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Tax Credits

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to make an assessment of the performance of the working tax credit and child tax credit helpline; and if he will make a statement. [111380]

I would refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) on 8 May 2003, Official Report, column 791W.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what advertising and publicity has been devoted to the Inland Revenue's helpline for the new tax credit system; and at what cost. [113003]

The new tax credits—Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit—were introduced in April. A high-profile publicity campaign has been running since last autumn to alert people to their entitlement and to encourage them to claim. The campaign has so far included national television advertising, national and local radio advertising, adverts in the national press as well as on-line publicity.All of the publicity material including the claim form, award notices and letters from the Revenue, have included details of either the Tax Credit Helpline or the advertising response line as appropriate but there has been no specific advertising of the lines separately from the overall tax credit publicity campaign

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the average time has been since the introduction of working tax credits from application to first payment in (a) Angus constituency and (b) Scotland; [114006](2) how many persons in

(a) Angus constituency and (b) Scotland have applied for working tax credit; [114008]

(3) what the average time has been for dealing with applications for working tax credit in (a) Angus constituency and (b) Scotland. [114007]

No figures on Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit are yet available for Angus or Scotland. For the time taken to process applications, I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) on 28 April 2003, Official Report, column 161W. Statistics on awards of these tax credits will be published in August.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people applied for the new tax credits in Northern Ireland by 1 April; and what the average time taken to process applications was. [113494]

For the United Kingdom as a whole, 3.9 million applications for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit were received by 9 April. The number received from applicants in Northern Ireland is not available; statistics on awards of these tax credits will be published in August.For the time taken to process applications, I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr Hughes) on 28 April 2003,

Official Report, column 161W.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of an increase in the amount of tax credit received by an individual on their (a) housing benefit and (b) council tax benefit; and if he will make a statement. [113515]

Awards of new tax credits count as income in the assessment of HB and Council Tax Benefit awards. For each additional £1 of income earned through work or tax credits, entitlement to HB and CTB is withdrawn at a rate of 85 pence.For 2003–04, the allowances in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit have been increased in line with the maximum amount for each element of the Child Tax Credit. As a result no family on Child Tax Credit will lose out through a reduced Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit award.In addition Budget 2003 announced that from 2004–05 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit will disregard the first £11.90 of weekly earnings rather than the current disregard of the premium in Working Tax Credit paid to those working 30 hours or more per week. This will improve gains to work for tenants with children or a disability, working between 16 and 30 hours per week.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families in Birmingham, Erdington have taken up the Child Tax Credit. [113296]

Statistics on the number of Child and Working Tax Credit awards will be published quarterly, beginning in August 2003. The first set of statistics will cover awards at early July 2003.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Working Tax Credit Helpline; [113513](2) how many telephone lines are dedicated to dealing with queries from the general public who telephone the Working Tax Credit Helpline; what monitoring is conducted on the time taken to respond to messages left in the helpline; what the average response time for messages is; and what representations he has received about response times. [113514]

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement I made to the House on 28 April 2003, Official Report, column 53 and to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Twickenham, Dr. Cable on 8 May 2003, Official Report, column 791W.At present there are around 4,800 telephone lines servicing the Tax Credit Helpline in Great Britain. The helpline does not offer facilities for leaving recorded messages.