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Angela Eagle: In the pre-Budget report, the Government temporarily raised the threshold for exemption from national non-domestic rates on empty properties from £2,200 to £15,000 to take effect from 1 April 2009. As a result, an estimated 70 per cent. of empty properties will be exempt from business rates in the 2009-10 tax year.
In October 2008 the Government announced a comprehensive package of support for the financial system both to support the stability of the banking system and to protect savers and depositors. On 19 January the Government announced a second support package designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system and provide a longer-term solution.
I follow media reporting on the markets with interest. It is routinely of a high quality. I hope all commentators, whether from the financial markets or from the general
media, will continue to report responsibly, and bear in mind that unsubstantiated speculation has the potential to undermine financial stability and harm savers and depositors.
Ian Pearson: The Government are committed to supporting pensioners through the global economic slowdown, providing support for all, but more for those who need it most. A range of measures was announced at PBR 2008 to support pensioners including an extra £60 payment, and an increase in the pension credit by more than indexation, on top of the additional support announced in last years Budget.
Angela Eagle: The Chancellor keeps all taxes under review and decisions about gambling taxation are made at the Budget alongside all tax and spending decisions. The Government take all relevant factors into consideration when establishing and maintaining fair gambling tax regimes. These include the state of the industry and wider conditions within the economy.
Ian Pearson: HMRC intend to bring a number of previously untaxed pensions into tax under PAYE from April 2009. We have received representations about this from a number of pensioner lobby groups, but none specifically in relation to miners.
Yvette Cooper: The Government will publish updated forecasts at the time of Budget 2009, as is normal practice. This will include a full assessment of developments and prospects for the world and UK economies, based on all relevant factors.
Angela Eagle: The Climate Change Act requires the Secretary of State to take into account economic circumstances in setting the level of carbon budgets. Action to achieve environmental goals remains a high priority for the Government in the current economic circumstances. The Government will consider carefully the Committee on Climate Change advice on economic impacts of carbon budgets and announce the levels of the first three carbon budgets alongside Budget 2009.
23. Jeff Ennis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will replace the 25p age addition to state pensions with an additional £25 on the winter fuel allowance for the over-80s as a Budget measure. 
Ian Pearson: The Government provide additional support to older pensioners. Higher age-related allowances and free TV licences help those aged over 75, while households with someone aged over 80 receive a higher winter fuel payment. The Government keep all tax and benefit rates under review as part of the normal Budget process.
24. Mr. David Hamilton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent steps his Department has taken to ensure that companies in the financial sector are paying the appropriate levels of taxation. 
Mr. Timms: It is important that all taxpayers pay their fair share of tax. Most corporates, including those in the financial sector, do pay their fair share. The Government will continue to tackle those companies who deliberately seek to evade or avoid tax. Each recent Budget has contained measures to close down avoidance schemes with a potential annual cost of £1-1Â1/2 billion a year.
Angela Eagle: As set out in its market notice on 6 February 2009, the Bank of England is currently consulting with the financial markets on the operational details of the asset purchase facility. The facility is expected to commence operation on 13 February 2009.
Angela Eagle: The drawdown period for the SLS closed on 30 January. The nominal value of Treasury Bills drawdown as of 30 January 2009 was £185 billion. The monetary value of Treasury Bills changes based on market prices.
Angela Eagle: In addition to decisive actions taken last October, on 19 January the Government announced further measures designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system, to increase confidence and capacity to lend, and in turn to support the recovery of the economy.
Mr. Bone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) on what dates (a) ordinary and (b) preference shares taken by the Government in (i) Lloyds Bank, (ii) HBOS and (iii) Royal Bank of Scotland were subscribed; what type of share was issued on each such date; and how much was paid for each type of share; 
(3) pursuant to the answer of 28 January 2009, Official Report, columns 587-8W, on Government shareholding, where in the documents referred to in the answer information is provided on whether the non-payment of preference dividends by the board of directors would be treated as an act of default entitling the Government to initiate proceedings for the winding-up of the company; 
(4) pursuant to the answer of 28 January 2009, Official Report, columns 587-8W, on Government shareholding, for what reasons he did not bring forward proposals to (a) make the preference shares cumulative and (b) adjust the coupon on the shares to a lower rate; and if he will make a statement; 
(5) pursuant to the answer of 28 January 2009, Official Report, columns 587-8W, on Government shareholding, where in the documents referred to in the answer information is given on (a) what happens if the board of directors decides to pass the preference dividends and (b) whether the lost dividend will be recoverable for the public purse. 
On 1 December 2008, the Government purchased both 22.8 billion RBS ordinary shares at 65.5p and five million RBS preference shares at £1,000 each. On 19 January 2009, the Government, in consultation with UKFI, agreed to convert the RBS preference shares,
plus accrued coupon and underwriting fees, into ordinary shares. The Government will acquire those that are not bought by existing shareholders in the placing and open offer process. The placing price is 31.75p.
As of 15 January 2009, immediately prior to the merger between Lloyds TSB and HBOS, the Government purchased 2.6 billion Lloyds TSB ordinary shares at £1.733 each and one million Lloyds TSB preference snares at £1,000 each, as well as 7.5 billion HBOS ordinary shares at £1.136 each and three million HBOS preference shares at £1,000 each.
Schedule 1 of the preference share agreements makes clear that if a dividend is not paid the preference share holders shall have no claim in respect of such non-payment. It also makes clear that the shares are non-cumulative, and therefore lost dividend is not recoverable.
The preference share dividend was required to be non-cumulative and discretionary to enable the investment to score as the best type of capital (tier one) and thereby to maximise the impact on financial stability.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to (a) prohibit the payment of bonuses to staff of those banks in which the Government has a majority stake and (b) review the levels of remuneration packages awarded to those staff at the end of 2009. 
Angela Eagle: As part of their investment, the Government have agreed a range of conditions with banks accessing the recapitalisation scheme, including restrictions on bonuses for senior executivesboth for 2008 (when the Government expect no cash bonuses to be paid to board members) and for remuneration policy going forward, where incentive schemes will be reviewed and linked to long-term value creation, taking proper account of risk. In the future remuneration packages should reflect long-term sustainable success and not simply short-term gains.
Stewart Hosie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the status of the consultation on regulation by the Financial Services Authority of house sale and rent-back schemes is; and when a decision is expected. 
On 6 February 2009, the Government published a consultation document, proposing that companies offering sale and rent-back agreements are
brought within the scope of Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulation. The consultation will close on 1 May 2009. It is available at:
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent estimate he has made of the number of people who are worse off as a result of the abolition of the 10p rate of income tax; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Eagle: Due to the large volume of correspondence received on these issues there has been a delay in sending some responses. The Financial Services Secretary hopes to be in a position to reply to the hon. Member shortly.
Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he plans to reply to the letter of 13 November 2008 from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire on NDFA investments via Lehman Brothers Treasury Company BV, Netherlands, PO reference: 1/63049/2008. 
Ian Pearson: Due to the large volume of correspondence received on these issues there has been a delay in sending some responses. The Financial Services Secretary hopes to be in a position to reply to the hon. Member shortly.
Greg Clark: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library a copy of the (a) display energy certificates and (b) advisory reports in respect of each property occupied by HM Revenue and Customs. 
Mr. Timms: HM Revenue and Customs will place in the Library a copy of the display energy certificates and their associated advisory reports in respect of each property it occupies that requires a display energy certificate; that is, those of 1,000 square metres or above.
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