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Mr. Nicholls: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list those spouses of Ministers who within the last year have stayed as guests at the British (a) Embassy and (b) Residence in Lisbon when not accompanied by their Minister spouses; and if he will give the duration of the stay in each case. 
Mr. Vaz [holding answer 18 July 2000]: The only unaccompanied ministerial spouse to stay at the Residence in Lisbon during the last year was my wife, Maria Fernandes, who stayed for one night on 26 June before the EU-India Business Summit on 27 June. As Minister for Europe, I had planned to attend the Summit but was forced to cancel owing to other ministerial duties. Ms Fernandes attended the Summit in her own right as a Member of the Council of the Law Society for Ethnic Minorities and met her own travel expenses to and from the Summit.
Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the Government have taken to ensure that people who are partially sighted claim their entitled discount on their TV licence; and if he will make a statement. 
The 50 per cent. reduction in the television licence fee which the Government introduced on 1 April this year is available to all registered blind people. Statutory responsibility for the administration of the television licensing system, including concessions, rests with the BBC. I understand that the BBC's agent, TV Licensing, is
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including details of the concession in letters that are being sent to every household about free television licences for the over-75s. Additional leaflets have also been produced, with audio and Braille versions. Other promotional activity includes local radio trails, information on the BBC's Website and liaison with community links and outreach centres. The BBC has liaised with the Royal National Institute for the Blind on the subject of this concession and Post Office Counters staff have been informed of it.
Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners in the Carlisle constituency received Winter Fuel Payments in (a) 1998-99 and (b) 1999-2000; and how much was paid in total in each of those years. 
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the total amount spent on Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments to pensioners in Warrington, North constituency for each year since 1979. 
Angela Eagle [holding answer 26 June 2000]: The administration of Cold Weather and Winter Fuel Payments is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to my hon. Friend.
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|Estimated number of qualifiers||Total expenditure (£)|
(1) Three periods of cold weather were triggered at Ringway weather station in 1995-96
(1) One period of cold weather triggered at Crosby weather station in 1996-97
1. The figures provided are rounded to the nearest £1,000
2. No data are held for periods prior to 1995-96
3. Figures for estimated qualifiers include non-pensioners.
4. An estimate of the number of pensioners among the estimated qualifiers is not available.
5. No periods of cold weather have triggered at either station since 1996-97.
6. All Postcode areas served by the weather stations are detailed in Schedule 1 of the Social Fund Cold Weather payments (General) Regulations.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many valid Winter Fuel Payment claims for the years (a) 1997, (b) 1998 and (c) 1999 are outstanding; and when he expects all these payments to be completed. 
Angela Eagle: Under the original Winter Fuel Payment scheme, before changes in light of the European Court of Justice ruling on 'Taylor', Winter Fuel Payments were made automatically to those entitled. Claims were not required. All payments for last winter were made before Christmas 1999.
However, in light of the changes, those who are now eligible to Winter Fuel Payments must make a claim for payments for any of the past winters if they think they are eligible (1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000).
We are currently processing these claims and payments for past winters are being made just as soon as the claims are determined. The first payments were issued in the week commencing 26 June 2000 and our current plan is that all payments should be issued by the end of September.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 25 May 2000, Official Report, column 618W, how many people were denied Winter Fuel Payments because they were in temporary respite care from 20 to 26 September 1999; what the cost would be of paying them Winter Fuel Payments; and for what reason the revisions to regulations were not applied in respect of such people. 
Angela Eagle: The information is not available in the format requested. Under the original Winter Fuel Payment scheme people living in residential care or nursing homes who received Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance were not eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment (unless they were a member of a couple admitted temporarily while their partner remained in the family home). This provision was made on the basis that people in such situations were already receiving public assistance with their care costs--which includes heating.
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However, in the light of representations highlighting some difficult cases, we changed the eligibility conditions of the scheme. The new provision means that people getting Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and living in residential care or nursing homes for a temporary period 1 are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment based on their usual household circumstances.
The Social Fund legislation was amended in time to take effect for this coming winter's payments. We have no power to make regulations retrospectively therefore the changes cannot apply to previous winters.
Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what, in each European Union country, the (a) average pensioner income and (b) average state pension, is on a comparable basis; and what each of these figures was at the beginning of 1997. 
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