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Training (EU Nationals)

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if European Community nationals are allowed to count any period of unemployment in which they were in receipt of benefit in another EC country towards the qualifying period of unemployment for eligibility for (a) training for work, (b) community action and (c) other Employment Service programmes; and if he will make a statement.      [15180]

Miss Widdecombe: At present, people who qualify for training for work on the grounds of unemployment need to have been unemployed for six months in the United Kingdom to be eligible, regardless of nationality. Periods of unemployment in other European Union--European economic area countries count towards eligibility for community action and all other Employment Service programmes. We are currently in the process of reviewing all eligibility criteria for Employment Department programmes to ensure they are consistent, simple and clear.

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment in what circumstances citizens from other European Community countries can participate in youth training, training for work or community action, or in other employment schemes financed by the Employment Department; once having entered a programme, if they are entitled to complete it; and if he will make a statement.      [15181]

Mr. Paice: Citizens of other European Community countries can participate in training and other schemes financed by the Employment Department, provided they otherwise satisfy the eligibility conditions for the individual scheme concerned. Eligible people entering a particular scheme are entitled to complete it provided they continue to satisfy the conditions of the scheme concerned.

Part-time Education and Training

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment in what circumstances participation in a part-time education or training course count as one of the job-seeking steps necessary to satisfy the actively seeking work condition; and if participation in a part-time education or training course is regarded as a positive outcome from a restart interview.      [15247]


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Miss Widdecombe: The steps an individual is required to take in any week are those which are reasonable in his or her case and which offer him or her the best prospects of receiving offers of employment. Participation in a part-time education or training course cannot count as a step towards satisfying the actively seeking employment condition, because it does not lead directly to offers of employment. However, it is recognised that people undertaking part-time courses will not have as much time to seek work as other clients and this is taken into account in considering the steps taken by a client in any week.

Part-time education can enhance some clients' prospects of finding work in the longer term and so Employment Service advisers will give advice and guidance on part-time education opportunities available and the implications as far as benefits are concerned. However, clients who start part-time education following a restart interview are not counted towards our positive outcome targets unless they also leave the unemployment register.

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment in what circumstances an unemployed person participating in a part-time education or training course will not be required to attend a compulsory restart or workwise course or jobplan workshop; and what arrangements are made to ensure that those who are required to attend the course or workshop do not have their part-time study disrupted.      [15248]

Miss Widdecombe: It has been a long-standing principle of the social security system that unemployment benefits are not paid unconditionally but involve reciprocal obligations on the part of the claimant. These include fulfilling the requirements of both being available for and actively seeking work for the days on which benefit is claimed. This requirement applies to all unemployed people, including people who may be studying on a part-time basis. Equally, the requirement to attend jobplan, 1 2 1/workwise --worklink in Scotland--or restart courses includes those who are undertaking part-time study. However, wherever possible arrangements will be made for attendance to fall at a time outside normal study hours or exam times.

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment in what circumstances people can participate on a part-time basis in training for work and community action; to what participation allowance they would be entitled; and if he will make a statement.      [15172]

Mr. Paice: Under the arrangements that will apply to training for work in 1995 96, non-employed trainees can participate part time as long as their planned training averages at least 15 hours in a seven day period. There are no minimum hours for employed status trainees. Non-employed trainees receive an allowance based on their benefit entitlement when they joined the programme, plus a supplement of £10 per week.

Community action is a part-time programme. Participation lasts for a minimum of 21 hours a week. People participating in this programme receive an allowance equivalent to their normal benefit rate plus £10 per week.


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Jobseeker's Allowance

Ms Short: to ask the Secretary of State for Employment what adjudication decisions will be taken by front-line Employment Service officers when the jobseeker's allowance is introduced; what training they will receive to enable them to discharge their new responsibilities; and if he will make a statement.      [15265]

Miss Widdecombe: The introduction of the new jobseeker's allowance to replace unemployment benefit and income support, and its joint delivery by the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency will mean a number of changes to adjudication work in both agencies. We are currently considering the impact of those changes, and looking at ways of improving the speed and effectiveness of adjudication. If locating some labour market adjudication decisions closer to the front line in jobcentres would speed up the process of decision making and give claimants better service, it is right that such ideas should be considered and piloted if appropriate.

A full programme of training for ES officers is being developed to equip them to deliver JSA effectively. This will include training on the entitlement conditions for JSA and the adjudication process.

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if the current 21-hour rule enabling unemployed people to participate in independent European social fund courses will be subject to reduction to 16 guided learning hours when the jobseeker's allowance is introduced; and if he will make a statement.      [15258]

Miss Widdecombe: People undertaking part-time courses part-funded by the European social fund while claiming jobseeker's allowance will be subject to the rules of JSA. These will include an upper limit of 16 guided learning hours per week for people undertaking Further Education Funding Council-funded courses and a requirement to be available for and actively seeking employment.

Where ESF part-funds Government programmes, such as training for work, trainees will be subject to the rules of those programmes.

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if the current 21-hour rule enabling unemployed people to study while receiving benefit will be reduced to 16 guided learning hours when the jobseeker's allowance is introduced in Northern Ireland; what difference there will be in the treatment of unemployed people who take up places in either further or higher education courses; and if he will make a statement.      [15159]

Miss Widdecombe: People claiming jobseeker's allowance will be able to undertake part-time courses provided that they remain available for, and actively seeking, employment. We have decided to update the rules to reflect changes in the way certain courses are organised. These changes will ensure that the rules can be applied fairly and consistently and allow the same number of unemployed people to study part time while receiving benefits. In the case of courses funded by the Further Education Funding Council in England, unemployed people will be able to study for up to 16 guided learning hours per week. We intend to introduce similar arrangements in Northern Ireland. The rules will be based on definitions used in further education in Northern


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Ireland, where the concept of guided learning hours is not used. There will be no change in higher education where a part-time definition still exists.

Child Care Costs

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what help he provides for parents and other people with caring responsibilities who want to take up places in training for work and other Employment Department programmes; and if he will make a statement.      [15175]

Mr. Paice: Training and enterprise councils are able to support parents entering training with the cost of child care. In particular, TECs are required to provide child care support for those in the youth training guarantee group. Support with child care most often takes the form of an allowance paid to a childminder, but it is for TECs to determine how the support is given. Career development loans, which help individuals pay for their own vocational training, can be used to pay for part-time and distance learning courses and child care costs.

Gateways to Learning Initiative

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies are involved in the gateways to learning initiative; what achievements have been made under the programme; how many TECs and LECs will receive gateways funding in 1995 96; what are his future plans for the initiative; and if he will make a statement.      [15179]

Mr. Paice: In 1994 95, 43 training and enterprise councils have had contracts from the Employment Department under the gateways to learning initiative. The majority of these TECs will continue to receive funding in 1995 96. By the time the initiative has ended, a total of 58 TECs will have participated. No local enterprise companies have been involved. The initiative has contributed to the development of quality assured adult careers guidance and information networks in England. Over 70,000 people will have been helped to produce personal action plans relating to their education, training and career opportunities. There are no plans to continue the initiative once current contracts have ended.

Open Learning Credits

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies are involved in the open learning credits initiative; what achievements have been made under the programme; how participation in open learning credits affects an unemployed person's eligibility for other Employment Department programmes; how many TECs and LECs will receive open learning credit funding in 1995 96; what are his future plans for the initiative; and if he will make a statement.      [15178]

Mr. Paice: The open learning credits pilots were run in 1993 94 to trial the use of open learning for unemployed people. There were 14 pilots involving 17 training and enterprise councils and two local enterprise companies. The pilots were fully evaluated and a copy of the evaluation report has been place in the Library. The findings showed that open learning has a number of potential benefits to offer. Information from the pilots will


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be disseminated to TECs and LECs to help them decide on what use they want to make of open learning as a training method within their training provision. There are no plans to fund open learning credits as a separate initiative, so the question of participants' eligibility for other Government programmes will not arise.

Skill Choice

Ms Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies are involved in the skill choice initiative; what achievements have been made under the programme; how many TECs and LECs will receive skill choice funding in 1995 96; what are his future plans for the initiative and if he will make a statement.      [15176]

Mr. Paice: Thirteen English training and enterprise councils and four local enterprise companies are involved in the two-year skill choice initiative.

Skill choice will complete its two-year programme on 31 March 1995, but existing TECs and LECs will receive funding in 1995 96 to cover residual commitments from 1994 95.

Since 1 April 1993, 170,000 individuals have been helped to obtain careers information, vocational guidance and assessment services which can lead to recognised vocational qualifications.

There are no plans to continue the initiative once current contracts have ended.

Gardening Training

Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans the Government have to encourage training in gardening so that those who are unemployed can learn the skills to manage allotments and grow their own vegetables.      [15263]

Mr. Paice: Training for work offers training to help unemployed people get back to work. If training in gardening skills is likely to help individuals find jobs, training and enterprise councils may support it. In 1995 96, we aim to help some 104,000 people into jobs through TFW.

Administration and Policy Formulation

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how much money was spent on central administration and policy formulation by his Department in 1993 94; what are the projections for (a) 1994 95 and (b) 1995 96; and if he will make a statement.      [14254]

Miss Widdecombe: Details of the Department's running costs and administrative spending for the years 1989 90 to 1997 98 are contained in annexe A, table iv of the Department's annual report, Cm 2805, copies of which are available in the Library.

Health and Safety Executive

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many senior inspectors and medical advisers retired from the Health and Safety Executive on 17 March; and for how many years in total they had worked for the executive.      [15210]

Mr. Oppenheim: Fifty-eight senior inspectors and nine medical advisers retired from the Health and Safety


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Executive on 17 March 1995 under the voluntary early retirement scheme. In total, they had 1,180 years service with HSE.

VERS is part of a long-term restructuring exercise designed to ensure that HSE has the talent and experience it needs for challenges now and in the future. No inspectors have been made redundant. A campaign to recruit 60 front-line inspectors is under way. There will be no diminution of enforcement activity.

Asbestos

Mr. Hardy: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the estimate of the likely number of deaths due to asbestos which will occur in 10, 20 and 30 years' time; and what changes those estimates represent relative to those made 10 years ago.      [14367]

Mr. Oppenheim [holding answer 20 March 1995]: The estimated number of males dying from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in 10 years' time could range between 1,300 and 2,100; in 20 years' time between 1,300 and 3,000 and in 30 years' time between 1,000 and 3,200. Projected figures for females are not available.

Currently, there are estimated to be one or two deaths from asbestos- related lung cancer for each death from mesothelioma. The falling prevalence of smoking is likely to reduce this ratio in the future.

No comparative estimates were produced 10 years ago. This is the first time that projections have been estimated using the Health and Safety Executive's mesothelioma register.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Child Support Agency

Mr. Pawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to reduce the caseload of the Belfast Child Support Agency centre as a consequence of that centre's performance against targets.

Mr. Burt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is the responsibility of the chief executive, Miss Ann Chant. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Miss Ann Chant to Mr. James Pawsey, dated 22 March 1995 :

I am replying to your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security concerning the caseload of the Child Support Agency Centres at Belfast.

The caseload, performance and targets of all six Child Support Agency Centre (CSACs) are regularly reviewed by senior operations managers. There are currently no plans to adjust the caseload holdings of Belfast or any other CSAC.

Mr. Pawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of the Child Support Agency's staff was recruited from (a) the civil service and (b) outside the civil service.

Mr. Burt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is the responsibility of the chief executive, Miss Ann Chant. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Miss Ann Chant to Mr. James Pawsey, dated 22 March 1995 :


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I am replying to your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the recruitment of staff by the Child Support Agency.

The precise information that you request is not collated by the Agency for statistical purposes. Full information on the background of staff who formed the Agency at its launch in April 1993 is not readily available, but I expect to be able to provide it within two weeks, and shall write to your further.

Information on recruitment is, however, available for the 12 month period ending 30 September 1994. During that period the Agency recruited a total of 1,847 people. Of these, 323 (17 per cent.) came from the within the Civil Service and 1,524 (83 per cent.) were recruited from outside the Civil Service.

Residential Care

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has received from nursing and residential home associations regarding proposed social security benefits rates.      [14840]

Mr. Roger Evans: We have received a few representations recently from the representative bodies, including the Yorkshire branch of the Registered Nursing Homes Association and the Hereford and Worcester branch of the Residential Care Homes Association, about the income support limits for people in residential care and nursing homes.

Mortgage Interest Payments

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what proposals he has to protect those people on Government training schemes in respect of cuts in income support for mortgage interest payments;      [14776]

(2) if he will take into account in his final plans for reduction in income support for mortgage interest the position of women who are unemployed due to pregnancy;      [14782]

(3) what proposals he has to protect those people on Government training schemes in respect of cuts in income support for mortgage interest payments.      [14882]

Mr. Roger Evans: We are considering the position of all groups during the consultation period and officials are discussing with the Association of British Insurers how best to ensure that the interaction between state and private provision works well.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what advice he has given to insurance firms in respect of mortgage protection in respect of unemployment due to pregnancy.      [14778]

Mr. Roger Evans: None, but officials are talking to the Association of British Insurers to ensure that the interaction between state and private provisions work well.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assurances he has received from the Association of British Insurers in respect of the availability of mortgage protection policies following cuts in income support.      [14777]


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Mr. Roger Evans: The Association of British Insurers has said that very few people who are accepted for a mortgage will not also satisfy the conditions for insurance and that even where insurance may not currently be available it expects cover to develop quite quickly.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to examine the Social Security Advisory Committee report of 1993 in regard to the extent of coverage by insurance companies of the whole range of workers for mortgage interest.      [14779]

Mr. Roger Evans: I have read the 1993 report by the Social Security Advisory Committee on the regulations introducing an upper limit on the amount of help with income support mortgage interest and responded to it. I also read the committee's 1994 report on state benefit and private provision, which accepted that there was scope for the expansion of private mortgage protection insurance, at the time of publication. The Government's proposals for change in relation to income support mortgage interest payments announced in the last Budget have also been referred to the committee, which is consulting widely on them. I will study in detail the report that it produces on these proposals.

Housing Benefit (Prisoners)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what representations he has received regarding his plans for reductions in housing benefit for short-sentence prisoners;      [14780]

(2) what safeguards he plans to impose to prevent released short-term prisoners from becoming homeless.      [14781]

Mr. Roger Evans: This Department has consulted the Social Security Advisory Committee and the local authority associations about proposals for restricting the payment of housing benefit to convicted prisoners to 13 weeks. We have also received a number of representations from other organisations, including the Probation Services, the Scottish Council for Single Mothers, Shelter, citizens' advice bureaux, Bury Accommodation Forum and the North West Landlords Association and from some members of the public. The amendment regulations were laid before Parliament on 10 March and come into effect from 1 April 1995.

Housing benefit will be available to prisoners serving up to 13 weeks, after allowance for any remission, and to all ex-prisoners following their release from prison who have a liability to pay rent. Where a partner remains in the home, housing benefit will continue to be available during the period of absence without restriction.

Administration and Policy Formulation

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the amount of money spent on central administration and policy formulation by his Department in 1993 94; what are the projections for (a) 1994 95 and (b) 1995 96; and if he will make a statement.      [14622]

Mr. Hague: Details of this Department's administrative spending for the years 1989 90 to 1997 98 are contained in table 1 of the Department's annual report, Cm 2813, copies of which are available in the Library.


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Invalidity Benefit

Mr. Ron Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, how many people are currently receiving invalidity benefit in each of the benefit districts in Wales; and what percentage these figures represent, by district, of the total population of working age.      [14892]

Mr. Hague: The available information is in the table.


People in receipt of invalidity benefit in the Benefits Agency                  

districts covering Wales on the last working day of February 1995,              

and as a percentage of working population                                       

                       |Number of         |Percentage of                        

                       |invalidity benefit|the working                          

District               |recipients<1>     |population<2>                        

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

North Gwent and Brecon |17,291            |-                                    

North Wales Coast      |13,766            |-                                    

South Glamorgan        |16,336            |7                                    

Gwynedd                |10,900            |7                                    

South Gwent and Islwyn |14,008            |-                                    

Mid Wales and Maelor   |10,818            |-                                    

Ogwar Afan Nedd        |22,939            |-                                    

Cynon, Merthyr and                                                              

  Rhymney Valley       |24,171            |18                                   

Swansea                |17,876            |-                                    

Taff Rhondda           |18,235            |-                                    

West Wales             |20,127            |-                                    

Notes:                                                                          

<1> Figures obtained from a 100 per cent. clerical count of cases in the        

Benefits Agency offices. The figure will include some people who have claimed   

but are not actually receiving invalidity benefit because they are in receipt   

of a higher overlapping benefit.                                                

<2> The working population has been taken to be 16 to 64 for men and 16 to 59   

for women. Estimated mid-year in 1993 population figures supplied by the        

population estimates unit, Office of Population Censuses and Survey. Figures    

have been given only where the Benefits Agency district has the same boundaries 

as the Welsh county districts.                                                  

WALES

Water Pollution

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what measures he has taken to ensure clean bathing beaches and pollution-free rivers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gwilym Jones: In 1994, 76 per cent. of the Welsh bathing waters identified under the European bathing waters directive met its mandatory bacteriological standards. The most recent survey for inland waters is for 1991 93 and shows that 86.2 per cent. of river and canal lengths in the National Rivers Authority's Welsh region are of good quality, with 11 per cent. as fair quality, 2.5 per cent. poor quality and 0.3 per cent. bad quality.

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water's investment programme for 1995 2000 involving expenditure of nearly £1 billion includes provision for further significant improvements to inland and coastal discharges. The National Rivers authority is also acting to bring about improvements to many industrial and agricultural pollution sources.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) what assessment has been made of the current level of industrial pollution in Welsh rivers and waterways;


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(2) if he will list the 10 most polluted rivers in Wales in rank order, indicating the main pollutants contaminating the water and riverbank.

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The National Rivers Authority monitors the quality of watercourses in Wales and sources of pollution. It has published "The Quality of Rivers, Canals and Estuaries in England and Wales--Report of the 1990 Survey" and "The Quality of Rivers and Canals in England and Wales (1990 92)" copies of which are in the Library of the House. Last December, the authority published interim results for 1991 93 which showed that, in its Welsh Region, 86. 2 per cent. of river and canal lengths were classed as good quality, 11 per cent. were fair quality, 2.5 per cent were poor quality and 0.3 per cent. were bad quality.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will set out the reason for the planned reduction in expenditure between the 1994 95 allocation of £6.9 million on environmentally sensitive areas and the 1995 96 plans to spend £5.5 million on environmentally sensitive areas, as set out at figure 2.01 on page 8 of Cm 2815.

Mr. Gwilym Jones: Planned domestic expenditure on environmentally sensitive areas is £5.5 million which together with planned EC expenditure of £1.4 million, gives a total of £6.9 million, the same as planned for 1994 95. the EC expenditure on this scheme is included under "Other" in the section headed "Commodity Support Measures" in figure 2.01--footnote 3 to the table refers.

Toxic Waste Imports

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what factors underlay the omission from the section on waste in his Environmental Agenda for Wales of any discussion or guidance on his policy on the import of toxic waste into Wales for treatment or incineration.

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The Environmental Agenda for Wales sets out my right hon. Friend's main objectives and priorities for the Welsh environment. It promotes practical greenery, such as energy efficiency and recycling at home and in the workplace, using reclaimed land for development, and other measures aimed at protecting the environment without stifling essential economic development. The import of waste is an international issue, which is fully covered in other Government statements, for example, a draft UK plan on imports and exports of waste was issued for consultation on 3 February.

Housing Renovation

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made in regard to the benefit that would accrue to poorer communities in Wales from an increase in the upper grant limit available to households for house renovation.      [14581]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The Welsh house condition survey 1993 estimated that 96 per cent. of unfit homes could be made fit at a cost of £15, 000 or less. The upper grant limit is £24,000 and the present arrangements ensure that grants are targeted to poorer households, Local authorities and also make discretionary awards.


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Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has had from local authorities in Wales regarding the implications for house renovation of the present cap on the total resources available for improving the housing stock.      [14580]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: Generally there has been a welcome for the £1 billion which the Government have allocated for renovation since the start of the present grant system, while some councils have indicated that they have substantial inquiries about grants.

Public Appointments

Mr. Gareth Wardell: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the posts to which he has made appointments in Wales in the last three years that have been (a) advertised and (b) not advertised.      [14404]

Mr. Redwood: All the appointments I make are listed in "Appointments by the Secretary of State for Wales", which is updated quarterly and is available in the Library of the House. Of these, in the last three years, the following posts have been advertised in the national press.


Post                                                                                         

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Chair:                         |Welsh Development Agency                                     

Independent Complaints         |Cardiff Bay Development                                      

  Administrator:               |  Corporation                                                

Chairman and members:          |Cardiff Community Healthcare                                 

                               |  NHS Trust                                                  

                               |Glan Y Mor NHS Trust                                         

                               |University Dental Hospital NHS                               

                               |  Trust                                                      

                               |University Hospital of Wales                                 

                               |  Healthcare                                                 

                               |  NHS Trust                                                  

                               |West Wales Ambulance NHS                                     

                               |  Trust                                                      

Chairman:                      |Gwent Health Authority                                       

                               |Mid and West Wales Health                                    

                               |  Authority                                                  

                               |North Wales Health Authority                                 

                               |South Glamorgan Health                                       

                               |  Authority                                                  

                               |West Glamorgan Health                                        

                               |  Authority                                                  

Also, in July 1993, the Welsh Office ran a general newspaper advertising campaign inviting people to join the Department's register of candidates for public appointment, from which the majority of appointees are selected.

Mr. Alan Williams: To aks the Secretary of State for Wales how many women are members of the boards of Welsh quangos; and what percentage this is of all members.      [14731]

Mr. Redwood: The most recent information about appointments that I make is set out in "Appointments by the Secretary of State for Wales, 1 March 1995", which is available in the Library of the House; 230 or 26.9 per cent. of these appointments were held by women. Of 189 appointments to executive non-departmental public bodies, 41 or 21.7 per cent. were held by women.


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