European Single Currency
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research is being carried out in his Department concerning the benefits of the single currency to the United Kingdom. 
As the Chancellor said in his October 1997 statement, the five economic tests will define whether a clear and unambiguous case can be made for UK membership of the single currency. The assessment of the five tests has not yet started, but the necessary preliminary analysistechnical work necessary to allow us to undertake the assessment within two years as promisedis under way.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 29 January 2002, Official Report, column 224W, to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws), for what reason he is unable to specify the Treasury management units which are contributing to the evaluation of the five economic tests for membership of the euro; and if he will make a statement. 
I refer the hon. Member to the comments I made during the adjournment debate on the preliminary and technical work held on the floor of the House on 5 March 2002, Official Report, column 268.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a further statement on measures for business in relation to the pre-Budget report in November 2001. 
Mr. Gordon Brown:
As announced in the pre-Budget report in November 2001 and following consultation with business:
In addition the Government are also proceeding with the new tax credit to encourage research and development by large companies which will apply from 1 April 2002. The credit will follow a simple volume based approach, final details of which will be announced in the Budget.
Technical details of these measures will be published tomorrow and will be available to Members from the Vote Office.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with his counterparts in other European Union member states about the use of public-private partnerships in the delivery of public services. 
Mr. Andrew Smith:
The Government discusses PPPs in a variety of fora. In this context, Treasury Ministers share information on existing UK policy on PPPs with a range of European colleagues.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cash-terms change in current receipts has been since 1997. 
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Mr. Andrew Smith:
Estimates of Government receipts are published quarterly by the ONS and HM Treasury in "Public sector finances".
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the tax burden was as a proportion of national income in (a) 199697 and (b) 200102. 
Mr. Andrew Smith:
Estimates of net taxes and social security contributions as a percentage of GDP are contained in table B22 and table B10 of the November 2001 pre-Budget report.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met Derek Wanless to discuss the contents of the final Wanless report. 
Mr. Andrew Smith:
The Chancellor has held no meetings with Derek Wanless to discuss the contents of his final report.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health to discuss value for money in health expenditure. 
Mr. Andrew Smith:
The Chancellor meets with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health to discuss a variety of issues on a regular basis.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set out the percentage of gross domestic product and expenditure per capita represented by public infrastructure investment in (a) the UK and (b) other EU member states. 
Mr. Andrew Smith:
Table B23 of the pre-Budget report sets out public investment as a proportion of GDP in the UK and the Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses, published in April 2001, include information about public expenditure on a per capita basis. Chart 6.2 in the Treasury publication "Realising Europe's potential", published in February 2002, compares general Government net investment across all member states.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in investigating his Department's performance in answering parliamentary questions. 
As indicated in my reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) on 5 March 2002, Official Report, column 192W, a full investigation has now been carried out into the circumstances which led to delays in dealing with parliamentary questions in the Department of Health, including apparent falsification in recording the
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handling of parliamentary questions in the Department's parliamentary section. The aim of the investigation was to establish the facts and to ensure that the necessary remedial action is taken.
An audit of outstanding questions was carried out immediately after the apparent falsification of the electronic database used in the parliamentary section to track the handling of parliamentary questions in the Department was discovered. This identified 411 outstanding questions due for reply before 14 February, with 214 of those questions having been recorded as answered when no reply had been given. This information formed the basis for my reply on 5 March and for replies to subsequent questions to hon. Members. Further more detailed investigation of the information derived from this audit reduced the number of outstanding questions due for reply before 14 February to 354, with 202 questions recorded as having been answered when no reply had been given. The balance was accounted for by questions which further investigation showed had in fact been answered where this had not been clear previously or which were due for reply after 14 February, questions transferred to other Departments for answer, duplicate entries on the database and incorrect entries on the database. Of these 354 questions, 348 received replies by 12 March, the remaining 6 on 13 March.
In addition this more detailed investigation identified a further 11 outstanding questions due for reply before 14 February. Six of these were recorded as having been completed and given a false Hansard reference on the database; two previously unidentified questions were found which had been recorded as having received replies when they had not; and three outstanding questions were discovered which had not been recorded on the database at all. All these questions have now been answered.
Of the total of 365 questions finally identified as due for reply before 14 February which had not received replies when I reported the situation on 5 March, 33 received an answer within one month of the due date for reply and 95 were answered within two months. The remaining 237 had been awaiting replies for more than two months; and 77 of these were asked before the summer recess in 2001.
The overall number of cases where the database had been falsified to show questions as having been answered when they had not was 210, broken down by party as follows:
Liberal Democrats 42
Scottish Nationalist 9
Plaid Cymru 2.
The investigation has also established that according to the Library of the House there are a number of outstanding questions from previous Sessions. Regrettably, because the Department had not been following the normal practice of sending all questions answered by letter to the Library of the House, we are unable to confirm how many of these questions were not in fact answered. All of the questions answered by letter during the last summer recess have now been placed in the Library; and this practice will be followed assiduously in future. There are, however, some indications that falsification of the database may have taken
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place during previous Sessions; and this will be pursued in the context of the disciplinary process which is taking place.
The main conclusions of the investigation were as follows:
(i) There is clear evidence of the systematic falsification of records on the database which tracks the handling of the parliamentary questions received in the Department of Health. Questions were recorded as having been answered when no replies had been passed to the Member of Parliament or the Official Report; incorrect information appears to have been entered on the whereabouts of parliamentary questions within the system and in a number of cases a false Hansard reference was entered to indicate that the process was complete and had been externally validated. There have been three cases where questions that appeared on the Order Paper were not entered on to the database, thus preventing their being processed at all.
(ii) Examination of the questions in the backlog revealed no consistent pattern either by party or subject matter.
(iii) All the indications are that previously unidentified delays in handling cases in the parliamentary section were the overwhelming contributory factor, leading to the backlog of outstanding questions that developed, and that these delays were not identified through routine monitoring systems because of deliberate falsification of the database.
(iv) The number of parliamentary questions listed for answer by the Department of Health has increased significantly during this Session. During the 200001 Session (December 2000May 2001) 1,754 questions were asked in 83 sitting days. For the current Session to date (June 200120 March 2002) 5,748 questions have been asked in 120 sitting days. This increase has tested the resources of the parliamentary section, particularly in the timely and diligent follow up of ministerial queries on draft answers. Pressure of work cannot, however, explain the failure to answer all the parliamentary questions in an appropriate and timely manner.
(v) Although some concerns were raised both within the Department and by MPs about delays in responding to questions and these concerns were followed up by Ministers and managers, suspicion was successfully deflected to others within the organisation. This was possible because the management information provided by the database had been corrupted by the false entries and because the increased volume of parliamentary questions made it increasingly difficult to track the physical progress of parliamentary questions folders in a small and cramped office. The falsification of the database also prevented the size of the backlog emerging in routine monitoring of progress on answering questions. Currently there is no external system against which the Department can validate its performance. From April the Leader of the House will make available to all Departments regular lists of the parliamentary questions the Library's records show are outstanding, so that such a check can be made.
(vi) An official in the parliamentary section has been suspended and is awaiting disciplinary action, in accordance with departmental disciplinary procedures. The detailed evidence found by the investigation will be used in this process. There is no evidence to suggest that any other member of staff was improperly involved.
Line managers had already put in hand action to manage the increased volume of parliamentary questions, to speed up their processing, and to share the tasks more widely within the unit. The database was in the process of being modified to provide more accessible and timely management information on the handling of parliamentary questions to enable improved tracking, early intervention and a clear audit trail. The staffing complement of the unit had been increased from seven to eight.
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A summary of the process for dealing with parliamentary questions in the Department of Health prior to this investigation is being placed in the Library of the House. The following further remedial action was identified as necessary by the investigation and is being put in hand immediately:
(i) New arrangements will be established within the parliamentary section to ensure that the process for tracking parliamentary questions cannot be manipulated by any one individual. This will include a clear separation of tasks and building in a greater degree of external checking and validation, including regular checks against information held by the Library of the House.
(ii) The electronic database will be modified and shared across the Department and Ministers' Private Offices to allow for a more transparent system of tracking the handling of parliamentary questions.
(iii) Questions are already handled electronically between the parliamentary section and officials. This will be extended to include Ministers' Private Office to simplify and speed the process.
(iv) Ministers' Private Secretaries will be responsible for dealing with outstanding queries on draft parliamentary questions before they are returned to the parliamentary section.
(v) The parliamentary section will be moved to more suitable accommodation as a matter of urgency.
(vi) In addition to the extra capacity already introduced, there will be an immediate review of the staffing complement within the parliamentary section to reflect the increase in work load and to ensure proper controls mechanisms are in place, using other Departments' parliamentary sections with similar volumes of work as comparators.
I expect that these changes will prevent any recurrence of the lapse in my Department's standards of accountability to the House, which I deeply regret and for which I apologise.