from: HM Treasury; Communities and Local Government; the Office of the Third Sector; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have met with the Church of England Archbishops’ Council to consider ways in which church buildings might benefit from existing departmental programmes in order to support the Government’s community objectives.

Clear Line of Sight Programme

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made on the Clear Line of Sight project; and if he will make a statement. [247226]

Yvette Cooper: Good progress continues to be made in taking forward the Clear Line of Sight project. The Government submitted an initial Memorandum to Parliament in November 2008, setting out the high level principles and proposals underpinning the project. The Government plan to submit formal proposals in a second Memorandum to Parliament in due course, reflecting comments received from the Parliamentary Committees on its initial proposals, as well as the outcome of an external consultation exercise conducted during the autumn of 2008.

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Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the International Monetary Fund on its assessment of (a) public and (b) private debt in the UK. [248191]

Ian Pearson: The Chancellor maintains regular contact with international financial institutions. As President of the G20, the UK is actively working with the International Monetary Fund to strengthen international macro-economic and financial surveillance.

Departmental Air Travel

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many official journeys (a) he and his predecessors and (b) his officials made by plane in each of the last five years. [247502]

Angela Eagle: The information requested could not be provided within the disproportionate costs threshold.

Departmental Catering

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which (a) food and (b) drinks suppliers have been used by his Department in each of the last three years; and how much his Department paid to each such supplier in each of those years. [248377]

Angela Eagle: The catering company providing facilities within the Treasury is contracted under the Department’s PFI contract and not directly employed by the Department. The contractor’s suppliers and amounts spent are commercially sensitive and are not available for publication.

Departmental ICT

Justine Greening: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what IT systems used by his Department access data from the central Frameworks Database; and what the stated purpose of each system is; [248103]

(2) what calculations of (a) tax, (b) tax allowances and (c) tax credits undertaken by his Department access data from the central Frameworks Database; [248104]

(3) which Government Departments other than his own have access to data from the central Frameworks Database. [248105]

Mr. Timms: The following HMRC IT systems interface with Corporate Data Frameworks and Benefits Payments Engines.

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IT System Purpose

National Insurance Recording System

NIRS2 is a suite of services that administer and maintain the UK National Insurance (NI) system.

Student Loans Business Service

Administration of Collection of Student Loans.

Self Assessment Tracing

Used by the HMRC Accounts Office to trace returned letter service addresses

CESA (Self Assessment)

Maintains a data base of Self Assessment customer records including Tax Return and Liability and Payment details.

Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)

Supports operation of Construction Industry Scheme.

Structured Access Requests

Structured Access Requests allows people to tell us about changes to their details, such as a new address, via the internet.

Taxpayer Business Service

Provides on-line functionality to trace and maintain taxpayer designator/ details for all PAYE and SA cases.

Corporate Payments Made Framework

Used to make Child Trust Fund payments to the Financial Institution providers of the Trust funds

Payments Made Framework

Used by the New Tax Credits system to make payments to customers

The Pensions Scheme Service Application

Allows the registration and maintenance of Pension Scheme Returns for all pensions.

Strategic Accounting Framework Exploitation

An accounting tool.

Computerisation of PAYE (COP)

System supports operation of PAYE.

Movements 2003

System supports operation of PAYE.

Integrated Debt Management System

To receive payment and account for tax and other liabilities; to process declarations for C and E taxes, duties etc; to update customer records; and to take the correct action to bring in late returns and payments.

Filing by Internet

Allows customers to file returns and forms on line.

Operational Data Store

Main transactional databases for information passed to and from Head of Duty systems.

Enterprise Application Integration

Enterprise Application Integration - Service bus to route messages between applications for different types of technology. To aggregate data into frameworks

Child Benefit Computer System

Used for the administration and payment of Child Benefit

Child Trust Fund (CTF)

Automated system that issues CTF vouchers and tracks the opening of trust fund accounts on behalf of children born after 31 August 2002. Introduced in 2005. Service/costs include the CTF Index, originally built as a migration tool for CB2, but now used to automatically validate children in relation to claims for Child Tax Credit. This service matches Child Benefit Computer System personal details data against Citizen Identity framework to identify or create records for adults and children on CID.

New Tax Credits

The core system integrates closely with the corporate data frameworks and the payments made framework to make Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit payments.

GGIS (Government Gateway)

GGIS does not directly access CID; GGIS sends out known facts update file from the data stores. The data stores talk to CID and there is an interchange of data between.

Citizen E-portal

Allows customers to check if they qualify for tax credits.

Contact History

Stores and retrieves contacts maintaining a history of contacts between the HMRC and its customers

Corporate Data Warehouse

The system which stores data from various departmental systems and allows users, to join, manipulate and interrogate data

Business Review of Collection Service (BROCS)

Employers’ ledger record. Receives and accounts for employees PAYE deductions made by employer

Employer Business Service

Employer Business Service is the system used for recording PAYE records for business and individuals who employ staff.

Electronic Resource Information Capture

Stores details of employers' end of year submissions until a complete return is held and can be processed.

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