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Department for Work and Pensions: Software Upgrade

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The rollout of Windows XP to DWP desktops is planned to commence in February 2005. A root cause analysis of the November service disruption has been undertaken. Its conclusions and recommendations will be factored into the testing, piloting and implementation rehearsals already planned to take place before the commencement of the full rollout.

The department's priority is to secure business continuity. If any cause for concern arises during testing the department will reasssess the timing of the rollout as it would with any project.

Rebated Gas Oil

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The Government have no plans to eliminate the use of rebated gas oil in any sector.
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Pensions: Taxation

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government are introducing a new simplified regime for the taxation of pensions which will come into effect on 6 April 2006. The numerous controls and limits in the existing regimes are replaced by a lifetime allowance, complemented by an annual allowance. The level of these allowances is such that the vast majority of people will be entirely unaffected by them, allowing them to save as much as they want when they want in a registered pension scheme.

An individual with pension savings in excess of the lifetime allowance of £1.5 million will be subject to the lifetime allowance charge. This has been set at 25 per cent where the excess funds are taken as a pension or 55 per cent where these are taken as a lump sum. The lifetime allowance will apply to all individuals who are members of registered pension schemes; there will be no exceptions or exemptions.

Where employers do not wish to provide benefits through a registered scheme there is a facility to set up employer financed retirement benefit schemes. These are not tax favoured.

Financial Reporting Council: Disclosure of Information

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Section 11 of The Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Act 2004 provides a gateway that permits the Inland Revenue to disclose on a case by case basis information to the Financial Reporting Review Panel (FRRP), a subsidiary body of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), that raises a question about the compliance of company accounts with the requirements of the Companies Act. The FRRP may only use the information to consider and investigate a company's position and, if appropriate, seek an application to the court with regard to defective accounts.

The gateway restricts the onward disclosure of any information provided and applies a criminal sanction for unauthorised disclosures. Customs and Excise do not have a legal authority to permit disclosure of
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information held by them to the Financial Reporting Council or any of the bodies controlled by it.

Acoustic Neuromas

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from the National Statistician, Len Cook, to Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, dated 17 December 2004.

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what proportion of the population is estimated to have acoustic neurones. (HL355)

I have assumed that the question is actually seeking information on acoustic neuromas (a rare type of benign cancer of the acoustic nerves)—rather than acoustic neurones, which are present in the whole population.

There were 265 newly diagnosed cases of cancer in England in 2001 which were coded to cranial nerves (based on ICD10 code D33.3) with the morphology code for neurilemmoma (M9560/0) which includes acoustic neuroma. (Therefore not all of these may have been cases of acoustic neuroma).

These figures, aggregated at the 3rd and 4th digits of the International Classification of Diseases Tenth Revision (ICD10), were published in Cancer statistics: registrations, England 2001 Series MB1 no. 32. London: The Stationery Office, 2004, which is available on the National Statistics website at:–health/MB1–32/MB1–32.pdf

Figures on the number of people who have been diagnosed with cancer and are still alive at a particular point in time are not routinely calculated.

Bank Charges: Small Firms

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the Office of Fair Trading was given the responsibility to keep markets under review to ensure they are working well for consumers.

Following the publication of the Cruickshank review in 2000, the Government have embarked on a series of measures to tackle the identified competition problems in SME banking. The Chancellor and the Secretary of State for the DTI referred SME banking
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to the Competition Commission and an inquiry was launched. This reported in March 2002 and proposed several changes to how the SME market should operate.

Following on from this, the OFT reported on the Competition Commission proposals in December 2002. It published an agreement negotiated between the banks, DTI and HMT. The relevant section of the undertakings reads:

"2.1 The four main clearing groups are required to offer their SME customers in England and Wales:

The Office of Fair Trading will be reviewing the situation in 2006. It may choose to consider the Nottingham research as part of its review.

Mobile Phones: Use on Petrol Station Forecourts

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Unlike a conversation with a person next to you, using a mobile phone usually requires the use of one hand. It is, therefore, different from speaking to someone next to you.

It is also not the role of government Ministers to advise the safety experts at the Health and Safety Executive on the guidance issued to petroleum enforcement officers.

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