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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 29 January 2009


Alcoholic Drinks: Excise Duties

Annette Brooke: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received from (a) brewers and (b) owners of public houses on the effects of alcohol duty on their businesses; and if he will make a statement. [252957]

Angela Eagle: Treasury Ministers and officials receive representations from a wide range of organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such representations.

Banks: Finance

David Howarth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 1630W, on banks: Government assistance, what the discount rates and maturities are of the Treasury Bills issued in accordance with paragraph 6.9 of the Debt and Reserves Management Report 2008-09 in order to make finance available to the Bank of England to purchase corporate assets from banks. [252892]

Ian Pearson: As announced by the Debt Management Office (DMO) in the “DMO financing remit: impact of the financial intervention package: 19 January 2009”, the financing to support the asset purchase facility will initially be raised by the DMO through a combination of Treasury bill sales and cash management operations.

Gradually, the cash management operations will be replaced by funding raised through Treasury bill issuance. The Treasury bills that will be issued to fund the asset purchase facility will be issued consistent with the Debt Management Office’s cash management objective as set out in paragraph 6.5 of the “Debt and reserves management report” for 2008-09.

Building Societies: Finance

Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what consideration his Department has given to modifying the allocation of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies to reflect the differences in levels of risk associated with bank and building society business models; [252997]

(2) what recent assessment he has made of whether the Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies paid by (a) banks and (b) building societies reflect the relative risk associated with the two business models; [252998]

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(3) what criteria are used to assess the level of risk in (a) banks and (b) building society business models in determining Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies for each. [253001]

Ian Pearson: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) levies are statutory levies. They are allocated to classes of levy payers and apportioned within those classes in accordance with rules made by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

Chelsea Building Society

Sir John Butterfill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date the Chelsea Building Society approached the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for consent to establish a banking subsidiary in Guernsey; on what dates meetings were held between the building society and the FSA; what matters were discussed at each such meeting; what conditions the FSA attached to the establishment of the subsidiary; and which of these conditions provided for protection of depositors. [252768]

Ian Pearson: The matters raised in this question are the responsibility of the Financial Services Authority, whose day to day operations are independent from Government control and influence.

Credit: Interest Rates

Dr. Kumar: To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps the Government is taking to ensure that interest rates charged by high street credit schemes are reasonable. [242380]

Mr. Thomas: I have been asked to reply.

The Government introduced reforms in statutory instruments in 2005 and in the Consumer Credit Act 2006 to strengthen the regulation of consumer credit. These ensure that consumers are given clear and transparent information to enable them to shop around with confidence and that the OFT can take targeted and effective enforcement action against rogue lenders. The Act also replaced previous provisions which gave consumers a right to challenge extortionate credit bargains with a new wide-ranging right for consumers to challenge before the courts any aspect of their relationship with a lender which is unfair. This could include, but is not limited to, the level of interest charged.

The Government recently held a summit with the credit card industry on risk based re-pricing - the practice that was leading to some consumers facing significant interest rate increases at short notice. As a result of this, the credit card industry agreed a statement of principles for risk based re-pricing. This ensures that consumers are fairly treated when a card lender seeks to increase their individual interest rate on the basis that their risk profile has deteriorated. These principles come into force on 1 January 2009.

Departmental Buildings

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the location is of each office occupied by (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies
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which has been (i) newly occupied and (ii) refurbished in the last 24 months; and what the floor area in square metres is of each. [251674]

Angela Eagle: No new occupations or refurbishments have been undertaken in the last 24 months.

EU Countries

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many of his European counterparts he has met in the last two months. [251658]

Ian Pearson: Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings.

Gold and Foreign Exchange Reserves

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much gold the Government has sold in each year since 1997. [251657]

Ian Pearson: The Government undertook a gold sales programme from 1999 to 2002. In that time, 395 tonnes of gold have been sold: 75 tonnes in 1999; 150 tonnes in 2000; 130 tonnes in 2001; and 40 tonnes in 2002. The Government have not conducted an official gold sales programme since 2002.

Jobcentre Plus

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many visits on official business he has made to Jobcentre Plus offices in the last 12 months. [251663]

Ian Pearson: Treasury Ministers' official duties entail visits throughout the United Kingdom.

Mortgage Interest Deferral Scheme

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the number of households likely to (a) qualify for and (b) take up the mortgage interest deferral scheme; and what his estimate is of the cost of the scheme in (i) 2009 and (ii) 2010. [240769]

Mr. Iain Wright: I have been asked to reply.

As part of a wider package of real help for homeowners, the Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme, will enable ordinary hard-working households that experience a redundancy or significant loss of income to reduce their monthly payments to a more manageable level, by deferring a proportion of the interest payments on their mortgage for up to two years. The Government will guarantee to lenders they will get the payments back in return for them participating in the scheme.

Homeowners remain responsible for repaying the mortgage in the long term but the scheme will result in more affordable monthly payments. This will give them the breathing space they need to get their finances back on track, and help ensure they can stay in their homes.

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This is a consumer and lender-led scheme, supported by a Government guarantee. The Government want to see this scheme help as many struggling homeowners as possible. We will publish a full impact assessment when the scheme description has been finalised.

Tax Credits: Conditions of Employment

Alan Simpson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance his Department provides to employers on whether employees on extended periods of sabbatical leave on part pay are eligible for tax credits. [251119]

Mr. Timms: Entitlement to Working Tax Credit (WTC) is dependent upon whether the claimant meets the condition of being in qualifying remunerative work. Entitlement during a period of paid sabbatical work would depend on the circumstances in the individual case.

Guidance for customers with changing working patterns is available at:

UK Financial Investments: Manpower

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many staff have been employed by UK Financial Investments Ltd in salary bands of (a) up to £25,000, (b) £25,000 to £50,000, (c) £50,000 to £75,000, (d) £75,000 to £100,000 and (e) over £100,000; [249664]

(2) what the estimated cost of remuneration for staff at UK Financial Investments Ltd, including guaranteed bonuses and pension contributions will be in the next 12 months; [249665]

(3) what the (a) salary and (b) total remuneration and title of post is of each of the five highest paid employees of UK Financial Investments Ltd; [249666]

(4) what consultancy arrangements have been entered into by (a) his Department and (b) UK Financial Investments Ltd (UKFI) in connection with UKFI’s activities; and what the (i) cost and (ii) nature of work under each contract is; [249667]

(5) how much the establishment of UK Financial Investments Ltd has cost to date, broken down by category of expenditure. [249668]

Ian Pearson: UKFI was established on 3 November 2008 under the Companies Act, with HM Treasury as sole shareholder. The UKFI board is responsible for governing the company’s activities and will, by the end of February 2009, recommend to the Treasury a budget and funding plan appropriate to ensure the fulfilment of UKFI’s remit.

The company’s annual report and audited accounts will be laid before Parliament.

Additionally, the chairman and chief executive of the company will, as required, attend meetings of relevant parliamentary committees for scrutiny and answer questions.

Valuation Office: Rent Service

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will be permitted to access data previously available to the Rent Service upon the transfer of the Rent Service's functions to the VOA. [251722]

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Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) on 20 November 2008, Official Report, column 776W, regarding Valuation Office Reorganisation.


Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost to businesses of re-pricing products as a result of the reduction in value added tax to 15 per cent. [251916]

Mr. Timms: Estimated costs to businesses from re-pricing products are published in the impact assessment of changes to the standard rate of VAT. This is available on the HM Treasury website.

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what expenditure his Department incurred in promulgating the 15 per cent. value added tax rate. [251917]

Mr. Timms: HMRC sent a summary guide on dealing with the temporary reduction in the VAT rate to all 2 million VAT registered businesses immediately after pre-Budget report 2008. More detailed guidance was produced and published on the HMRC website. Additional staff were made available in the National Advice Service to answer questions on the rate change. A full evaluation of all the associated costs is not readily available.

House of Commons Commission

Official Cars

Bob Spink: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what cars are (a) owned, (b) leased, (c) hired and (d) otherwise regularly used by the House, broken down by cubic capacity of engine. [250143]

Nick Harvey: No cars are owned, leased or hired on a regular basis. Cars with drivers are hired for the Speaker and Deputy Speakers in connection with their official duties. Taxi services are regularly used for print service deliveries and under certain conditions, for example when there are late night sittings, by House officials and staff.

Parliament: Buildings

Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the (a) specifications and (b) cost of (i) carpets, (ii) office furniture, (iii) building materials and (iv) light fittings in (A) 1 Parliament Street and (B) Portcullis House are. [248233]

Nick Harvey: The information requested is as follows:

No. 1 Parliament street

The refurbishment of the buildings that now form No. 1 Parliament street was carried out by the Property Services Agency of the Department of the Environment. Details of the costs and specification are not available.

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The most recent works carried out were the refurbishment of the Bellamy's Bar and Clubroom and security works at a cost of £0.86 million. Day-to-day building and furniture maintenance and minor improvements costs in 2007-08 were £0.6 million.

Portcullis House

The final cost of the construction and fitting out of Portcullis House was £23 5 million (including VAT and fees). This figure includes the loose office furniture contracts which cost £1.7 million. The cost of the light fittings cannot be readily identified as they were included in a number of contracts.

The Accommodation and Works Committee's reports recommended a long life building, which in terms of British Standards meant 150 years. This was the basis of the specifications for the individual contracts, which in turn were based on BSI or DIN standards or other appropriate industry standards.

Since the building was completed the only major works have been the replacement of the escalators at a cost of £0.45 million, and improvements to the fire alarm system to reduce the number of false alarms at £0.2 million. Day-to-day building and furnishing maintenance and minor replacement costs in 2007-08 were £0.9 million.

Culture, Media and Sport

Baseball: World Cup 2009

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps (a) he and (b) Sport England have taken to ensure that the UK baseball team can compete in the 2009 World Cup; and if he will make a statement. [251019]

Mr. Sutcliffe [holding answer 26 January 2009]: The issue of the GB national baseball team competing in the 2009 World Cup is a matter for UK Sport not Sport England, as Sport England does not lead or fund baseball's elite programme.

On March 10, 2008 the Secretary of State approved Sport England's outline strategy to focus resources on building the foundations of sporting success through the creation of a world leading community sports system. One of the key outcomes of this system is the development of well-defined, appropriate talent support systems to underpin NGB—national governing body—elite programmes, resulting in more talented performers moving through to world class programmes and success.

Sport England has recently announced four year funding awards to 46 national governing bodies, including the sports of baseball and softball. Sport England has advised that they will be meeting with the sport imminently to discuss the award, which interventions will be funded and to agree how the sport will contribute to Sport England's strategic outcomes, such as the above, over the next four years.

UK Sport has advised that its current investment strategy does not provide funding to baseball and has therefore made no estimate of the cost of sending a British baseball team to the final 2008 Olympics qualification event in Taiwan. The sport will not receive world class funding in the future as it is not on the competition programme for London 2012.

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