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26 Nov 2009 : Column 283W—continued

Departmental Theft

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many of his Department's officials have (a) been reprimanded, (b) had their contract of employment terminated and (c) been prosecuted for theft of departmental property in each of the last three years; and what items were stolen in each case. [300966]

Mr. Hain: None.

Departmental Working Hours

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many and what proportion of staff of his Department work flexibly or part-time; and what his Department's policy is on making jobs available on a job-share or flexible basis. [301333]

Mr. Hain: The Wales Office employs a total of five staff on a flexible or part-time working contract, which makes up 8 per cent. of the total workforce.

The Wales Office encourages flexible working. In line with the MOJ flexible working policy, all Wales Office posts are open to applicants on a job share or reduced hours basis.


Child Tax Credit

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families in (a) the UK, (b) England, (c) the North East and (d) Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland constituency have claimed child tax credits in each year since their introduction. [301816]

Mr. Timms: Estimates of the average number of recipient families and their entitlements to tax credits, by Government office region, local authority and parliamentary constituency, for each year between 2003-04 and 2007-08, are available in the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) publications 'Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics Finalised Annual Awards. Geographical Analyses', available at:

The same information for 2008-09 is not yet available as awards have not yet been finalised. However, estimates of the number of recipient families with tax credits, based on provisional awards, as at 1 April 2009, are available in the HMRC snapshot publication 'Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics. Geographical analyses. April 2009', available at the same web address.

Departmental Official Cars

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department of providing official cars for the use of (a) Ministers and (b) officials in the last 12 months. [301172]

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Sarah McCarthy-Fry: No estimate has been made of the cost of providing official cares to Minsters and officials in the last 12 months. In 2008-09, £582,000 was spent on the provision of official cars for Ministers and officials in HM Treasury.

Departmental Recruitment

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of jobs advertised by his Department in the last 12 months were online only applications; and what provision his Department makes for those wishing to apply for jobs in his Department who do not have access to the internet. [301542]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: From November 2008 to October 2009, 4 per cent. of Treasury recruitment campaigns only accepted online applications. In these instances, a telephone support number and email address were provided to assist candidates who had difficulties accessing the online application system.

All other vacancies allowed candidates to submit application forms via email or hard copy.

Departmental Telephone Services

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider the merits of introducing an automatic callback request feature for callers to his Department's telephone helplines in order to minimise the cost to callers. [301904]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 26 October 2009, Official Report, column 74W. HM Treasury has no plans to introduce an automatic callback facility.

Gurkhas: Pensions

Jo Swinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has made an estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of providing welfare benefits and pensions on terms equivalent to those of the armed forces pension scheme for those Gurkha ex-servicemen who retired prior to 1 July 1997; and if he will make a statement. [300422]

Mr. Kevan Jones [holding answer 23 November 2009]: I have been asked to reply.

There have been no recent estimates made of the cost of welfare benefits for those former members of the Brigade of Gurkhas and their dependants who have already settled in the UK or may choose to do so as a result of the discretions announced earlier this year. Nor has there been any estimate of the total cost of welfare benefits for those Gurkhas still serving who choose to settle in the UK when they leave the armed forces.

When the publication of the revised guidance was announced in April 2009, it was estimated, following cross-Government consultation, that the likely annual cost of allowing all former Gurkhas to settle in the UK would be £1.4 billion.

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The cost of providing retired Gurkhas with Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) equivalent pension benefits for all pensionable service before 1 July 1997 has been estimated at £1.5 billion over 20 years.

Housing: Construction

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what steps his Department is taking to stimulate the house building industry; [301134]

(2) what plans he has to assist the house building industry in the next two years. [301137]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: At Budget 2009, the Government announced a £600 million housing package to stimulate housing development and boost capacity in the house-building industry. On 29 June, the Government announced in Building Britain's Future that they are investing a further £1.5 billion over the next two years to build an extra 20,000 new energy efficient, good quality, social and affordable homes, and a further 10,000 additional homes for private sale.

Taken together, over £900 million will be allocated over the next two years via the Kickstart Housing Delivery Programme to unlock development on currently stalled housing sites. We expect an additional 22,000 new homes, of which up to 8,000 will be affordable, to be delivered with support from these programmes. £340 million in funding will also be made available to local authorities to deliver new social housing at higher energy efficiency standards, expected to deliver up to 3,900 new homes.

This is in addition to previous announcements in September 2008 of support to the house-building industry and first-time buyers, including the temporary stamp duty land tax holiday and the provision of £300 million in funding for HomeBuy Direct, and the Government's fiscal stimulus at pre-Budget report 2008.

Private Finance Initiative

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which projects funded under the private finance initiative have received loans from the (a) European Investment Bank and (b) Infrastructure Finance Unit; what the amount of such loans was; and in how many cases such a loan represented the single largest contribution to the cost of a project. [301612]

Ian Pearson: The Treasury's Infrastructure Finance Unit has lent £120 million to the Greater Manchester Waste PFI; the largest contribution for this project came from the European Investment Bank who lent £182 million. Details of the Bank's other lending are available from its website

Private Rented Housing

Willie Rennie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will bring forward legislative proposals to increase to £9,000 the income tax threshold for income earned through renting a room in a property. [301452]

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Sarah Teather: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what average annual income each homeowner who rented out a spare room or rooms in their property obtained from such rents in the latest 12 month period for which information is available; [301062]

(2) how many homeowners in each region are renting out a room in their property; [301063]

(3) what the tax revenue to the Exchequer from homeowners renting out a room in their property was in each of the last five years. [301064]

Mr. Timms: All taxes are kept under review, with any changes announced by the Chancellor as part of the Budget process.

Based on the Family Resources Survey, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimate that the average annual income obtained from renting out a room was £3,000 in 2007-08. Estimated numbers of homeowners renting out rooms by region are shown in the following table.

Government office region Number of homeowners

North East


North West


Yorkshire and Humberside


East Midlands


West Midlands


East of England




South East


South West






Northern Ireland




HMRC's administrative systems do not hold sufficiently detailed information to estimate the tax revenue attributable to renting out a room. Estimates of the cost of the rent-a-room income tax relief are provided in 'Tax ready reckoner and tax reliefs' published alongside the annual pre-Budget report and available on the Treasury's website.

Taxation: Low Incomes

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the tax cost of exempting from (a) income tax and (b) national insurance contributions liability those earning the national minimum wage. [301505]

Mr. Timms: It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate because of the information requirements and the behavioural effects it would produce.

The introduction of an exemption from income tax and disregard for NICs would have significant behavioural effects as it would introduce a cliff edge to the taxation of employees, and would mean that the personal allowance could be used to offset other income. In addition, a disregard for national insurance purposes would have serious implications for contributory benefit entitlement.

The alternate approach would be to increase the income tax personal allowance and primary threshold for class 1 NICs to the annual level of pay received by someone working full-time at the NMW. The cost of
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this can be determined from HM Treasury's "Tax ready reckoner and tax reliefs", the next edition of which will be published as part of the 2009 Pre-Budget Report supplementary documents on 9 December 2009.


Afghanistan and Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British armed forces personnel have received serious groin injuries in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq since 2007. [301908]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The Ministry of Defence publishes the numbers of personnel categorised as Very Seriously Injured and Seriously Injured as a result of Operations Telic and Herrick on its website

The figures are updated fortnightly. In addition, we are committed to publishing on a quarterly basis the numbers of service personnel who have suffered limb amputations as a result of injuries sustained while on operational deployment. However, in order both to protect the identities of small numbers of patients and to maintain operational security for the effectiveness of our protective countermeasures, we do not routinely publish VSI and SI sub-classified by other types of physical injury.

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department is taking to increase the level of protection provided for translators engaged by UK forces in Afghanistan. [300332]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We take our responsibilities towards locally employed staff in Afghanistan very seriously and have in place a number of measures to reduce the risks they face. Security of all staff is kept under review and actively managed, and staff are encouraged to raise any concerns. We are unable to provide specific details about these measures, as disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice their capability, effectiveness and security.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Chinook helicopters (a) have been sent to Afghanistan in the last six months and (b) are planned to be sent for support operations in the next six months. [301446]

Bill Rammell: I am not able to give details of the numbers of helicopters delivered to Afghanistan because the release of this information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness, or security of our armed forces.

However, since November 2006 we have increased the number of airframes by 79 per cent. and flying hours by 95 per cent. We are also converting eight Chinook Mk 3 aircraft to a support helicopter role, with the first of these aircraft being made available for training before the end of this year, and the remaining seven being delivered to Joint Helicopter Command by the end of 2010. This will allow us to deliver more Chinooks to Afghanistan during 2010.

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Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision his Department makes for compensation for British soldiers who incur severe groin injuries whilst serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. [301910]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation Scheme) Order 2005 makes provision of compensation for all members and former members of the Regular Armed Forces or Reserve Forces should they be injured, become ill or die as a result of service.

Awards are tariff based depending upon the nature and severity of the injury. There is no standard provision for particular types of injury or theatre of operation.

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what Quick Impact Projects his Department has (a) supported and (b) participated in in the Babaji area of Helmand Province since 2001. [301911]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There has been no stabilisation activity in the Babaji area of Helmand Province before August of 2009, as up until the recent clearance operations, civilian-military teams were unable to gain access, due to the security situation there. The term "Quick Impact Projects" is no longer used. However, we do provide commanders with the ability to address immediate, tactical and local, consent/stabilisation issues in Babaji and elsewhere in theatre via the Commanders Stabilisation Fund (CSF). Medium and longer term initiatives in theatre (including Babaji) are the responsibility of the Provincial Reconstruction Team which is, in turn, the responsibility of the FCO.

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