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Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department (a) has taken since June 2007 and (b) plans to take in the next 12 months to improve the flow of credit to (i) small and (ii) medium-sized businesses; what discussions (A) he, (B) other Ministers in his Department and (C) departmental officials have had with the Confederation of British Industry about the issue; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: On 19 January, the Government announced 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. Further information is available at:
The Government intend to negotiate with the banks participating in certain facilities lending responsibility agreements that will have specific and quantified lending commitments and that will be binding and externally audited.
The Government are taking specific action to meet the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. On 14 January 2009, the Government announced a package of support to address the cash flow, credit and capital needs of smaller businesses. This package implements and builds upon the commitments the Government made in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report. Details are available at:
The Government meet with a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises. As announced in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report, the Government have established a new lending panel, which will improve monitoring of lending to households and businesses. The work of this panel is supported by the Small Business Finance Forum, established by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in November of last year.
The Government will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the stability of the financial system, ensure lending to the economy, businesses and homeowners, and limit the depth and duration of the current recession and support the subsequent recovery.
Mr. Timms: For information on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) processing aims, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) on 24 February 2009, Official Report, columns 534-36W.
Mr. Hurd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance his Department issues on whether its members of staff may claim for travel in first class carriages on trains if there are no seats in standard class; and what the policy of HM Revenue and Customs is on the matter. 
Angela Eagle: The Treasurys guidance to staff travelling on official business is that standard class should be used. However, first class travel may be used by staff at all levels where there is a business justification or when travelling at peak or other times when trains are likely to be crowded. In all such cases staff are required to provide an explanation for the use of first class travel when claims are made.
HM Revenue and Customs policy is that staff travelling by rail should use standard class. However staff at Grade 7 and above may travel first class if certain conditions apply. All staff may upgrade to first class on the day of travel if no standard class seats are available on the rail journey being taken.
Mr. Hurd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his Departments policy is on holding departmental away days outside the Departments buildings; and what the policy of HM Revenue and Customs is on the matter. 
Angela Eagle: The Treasury and Her Majestys Revenue and Customs have no central policy on the holding of away days. The Departments both have a responsibility to provide their staff with the right skills and expertise and use a variety of means to do so.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the statement of 15 January 2009, Official Report, columns 377-80, on Equitable Life, what his estimate is of the length of time it would take to make compensation payments as recommended by the Ombudsman; and what estimate he has made of the time it will take for all compensation in accordance with the Government proposals to be made. 
Ian Pearson: The Government intend to set up an ex-gratia payment scheme that can pay out as swiftly as possible, taking account of the practical considerations involved. The Government will work on these practical issues in parallel with the work that they have asked Sir John Chadwick to undertake. Until the work is complete, it will not possible to make an estimate of how long it will take to make payments under the scheme. The Government will keep the House updated and report back on progress at regular intervals.
Angela Eagle: The 2008 pre-Budget report announced both standard and first year rates of vehicle excise duty for 2010. Under the standard rates, no driver will pay more than £30 extra in any given band in 2010 compared with 2009 and many will see a reduction of £30.
Under the new first year rates, cars emitting between 100 to 130 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide will pay no vehicle excise duty in the first year of registration and cars emitting up to 165 grams per kilometre will pay no more than under the standard rate.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the reasons were for his Departments decision to withdraw support for the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices overseas pricing mechanism; and when the decision was made. 
Yvette Cooper: The decision to abolish the Overseas Price Mechanism was taken in the autumn of 2007 as part of the broader agreement for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the 2007 comprehensive spending review. The OPM protected the FCO from currency fluctuations but it did not provide the Department with the incentive to factor in medium-term changes in currency costs when it allocated its resources. As part of the CSR07 agreement, the Treasury allowed the FCO to engage in forward currency markets to better manage short-term currency risk. This change brought the FCO into line with practice in other Government Departments.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the weighted average for the (a) maturity and (b) duration of advances to local authorities from the Public Works Loans Board was in each month between 2000 and 2008. 
|Year ending 31 March||(a) Average maturity||(b) Modified duration|
Mr. Hands: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average (a) fixed and (b) initial variable interest rate applied to advances to local authorities from the Public Works Loan Board was in each month between 2000 and 2008. 
|Year ending 31 March||(a) Fixed (percentage)||(b) Variable (percentage)|
Mr. Hands: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much local authorities borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board at (a) a fixed and (b) a variable rate of interest in each month between 2000 and 2008. 
|Year ending 31 March||(a) Fixed||(b) Variable|
|Year ending 31 March||Early repayments (£ million)|
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the package of delivery designed by Metrix for the Defence Training Review project will offer apprenticeships to the (a) standards and (b) accreditation delivered by the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering; and what provision will be made in the package for apprenticeship training to an accredited standard. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: As part of the requirement for the Defence Training Review (DTR) Package 1, Metrix will transform and modernise existing training, which will involve the re-accreditation of any transformed modules. This re-accreditation will be led by Nord Anglia, the Open university and City and Guilds, who are all respected and leading accreditation specialists. For the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering, and all the technical training under Package 1, any existing accreditation will remain in place until a re-designed package is approved by the Ministry of Defence, which includes any proposals for changes to apprenticeship training.
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