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Service Standards

Mr. McNulty: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the performance of the main departments and agencies against the six service standards for central Government. [55135]

Dr. Jack Cunningham: The six standards came into effect on 1 April 1997. An analysis of the main departments' performance over the 12 months to 31 March 1998 showed that they generally had both telephone inquiry

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points and complaints procedures in place, were consulting their users, and were trying to make their services more accessible, for example, through greater use of new technology and the publication of information in minority languages. On appointments, the results showed that people were generally seen within 10 minutes of a pre-arranged appointment.

The performance of the main departments and agencies in responding to letters from the public is set out in the table.

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DepartmentTarget (working days)Total volumePercentage of responses within targetTarget 1998-99Agencies included
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food(50)1565,4108915yes
Cabinet Office (OPS)156,22695.615yes
Department for Culture, Media and Sport(51)1821,1626818no
Customs and Excise10572,4308910n/a
Ministry of Defence(52)205,9229620yes
Department for Education and Employment15116,4178815no
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions(53)15672,9809615yes
Department of Health(50)2046,6756620yes
Home Office20(54)173,2858120(55)--
Inland Revenue20(56)85m(57)73.720n/a
Lord Chancellor's Department2010,2007720no
Northern Ireland Office (including Northern Ireland Departments)15198,1609415(58)--
Department of Social Security20(59)32,6187720no
Scottish Office20200,0007120yes
Department of Trade and Industry15133,2009515no
Welsh Office1565,0878615yes
Benefits Agency(51)2025,8169220n/a
Child Support Agency10(60)--6710n/a
Child Support Agency (Northern Ireland)102,9818910n/a
Contributions Agency20259,3029220n/a
Court Service10(56)4,534,38799.510n/a
Employment Service10(61)--9110n/a
Social Security Agency (Northern Ireland)1541,60996.515n/a

(50) Correspondence received between 1 November 1997 and 31 March 1998

(51) Figures relate to correspondence addressed to Ministers

(52) Correspondence addressed to Ministers, e-mailed to the MOD web site, and mail on defence issues received by other departments between 1 August 1997 and 31 March 1998

(53) As a result of the large increase in correspondence after the General Election it was often impossible for letters to be passed to the answering division within 15 days. Consequently many parts of the Department have interpreted the target as being a response within 15 days of receipt in the responding division, rather than from when the letter was actually received in the Department

(54) The number of letters received by the Central Correspondence Unit from members of the public, and the percentage of letters meeting the target, was taken from a statistically monitored sample

(55) Includes all Home Office agencies except the Prison Service

(56) This is the number of items of post received by the Department's network of offices

(57) Holding replies are not counted in order to maximise the incentive to issue full replies quickly

(58) Includes all Northern Ireland departments' agencies except the Prison Service, and the CSA(NI) and SSA(NI) whose performance is shown separately

(59) In addition 17,151 letters were received from DSS HQ but were passed on to the Department's executive agencies for reply and are therefore included in the agencies' return

(60) Total volumes are not recorded. Performance is calculated through a sample, which in 1997-98 was just under 25,000 letters

(61) Total volume not known. The performance against target was calculated by evaluating 4,000 letters sent out by a research company. In the same period some 780 letters were received addressed to Ministers--80.6 per cent. of these were cleared within 15 days


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I will be placing a more detailed summary of performance by the main departments and agencies against the six standards in the Libraries of the House. I believe the Whitehall Standards are an important tool for improving the quality of Central Government services. This is the first time such information has

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been made available. It shows our commitment to open government and to reporting transparently on our performance. We plan to retain the standards in their present form until 31 March 1999, when they will be reviewed and if necessary revised.

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INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Nicaragua

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the long term effectiveness of the 1998 IMF agreement with Nicaragua. [54818]

Ms Hewitt: I have been asked to reply.

I regret that it has not been possible to provide a substantive answer before the summer recess. I shall write to my hon. Friend shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

TREASURY

Foreign Earnings Deduction

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 11 June 1998, Official Report, column 652, on foreign earnings deduction (1) if he will define the phrase, "very high incomes", used in paragraph 22 of the Inland Revenue Explanatory Notes to Clause 63 of the Finance (No. 2) Bill; [46401]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 18 June 1998]: As I explained in my answer of 11 June, there is no standard definition of what constitutes very high earnings.

Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the current net annual cost to the Exchequer of the operation of (a) the National Air Traffic Services, (b) student loans, (c) residual debt in British Energy plc., (d) Radio Spectrum, (e) Belfast Port, (f) the Commonwealth Development Corporation, (g) the Royal Mint and (h) the Tote. [47037]

Mr. Byers: I regret that it has not been possible to provide a substantive answer before the summer recess. I shall write to my hon. Friend shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

North Sea Fiscal Regime

Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will publish his consultation paper on the North Sea fiscal regime; and if he will make a statement. [49369]

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to adjust the tax regime on oil companies. [47769]

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to publish the consultation document on the taxation of North Sea oil. [54118]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 9 July 1998]: I regret that it has not been possible to provide a

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substantive answer before the Summer recess. I shall write to the hon. Gentlemen shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received from the Inland Revenue on the feasibility of delivering the working families tax credit via the PAYE system; and if he will place a copy of any such representations in the Library. [50252]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 13 July 1998]: The advice of officials to Ministers is confidential, but I can refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) on 9 July 1998, Official Report, column 576, on the question of how the WFTC will be delivered to employees.

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what date he has set for achieving the target of an £180 per week income for all working families with a full-time worker under the working families tax credit scheme. [53115]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 28 July 1998]: The WFTC will guarantee an income of £180 for families with a full time worker from when it is introduced in October 1999.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimates he has made of the number of people expected to be entitled to, and to claim, the working families tax credit in Scotland. [53172]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 28 July 1998]: It is estimated that in 2000-01, the first full year of WFTC, around 130,000 families in Scotland will be in receipt of WFTC and we intend to ensure that as many families as are entitled receive the tax credit.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which computer system will be used to collect (a) tax and national insurance information and (b) information required under the working families tax credit; and which company/consortium has been awarded the contract to oversee the computer system. [52747]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 28 July 1998]: The current, separate, IT systems for collecting tax and NIC will continue to be used and the Working Family Tax Credit will build on existing Family Credit IT systems. The current IT support for Family Credit will transfer to the Inland Revenue to enable them to successfully deliver the Working Family Tax Credit. There has been no new award of contracts resulting from Working Family Tax Credits or the proposed merger of The Contributions Agency.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what systems have been set up to allow for direct payments from the Inland Revenue of the working families tax credit where the credit is not made through the pay packet. [52803]

Dawn Primarolo: I regret that it has not been possible to provide a substantive answer before the summer recess. I shall write to the hon. Member shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

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Mr. Rendel: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people are expected to be eligible for, and to claim, the child care credit within the working families tax credit; and if his Department has estimated the costs involved in Scotland. [53173]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 28 July 1998]: I regret that it has not been possible to provide a substantive answer before the summer recess. I shall write to the hon. Member shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

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Mr. MacShane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 16 June 1998, Official Report, column 133-34, if he will give the corresponding figures for a single earner married couple with one child aged four years. [53692]

Dawn Primarolo: The table shows the net income (after income tax, including WFTC, NICs and child benefit), and equivalised net income, of a single earner married couple with 1 child aged 4, at different levels of gross income, with an additional £48.80 of basic WFTC.

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£ per week
Single earner married couple (1 child aged 4)
Gross Income150200250300350400
Net Income (after taxes and benefits)245.73260.99276.07291.14306.22321.29
Equivalised Net Income208.25221.18233.96246.73259.51272.28

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The figures include the effect of Budget measures taking effect in 1999-2000 (abolishing the employee NICs entry fee, MCA at 10 per cent. and £2.50 additional child benefit for the first child, although at 1998-99 levels of tax and benefits.

The data assume that the earner in the household is working over 30 hours a week for Working Family Tax Credit purposes; that earnings are from employment; and that there are no other sources of income.

The Standard McClements scales have been used to determine equivalised income. This is the same process that is used in the DSS's Households Below Average Income publication.At some levels of earnings this family may also be entitled to housing benefit and council tax benefit. However, as this will depend upon the composition of the housing costs (between mortgage payments, council tax, and rent), housing benefit and council tax benefit have been left out of these figures.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the basis for his assumption that 20 per cent. of the working families tax credit is to be accounted for as tax forgone. [53720]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 30 July 1998]: The assumption that 20 per cent. of the Working Families Tax Credit will be accounted for as tax forgone is based on an estimate of the proportion of WFTC payments which are paid up to an individual's gross income tax liability. WFTC payments paid over an individual's gross income tax liability will be accounted for as expenditure in the national accounts, under current conventions.

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Treasury has reached agreement with the Office for National Statistics on the treatment of the working families tax credit for the purposes of the national accounts. [54121]

Mr. Byers: Decisions on classification for the national accounts are for Office for National Statistics alone following international standards.

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