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17 Oct 2002 : Column 936Wcontinued
Ms Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what procedural changes are being made following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 28 May in the case of Stafford concerning the release of mandatory life sentence prisoners. 
Hilary Benn: Mandatory life sentence prisoners who have served the minimum period necessary to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence, have their cases reviewed periodically by the Parole Board. At present responsibility for their release rests with the Secretary of State. This responsibility cannot be conferred on the Parole Board or any other body without primary legislation.
As an interim measure, the Home Secretary has decided to change the administrative arrangements for the review and release of mandatory life sentence prisoners. These administrative arrangements will apply to all such prisoners whose next Parole Board review begins on or after 1 January 2003. The changes will mean that in most instances these prisoners' cases will be heard initially, as now, by the Parole Board on the papers which will make a provisional recommendation. If prisoners wish to make representations about provisional recommendations it will then be open to them to request an oral hearing before the Parole Board at which they may have legal representation. They will normally receive full disclosure of all material relevant to the question of whether they should be released. They will also be able to examine and cross-examine witnesses. Similarly the Secretary of State may also require an oral hearing of the Board in cases where he believes further examination of the evidence is required.
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If, at the end of the review process, the Parole Board favours the release of a mandatory life sentence prisoner once the minimum period has been served the Home Secretary will normally accept such a recommendation.
The Stafford judgment affects only the process by which the decision is made on whether to release mandatory life sentence prisoners. It does not relate to the period of detention which such prisoners must serve to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence, or Parole Board reviews that take place before the end of that period. There will usually be no change to the dates set for Parole Board reviews of prisoners who have served that period. Those prisoners serving whole life tariffs do not have their cases referred to the Parole Board.
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what studies his Department is undertaking of tax avoidance by captive insurance companies based in UK overseas dependent territories; and if he will make a statement. 
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what revenues have been recovered by the Inland Revenue's special investigation section in each of the last five fiscal years; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: Special Investigations Section (''SIS'') is the Inland Revenue's specialist unit that seeks to tackle tax avoidance. The nature of the compliance work undertaken by SIS is such that the yield can vary significantly from one year to the next. The yield for the last 5 years is as follows;
|Year ended 31 March 1998||#109.3 million|
|Year ended 31 March 1999||#171.5 million|
|Year ended 31 March 2000||#111.7 million|
|Year ended 31 March 2001||#66 million|
|Year ended 31 March 2002||#90.4 million|
The yield for the first 6 months of the current year is already greater than that achieved for last year.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will identify the components of the line labelled Tax Credits in table A10 in the Comprehensive Spending Review document, Command Paper 5570; whether it includes all personal tax credit expenditure that is classified as negative taxation; and if he will make a statement on the reduction in the figure between 200203 and 200304. 
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Dawn Primarolo: The tax credits line in Table A10 of the 2002 Spending Review white paper (Command Paper 5570) covers spending on tax credits which is classified as expenditure by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the National Accounts but as negative taxation on the basis of OECD revenue statistics rules. Spending on tax credits classified as expenditure under both ONS and OECD guidelines is included in Table A2 of the 2002 Spending Review white paper.
The tax credit figure in Table A10 falls between 200203 and 200304 because of changes in personal tax credits. Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) is classified partly as expenditure and partly as negative taxation under OECD guidelines but entirely as expenditure in National Accounts, so the Table A10 tax credit figure for 200203 includes the proportion of WFTC scored as negative taxation under OECD rules. However from April 2003 WFTC is being replaced by two new tax credits, the Working Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and the ONS have announced that these new tax credits will be classified in line with OECD classification rules in the National Accounts. Therefore no expenditure under these new tax credits scores in the tax credits line in Table A10 for 200304 onwards and the total falls considerably from 200203.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in relation to communications data as defined in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, how many officials from (a) the Inland Revenue and (b) Customs and Excise he estimates will be authorised to seek access to communications data; and how many times officials have sought access to such data from communications providers such as Internet service providers under the Data Protection Act 1998 in the last year; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: In relation to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Customs and Excise estimate that the number of authorised officials will be about 200. The Inland Revenue are not yet in a position to estimate a figure, but in any event authorised officials in the Inland Revenue will be restricted to the grades equivalent to Senior Executive Officer and Higher Executive Officer. In the last year, Customs and Excise officials have sought access to such data approximately 35,500 times and Inland Revenue officials approximately 11,700 times.
David Davis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list external (a) public relations/communications companies, (b) advertising and marketing companies, (c) management consultancies, (d) accountancy companies, (e) banking firms, (f) individual consultants and (g) other specialist consultancies used by his Department since June 2001; what actions those consultancies/companies have performed within his Department; and what costs have been incurred through use of these consultancies/companies. 
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Mr. Steen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will review the 2/3 limit on pensions received by employees earning less than #25,000 per annum and belonging to final salary schemes with an accrual rate of 1/60 per year; and if he will make a statement. 
Ruth Kelly: On 15 March 2001 the Government announced a review aimed at developing an administrative simplification of the pension tax rules. This is, amongst other things, looking at limits on pensions. The Government has said that it will consult on the recommendations arising from this review later this year.
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff have moved out of employment of HM Treasury owing to reorganisation of the machinery of Government as a result of the creation of, and changing of functions of (a) the Office of Government Commerce, (b) the Debt Management Office and (c) other Chancellor's departments and agencies since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Francois: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps he is taking to ensure that the emergency services have sufficient resources needed to deal effectively with the consequences of a substantial disaster. 
Mr. Alexander: Since September 2001, all three emergency services have increased their holdings of personal protective equipment that will enable their personnel to work in hazardous environments after any incident involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents. In addition, the fire and ambulance services have purchased extra equipment with which to decontaminate and treat persons who have exposed to any of these agents.
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Mr. Alexander: The police service have already begun to roll out a national radio network that will allow intraoperability between all forces if, and when, officers from different forces need to talk to one another.
The Cabinet Office has ensured that the specifications include the requirement that the replacement systems are capable of interoperability with the systems of the other emergency services as well as intraoperability within their own service.
Mr. Alexander: Local authority spending is being reviewed in the context of the work on a Civil Contingencies Bill. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 22 July 2002, Official Report, column 727W, which sets out further details of this work.
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