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Written Answers

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 10 January 2008

Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 10 January 2008

Women and Equality

Equal Pay

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality whether an equal pay audit has been conducted for the Women and Equality Unit. (170572)

[holding answer 3 December 2007]: The Women and Equality Unit ceased to exist on 26 July this year when the formation of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) was announced. However, the GEO did not become a new Department until the transfer of functions order went through on 12 October this year.

As a result, the GEO will be conducting its first equal pay audit in 2008.

The Women and Equality Unit (WEU) was not a stand alone Department so no separate equal pay audit was ever conducted for it. The WEU was located successively within the Department for Social Security (as the Women’s Unit), the Cabinet Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department for Communities and Local Government. An equal pay audit was conducted by the Cabinet Office using spring 2002 data. This review is likely to have included WEU staff in the Cabinet Office at that time, although this can not be confirmed as the review does not specify units or individuals. The Department for Communities and Local Government is currently conducting an equal pay review using June 2007 pay data, and this will include WEU staff paid by that Department at that time.

Forced Marriage Unit

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how many alleged incidents of forced marriage have been reported to the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit in each year since its establishment. (174506)

The Forced Marriage Unit was established in 2005 as the Government’s one stop shop for dealing with forced marriage casework, policy and projects.

The Forced Marriage Unit receives 5,000 inquiries and handles approximately 300 cases a year. Subject to concerns about maintaining confidentiality, a new system to capture data on cases will be implemented next year.

International Development

Bangladesh: Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 10 December 2007, Official Report, column 469, on Bangladesh: overseas aid, what the estimated end of year financial position is for each country where his Department is active according to the latest expenditure forecast; and if he will make a statement. (175724)

Indicative budgets for country programmes for 2007-08 were published in the Department for International Development's 2007 Annual Report published in May 2007 [HC 514]. We are planning to fully spend the budget allocations.

Lesotho: Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations he has received on the Lesotho Highlands Water project. (175728)

The UK Government provided support to the Lesotho Highlands Water programme in 1987 and to the Highland Water scheme (Phase I and II) and the Lesotho Delegation of the Highlands Water Commission from 1999 to January 2005. Funding was mainly in the form of engineering technical assistance.

There have been no other interventions by the UK, nor have we received any representations since then.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what projects his Department has supported in Lesotho in the last three years; and if he will make a statement. (175729)

The UK bilateral programme to Lesotho is approximately £5 million.

We have co-ordinated closely with the UN in Maseru in response to the current drought. DFID provided £500,000 through UNICEF to ensure people have access to clean water. We are also the largest donor to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which has allocated US $4.74 million to the humanitarian response.

The European Union's ninth European Development Framework (EDF 9) provided funds of €104 million to Lesotho between 2002 and 2007. DFID's imputed share of this is approximately 17 per cent. The key areas covered were: water and sanitation, road transport, macro-economic support and capacity building, HIV and AIDS, trade and regional integration.

The following table shows projects that DFID has supported in the last three years:

Name of programme

Start to End dates

Sector

Funds (£000)

Lesotho Revenue Authority: Phase 1

March 2002 to March 2006

Governance

3,200

Lesotho Justice Sector Development Programme

August 2003 to November 2007

Justice

2,100

Lesotho Textile Project

February 2004 to February 2009

Trade

1,500

Lesotho Priority Support Programme: Job Creation/Food Security

April 2004 to May 2009

Trade Food Security

1,900

Lesotho Poverty Reduction Strategy Foundation Programme

September 2004 to November 2008

Governance Public Financial Management

5,000

Support to Civil Society

Donor Harmonisation

Poverty Monitoring

Lesotho Priority Support Programme: HIV&AIDS Programme

November 2004 to May 2009

Health/HIV

1,800

Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight Aids

January 2005 to March 2007

Health/HIV

300

Support to Vulnerable Rural Households in Lesotho (FAO)

November 2005 to August 2006

Food Security

350

Lesotho Revenue Authority: Phase 2

September 2006 to March 2009

Governance

2,930

Potato Culture Project

February 2007 to September 2008

Science and Technology

55

Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (UNICEF)

October 2007 to March 2008

Humanitarian

500

Overseas Aid: Disease Control

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much of his Department's bilateral spending is directed towards (a) tuberculosis and (b) tuberculosis/HIV; whether the UK's strategy on HIV and AIDS for 2008 to 2012 will include a specific target on tuberculosis/HIV co-infection reduction; and what steps he plans to take to support an integrated response to tuberculosis and HIV in other countries. (177743)

DFID bilateral expenditure on HIV and AIDS activities in 2006-07 was £348 million and bilateral expenditure targeting communicable disease control, including tuberculosis, was £79 million. There is additional DFID spending on poverty reduction budget support and health system strengthening which help address all major causes of ill health, including TB and HIV. We are unable to systematically capture the amount spent on HIV/TB collaborative activities.

The UK's updated strategy on HIV and AIDS will include addressing TB/HIV co-infection. DFID strongly supports an integrated response to TB and HIV. We support this through a range of different channels including our support to international organisations and partnerships, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, the Stop TB Partnership and funding research into HIV/TB co-infection.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he plans to take to facilitate the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria reaching its target size of US$ 8 billion by 2010. (177744)

At the Global Fund Executive Board in April 2007, members acknowledged that the size of the fund would increase, dependent on high quality demand from countries and improved performance of the fund itself. Three scenarios of future demand had been prepared by the Secretariat, the highest one assuming that demand would rise more than fourfold by 2010, and that $8 billion per annum would be needed to support these new proposals and continue with existing programmes (representing $18 billion for the period 2008-10). The G8 noted the projected demands and pledged to work with the other donors to replenish the fund, and to provide long-term predictable funding based on ambitious but realistic demand driven targets.

Donor pledges and Secretariat projections now total $9.7 billion for the period 2008-10. This is a highly significant increase in resources, which allows the fund to support a substantial expansion of all ongoing programmes, and all of the new proposals which have been recommended by the Technical Review Panel, while still leaving over $750 million available for future proposals. Thus all the high quality demand for financing the current round of proposals has been met.

But the UK's own pledge goes beyond this. The UK has made an unprecedented long-term commitment over the eight years up to 2015, of up to £1 billion. Within this framework we announced a commitment of £360 million over the three year replenishment period, of which £30 million is subject to demand and results. This 20 per cent. increase in our commitment means that we have maintained our share of the total replenishment at about 7.5 per cent. In addition, we also pledged a further £640 million from 2011-15, providing the global fund is receiving good quality demand, continues to perform well and is demonstrating sustainable impact.

World Bank: Loans

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his policy is on (a) acceptable and (b) unacceptable conditionality for lending in relation to World Bank lending policy; and if he will make a statement. (175723)

World Bank conditionality for lending must be in line with the Bank’s policy. In 2004, the Bank abolished its use of prescriptive conditionality—the practice of pushing specific reforms. Following a review in 2005, it adopted the good practice principles on conditionality. These principles stress the importance of country ownership and commit the Bank to ensure that conditions are limited to those critical for the programme’s success and are customised to individual country circumstances. In 2006, the Bank committed to avoiding conditions in sensitive policy areas such as privatisation, unless they are critical to the effectiveness of a programme and there is clear evidence of ownership by the developing country government. The UK has made it clear to the World Bank that we expect all lending to respect the commitments it has made in the last few years.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what response he has made to the World Bank's review of Conditionality in Development Policy published on 15 November 2007; and if he will make a statement. (175726)

The World Bank's 2007 report on Conditionality in Development Policy Lending incorporates findings from consultations in eight developing countries with governments and other stakeholders. It also draws on external studies and reports.

The report highlights continued improvements in the bank's practice on conditionality. The average number of conditions per bank policy-based operation in low-income countries fell from 32 in 1999 to 12 in 2006 and in 2007. There has also been a reduction in conditions in “sensitive areas” and the number of privatisation conditions is low. The consultations highlighted that the bank's practice has improved in respecting country ownership and increasing opportunities to debate policy options.

The report acknowledges there is room for improvement and makes further recommendations, notably the need to involve local counterparts more fully in policy formulation and analytical work, and the need to strengthen the use of poverty and social impact analysis by bank staff.

The findings of the report and the bank’s commitment to further improve its performance in this area are encouraging. We continue to maintain pressure on the bank to ensure that it fulfils its commitments on the use of conditionality.

Culture, Media and Sport

Departmental Recycling

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recycling scheme is in operation in each building operated by his Department. (176711)

The Department introduced a new waste management system at its Cockspur Street offices in January 2007. This includes the recycling of paper, cardboard, glass and cans. The scheme is currently being extended to its offices at Tottenham Court Road.

English Language

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much his Department has spent on English language classes for staff in the last year for which figures are available. (177433)

In the last year, January 2007 to January 2008, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has spent £0 on English language classes for staff. The Department has two staff currently participating in English language classes organised through Learn Direct but no financial costs will accrue.

National Identity Register

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans his Department has to make use of data on the National Identity Register when it is established; and what the estimated cost to his Department of that use is. (174038)

My Department will be working with the Home Office prior to the introduction of the National Identity Scheme to establish how identity information held on the proposed National Identity Register might be used to provide easier access to our services for our customers. It is too early in the process to establish the detailed costs and benefits.

Scotland

Departmental Christmas Cards

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spent on (a) Christmas cards and (b) postage of Christmas cards in 2007. (176911)

The information is as follows:

(a) The Scotland Office incurred no expenditure on Christmas cards in 2007 as an e-card and surplus stock from previous years were used.

(b) No separate record was kept of the expenditure on postage specifically for Christmas cards in 2007.

Departmental Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland pursuant to the answer of 3 December 2007, Official Report, column 746W, on departmental pay, how many of those earning over £100,000 were employed (a) as special advisers and (b) in a political role in each year since 1997. (177177)

Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the number of special advisers in each pay band. For the most recent information, I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, on 22 November 2007, Official Report, 147-51WS.

Information on the numbers and costs of special advisers prior to 2003 was provided at regular intervals and this information will be available in the Library of the House.

Electoral Commission Committee

Departmental Marketing

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission how many branded plastic bags the Electoral Commission has purchased in the last 24 months for which figures are available; and at what cost. (176495)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it purchased 1,000 branded carrier bags in July 2006 and 3000 in September 2006 at a total cost of £2,477.37 including VAT.

Electoral Register

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what research the Electoral Commission has commissioned from NOP on electoral registration; and at what cost. (176492)

Local Government: Norfolk

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission whether the review by the Boundary Committee for England into restructuring of local government in Norfolk is a review under the (a) Local Government Act 1992 and (b) Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. (176494)

Section 4 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 states that the Secretary of State may request the Boundary Committee to advise on any matter that relates to a proposal for unitary status. The 2007 Act also repeals the power of the Secretary of State under section 13 of the Local Government Act 1992 to request the Electoral Commission to recommend whether a structural or boundary change should be made in a specified area.

The Electoral Commission informs me that the Boundary Committee for England has not yet received any such request and that it has not yet commenced a review of local government in Norfolk. The committee has, however, carried out preparatory work following the announcement in July 2007 that the Secretary of State is minded to make such a request.

Local Government: Standards

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission how many performance indicators the Electoral Commission is setting for local authorities. (176493)

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 767W.

Treasury

Child Benefit: Personal Records

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date HM Revenue and Customs first informed the police of the loss of the computer discs containing the data of child benefit claimants. (176894)

The former Chairman of HMRC, Paul Gray, asked the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to investigate the loss of the child benefit datadisks on 15 November 2007.

Council Tax Benefits: Scotland

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what account would be taken of a local income tax in Scotland when determining funding to be paid by the UK Government to Scotland for council tax benefit. (176496)

Council tax benefit is a reserved matter, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. England, Scotland and Wales operate a council tax system. Council tax benefit is paid as a rebate to households, up to a maximum of their council tax liability. No benefit is payable to households that do not pay council tax.

Departmental Expenditure Limits

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the Winter Supplementary Estimates (HC 29), for what reasons he plans to transfer £70 million from voted capital DEL to non-voted near cash resource DEL; and if he will make a statement. (173758)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans (Derek Twigg) on 7 January 2008, Official Report, column 40W.

Economic Situation

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of when the last economic cycle concluded. (177604)

The Treasury's latest assessment of cyclical developments is set out in the 2007 pre-Budget report and comprehensive spending review (Cm 7227).

International Monetary Fund: Gold

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the economic implications of the sale of gold by the International Monetary Fund. (177507)

Any IMF gold sales would require a 85 per cent. vote in favour by the members of the IMF. The UK Government believe that any sales of gold should take place in an orderly way, phased overtime, and within the bounds set by official sellers of gold in recent years so as to avoid disruption to the gold market.

Personal Income: Yorkshire and Humber

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the median household income was in each parliamentary constituency in Yorkshire and the Humber in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (174298)

I have been asked to reply as Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber.

The information is not available below the level of Government Office Region.

Revenue and Customs: Data Protection

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much PricewaterhouseCoopers will be paid to carry out the Poynter Review. (169997)

[holding answer 3 December 2007]: HM Treasury has entered into a contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), that is commercially confidential.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer from which budget the cost of the Poynter Review is being met; and what estimate he has made of the total expected cost of the review. (173362)

HM Treasury has entered into a contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), that is commercially confidential.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what security measures he has put in place to protect data exchanged via the HM Revenue and Customs website by contractors to file online returns under the construction industry scheme. (177605)

HMRC has in place appropriate security measures to protect data exchanged via the HMRC website; these include measures to ensure authentication of access, encryption and a secure connection such as firewall technology to safeguard information received. Users of HMRC’s e-services are required to confirm their identity using a unique user identification and password before they can access the Department’s Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) Service. Additionally the system used encrypts all data to ensure any exchange via the Department is transmitted securely.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what safeguards he has put in place to protect the data held by HM Revenue and Customs for the construction industry scheme. (177606)

All data held by HMRC in respect of the construction industry scheme is subject to safeguards consistent with the Department’s revised security guidelines.

Tax Allowances: Trade Unions

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance HM Revenue and Customs has produced on whether subscriptions to trades unions qualify for tax relief. (177520)

HMRC provides guidance on the tax treatment of trades unions subscriptions paid by employees in its Employment Income Manual at EIM32885.

Transport

A303: Repairs and Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding is available from (a) central and (b) local government for road improvements to the A303 at Stonehenge in (i) 2007-08 and (ii) 2008-09. (177162)

[holding answer 9 January 2008]: There are currently no proposals for funding improvements to the A303 running past Stonehenge in 2007-08 or 2008-09. Following our announcement on Thursday, 6 December 2007, Official Report, columns 97-8WS on the A303 Stonehenge Improvement scheme, the Highways Agency will be investigating possible smaller scale measures to improve traffic flows and safety along this section of the A303.

The Department is also working with Department for Culture, Media and Sport and other stakeholders to investigate options for improving the environment around Stonehenge and improving visitor facilities. This work will include an assessment of the possibility of closing the junction of the A344 with the A303. Funding for possible small scale improvements to the A303 will be considered as part of this further work.

Crossrail Line

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if she will place in the Library a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Mayor of London and her Department on the Crossrail project; (176340)

(2) what liability (a) taxpayers from general taxation and (b) the London taxpayer, via the Greater London Authority, have for any cost-overruns from the Crossrail project;

(3) which public authorities will be responsible for bearing the cost of any overruns from the Crossrail project.

I refer the hon. Member to the written statement made by the Secretary of State on 26 November 2007, Official Report, columns 133-34 WS and the answer given to the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on 30 October 2007, Official Report, column 1294W.

Driving Under Influence: Alcoholic Drinks

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Government is taking to increase public awareness of the volumes and timings of alcohol consumption likely to result in reaching the maximum blood alcohol concentration permitted for driving on public roads. (177358)

The Department are spending about £3.5 million this year advertising against drink-driving. We have an advice leaflet, ‘How Much Will Your Next Round Cost You?’, which is available on-line at:

http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.Uk/campaigns/drinkdrive/pdf/1184.pdf

Our advice has consistently warned drivers that it is not possible to calculate how much alcohol they can consume. We have included in our leaflet a warning about the persistence of alcohol impairment and the “morning after” effect.

Alcohol impairment is a complex matter, It is influenced by various factors, including the driver’s gender, body mass, his or her state of health and level of fatigue; the confounding effects of drugs—legal and illegal; by the level of driving skills—including the effects of inexperience and old age; and by the amount and rate of alcohol consumption. Any level of alcohol impairs driving and our core message is “don't drink and drive”.

Motorways: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) deaths and (b) injuries resulting from accidents on motorways in Hampshire there were in each of the last two years, broken down on a junction-to-junction basis. (177326)

The number of deaths and injuries resulting from accidents on the Highways Agency’s motorways in Hampshire in each of the last two years is given, on a junction-to-junction basis, in the following table.

20052006

Road

From

To

Killed

Injured

Killed

Injured

M3

J4

J4A

11

9

J4A

J5

29

36

J5

J6

1

23

22

J6

J7

19

1

32

J7

J8

5

18

J8

J9

1

40

28

J9

J10

9

17

J10

J11

22

1

17

J11

J12

1

23

21

J12

J13

17

11

J13

J14

15

16

M27

J1

J2

1

22

14

J2

J3

11

15

J3

J4W

22

30

J4E

J5

14

11

J4W

J4E

3

8

J5

J7

20

29

J7

J8

11

4

J8

J9

21

17

J9

J10

1

7

15

J10

J11

3

8

J11

J12W

23

1

36

J12E

End

4

3

J12W

J12E

16

12

M271

J1

End (A35)

1

19

5

M27

J1

13

15

Start (A3057)

M27

1

3

A3(M)

Start

J2

4

6

J2

J3

15

13

J3

J4

5

3

J4

J5

7

19

J5

End

4

2

Railways: Norwich

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will hold an investigation into disruptions to the service on the Norwich to London railway line (a) at Christmas 2007 and (b) throughout 2007. (177327)

The Office of Rail Regulation has launched an investigation into Network Rail’s management of engineering projects including the causes of the engineering overrun at Liverpool Street over Christmas and new year, and expect to announce their preliminary findings by 29 February 2008. We will not seek to pre-empt the Office of Rail Regulation by speculating on causes before the report is issued.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many and what proportion of train delays on the Norwich to London railway line were due to problems with overhead cables in 2007. (177328)

The Department does not receive the information at this level of detail. Information about specific causes of delay is collected and processed by Network Rail. The hon. Member should therefore contact Network Rail’s chief executive at the following address for a response to his question.

Iain Coucher

Chief Executive

Network Rail

40 Melton Street

London NW1 2EE

Railways: Repairs and Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she has taken to ascertain the reasons for the delay in the completion of works to the railway infrastructure near London Liverpool Street station over the Christmas and new year holiday period; and if she will make a statement. (177449)

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), as the rail industry’s economic regulator, monitors Network Rail’s stewardship of the national rail network. The ORR has launched an investigation into the cause of this over-run and expects to publish its findings by the end February. It would be inappropriate to make a statement before the report is published.

Railways: Safety Measures

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 29 November 2007, Official Report, column 600W, on railways: safety measures, if she will place in the Library the full research data from which the review referred to was compiled, with particular reference to the test data reviewed in section 9.4 of the report. (177242)

[holding answer 9 January 2008]: The research referred to in the question was commissioned by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB). RSSB has no plans to publish any material relating to hammers. Having reached the conclusion that escape through windows of passenger trains should not be encouraged, RSSB concluded that the work on hammers should cease. There is therefore no final report or validated set of data relating to hammers. The final report on the overall approach to passenger containment, to which the hon. Gentleman refers in his question, is available on the RSSB website at:

www.rssb.co.uk

The Department for Transport does not have any of the data requested.

Railways: Swindon

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the timescale is for a decision to be taken on the re-doubling of the Swindon-Kemble line. (177629)

I understand Network Rail has consulted rail industry parties on possible changes to the Swindon to Kemble line. However, this is an operational matter for Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network. The hon. Member should contact Network Rail's Chief Executive at the following address for a response to his question.

Iain Coucher

Chief Executive

Network Rail

40 Melton Street

London NW1 2EE

Roads: Safety

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport by what process a road safety grant, provided for by section 1 of the Road Safety Act 2006, is awarded to a local authority or any other body. (177230)

Section 1 of the Road Safety Act provides powers for Government to make payments to local authorities or any other authority or body for meeting the costs of measures for promoting road safety.

There is no single mechanism for award of grant under this legislation, but in the case of Road Safety Partnership Grant, bids for grant are invited to address specific road safety issues and priorities, and are then assessed against project criteria. Grant is awarded to those bidders who best satisfy the project criteria and road safety priorities.

It is envisaged that the powers under this legislation will also be used to award grants associated with road safety trials or demonstration projects. In such cases, grant will be awarded to authorities or bodies on the basis of their particular experience of a road safety issue, or its solution.

Trains: Standards

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will request Passenger Focus to conduct a study into passenger comfort on Desiro Class 450 trains; and if she will make a statement. (177333)

The Secretary of State will not request Passenger Focus to conduct a study as the independent study which was commissioned and funded by South West Trains was reviewed by Passenger Focus. The findings of this report are available on the South West Trains Website:

www.southwesttrains.co.uk

West London Line: Railway Stations

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of the total cost of the proposed West London Line train station at Imperial Wharf. (177378)

The provision of a new station at Imperial Wharf was agreed between the local authority and the developer as part of the wider development of the area. The costs of the station are therefore not a matter for the Department for Transport but for the local authority.

Leader of the House

Communications Allowance

To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2007, Official Report, column 1225W, on the communications allowance, why the allowance is being increased by the retail prices index rather than the consumer prices index. (177597)

The communications allowance is uprated annually from 1 April in line with the RPI for the preceding December. This is in accordance with the MEC report on the allowance (HC 319, 2006-07) which was approved by the House on 28 March 2007. This is the same as the uprating procedures for IEP and ACA.

To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2007, Official Report, column 1225W, on the communications allowance, what representations she has received supporting an increase in the communications allowance by more than the rate of inflation; and what assessment she has made of such representations. (177598)

I have received no such representations. The communications allowance is uprated each year in line with the retail prices index. This follows the recommendations of the report of the Members Estimate Committee (HC 182, 2006-07) which was approved by the House on 28 March 2007.

To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2007, Official Report, column 1225W, on the communications allowance, what the aggregated budgeted expenditure on the communications allowance is expected to be in 2007-08. (177599)

The communications allowances was introduced in April 2007 and set at £10,000 per annum for each hon. Member, with the possibility of adding money transferred from staffing and IEP—incidental expenses provision. The maximum spend from the basic allowance in one year is therefore £6.46 million. The Members Estimate Committee, in its report on the communications allowance (HC 319, 2006-07) assumed similar take-up to the other allowances. As noted in the report, this equates to a likely total annual cost of the allowance of about £6 million. Currently spending on the communications allowance is running below this level.

Departmental Data Protection

To ask the Leader of the House what audits her Office has carried out in relation to personal data and IT equipment in each of the last 10 years. (176490)

Following a machinery of government change the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons falls under the auspices of the Cabinet Office on this issue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron) will be answering in due course and will also answer on behalf of the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons.

Defence

Annual Army Abstracts

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of the Annual Army Abstracts published since 1997. (174478)

No. The Annual Army Abstract report is restricted management as it may disclose sensitive personal information and redacting historical information could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the rest and recuperation arrangements for armed forces personnel during their deployment on operational tours. (177844)

A number of studies on the future size and disposition of United Kingdom armed forces on operations are currently ongoing. This work will include an assessment of the adequacy of welfare provision in the long term and any changes will be announced in due course. In the meantime, the current arrangements for rest and recuperation will continue to apply as per our previous correspondence.

Armed Forces: Divorce

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the provision of support to the former spouses of service personnel following marriage breakdown. (175624)

I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave him on 17 December 2007, Official Report, column 1024W, and 17 December 2007, Official Report, columns 1029-30W, which described much of the support available to all members of service families experiencing relationship difficulties.

A former spouse of a service person who no longer lives in the service community will receive support from local authorities or devolved administrations who have statutory responsibilities for appropriate services. Also, service charities will often become, or remain, involved in supporting needy cases, including the former spouses of service personnel. For example, SSAFA-Forces Help operates Stepping Stone Homes as transitional assistance specifically for the separated or divorced former dependants of service personnel.

Armed Forces: Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will break down by married accommodation location the married service personnel based at (a) Woolwich, (b) Wellington Barracks, (c) Hounslow and (d) Windsor. (177560)

The information is not held in the format requested.

Staff working in London are entitled to be housed within 90 minutes travel time (using public transport) of their permanent duty station. Therefore there is no direct linkage between the married accommodation at each of the sites and the basing of service personnel at those sites. However, the numbers of service family accommodation at each of the requested locations is as follows:

Number

Woolwich

260

Wellington Barracks

33

Hounslow

117

Windsor

454

Personnel living at these locations may work at other London locations, and conversely personnel who are posted there may be housed elsewhere.

Armed Forces: Uniforms

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the reasons were for the decision to change the abbreviated description for UK armed forces for badging and identification purposes while deployed from UK to GBR. (174702)

[holding answer 17 December 2007]: In 2004, NATO’s Standardisation Agreement 1059 (STANAG 1059), which provides agreed Letter Codes for Geographical Entities, was amended to replace the previous two letter country code with three letter codes based on those used by the International Organisation for Standards (the ISO 3166-1 standard). As a result, the standard NATO letter code for the United Kingdom changed from UK to GBR.

Army: Statistics

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of the monthly Defence Analytical Services Agency British Army Statistics Report issued since April 1997. (174479)

No. The Defence Analytical Services Agency British Army Statistics report is restricted management as it may disclose sensitive personal information and redacting the historical information could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Army: Labour Turnover

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) total outflow and (b) voluntary exit rate was of (i) officers, (ii) other ranks and (iii) all personnel in the Army in each month since January 2006. (177531)

Army figures for total outflow and voluntary exit rates broken down by officers and other ranks since January 2006 can be found in Tri-Service Publication (TSP) 5 — ‘Trained Outflow to Civil Life’. Monthly figures show the number of personnel who have outflowed in the previous 12 month period. TSP 5 is published monthly and all publications can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/natstats/tsp5/tsp5tab5.html

Copies of TSP 5 are available in the Library of the House and at:

www.dasa.mod.uk

Athena: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much funding the United Kingdom provided to the Athena provisional financing scheme in each year since 2004. (177521)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the EU’s Athena budget was in each year since 2004; and what percentage of that budget was provided by the United Kingdom. (177525)

The information requested is provided in the following table:

Athena budget (£ million)

UK share (percentage)

2004

8.615

17.28

2005

41.474

18.07

2006

30.199

17.57

2007

19.457

17.02

2008

21.861

17.23

The budget agreed for 2008 does not yet include the costs of a planned EU-led military operation in Chad and the Central African Republic. The 2008 Athena budget will be increased as necessary once a budget for that operation has been approved.

Defence Analytical Services Agency: Forecasts

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of (a) the Defence Analytical Services Agency’s (DASA) monthly price index booklet, (b) DASA’s quarterly price index forecasts, (c) DASA’s quarterly foreign price index, (d) DASA’s negotiators’ briefing pack issued in 2007 and (e) the DASA electronic price indices query tool. (176290)

I will arrange for copies of the Monthly Price Indices booklet, Quarterly Foreign Price Indices booklet and the Negotiators Briefing Pack(s) published in 2007 to be placed in the Library of the House.

I am withholding copies of the DASA Price Indices UK Quarterly Forecast as their release would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests.

Similarly, I am withholding the electronic price indices query tool as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests.

Defence Aviation Repair Agency: Vector Aerospace

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the basis was for the decision to sell the DARA Helicopter, Rotary Wing and Components business in Almondbank on to the Canadian company Vector Aerospace. (176802)

I refer my hon. Friend to my previous answer on 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 773W, to the hon. Member for Gosport (Peter Viggers).

European Defence Agency: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the projected budget is for the European Defence Agency in (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11. (177523)

The European Defence Agency budget for 2008 is €32 million; there are no budget figures for 2009 and 2010.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many medical personnel were hired by his Department under private contract to work in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq in each of the last three years; and what the cost of hiring such staff was; (176838)

(2) which private companies his Department uses to hire medical personnel for service in Iraq and Afghanistan;

(3) if he will break down by specialisation those medical personnel hired by his Department under private contract to work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Defence Medical Services Department employs civilian medical locums to work at UK medical facilities on deployed operations through Frontier Medical (a division of Exploration Logistics Group plc).

The following table provides the total number of individuals who have been employed over the past three complete financial years and up to 15 December of this financial year. Not all of these individuals deployed at the same time. For example, during the financial year 2006-07, at any one time, up to two intensive therapy unit nurses and two emergency nurses were deployed as civilian locums in Iraq by the Defence Medical Services.

Financial year

Specialism

Operation

Number of individuals employed as civilian locums

Cost (£ million)

April 2004 to April 2005

Intensive Therapy Unit and Emergency Nurses

Telic (Iraq)

50

1

April 2005 to April 2006

Intensive Therapy Unit and Emergency Nurses

Telic (Iraq)

50

1.1

April 2006 to April 2007

Intensive Therapy Unit and Emergency Nurses

Telic (Iraq)

54

1.155

April 2007 to 15 December 2007

Intensive Therapy Unit and Emergency Nurses

Telic (Iraq)

26

0.87

Neurosurgeon, Intensive Therapy Unit and Emergency Nurses

Herrick (Afghanistan)

4

0.21

Kenya: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many UK military personnel are based in Kenya; and what their roles are. (177310)

65 UK military personnel are based in Kenya, undertaking a wide variety of roles. These include: providing advice and assistance to the British high commissioner; helping build Kenyan and regional capacity to manage and conduct peace support operations; providing high quality mine action training; and liaising with Kenyan authorities over the planning and execution of British Army exercises.

RAF: Labour Turnover

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) total outflow and (b) voluntary exit rate was of (i) officers, (ii) other ranks and (iii) all personnel in the RAF in each month since January 2006. (177535)

RAF figures for total outflow and voluntary exit rates broken down by officers and other ranks since January 2006 can be found in Tri-Service Publication (TSP) 5 — ‘Trained Outflow to Civil Life’. Monthly figures show the number of personnel who have outflowed in the previous 12 month period. TSP 5 is published monthly and all publications can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/natstats/tsp5/tsp5tab5.html

Copies of TSP 5 are available in the Library of the House and at:

www.dasa.mod.uk

Royal Navy: Labour Turnover

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) total outflow and (b) voluntary exit rate was of (i) officers, (ii) other ranks and (iii) all personnel in the Royal Navy in each month since January 2006. (177530)

Royal Navy figures for total outflow and voluntary exit rates broken down by officers and other ranks since January 2006 can be found in Tri-Service Publication (TSP) 5 — ‘Trained Outflow to Civil Life’. Monthly figures show the number of personnel who have outflowed in the previous 12 month period. TSP 5 is published monthly and all publications can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/natstats/tsp5/tsp5tab5.html

Copies of TSP 5 are available in the Library of the House and at:

www.dasa.mod.uk

Sierra Leone and the Balkans: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 11 June 2007, on Sierra Leone: peacekeeping operations, what progress has been made on reconciling casualty data for operations in (a) Sierra Leone and (b) the Balkans since May 2007. (162225)

Work on reconciling casualty data for operations in Sierra Leone and the Balkans is continuing. I will write to the hon. Member when the work is complete and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Substantive answer from Derek Twigg to Liam Fox:

I undertook to write to you in answer to your Parliamentary Question on 19 November 2007 (Official Report, Column 486W) about the progress made on reconciling casualty data for operations in Sierra Leone and the Balkans since May 1997. I trust you will also accept this letter as a reply to your letter of 13 December on the same subject.

I can now confirm the current position in respect of both the Sierra Leone and Balkans casualties is as follows:

Fatalities

As at 10 June 2006, a total of 72 British Forces personnel had died while serving in the Balkans since the start of operations in 1992. This information can be found at:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FactSheets/OperationsFactsheets/BalkansBritishFatalities.

During the operations in Sierra Leone between 2000 and 2002, five UK Armed Forces personnel died whilst deployed: one was killed in action, three died in operational accidents and one died of natural causes. This information is not available via the public websites.

Non-fatal casualties

I can also confirm that the notifiable casualty (NOTICAS) data on Very Seriously Injured (VSI) and Seriously Injured (SI) for Operations in the Balkans and Sierra Leone since January 2001 have now been verified and validated.

Between January 2001 and April 2007, there were four VSI and 13 SI casualties in the Balkans. This data is published on the MOD Website at:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/DoctrineOperationsandDiplomacyPublications/OperationsinTheBalkans/TheBalkanCasualtyTable.htm

Between 1 January 2001 and 30 July 2002, there were no VSI or SI casualties on operation in Sierra Leone.

Non-fatal casualty data prior to 2001 have not been examined and could only be captured centrally and verified at disproportionate cost.

I am placing a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Warships

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of (a) Royal Navy and (b) Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships are in each readiness category, broken down by ship type. (177537)

I am withholding the information requested as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness and security of the Armed Forces. My predecessor wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) on 6 March 2007 explaining in detail the Department’s policy on releasing such information. A copy of his letter is available in the Library of the House.

Weapons: Testing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what records his Department holds on (a) the testing of weapons in space by other Governments over the last 10 years, (b) the volume of debris in low earth orbit which relates to such testing and (c) the potential effects of such debris; and if he will make a statement. (177043)

We have no evidence suggesting that any state has conducted tests of space-based weapons in the past 10 years. China conducted a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test against its own space asset on 11 January 2007, but the missile itself was ground launched and hence, not stationed in space. The UK has expressed its concern to China about the potential impact of the additional debris this ASAT test created.

The British National Space Centre (BNSC) conducts regular assessments of the volume of space debris in orbit and the potential threat this poses to UK assets.

Work and Pensions

Carbon Monoxide: Alarms

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance his Department has issued to the Health and Safety Executive on annual testing of carbon monoxide alarms. (175657)

[holding answer 7 January 2008]: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates domestic gas safety and provides Ministers with information in this area. In its public advice to domestic gas consumers, HSE recommends that carbon monoxide alarms are fitted and used according to manufacturers’ instructions.

Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission: ICT

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the existing IT contract between his Department and EDS—Electronic Data Systems—will be transferred to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC); and whether it is open to CMEC to seek to renegotiate this contract. (169006)

The contract between the Department and EDS contains clauses that cover the possibility of future changes in our organisation. These clauses will be used to ensure that the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will be able to continue to make use of EDS services in the same way that the Child Support Agency does now.

It will be for the Commission to determine its future arrangements for the provision of IT services. Should the Commission wish to renegotiate the EDS contract, however, it would have to do so in conjunction with the Department as the contract is at a departmental level.

Child Maintenance: Arrears

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the (a) amount and (b) proportion of child maintenance arrears that are uncollectable; and if he will make a statement. (173590)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 10 January 2008:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and pensions, what estimate he has made of the amount and proportion of child maintenance arrears that is uncollectable; and if he will make a statement. [173590]

The latest estimate of the amount and proportion of child maintenance arrears that is uncollectable is set out in notes 5 and 6 to the Client Funds Accounts as published in the Agency’s Annual Report and Accounts 2006-07. This was laid before Parliament on 3 December 2007 and copies were placed in the House of Commons Library. A copy can also be found on the internet via the following link: http://csa.gov.uk/en/PDF/reports/arep0607.pdf

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Children: Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the policy of the Child Support Agency is on British fathers paying child maintenance to non-British mothers resident in the UK. (168396)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the chief executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 10 January 2008:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the policy of the Child Support Agency is on British fathers paying child maintenance to non-British mothers resident in the UK. [168396]

The Agency will make a maintenance calculation provided the parent with care, non-resident parent and the qualifying child are all habitually resident in the United Kingdom. The nationality of the parents does not affect this policy.

A person is habitually resident if he/she is ordinarily resident and has been for an appreciable period. While each case is different, the Agency has to take account of the person's circumstances and intentions as follows:

the person's normal centre of interest or connections to a particular place;

the length, continuity and purpose of residence in the United Kingdom;

the length and purpose of any absence from the United Kingdom; and

the nature of the person's work.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answers of 27 November 2007, Official Report, columns 328-29W, on children: maintenance, how many individuals received a consolatory payment from the Child Support Agency in each year since 1997; what the average value of payment was in each year; and how much was paid in total in consolatory payments in each year. (172827)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the chief executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 10 January 2008:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answers of 27th November 2007, Official Report columns 328-9W on children: maintenance how many individuals have received a consolatory payment from the Child Support Agency in each year since 1997; what the average value of payment was in each year; and how much was paid in total in consolatory payments in each year. [172827]

Information on the number of individuals who receive consolatory payments is not available. However, the total number of consolatory awards, the average value of each payment the total amount paid is provided in the table below. Information prior to December 2001 is not available.

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Total number of consolatory awards made

8,335

8,435

5,891

9,001

9,208

9,194

Consolatory payments (£ million)

0.696

0.661

0.406

0.582

0.608

0.666

Average (£)

83.50

78.36

68.92

64.69

66.03

72.44

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Christmas

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) whether it is his Department’s policy to use (a) incandescent light bulbs and (b) LED lights for festive decorations on departmental premises; (173491)

(2) what his Department’s policy is on the selection of (a) real and (b) artificial Christmas trees for his Department’s festive decorations; and how real trees are disposed of.

It is not the policy of this Department to provide Christmas trees, incandescent light bulbs or LED lights for festive decorations on departmental premises.

The vast majority of the Department’s estate has been sold (freehold, feuhold and long leasehold interests) or transferred (short leasehold interests) to Land Securities Trillium via a PFI—private finance initiative—contract known as PRIME. DWP pays a unitary charge in return for fully serviced accommodation.

Community Care Grants: Elderly

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of community care grants were awarded to pensioners in the most recent period for which figures are available. (174670)

In October 2007 in Great Britain the percentage of community care grant initial awards made to pensioners was 10.6 per cent.

Note: Initial awards do not include awards made after review.

Source:

DWP Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System.

Departmental Aviation

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much has been spent by his Department on international flights in each year since 1997. (174355)

DWP was formed in 2001 and therefore has details of spend on international flights only from February 2002. The information is provided in the following table.

£

Total

February 2002 to January 2003

600,572

February 2003 to January 2004

639,783

February 2004 to January 2005

703,189

February 2005 to January 2006

878,605

February 2006 to January 2007

652,620

February 2007 to October 2007

454,849

Departmental Buildings

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department is making in its programme to rationalise its head office outside central London and maximise the flexible use of space in line with the Working Without Walls report. (174891)

The Head Office Estate programme originally included 27 buildings (outside those buildings in central London) and plans to retain 11 buildings, with the remainder being vacated and disposed of by 2009. DWP has so far completed the vacation and disposal of nine of the smaller offices outside London, with staff being re-housed in those larger DWP buildings designated for retention.

DWP is taking the opportunity with each programme change to introduce flexible working, where it does not already operate. DWP is also finalising preparations for its first ‘Pathfinder’ in flexible working which is planned to commence in Leeds in February 2008. The start date is linked to the rollout dates for the DWP Telephony programme which will deliver improved phone systems that provide staff with the ability to use their designated extension number from wherever they are sitting.

Departmental Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many letters his Department received from hon. Members and Peers in each session of Parliament since 1997. (174945)

The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of departments in replying to Members/Peers correspondence. Information relating to 2007 will be published as soon as it has been collated. The report for 2006 was published on 28 March 2007, Official Report, columns 101-04WS. Reports for earlier years are available in the Library of the House.

Departmental Data Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library a copy of the recently published letter from his Department to council revenue and benefit offices suspending data exchanges on security grounds; and if he will make a statement. (171239)

[holding answer 4 December 2007]: A copy of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Bulletin number U3/2007 which was issued on 21 November has been placed in the Library.

Departmental Location

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of his Department's staff will be moving to the Peel Park site in the next six months; how many are working there; and how many will be located there by 1st April 2008. (165759)

There are currently 160 DWP staff at Peel Park.

Under current plans and assumptions, there will be 759 moving in between now and 31 March 2008. This would therefore bring the total to 919 DWP staff by 1 April 2008.

Departmental Public Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the Winter Supplementary Estimates (HC 29), if he will break down his Department’s (a) main estimate and (b) winter supplementary estimate provision by subhead in (i) near cash and (ii) non-cash terms. (174987)

Near-cash and non-cash are essentially used as departmental expenditure limit (DEL) budgetary control concepts and are not specifically identified with voted resources in estimates. However, we have been able to break down net total resources for each section in the Part II: Subhead detail table of our main [and winter supplementary] estimates in the following table.

£000

Main estimate 2007-08

Winter supplementary estimate 2007-08

Subhead Line

Near-cash

Non-cash

Total

Near-cash

Non-cash

Total

RfR1

DEL

A

Administration

402,019

4,732

406,751

404,041

4,732

408,773

Total for RfR1

402,019

4,732

406,751

404,041

4,732

408,773

RfR2

DEL

A

Administration

2,595,662

121,937

2,717,599

2,600,177

121,937

2,722,114

B

Employment Programmes

771,555

622

772,177

771,761

622

772,383

C

Health and Safety Executive

219,382

8,000

227,382

219,382

8,000

227,382

D

Health and Safety Laboratory

(2,274)

2,274

0

(2,274)

2,274

0

E

Capital Grants

5,927

2,549

8,476

5,927

2,549

8,476

F

The Rent Service Executive agency

30,600

4,902

35,502

30,600

4,902

35,502

G

European Social Fund and European Globalisation Fund

0

0

0

0

0

0

H

European Social Fund payments in advance of receipts

0

32,700

32,700

0

32,700

32,700

I

Employment programmes

37,047

0

37,047

37,047

0

37,047

J

Housing benefit and council tax benefit administration grants

680,200

0

680,200

680,200

0

680,200

K

Capital grants to local authorities

2,895

0

2,895

2,895

0

2,895

L

European Social Fund

0

0

0

0

0

0

M

European Social Fund payments in advance of receipts

0

0

0

0

0

0

AME

N

Severe disablement allowance

886,053

614

886,667

895,959

614

896,573

0

Industrial injury benefits

792,527

582

793,109

806,563

582

807,145

P

Income support (under 60 years of age)

8,675,813

102,490

8,778,303

8,682,510

102,490

8,785,000

Q

Jobseekers allowance (income based)

2,041,366

9,929

2,051,295

2,041,366

9,929

2,051,295

R

Jobseekers allowance (contribution based)

0

0

0

0

0

0

S

Job grant

45,064

0

45,064

47,936

0

47,936

T

Employment allowances

84,297

0

84,297

84,297

0

84,297

U

Housing and council tax benefit capital charge

0

3,277

3,277

0

3,277

3,277

V

Housing benefit and council tax benefit subsidies

13,916,309

0

13,916,309

14,143,852

0

14,143,852

W

Rent rebates

5,234,667

0

5,234,667

5,259,560

0

5,259,560

X

Discretionary housing payments

20,000

0

20,000

20,000

0

20,000

Non-budget

Y

Statutory benefits (SSP and SMP)

1,712,065

0

1,712,065

1,712,065

0

1,712,065

Z

Working Age (Grant in Aid)

3,687

0

3,687

3,687

0

3,687

Total for RfR2

37,752,842

289,876

38,042,718

38,043,510

289,876

38,333,386

RfR3

DEL

A

Administration

184,464

14,202

198,666

192,065

14,202

206,267

AME

B

Pension benefits

60,486

13

60,499

66,023

13

66,036

C

Income support for the elderly and pension credit

7,303,663

23,391

7,327,054

7,303,663

23,391

7,327,054

D

TV licences for the over 75s

503,078

0

503,078

503,078

0

503,078

Non-budget

E

Payments to the Social Fund

2,475,283

0

2,475,283

2,496,283

0

2,496,283

F

Pensions Grants in Aid

35,785

0

35,785

35,785

0

35,785

Total for RfR3

10,562,759

37,606

10,600,365

10,596,897

37,606

10,634,503

RfR4

DEL

A

Administration

246,855

1,488

248,343

245,333

1,488

246,821

B

Motability administration

2,800

0

2,800

2,800

0

2,800

AME

C

Attendance allowance

4,376,854

14,627

4,391,481

4,428,373

14,627

4,443,000

D

Disability living allowance

9,736,572

11,582

9,748,154

9,947,418

11,582

9,959,000

E

Carer’s allowance

1,268,937

2,850

1,271,787

1,268,937

2,850

1,271,787

F

Vaccine damage payments

500

0

500

500

0

500

G

Grants to independent bodies

300,468

0

300,468

300,468

0

300,468

Non-budget

H

Disability Rights Commission (Grant in Aid)

20,000

0

20,000

20,000

0

20,000

Total for RfR4

15,952,986

30,547

15,983,533

16,213,829

30,547

16,244,376

RfR5

DEL

A

Administration

1,021,416

17,964

1,039,380

1,060,846

17,964

1,078,810

Total for RfR5

1,021,416

17,964

1,039,380

1,060,846

17,964

1,078,810

Total subhead as per estimates

65,692,022

380,725

66,072,747

66,319,123

380,725

66,699,848

Departmental Recycling

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department's policy is on recycling. (174399)

Targets for sustainable operations on the Government estate require DWP to improve its environmental performance across a range of activities. During 2006-07 the Department recycled 67 per cent. of its waste, exceeding the specific target to recycle 40 per cent. of waste by 2010 and placing us in a strong position to meet the 2020 target to recycle 75 per cent. of our waste.

The Department's sustainable development policy statement commits the Department to maximise recycling wherever possible. Working with our estates partners, Land Securities Trillium, we have concentrated on our major waste streams and have rolled out ‘total paper recycling’ across the whole estate. We are now exploring how this scheme can be further enhanced and extended to improve performance further.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much and what proportion of its waste his Department recycled in each of the last five years. (174430)

DWP waste figures, as reported in Sustainable Development in Government reports up until 2005-06, are provided in the following table. The figures shown for 2006-07 will be reported by the Sustainable Development Commission early in 2008.

Total waste (tonne)

Waste recycled (tonne)

Waste recycled (percentage)

2002-031

17,480

10,413

60

2003-042

22,057

11,758

53

2004-05

30,116

15,348

51

2005-06

28,089

14,782

53

2006-07

22,365

14,881

67

1 Figures for 2002-03 include information on waste generated from buildings on the former DSS estate only. Information on waste generated from buildings on the former Employment Service estate are not available.

2 Figures for 2003-04 include information for the whole year on waste generated from buildings on the former DSS estate, and for one quarter only for waste generated from buildings on the former Employment Service Estate.

Departmental Sustainable Development

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what sustainability appraisal his Department has conducted of its recent relocation announcements; and what the outcome of the appraisal was. (172982)

[holding answer 10 December 2007]: The Department for Work and Pensions Head Office Estate (HOE) Programme undertook a diversity and equality assessment in each of the geographical areas in which closures were proposed which also addressed sustainability issues. The assessment showed that rationalisation would provide:

Impacts on the Environment

More conference and meeting facilities (including video conferencing) reducing the need to travel;

The city centre sites generally have good public transport links;

Good workspace practice enables the estate to better support the Department’s core business while reducing resource usage and cost; and

The buildings that are being closed are generally of a lower standard of accommodation than the buildings being retained once refurbished e.g. Peel Park, one of the retained sites in the North West has been accredited with ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.

Impacts on Society

Improved working conditions for Departmental staff;

Greater access to quiet rooms and open plan workspace thereby breaking down barriers, increasing staff morale and improving communication; and

Many of the retained sites have gym facilities, nursery and holiday play schemes operating and additional facilities such as Prayer Rooms, contemplation and nursing mother rooms.

In addition, the HOE Programme must also satisfy the DWP requirement to help to deliver the objectives of the 3rd UK Strategy for Sustainable Development and the programme team work proactively with others to ensure appropriate compliance is achieved including expert review of design proposals where appropriate.

Employment Schemes: Lone Parents

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his Department’s publication Ready for Work, what forecast he has made of (a) the likely number of work focused interviews which will be attended by lone parents in each quarter until 2011, broken down by (i) region, (ii) ethnicity and (iii) family size, (b) the annual cost of providing such work focused interviews, (c) the number of additional staff needed to provide such work focused interviews and (d) the cost of such additional staff in each quarter until 2011. (176945)

The full information requested is not available. The Impact Assessment published alongside the publication “Ready for Work: full employment in our generation” presented our current estimates of the impact of the proposals on the number of lone parents on benefits and costs. Work is ongoing on detailed implementation plans.

Employment Schemes: Young People

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for how long a person under 25 years old must (a) have not been in education, employment or training and (b) have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance to qualify for accelerated entry to the new Gateway. (176854)

[holding answer 7 January 2008]: The proposals are to fast track those aged 20 and over to the new Gateway if they have spent a large proportion of the previous two years in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. Those aged under 20 who have not had time to build up two years of benefit history will be fast tracked to the new Gateway on the basis of how much time they have previously spent not in education, employment or training or in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. Precise qualifying criteria for both age groups have yet to be determined. These arrangements will be mandatory.

Subject to capacity, Jobcentre Plus will also give voluntary early access to the new Gateway to other disadvantaged groups.

Financial Assistance Scheme: Standards

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the administration of the financial assistance scheme in making timely payments to those who qualify for assistance under the scheme. (173785)

A review was carried out during this year by Mercers Human Resource Consulting which reported back in August that the process of gathering data to operate the financial assistance scheme (FAS) is fit for purpose and is managed in a satisfactory manner.

They also concluded that delays in obtaining high enough quality data are sometimes due to problems for trustee's administrators and insurance firms being able to supply information.

As of 18 December 2007 3,665 people were receiving assistance payments from the financial assistance scheme and £11,786,114 has been paid out. This compares to the same time last year when 675 members were receiving assistance totalling £2,003,227.

Housing Benefit

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department plans to take to improve the administration of housing benefit by local authorities. (175328)

Since 2002-03, housing benefit and council tax benefit (HB and CTB) administration has improved significantly. In 2002-03, the national average for the time taken to deal with new claims to HB and CTB was 55 days, with the worst 15 per cent. taking an average of 99 days. These worst 15 per cent. performing authorities have made the greatest improvements in 2006-07 by processing claims in 54 days. In 2006-07, the national average had improved to 33 days.

Complaints to the local government ombudsman regarding HB and CTB administration have also fallen by 72 per cent. between 2000-01 and 2006-07 from 4,028 to 1,121 complaints. In 2006-07, HB and CTB administration accounted for only 6 per cent. of complaints, compared to 21 per cent. in 2001-02.

We will continue to monitor local authorities’ performance, engaging where appropriate with the poor performers and will continue to provide consultancy support and good practice on all aspects of HB and CTB administration.

We are continually taking steps to simplify the system to make it easier for local authorities to administer the scheme, for example, the roll-out of the local housing allowance from April 2008 is a more straightforward and transparent way of calculating entitlement to housing benefit in the private sector. We have also developed a new IT link which passes information about DWP benefits straight to the computers of housing benefit/council tax benefit staff. These initiatives will help in the administration of the scheme.

Incapacity Benefit: East of England

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in (a) the East of England and (b) Suffolk claiming incapacity benefits had drug or drink dependency as their primary medical conditions in each of the last five years. (174154)

Number of incapacity benefit/severe disablement allowance claimants in east of England and Suffolk, who have alcoholism or drug abuse as their main disabling conditionEast of EnglandSuffolkQuarter endingAlcoholismDrug abuseAlcoholismDrug abuseMay 20031,8902,270180200May 20042,0202,400170190May 20052,1102,520190200May 20062,2302,590200210May 20072,4002,640240220 Notes:1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10.2. Totals may not sum due to rounding.3. Causes of incapacity are based on the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, published by the World Health Organisation.4. All IB/SDA claimants in east of England and Suffolk who have alcoholism or drug abuse as their main disabling condition are working age.Source:DWP Information Directorate 100 per cent Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study

Industrial Health and Safety

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) incidents and (b) complaints were (i) reported to and (ii) investigated by the Health and Safety Executive in each of the last four years. (173797)

The information requested is as follows:

(a) The numbers of Incidents reported to HSE (i.e. those reportable under RIDDOR—reporting of injuries, diseases, and dangerous occurrences regulations), and the number of these incidents which meet the Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) investigation selection criteria and which are investigated, in each of the last four years are as follows:

Al HSE Reportable RIDDOR Incidents

Numbers investigated meeting HSC's selection criteria

2003-04

148,592

5,288

2004-05

141,740

4,890

2005-06

138,848

4,677

2006-07

134,418

5,567

(b) The numbers of complaints reported to HSE, and investigated, in each of the last four years are as follows:

Total number of complaints reported

Total number investigated1

2003-04

24,404

22,528

2004-05

22,794

21,633

2005-06

21,074

19,675

2006-07

18,865

18,540

A majority of complaints are investigated by Complaints Officers and not HSE Inspectors. Dependent on the seriousness of the nature of the complaint it may be referred to an inspector to investigate.

Industrial Health and Safety: Criminal Proceedings

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) enforcement notices have been served and (b) prosecutions have been initiated by health and safety inspectors under health and safety at work legislation in each year since 2002-03. (173796)

The information requested is as follows:

(a) The total number of enforcement Notices issued by the HSE—the Health and Safety Executive—since 2002-03 are:

Total number of Notices issued

2002-03

13,324

2003-04

11,335

2004-05

8,471

2005-06

6,593

2006-07

8,071

2007-081

3,885

1 Half year figures.

Figures up to and including 2006-07 are based on published HSE annual statistics, the 2006-07 is the provisional figure.

The 2007-08 figure is the numbers issued in the first half of this year, and this is also a provisional figure.

(b) The total number of prosecutions initiated (i.e. specific charges laid) by HSE since 2002-03 are:

Total number of prosecutions initiated

2002-03

1,659

2003-04

1,720

2004-05

1,320

2005-06

1,056

2006-07

1,141

2007-081

561

1 Half year figures.

Figures up to and including 2006-07 are based on published HSE annual statistics, the 2006-07 is the provisional figure.

The 2007-08 figure is the number of specific charges laid before the courts in the first half of this year, and this is also a provisional figure.

Jobcentre Plus: Interpreters

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what interpreter services are available to support Jobcentre Plus (a) interviews and (b) telephone calls; (173273)

(2) which Jobcentre Plus materials are available in languages other than English, broken down by language.

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to reply to the hon. member.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 10 January 2008:

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has asked me to reply to your questions about what interpreter services are available to support Jobcentre Plus (a) interviews and (b) telephone calls, and which Jobcentre Plus materials are available in languages other than English broken down by language. This is something, which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Jobcentre Plus recognises that additional support may be required to enable people who do not have English as a first language to gain access to our services, (a) when contacting us by telephone, or (b) attending an interview.

We provide this additional support through the:

(a) DWP Telephone Interpreting Service, currently contracted to “thebigword”. This service allows immediate access to interpreters for callers to our Contact Centre networks, for example when making new claims to benefits or applying for National Insurance Numbers.

(b) Face to Face Interpreting, including access to interpreters available through our partnership working with the Voluntary Sector, and local community and customer representative groups. We may also use staff with relevant language skills, or customer's friends and relatives, where the customer has indicated that this is their preferred method of language support.

Jobcentre Plus currently produces its suite of customer information leaflets (providing details of benefits and entitlements, and our mandatory Welfare to Work programmes) in English, Welsh and in the following ethnic languages:

Arabic

Bengali

Chinese (Some titles only available on request, due to file size)

Gujurati

Punjabi

Urdu (Some titles only available on request, due to file size)

This information is also available as online electronic-only files that can be downloaded or printed as required.

Information in Somali and Vietnamese is also available in audio format on request.

The languages offered are based on analysis of UK demographic data.

I hope this is helpful.

Marginal Tax Rates

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the marginal deduction rate experienced by a lone parent, local authority tenant, with two children under 11, with child care costs, working 36 hours per week at adult rate minimum wage. (173347)

The Department considers the issue of marginal deduction rates (MDRs) within the wider context of making work pay. It is not possible to calculate the MDR in this particular example because it would require assumptions to be made about rent levels and child care costs as well as issues such as disability. More generally, the number of families facing MDRs in excess of 70 per cent. has fallen by 545,000 since before Budget 1998.

The Government provide a broad range of support for lone parents that focuses on ensuring that work pays, that barriers to employment are addressed and that lone parents are made aware of the employment opportunities available to them.

The in-work credit (IWC) is currently being piloted in 22 Job Centre Plus districts and will be rolled out nationally from April 2008. The IWC further increases the financial benefit from a move into employment and is helping lone parents move away from benefit dependency. This, combined with tax credits and the national minimum wage, means that most lone parents are likely to be significantly better off in work.

National Identity Register

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans his Department has to make use of data on the National Identity Register when it is established; and what the estimated cost to his Department of that use is. (174050)

DWP will be working with the Home Office prior to the introduction of the national identity scheme to establish how data held on the proposed National Identity Register might be used to provide easier access to DWP benefits and services for our customers. It is too early in the process to identify estimated costs and benefits.

National Insurance Fund

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effect of employers paying employee pensions contributions at the reduced rate on national insurance fund revenue in the last three years. (173578)

The information is in the following table.

Cost of contracted-out rebate

£ billion

Tax year

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Type of scheme

Employer

Employee

Employer

Employee

Employer

Employee

Occupational DB

4.6

2.1

4.8

2.2

5.0

2.3

Occupational DC

0.1

0.3

0.1

0.3

0.1

0.3

Note:

1. Rebate expenditure for all years is estimated and based on the latest available contracting-out data in ‘Second Tier Pension Provision’.

2. Figures are for the UK and expressed in cash terms.

3. The cost of paying the rebate will be balanced in the longer term by a reduction in the cost of the additional state pension.

Source:

Department for Work and Pensions

Occupational Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many occupational pension schemes have fully wound up since 1997; how many are in the process of winding up; and what the total membership of such schemes was in each year since 1997. (173750)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 29 October 2007, Official Report, column 764W.

Occupational Pensions: Financial Assistance Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to change the proportion of pension payments made to occupational pension scheme members who make claims to the financial assistance scheme; and what the timescale is for such changes; (173781)

(2) what assessment he has made of the findings in the Young report on changes to the proportion of pensions payable in cases involving the financial assessment scheme.

The Findings of the Young Review, released on Monday 17 December 2007, has indicated we are able to increase our commitment to the financial assistance scheme for pension scheme members who have lost their pension since April 1997 to April 2005 from 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. of their expected pension, in addition I have also announced that we will now pay all members from their normal scheme retirement age subject to a lower age limit of 60.

We are keen to ensure that members do not wait any longer than is absolutely necessary for increased payments. We are considering the changes that will require legislation in order to bring the new FAS benefits into effect.

We will bring forward some legislative changes as part of the Pensions Bill currently before Parliament

The full scheme will only be in place when the regulations made under any new powers are in force; we intend to make sure this happens as soon as possible.

Pensioners: Macclesfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what percentage of pensioners in Macclesfield constituency claimed pension credit at the latest date for which figures are available. (172060)

Population estimates from the Office for National Statistics are not available on a constituency basis, so the question has been answered for Macclesfield local authority.

As at May 2007 5,290 households in Macclesfield were receiving pension credit which represents 14 per cent. of the pensioner population.

There were 6,190 individual beneficiaries of pension credit in Macclesfield in May 2007.

Notes:

1. Household recipients are those people who claim pension credit either for themselves only or on behalf of a household.

2. The number of individual beneficiaries includes both claimants and their partners, some of which may be under 60 years of age.

3. Pensioner population includes all those people aged 60 or over based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) mid-2006 population estimates.

4. Household recipients and individual beneficiaries data is rounded to the nearest 10.

Source:

DWP Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study 100 per cent. data

Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the answer of 1 October 2007, Official Report, column 2376W, on pensions, for what reason his Department’s Resource Accounts 2006-07, page 104, give the number of letters sent to pensioners between September 2004 and September 2005 as 414,427; and if he will make a statement. (173770)

As stated in the answer of 1 October 2007, Official Report, column 2376W, on pensions, the Pension Service contacted 470,000 pensioners in the target group of 632,000 up to the end of the project in April 2006.

The figure of 414,427 pensioners stated in the Deficiency Notices paragraph (note 39 of the Department’s Resource Accounts 2006-07) refers to the number of pensioners contacted between the period September 2004 to September 2005. The figures quoted therefore relate to different periods and this is the reason for the difference.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have opted to contract out of the state second pension since its introduction. (175064)

Since its introduction on 6 April 2002, around five million people have contracted out of the state second pension into either a personal pension, a stakeholder pension or an occupational pension. This figure is an estimate and based on a 3 per cent. sample of the national insurance records system database.

Pensions: Fraud

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to prevent the fraudulent use of deceased pensioners’ details; and if he will make a statement. (175061)

DWP has specific processes in place to help ensure that deceased pensioners’ details are not used for fraudulent purposes within the tax and benefit systems.

When a person dies, DWP is notified of the registered death by the Office of National Statistics for deaths in England and Wales, the General Registrar’s Office (Scotland) for deaths in Scotland and the General Registrar’s Office (Northern Ireland) for deaths in Northern Ireland.

When a death is notified, the date of death is recorded on the DWP customer information system (CIS) which in turn notifies the benefit systems in order to end payment of pensions and benefits. Local authorities are also notified for housing benefit and council tax benefit purposes.

CIS will also notify the HMRC national insurance recording system (NIRS) of this date of death for tax purposes.

Once an account held on CIS has a date of death inserted, there are specific checks in place to ensure that all access to deceased accounts for tax and benefit purposes is legitimate. There will often be some legitimate access to a deceased national insurance account held on CIS if for example, the surviving spouse claims pensions based on their late partner’s national insurance contributions.

This process helps protects the tax and benefit system from fraudulent attack using deceased pensioners’ details. Processes are also in place, and will be utilised in the new year, to notify the Identity and Passport Service of deaths in order to prevent fraudulent use of a deceased person’s identity to obtain, or use, a passport in the deceased person’s name.

Pensions: National Insurance Contributions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of individuals who will reach state pension age between now and April 2010 with 30 years or fewer national insurance contributions or credits. (172159)

The latest information available indicates that at the end of the financial year 2003/04 there were around 1.8 million people due to reach state pension age before the 6 April 2010 who had not yet accrued more than 30 qualifying years for basic state pension.

Notes:

1. Figures refer to people who are estimated to be resident in the UK in 2003-04.

2. Entitlement to basic state pension depends on a number of factors including the number of qualifying years accrued, home responsibilities protection and the spouse's contribution record.

Source:

Lifetime Labour Market Database 2, 2003-04

Pensions: Private Sector

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the proportion of private sector employers who offered any pension to employees in each year since 1997 for which data is available. (173751)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 29 October 2007, Official Report, column 764W.

Poverty

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will publish estimates of the number of people living in poverty in 2006-07; and if he will make a statement. (174853)

The Department for Work and Pensions will publish poverty estimates for 2006-07 in the next Households Below Average Income report in spring 2008.

Social Fund

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 6 December 2007, Official Report, columns 1508-09W, on the social fund, what definition his Department uses of serious risk to health and safety in relation to crisis loan applications. (173811)

[holding answer 13 December 2007]: There is no specific definition.

However the social fund Directions state that:

“... a social fund payment may be awarded to assist an applicant to meet expenses (except those excluded by these directions)

(a) in an emergency, or as a consequence of a disaster, provided that the provision of such assistance is the only means by which serious damage or serious risk to the health or safety of that person, or to a member of his family, may be prevented;”

Therefore the applicant has to meet three requirements; the need must have arisen as a result of a disaster or emergency; it must constitute a serious risk to the health and well being of the applicant or a member of their family and there must be no other means of meeting the need.

The decision maker will consider carefully the circumstances of the applicant and should interpret the phrase, “serious damage or serious risk to the health or safety of that person” and “in an emergency, or as a consequence of a disaster,” in a broad common sense manner that includes consideration of both physical and mental health.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress is being made on achieving a single independent review of social fund claims. (174668)

There are no plans currently to change the discretionary social fund review process. This consists of an internal review and, for those still dissatisfied with the outcome of their application, an independent review by a social fund inspector at the Independent Review Service.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of calls were connected to the social fund in the most recent period for which figures are available. (174671)

Social Fund: Applications

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people asked for a face to face interview about a social fund application and were not offered this in the latest month for which figures are available. (174648)

The information requested is not routinely collected and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Social Security Benefits

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) on-flow and origin, (b) off-flow and destination and (c) stock figures for (i) jobseeker's allowance, (ii) incapacity benefit (not credits only), (iii) severe disablement allowance, (iv) income support with incapacity benefit credits and (v) income support, broken down by statistical group, were for each of the last 36 months for which figures are available. (162114)

[holding answer 12 November 2007]: Information for on-flow origin and off-flow destination is not available. The available information has been placed in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people on incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance started their claim since 1997. (173894)

A total of 1,846,470 claimants, who were included in the incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance caseload in May 2007, have started their claim since 1997. Of these, 1,836,660 claimants were of working age.

Social Security Benefits: Christmas

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment he has made of the effect on Post Office counters of the 2007 arrangements for paying benefits which would otherwise fall due over the Christmas period; (174227)

(2) what the earliest date is on which benefit payments which would otherwise fall due over the Christmas period may be paid; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he will bring forward the earliest date on which benefit payments which would otherwise fall due over the Christmas period may be paid; and if he will make a statement.

The Department has always ensured that when customers are due payments on a national public holiday when most banks and financial institutions are closed, they have access to their money in advance.

We normally advance payments to the last banking day before the Christmas holiday, which last year fell on 24 December. Post Office Ltd. had been aware for some time of these arrangements and had assured us that branches would be able to cope with the anticipated volumes.

However, Post Office Ltd.’s own decision to close at lunch time on the Monday raised concerns about customers’ ability to get their money that day. Post Office opening times are operational matters for Post Office management.

Although Post Office Ltd. has provided further assurances that they would be able to cope, including with lunch time closing, we have decided that, where it is technically possible to do so, we will advance payments to 21 December last year. This means that every pensioner will receive their payment before Christmas and around three quarters of pensioners will be paid on 21 December. Some customers will still need to collect their money on the Monday and others may choose to do so. Post Office Ltd. has made clear that everyone who wants their money that day, will be able to get it.

Eight out of 10 of the Department’s customers are paid into bank accounts and will be able to access their money from their bank on the Monday, or whenever they want from cash machines over the Christmas period.

Social Security Benefits: EU Nationals

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the likely increase in the number of claimants of (a) disability living allowance (care component), (b) attendance allowance and (c) carer’s allowance after 5 April 2008 when they become exportable within the european economic area; (175505)

(2) what estimate he has made of the likely additional costs of (a) disability living allowance (care component), (b) attendance allowance and (c) carer’s allowance after 5 April 2008 when they become exportable within the european economic area;

(3) what estimate he has made of the likely number of staff needed to handle extra cases of (a) disability living allowance (care component), (b) attendance allowance and (c) carer’s allowance after 5 April 2008 when they become exportable within the european economic area.

As I reported in my statement of 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 68WS, we are still involved in ongoing discussions with the European Commission to clarify the extent of the Government’s responsibilities following the judgment in the European court on 18 October 2007. Until we understand the full implications of the judgment we cannot estimate the additional costs, staffing requirements or the number of additional customers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 68WS, on Disability Benefits (European Court of Justice), what matters he expects to be discussed in future meetings between officials from his Department and European Commission officials on European legislation on the exportability of benefits. (175516)

In its judgment of 18 October 2007, the European Court of Justice decided to remove the care component of disability living allowance, attendance allowance and carer’s allowance from the list of non-exportable ‘special non-contributory cash benefits’ in Annex IIa to the EC Regulation 1408/71. The Court decided that these benefits should be classified as sickness benefits (as defined by Regulation 1408/71). We are working with the European Commission to clarify how our disability benefits, which are long term residence-based benefits, fit into a regime originally designed to cover short-term contributions-based sickness benefits.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 68WS, on disability benefits (European Court of Justice), what legal advice his Department sought ahead of the European Court of Justice’s judgment; and at what cost. (175517)