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Sarah McCarthy-Fry: As the Prime Minister set out on 7 November 2009 at the G20 summit at St. Andrews, any financial transaction tax-or indeed any other option aimed at ensuring the international financial sector makes a fair contribution back to the taxpayer for the cost of Government interventions in the banking sector-would need to be subject to four core principles: it would need to apply globally; must be non-distortionary; must complement-and reinforce-action the G20 are already taking to enhance the stability of the international financial system; and it must be fair to the financial sector. The effect of any such transaction tax on the UK financial sector would depend on how precisely these principles were implemented.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he had with (a) his (i) US and (ii) Canadian counterpart and (b) the International Monetary Fund about a Tobin tax prior to the speech made by the Prime Minister at St Andrews on 7 November 2009. 
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Treasury Ministers and officials have discussions with a wide variety 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 discussions.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what representations he has received from the Irish Bank Officials Association on Ulster Bank's plans in relation to contractual bonuses to its lower-paid employees; 
(2) what information his Department holds on Ulster Bank's proposal to withhold the 10 per cent. contractual profit share payment from lower-paid employees which his Department had previously authorised in respect of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. 
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The Chancellor receives a wide range of representations on issues relating to banks in receipt of public funds. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such representations.
The Government's shareholdings in RBS are managed on a commercial and arm's length basis by UK Financial Investments Ltd (UKFI). UKFI's objective is to protect and create value for the taxpayer as shareholder, with due regard to the maintenance of financial stability, and to act in a way that promotes competition.
|Expenses claimed||1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008||1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009|
Steve Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will estimate the effect on public expenditure of increasing the first income threshold of working tax credits by £500 while removing the second income threshold on tax credits and applying a consistent taper rate of 44 per cent. in each of the next five years; and if he will estimate the number of people who would have their awards reduced to zero in each case; 
(2) if he will estimate the effect on public expenditure of removing the second income threshold on tax credits and applying a consistent taper rate of 39 per cent. in each of the next five years; and if he will estimate the number of people who would have their awards reduced to zero in each case. 
Mr. Timms: The following figures provide an indication of the savings from 2010-11 to 2014-15 from these changes. These figures do not account for possible behavioural effects and should therefore be treated with caution. There may be a significant effect on work incentives arising from increasing marginal withdrawal rates.
|Effect on expenditure, £ million|
|Additional number of claimants with awards tapered to zero, thousands|
Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of the estimated average monthly wage of (a) a poppy farmer and (b) a grain farmer in Afghanistan. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Afghan farmers do not normally receive a regular wage from poppy or wheat farming. Their income comes from a number of different sources, including the cultivation of a number of crops simultaneously and other sources such as manual labour.
Average national figures for farmers' income are currently not available; we have made estimates for Helmand. In 2008-09 the net returns on a jerib (one fifth of one hectare) of wheat were US$200, whereas the net returns on a jerib of opium were US$20-430. Wheat is currently a more competitive crop than in previous years because of the relatively high prices of wheat and the low opium prices, combined with high labour costs for opium cultivation.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the African Union on UK foreign policy in relation to Africa. 
My noble Friend, the former Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, Lord Malloch-Brown, attended the AU Summit in July this year where he met various AU representatives including the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, and his deputy, Erasmus Mwencha. He held wide-ranging discussions on UK and AU policy on, for example, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and the global economic crisis.
The UK Government take the safety of British aid workers very seriously at all times. The Department for International Development (DFID) works closely with
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and other agencies in assessing threats and vulnerabilities. Local security management and mitigation measures are tailored to each environment and these are kept under frequent review.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of China on the sentencing of Akmal Shaikh; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary were very concerned to learn that the death sentence imposed on Akmal Shaikh, was upheld apparently without proper consideration of mitigating factors including his mental health. The Prime Minister wrote to President Hu on 14 October 2009 and the Foreign Secretary wrote to Foreign Minister Yang on 16 October 2009 to express our serious concerns about how the case has been managed and restate our opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.
We both also raised the case with Chinese State Councillor for Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo in London on 19 October 2009. We continue to use every opportunity to raise the case with our Chinese counterparts in London and in Beijing. The EU troika presented a démarche at ambassador level to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 11 November 2009. We continue to identify opportunities for further representations.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had discussions with the Chinese Government on (a) the recent execution of persons found to have been involved in rioting in Xinjiang and (b) the level of autonomy of the Government of that region. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have made clear our opposition to the death penalty in principle, and working with EU counterparts we urged the Chinese authorities not to carry out the sentences on those convicted in connection with the riots in Xinjiang in July this year. We remain concerned that independent observers were not allowed at the trials and continue to argue to the Chinese that all those arrested should be given fair and transparent trials and access to justice. Our embassy asked for access to the trials linked to the unrest but they were refused access.
We remain concerned over the situation in Xinjiang, in particular respect for cultural rights and religious freedoms, and raised this most recently at the last round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in May 2009 and at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in January 2009, where we have consistently raised the rights of ethnic minorities in China through successive rounds of dialogue.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies spent on advertising
in (i) 2006-07 and (ii) 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. 
Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not been subject to an independent audit of its information assurance procedures. However, in 2009 the FCO conducted a self-assessment against the Information Assurance Maturity Model supported by an external body, and the results showed that FCO's information assurance meets the Government's Security Policy Framework standards.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with foreign counterparts on securing the release of Hossein Rassam; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary telephoned the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, on 1 November 2009 to make clear our concern over the sentencing of Hossein Rassam. In addition to conversations with EU counterparts at the General Affairs and External Relations Council and European Council, the Foreign Secretary has also discussed this case with the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, and during his recent visit to Turkey.
We are deeply concerned by the harassment of our staff in Tehran by the Iranian authorities: none has done anything wrong and the sentence imposed upon Hossein Rassam is completely unjustified and unacceptable. We have urged the Iranian authorities to ensure that Hossein Rassam's appeal is dealt with swiftly and the sentence overturned.
Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of British citizens expected to be required to leave India as a consequence of rejection of visa (a) applications and (b) renewals following the policy changes made by the Government of India; what support and advice his Department is offering to those required to leave; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have not been notified about a change of policy by the Government of India on visa applications though we are aware, including from Indian media reports, that existing immigration rules for business and employment visitors are being rigorously enforced.
Some British nationals have contacted our offices in India about the status of their visas. We have advised
those currently possessing the incorrect visa to leave India before the expiry of the Indian Government's deadline and then apply for the correct visa.
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