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Sir George Young : The number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities in England in 1993 was an estimated 134,190, a reduction of some 8,700--6.1 per cent.--on the corresponding figure in 1992 of 142,890 acceptances.
The latest available figures show a continuation of the downward trend with 131,790 acceptances in the year ending March 1994. This is the eighth successive quarter in which total acceptances in the preceding 12 months have fallen.
Sir George Young : My Department provides funding through the Housing Corporation's approved development programme for housing associations to provide homes for homeless people and others in housing need. In 1994-95 the Housing Corporation's ADP budget is some £1.5 billion and the corporation estimates that this will enable housing associations to provide some 58,300 new lettings of which nearly 38,000-- some 65 per cent--are intended by associations to be for homeless people. This would bring the total number of homes provided by housing associations between 1992-93 and 1994-95 to some 178,000. In addition the Department provides revenue support through the Housing Corporation for housing association schemes which provide accommodation for people with special needs, many of whom are single and homeless. In 1994-95 the corporation's revenue contributions are expected to be some £128 million.
Under the Government's six-year--1990-91 to 1995-96--rough sleepers initiative, funding of £182 million has been made available to provide emergency shelters, night shelters, hostels, properties leased from private sector landlords and at least 3,300 bedspaces in permanent move-on accommodation for people who would otherwise sleep rough in central London. The bulk of this funding has been made available to housing associations through the Housing Corporation.
Sir George Young : My right hon. Friend hopes to announce shortly the Government's conclusions following consideration of the responses to our consultation paper "Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies", which proposed a new approach to homelessness. We should then be happy to discuss our intentions with local authority and housing association representatives.
Column 563Federation of Housing Associations, and with individual housing associations, about a range of topics, including homelessness. My officials met representatives of the National Federation of Housing Associations on 6 June to discuss the Government's proposals to reform the homelessness legislation.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent figures he has for the numbers of people (a) living in hostels, (b) living in hotels provided at the expense of local authorities and (c) living in housing association dwellings.
Sir George Young : The latest available figures are for 31 March 1994 and these show that of the households for which local authorities in England had accepted responsibility to secure permanent accommodation, or who were awaiting the outcome of inquiries, some 10,670 households were living in hostels and 4,930 in bed-and-breakfast hotels.
The latest available information on housing association dwellings relates to 31 March 1993 when a total of 686,700 households were in occupation.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent requests for resources he has had (a) from housing associations and (b) from organisations such as Coventry Cyrenians.
Sir George Young : My Department has received no recent requests for resources from individual housing associations. The distribution of the resources made available to registered housing associations for the provision of social housing, through the Housing Corporation's approved development programme, is informed by the housing needs index and local authorities' priority housing needs. My Department received 270 applications for grant under section 73 of the Housing Act 1985 for 1994-95 from voluntary sector organisations, including two from Coventry Cyrenians for schemes to assist single people in housing need.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with other Departments about the impact of the EU habitats directive ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : My Government colleagues and I are collectively committed to the transposition of the directive into United Kingdom law. The draft implementing regulations are to be laid shortly. Government policy for achieving the aims of the directive in the United Kingdom is set out in the biodiversity action plan, published in January of this year. This sets out our strategy for nature conservation over the next 10 and 20 years.
Column 564needing to move but unable to sell their flats bought under the right to buy because of mortgageability problems. Where leaseholders can buy a more suitable home from their local authority, the scheme will allow the council to take back the present flat in exchange, and to offset the right-to-buy price paid for it against the sale price of the exchange property. We will also be releasing shortly a discussion paper covering this and a number of other measures to help council leaseholders.
Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 21 June, Official Report, column 100, what plans he has, apart from large-scale voluntary transfers, to introduce new initiatives or schemes designed to pass local authority housing stock to private sector interests ; how many members of his or other Departments or offices are engaged in preparing policy papers on this matter ; which of these options involve public subsidy ; and if he will make a statement.
transfer--LSVT--there are several ways in which local authority housing may be trasnferred to alternative landlords. Tenants are able to choose a new landlord under tenant's choice. Local authorities can transfer properties as they become vacant through trickle transfer ; or with tenant agreement they can undertake a partial LSVT. I am always keen to encourage local authorities to consider ways of increasing private investment in social housing. I answered the hon. Gentleman's question about staff numbers in my Department in my answer of 21 June. Officials in other Departments are involved as necessary. And, as I also said in my answer on 21 June, the Department is jointly funding a study with five urban authorities and the Housing Corporation to look into alternatives for the ownership and management of housing in urban and inner city areas. The study will consider the subsidy implications of these options, among other issues. It is due to report in the autumn.
The latest estimate from the labour force survey is that in South Yorkshire in Winter 1993-94 (December 1993--February 1994), 27 per cent. of those in employment were working part-time.
Comparable information is not available for local authority areas.
Mr. Robin Squire : It is for local authorities to determine their own priorities between and within services. The different levels of funding between local authorities on under-fives reflects those different priorities.
Mr. Robin Squire : A notional allowance for under-fives provision is made in each authority's education standard spending assessment, based on its resident under-fives population. How local authorities use that notional allowance is a matter for the discretion of each local authority. Neither education SSAs nor the sub-blocks within them are spending targets.
Mr. Robin Squire : The level and nature of provision for under-fives is a matter for the discretion of each local education authority. A notional allowance to support such provision is made in each authority's education standard spending assessment, based on its resident under-fives population. There are no current proposals to change the basis, although standard spending assessments are reviewed each year.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if it is his policy that the weighting factors in the standard spending assessments in respect of education are a reflection of his educational policies and priorities.
Mr. Robin Squire : No. Since education standard spending assessments are not prescriptive the weighting factors within them reflect the latest available objective information about relative variations in the cost incurred by local education authorities in providing a standard level of service.
Column 566its relevant pupil and population numbers, adjusted to allow for local variations in the cost of providing a standard level of service. Adjustments are made to reflect the additional local costs of provision for pupils with additional educational needs, provision of education in sparsely populated areas, free school meals and the high labour and other costs in London and the south east.
Mr. Fatchett : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will make a statement on the policy adopted by his Department towards the publication of external consultants' reports in relation to market testing.
Mr. Forth : The Department considers publication of external consultants' reports on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the code of practice on access to government information. Factors taken into account include the need to protect private and sensitive commercial information relating to third parties.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many teaching staff and non-teaching staff were employed by the Newham local education authority on (a) a full-time basis and (b) a part-time basis for each year since 1988.
Mr. Robin Squire : Information on the numbers of teaching and non- teaching staff is collected from local education authorities by the local government management board on behalf of the joint staffing watch group. The following data was supplied by the Newham education authority and shows the numbers of teaching staff and other education staff employed for the years 1988 to 1994. It is not possible to separate these between staff employed in schools and those employed elsewhere.
Teachers and Education-Other lecturers March |Full-time|Part-time|Full-time|Part-time ------------------------------------------------------------ 1988 |2,697 |338 |1,146 |1,866 1989 |2,462 |265 |1,288 |1,961 1990 |2,500 |677 |1,404 |1,218 1991 |2,422 |1,041 |979 |1,057 1992 |2,342 |575 |994 |1,026 1993 |2,288 |198 |855 |853 1994 |2,043 |157 |805 |867 Notes: 1. The table covers all staff in the LEA maintained nursery, primary and secondary schools, special and further education sectors and central administration. Staff employed by self-governing-GM-schools are not included. The 1994 figures exclude colleges which transferred to the new FE sector in April 1993. 2. "Education-other" includes educational support, clerical, school meals and premises related staff employed in schools and colleges, together with central services and administration within the education service.
Mr. Boswell [holding answer 27 June 1994] : The numbers of United Kingdom domiciled new entrant higher education students in England aged 50 or over studying undergraduate courses for the past five years are set out in the table.
Year |Number ---------------------- 1988-89 |1,184 1989-90 |1,019 1990-91 |1,321 1991-92 |1,521 1992-93 |2,440
Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. Jeff Rooker, dated 28 June 1994 : As Chief Executive of the Contributions Agency I am responsible for answering questions about relevant operational matters. I have been asked to reply to your question about the procedure by which a young person under the age of 16 years would be issued with a National Insurance number (NINO).
The Agency has an automatic system which is designed to provide young people with details of their NINO before they reach age 16. The system uses the information held on the Department's Child Benefit computer records and most young people whose parents are in receipt of Child Benefit are identified when they are between the ages of 15 years 2 months and 15 years 8 months. Just before their 16th birthday a plastic NI number card containing details of their name and NINO is issued to the young person. If the parent or guardian has a different surname from the young person, they are asked to confirm the name which is to appear on the NI number card before it is issued. As Child Benefit is not generally paid for young people in the care of local government authorities, an arrangement exists whereby the young person's social worker can ask for a NI number card to be issued. This voluntary agreement avoids the need for the young person to attend a social security office in person.
Special arrangements are also in place for children of Her Majesty's Forces personnel serving abroad. As the payment of
Column 568Child Benefit is usually undertaken by the employing
service/department no record of the young person is held on the Child Benefit computer record. The young person's boarding school or their parents can therefore complete a form asking for their NI number card to be issued. The form is passed to the Agency via the relevant unit paymaster. Anyone who does not receive NI number cards in one of these ways must apply, in person, to their local social security office for a NINO on or after their 16th birthday.
I hope that this information will prove useful.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he is taking in respect of proposals by the Institute of Chartered Accountants on the power of his proposed pensions watchdog ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hague : We welcome the institute's comments which have been taken into account in our proposals for a new occupational pensions regulatory authority, set out in the White Paper "Security, Equality, Choice : The Future for Pensions". We will be consulting further with the institute and other interested parties in developing the new regulatory framework for occupational pension schemes.
Mr. Gapes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) when his Department received the letter from the hon. Member for Ilford, South sent to him on 28 March concerning the length of time taken by the Child Support Agency to respond to representations from hon. Members ; when he replied to it ; when it was forwarded to the Child Support Agency ; and when the chief executive of the Child Support Agency replied to it ;
(2) when he will reply to the letter sent to him by the hon. Member for Ilford, South on 28 March ;
(3) if he will publish the text of the reply dated 20 June from the chief executive of the Child Support Agency in response to the letter of 28 March from the hon. Member for Ilford, South to him.
Mr. Burt : My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State received the letter on 31 March. As the letter concerned the operations of the Child Support Agency, it was transferred to the agency on 13 April for reply by the chief executive. I wrote to the hon. Member on 5 May to acknowledge receipt of his letter, and confirming the transfer of the letter to the chief executive. I understand that the chief executive replied on 20 June as follows :
"Thank you for your letter of 28 March to Peter Lilley who has asked me to reply. I am sorry for the delay in making my reply. All letters from Members of Parliament addressed to me are acknowledged and I aim to respond within an average of 20 working days. Recent press interest has stimulated a great deal of correspondence from constituents and although that target is not being met at the moment, the necessary steps are being taken to ensure that correspondence from Members will be answered as soon as possible.
I hope my letter explains the posiition."
Mr. Gapes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the length of time taken by the Child Support Agency to reply to letters from hon. Members ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) what guidelines have been issued to the Child Support Agency as to the time scale for replying to letters from hon. Members ; and in what percentage of cases the Child Support Agency has met those guidelines.
I recognise that the target has been met only in some 13 per cent. of cases and unacceptable delays have occurred. The agency has taken a number of measures to improve performance in this area. These include additional staff resources and improved processing arrangements.
Mr. Gapes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether it is his policy to refer all letters from hon. Members concerning delay in replying to letters by the Child Support Agency for reply by the Child Support Agency itself.
Mr. Burt : Ministers see all correspondence from hon. Members relating to social security matters. However, where queries relate to operational matters dealt with by executive agencies, including the Child Support Agency, Ministers may refer them to the appropriate chief executive to reply. The chief executive has responsibility for operational issues and it is for the authority to take remedial action where necessary.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the grounds for the Benefits Agency to appeal against a decision of the social security appeal tribunal to the Social Security Commissioner ; and how long, on average, this process takes from the date of the appeal tribunal's decision.
Mr. Burt : Appeals against a decision of a social security appeal tribunal are made by adjudication officers based at the central adjudication services. An appeal can be made only on the basis of a point of law. It is not possible to provide the information on how long this process takes as figures do not distinguish between appeals by adjudication officers and others.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what mechanisms there are for providing temporary financial support to those engaged in the social security appeals procedure over their entitlement to income support.
Mr. Burt : Where it is thought a person is, or may be entitled to benefit, payments on account of that benefit may be made until the appeal has been decided. Possible hardship to the claimant would be considered where my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, is considering suspension of an appeal tribunal award whilst an appeal to the commissioner is awaiting hearing. Social fund crisis loans may also be available.
Mr. Rowlands : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the number of surviving children suffering from vaccine damage as defined by the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 ; and how much each child has received under the Act.
Mr. Hague : External consultants are engaged by the Department to support in-house teams in constructing their bids and to advise and support client side teams in devising contract strategies. Reports are therefore commercial in confidence and not for publication.
Year |£ ------------------------------ 1992-93 |1,400,094 1993-94 |4,261,909
Mr. Hague [pursuant to his reply, 14 June 1994, columns 362-63] : The information provided contained a typing error. The restrictions described in the second paragraph apply to higher executive officers (D), not higher executive officers.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on agreements made between the Palestinian water authority and the settler community about the fair use of water.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The Gaza-Jericho agreement provides for the Palestinian authority to manage water, with the exception of that for settlements and military installations. This will continue to be managed by Merekoth Water Company, in accordance with existing quantities of drinking water and agricultural water. Israel and the Palestinians are also to establish a subcommittee to deal with this issue.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received from the temporary international presence in Hebron ; and whether the representatives have been given full co-operation by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : Our Consulate-General in Jerusalem is in touch with the officer in charge of the temporary international presence in Hebron. It has built up a working relationship with both parties, including regular meetings.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what change there has been recently in the level of Serb military activity on the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and what has been the response of the United Nations.