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Local Authority Budgets: Capping

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: Despite above inflation increases in grant for all English local authorities in 2003–04, we were disappointed that the average council tax increase was 12.9 per cent. Having looked at the budget returns from all English authorities, we have considered very carefully whether to use our powers under Part IVA of the Local Government Act 1992 to cap any local authority budgets. We have decided against doing so this year.

Every local authority has a responsibility to its own taxpayers and electors. However, the Government are clear that the current trend in council tax rises is not sustainable. We will look at council tax rises very closely next year and we will also want to take account of the trend in increases over more than one year. Local authorities should be aware that we are prepared to use our targeted capping powers in 2004–05. In exceptional circumstances I do not rule out the possibility of capping authorities categorised as "good" or "excellent" in the current and future comprehensive performance assessments.

Economic and Social Research Council

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): It is too early to expect outcomes from investments made in research activities funded during 2002–03. It is in the nature of investment in research that it will take a number of years for the outputs to arise and their outcome and benefit to be evident.

The ESRC annual report (which was laid before both Houses of Parliament on 17 July 2003) provides a review of the work and investments of the ESRC during 2002–03. It includes information about the outcome and benefits arising from previous investments.

The ESRC REGARD database (www.regard.ac.uk) contains details of outputs arising from ESRC support. This registers some 1,000 reports from ESRC investments each year.

The ESRC operating report for 2002–03 (to be published shortly) will report on the performance of ESRC against detailed operating targets for the year.

Tax Credits

Lord Blackwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimated distribution of entitlement to child tax credit and working tax credit by value across household income bands of £0 to £5,000, £5,000 to £7,500, £7,500 to £10,000, £10,000 to £15,000, £15,000 to £20,000, £20,000 to £30,000, £30,000 to £50,000, and over £50,000, or the closest bands available, once both these benefits are in place and have fully replaced previous benefit entitlements.[HL4270]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The information requested is contained in Child and Working Tax Statistics: Quarterly Statistics, July 2003. This is on the Inland Revenue website (www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/stats/personal–tax–credits/menu.htm). This publication includes an analysis of the number of families receiving awards in income bands.

Asylum Seekers: Unsuccessful Candidates

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What allowance is made in the long-term annual net migration assumption for those asylum seekers who are refused permission to remain in the United Kingdom but for whom there is no evidence of departure.[HL4272]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The migration assumptions underlying the official UK national population projections, produced by the Government Actuary's Department, use the internationally agreed definition of a migrant. A migrant is defined as someone who changes his or her country of usual residence for a period of at least a year so that the

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country of destination becomes the country of usual residence.

No allowance is made for failed asylum seekers who may remain in the UK for longer than 12 months as there is no reliable evidence on which to base such an estimate.

Public Sector Jobs

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 674,000 public-sector jobs that are forecast by the Office for National Statistics and the Treasury to have been created between May 1997 and 2006 contribute to gross national product; and in what way.[HL4305]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: All public sector jobs contribute directly to gross national product by virtue of the associated production of goods and services. lynne

Inland Revenue: Self-assessment Tax Returns

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to simplify self-assessment income tax forms.[HL4321]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There have been continual improvements related to self-assessment tax

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returns to make them easier to understand and to complete, including improvements to the online tax return for self-assessment. The Inland Revenue is currently piloting a new short tax return with a view to introducing it generally for people with straightforward tax affairs.

Immigration Advisory Services: Transfer of Funding

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes in entitlement to legal services for asylum seekers and others in England and Wales will occur when the funding of immigration advisory services is transferred to the Legal Services Commission in April 2004; and whether they intend to make any changes in the funding of these services in Scotland.[HL4043]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The Home Office currently provides funding for certain organisations to provide immigration and asylum advice under Section 110 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. On transfer to the Legal Services Commission, the services will be subject to the same scope and quality assurance requirements as the rest of the asylum services funded through the Community Legal Service. The Home Office will be responsible for negotiating future funding arrangements in Scotland with the Scottish Legal Aid Board, because the Community Legal Service fund only covers work undertaken in England and Wales.

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