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29 Apr 2009 : Column 1344W—continued

Departmental Training

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what awaydays have been attended by staff in (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) HM Revenue and Customs in the last six months; and what the (i) purpose and (ii) cost of each was. [271201]

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Angela Eagle: No central records are held on teams' away days in Departments or their agencies and the information could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost. In common with other organisations in the public and private sectors, the Treasury uses away-days for work-planning, training and staff development purposes.

Departmental Working Hours

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the policy of his Department and its agencies is on granting staff time off in lieu for working (a) in lunch breaks, (b) in evenings and (c) at other times outside contracted working hours; and if he will make a statement; [252009]

(2) how many days off in lieu were granted to staff in (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies for working (i) in lunch breaks and (ii) at other times outside contracted working hours, in the last year for which figures are available. [252010]

Angela Eagle: The matter of granting time off in lieu is delegated to Departments and their agencies to determine. There are no central rules governing the use of time off in lieu.

HMT, Office of Government Commerce and OGC operate schemes agreed at team level by individual managers. The same broad principles apply across the schemes:

The Debt Management Office has no formal policy for granting time off in lieu; however, in line with the Department and it's other agencies, overtime approved in advance may be claimed for work done outside contracted hours.

With the exception of OGC, HMT and its agencies do not record the total number of days of time off in lieu granted each year. These records are held within teams by individual managers and there would be a disproportionate cost in collating this information.

OGC confirms that 76 days of time off in lieu were granted during the last year. This information was retrieved from the time-recording management information system used by OGC b.s. This software is not used by HMT or its other agencies.

Fiscal Policy: Cayman Islands

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date he was most recently briefed by officials on the responsibilities of (a) the Governor of the Cayman Islands and (b) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to (i) financial regulation and oversight and (ii) compliance with (A) obligations imposed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and (B) other treaty obligations in relation to financial regulation and oversight and disclosure in that territory; and if he will make a statement. [271789]

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Ian Pearson [holding answer 28 April 2009]: Financial regulation and oversight are not matters reserved to the Governor of the Cayman Islands. Responsibility has been devolved to the Cayman Islands Government.

Compliance with treaty obligations extending to the Cayman Islands, including those relating to financial matters, is primarily the responsibility of the Territory Government and the UK Government expects them to comply fully with those obligations.

In April, at the London Summit, the G20 called on all jurisdictions to adhere to the international standards in the prudential, tax information exchange, and Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) areas.

Fossil Fuels: Government Assistance

Gregory Barker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what financial contribution the UK has made to fossil fuel projects via the (a) World Bank Group, (b) European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, (c) European Investment Bank and (d) other Government-funded financial institutions in each of the last five years. [265222]

Mr. Thomas: I have been asked to reply.

The UK is a shareholder of the World Bank and Regional Development Banks; contributing to shared capital. It also makes core contributions to these institutions to support work in the poorest countries. These contributions are pooled. Shareholders cannot specify that their capital or contributions can or cannot be used for specific purposes.

A list of UK contributions to World Bank trust funds is set out in the answer to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), on 26 February 2009, Official Report, column 1006W.

Information on funding channelled through World Bank Group, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, European Investment Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank trust funds for the extraction and transport of fossil fuels or fossil fuel projects is not held centrally.

The UK has made contributions to trust funds operated by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that have contributed to fossil fuel projects. In most cases these trust funds receive financial support from multiple investors and it is not possible to determine what the UK contribution is to a specific project. The exceptions to this are the Energy Efficiency Fund and Sustainable Energy Imitative funds where the UK contribution to four fossil fuel projects financed by these funds in the last five years is €864,336. The UK has committed a further €2,671,290 through these funds to other projects, which include renewable energy and industrial energy efficiency.

Stamp Duty Land Tax: Crosby

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people resident in Crosby constituency have benefited from the stamp duty land tax holiday since it began. [271849]

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Ian Pearson: Data on property transactions up to 2007—the most recent year for which figures are published—can be found at:

The statistics will be updated to 2008, covering the initial period of the stamp duty land tax holiday, in June. This data includes property transactions by type of property and price as well as the number and value of property transactions broken down by parliamentary constituency, including Crosby.

Taxation: Housing

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what receipts the Exchequer received from housing-related consumption in each year since 1997 at 2009 prices; [271560]

(2) what receipts his Department received from housing-related consumption in each of the last 12 quarters, broken down by category of receipt. [271563]

Ian Pearson: Figures of housing-related consumption broken down by category of receipt are unavailable.

Taxation: Offshore Funds

John Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many holders of offshore bank accounts have declared unpaid tax under the Government’s partial amnesty. [271111]

Mr. Timms: The Offshore Disclosure Facility (ODF) was launched in April 2007 and ran until November 2007. Under the ODF 31,700 people came forward to disclose previously unreported tax liabilities. To date, the ODF has raised £404 million in additional revenue.

Taxation: Overpayments

Steve Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer by what means non-taxpaying individuals who have had tax deducted at source from interest income can reclaim overpaid tax; and if he will make a statement. [271858]

Mr. Timms: Non-taxpaying individuals eligible for a repayment of tax deducted at source from interest income can reclaim the tax using form R40, available on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website:

It can also be obtained from HMRC offices and from banks and building societies.

For non-taxpayers within self assessment, tax deducted at source from interest income can also be reclaimed through a self assessment tax return.

As announced at Budget 2009, HMRC will be running a tax back campaign, contacting all 2.7 million pension credit recipients, as likely non-taxpayers, to encourage them to claim back tax they may have overpaid on their interest income.

Welfare Tax Credits: Short-time Working

Margaret Moran: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to ensure that workers on short-time working are advised of their potential eligibility for tax credits. [271423]

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Mr. Timms: The tax credit system is specifically designed to provide additional support when people need it most, such as when income falls because of a move to working shorter hours. In March, 355,000 households living on a lower income were receiving on average £35 per week more in tax credits.

Take-up of tax credits is already extremely high for people with children. People already claiming tax credits can notify HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of their changed income and circumstances over the phone, and can then benefit quickly from any additional support they are eligible for. As announced in the Budget, HMRC’s tax credits marketing are now focusing on reminding people to provide up-to-date information when their circumstances change.

The Budget also announced an ambitious target to raise take-up of working tax credit (WTC) among people without children by 100,000 by April 2011. HMRC is expanding its work with employers to increase take-up, which currently reaches around 750,000 employees, and is working in partnership with trade unions to pass information about tax credits on to their members. In the coming year, HMRC will begin new research-driven marketing aimed at those people who stand to gain the most from taking up WTC, and will launch a pilot using data from pay-as-you-earn records to identify and contact potentially eligible people.

Home Department


Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average length of time to decide on applications for asylum received has been since 2006. [258465]

Mr. Woolas: The latest available figures show the average time to initial decisions for asylum cases decided in 2006 was eight months and in 2007 was seven months. The average length of time (in months) is calculated from the date the application is lodged to the date of initial decision, and relates to the year in which the decisions were made. The average figure for 2008 will be available at the same time as the annual publication in August 2009.

Information on asylum is published annually and quarterly. The latest quarterly statistics were published on 24 February 2009 and are available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate website at:

Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which countries are on the Fast Track Processes Suitability List for asylum applications. [269166]

Mr. Woolas: Section 94(4) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 makes provision for a list of countries from which asylum or human rights claims must be certified as clearly unfounded unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that they are not.

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The countries currently on the list are as follows: Albania, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Jamaica, Macedonia, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Peru, South Africa, Serbia and Ukraine.

Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are on the list in respect of applications from men only.

Asylum: Employment

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent estimate she has made of the likely effect on the number of claims for asylum of permitting asylum seekers to work whilst their cases are being determined. [270818]

Mr. Woolas: It is not our policy to allow asylum seekers to work. The Government believe that managed migration is a valuable source of skills and labour to the British economy and there are recognised routes into the UK for those seeking to work. However, entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum and it is important to maintain the distinction between the two.

We believe giving asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers permission to work would be likely to act as a pull factor and encourage asylum applications from those without a well founded fear of persecution, hence slowing down the processing of applications made by genuine refugees and undermining the integrity of the managed migration system.

The only exception is asylum seekers who have been waiting 12 months for a decision where this delay cannot be attributed to them.

Borders: Personal Records

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 23 March 2009, Official Report, column 16, on e-borders, for how long data held under each category of information on travellers and passengers collected for the purposes of the e-borders programme will be retained when the programme is fully operational. [270373]

Mr. Woolas: The information will be held for 10 years in total—in the database for five years, and in our archive for a further five years.

This allows police to investigate the travel history of terror suspects and other criminals and enables the UK Border Agency to ensure that people leave when they are supposed to.

British National Party

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps have been taken to restrict members of the British National Party from undertaking roles in (a) her Department and (b) the UK Border Agency. [250177]

Mr. Woolas: Every civil servant is expected to uphold the standards of conduct set out in the Civil Service Management Code and the Civil Service's anti-discrimination rules and a robust line will be taken with anyone who fails to do so.

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Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many post holders in the UK Border Agency are known to be members of the British National Party. [250178]

Mr. Woolas: Staff are not required to provide information about this and no data are available.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the UK Border Agency takes in circumstances when employees are found to be members of the British National Party; and what the payband is of the official responsible for dealing with this matter. [250179]

Mr. Woolas: Membership of the British National Party is not banned in the UK Border Agency. Any behaviour related to the aims and values of that organisation, which contravenes either the Civil Service Management Code or Home Office policy, will be dealt with appropriately. Any manager in grades Executive Office or equivalent and above may instigate disciplinary action.

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