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Pay Review

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what pay review body recommendations he is considering. [24819]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The pay review bodies report to the Prime Minister and to departmental Ministers, and it is primarily for the relevant departmental Ministers to consider any recommendations. The regular annual reports from the Review Body for Nursing Staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine (NPRB) and the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) have already been completed and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health announced on 17 December the Government's acceptance of their recommendations. We are considering a special report on senior civil service pay from the Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB) and expect to publish the Report and announce the Government's response shortly. Other reports from the pay review bodies will be considered as they come forward.

Public Expenditure

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect of the privatisation of the Paymaster Agency on the Treasury's access to information needed to monitor and control public expenditure. [24828]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Privatisation of the Paymaster Agency has had no effect on the Treasury's access to such information.

Taxes

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish an annual statement of the effect of his

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direct and indirect taxation measures on the disposable incomes of (a) the bottom 10 per cent. and (b) the bottom 20 per cent. of income earners. [24827]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The Government publish a range of statistics and analyses showing the impact of their tax and benefit policies across the income distribution in the Budget and pre-Budget report documentation.

Correspondence

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many letters he has received from residents in the Buckingham constituency regarding annuities in the last 12 months. [24848]

Ruth Kelly: Two letters on this subject have been identified as coming from the Buckingham constituency.

Bank of England

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many occasions since 1971 the Treasury has exercised its powers under section 4 of the Bank of England Act 1946 to give directions to the Bank of England. [24548]

Ruth Kelly: The Treasury has on no occasion since 1971 exercised its powers under section 4 of the Bank of England Act 1946 to give directions to the Bank of England.

Government Debt

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the distribution of Government debt between the banking and non-banking sectors in each month since the 2001 Budget. [24798]

Ruth Kelly: Since the 2001 Budget, the proportion of British Government debt held by banks has averaged 1.7 per cent. The monthly amount of Government debt held by the UK banking sector is:

2001

Total central government debtDebt held by UK banking sectorProportion of debt held by UK banks
(£ million)(£ million)(Percentage)
April366,2174,2581.2
May368,2985,7741.6
June373,0156,6021.8
July369,9216,5091.8
August369,9866,4391.7
September368,9197,9972.2

Source:

Financial Statistics, November 2001


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the Government's policy on the proportion of Government debt to be sold to the banking sector. [24799]

Ruth Kelly: The Government do not have a specific policy on the proportion of their debt sold to the banking sector. Government debt is sold via auctions, which are open to all bidders via the gilt-edged market-makers. The Government do not influence the proportion of debt that is sold to a particular type of investor.

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Vocational Training

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people have claimed tax relief for vocational training in each of the last four years; and what has been the cost to public funds in each year. [24823]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Vocational training tax relief (VTR) was abolished with effect from 31 August 2000. The number of claims received and the estimated cost of tax relief for the last four years of the relief are as follows:

YearClaims received(84)Cost of tax relief(85) (£ million)
2000–01200,00030
1999–2000200,00060
1998–99170,00050
1997–98100,00025

(84) Number of claims received and not the number of trainees as an individual could make more than one claim in a tax year. It was estimated that there were probably about 200,000 people claiming VTR in 1997–98 and 1998–99

(85) On an accrued basis


Tax Coding

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the number and proportion of incorrect notices of tax coding for 2001–02 which the Inland Revenue has sent out; and what are the principal reasons for errors. [24807]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Error rates covering all notices of tax codings for a tax year are not computed and we have not yet reached the end of 2001–02.

Quality monitoring for 2000–01 showed that around 5 million taxpayers received a revised notice of tax coding during the year of which 889,000 (about 15 per cent.) were incorrect. The main reasons for error were failing to correctly update benefits in kind in accordance with information provided by the employer and failing to restore the coding to a cumulative basis following a change of employment. We are seeking significant improvement in this area this year through our on-going quality assurance and quality control programme.

EU Payments

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the payments the United Kingdom will be obliged to make to the European Union in each of the next four years. [24808]

Ruth Kelly: The Government's latest estimate of the United Kingdom's net contribution to the EC Budget in 2001–02 together with forecasts of the trended net contribution for 2002–03 and 2003–04 can be found at footnote 2 to Table B13 of the pre-Budget report (Cm 5318). Forecasts for years beyond 2003–04 are not currently available.

Investment Publications

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will provide a list of the investment publications to which Her Majesty's Treasury subscribes. [24813]

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Ruth Kelly: The Treasury subscribes to the following publications which cover investment and related subjects.


Unemployment

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of working age people in the Buckingham constituency lived in a household where no adult worked in each year since 1997. [24846]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from John Kidgell to Mr. John Bercow, dated 8 January 2002:



ECOFIN Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 13 December; what the Government's position was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [23888]

Ruth Kelly: The Chancellor and the Paymaster General attended ECOFIN on 13 December.

On the introduction of the euro the Commission summarised the main points of the recently published Eurobarometer poll.

ECOFIN agreed a statement of the economic situation, which was submitted to the Laeken European Council.

The Commission reported that important progress had been made on implementation of the financial services action plan under the Belgian presidency. Six new proposals would be tabled by the Commission in 2002, including an update of the Investment Services Directive and the Capital Adequacy Directive. The Commission planned a mid-term review of the action plan before the Barecelona European Council in March 2002.

ECOFIN agreed a general orientation on a directive on combating market abuse. UK secured its negotiating objectives to deliver an effects-based regime with appropriate safeguards for innocent behaviour. Once the

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European Parliament has completed its first reading of the directive, the Council should be able to agree a formal common position.

ECOFIN also agreed a general orientation on the amended collateral directive, which is designed to ensure legal certainty for cross-border and domestic collateral arrangements. This is another step forward in the completion of a single market in financial services.

A general orientation was established on a compromise text for a draft regulation on accounting standards, which provides for the adoption of international accounting standards throughout the EU. The agreement is subject to a final Memorandum of Understanding between the European Commission and the International Accounting Standards Committee Federation on the subject of copyright.

The Commission presented an interim version of their Globalisation and Development Report. The final report will be published in February 2002.

On VAT on e-commerce, a text was agreed providing for the adoption of an electronic portal solution with a time-limited interim arrangement. This meets the UK's objective of introducing a non-burdensome method of applying VAT to products downloaded from the internet, which will be non-discriminatory and apply at the place of consumption.

On the proposed directive for ensuring effective taxation of savings income, ECOFIN reconfirmed the agreement reached at the Feira European Council in June 2000, and agreed a text to form the basis for negotiations with third countries.

ECOFIN also discussed the proposed energy products directive. The Chancellor stressed that any directive must allow the UK to exempt domestic fuel from minimum duty rates. The presidency reported the discussion to the European Council at Laeken.

No votes were taken at the meeting.


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