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Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the average number of days taken to process new Housing Benefit applications was in each local authority in (a) 1997, (b) 1998 and (c) 1999. 
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the number of people in each client group who have been found to have submitted invalid claims for Housing Benefit under the verification framework since its introduction. 
Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what contingency funds have been made available to local Social Fund budgets in areas affected by the recent flooding; and if he will make a statement. 
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Angela Eagle: The discretionary social fund holds a contingency reserve, to reimburse Benefits Agency districts for any payments they make as a result of an accident or disaster that occurs in their vicinity.
The first payment from the reserve, as a result of the flooding, has been made today to the Community Care Grant budget held by the Bradford and Keighley District. Applications are expected from a number of other districts over the next few weeks and months as people return to their homes. Details of all further payments made during this financial year will be placed in the Library of the House at the beginning of April 2001.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for the last three financial years, (a) how much was recovered in benefits by the Corporate Recovery Unit, (b) in how many cases has benefit recovered, (c) what were (i) the amounts and (ii) number of cases in relation to (a) and (b), under each prescribed occupational disease; and if he will make a statement. 
The amount recovered is in respect of benefits already paid to the claimant in consequence of their accident, injury or illness and is recovered direct from the compensator, and never from the claimant.
The information requested is given in the tables. It should be noted that the description of the disease as recorded by the Compensation Recovery Unit may not match exactly the precise description of the disease as recorded for Industrial Injuries Scheme benefits purposes.
|Period||Number of cases recovered||Amount recovered (£)|
|April 1997 to March 1998||6,931||166,906,114|
|April 1998 to March 1999||6,512||201,468,600|
|April 1999 to March 2000||7,088||202,105,188|
|April 2000 to November 2000||8,883||129,976,638|
|Description||Number of cases||Amount recovered (£)|
|April 1997 to March 1998|
|Non Coded Disease||173||1,521,676.32|
|April 1998 to March 1999|
|Bilateral Pleural Thickening||6||62,121.84|
|Degenerative Disc Condition||3||20,072.35|
|Non Coded Disease||168||1,713,162.14|
|March 1999 to March 2000|
|Bilateral Pleural Thickening||15||125,369.97|
|Degenerative Disc Condition||7||20,517.76|
|Non Coded Disease||108||1,113,732.70|
|April 2000 to November 2000|
|Bilateral Pleural Thickening||11||74,879.50|
|Degenerative Disc Condition||5||53,422.51|
|Non Coded Disease||41||430,722.32|
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Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what level of co-operation exists between the UK, other member states and third countries on fisheries control and enforcement. 
Mr. Morley: There is extensive co-operation between enforcement authorities in the UK and those of other member states and third countries. Such co-operation is important to ensure the effective application of measures designed to conserve fish stocks. Examples of co-operation involving enforcement authorities in the UK over the last 12 months include:
Ms Quin: All of the research projects into TSEs currently funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are listed in the "Research" section of the MAFF website (www.maff.gov.uk/research). The current costs and organisations involved are also given. In addition, the current and past projects are listed in each update of the BSE progress report; again with the organisations involved. All of the projects receiving UK public funds are listed on the MRC website (www.mrc.ac.uk). By the new year this site will also include summaries of the aims of all of the projects.
Mr. Efford: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who has responsibility for coordinating his research programme for BSE; and if he will make a statement on what progress has been made to date. 
Ms Quin: The research programme into BSE and related diseases is co-ordinated by the head of the TSE Research and Surveillance Unit who reports to the head of the Animal Health and Environment Directorate. The unit was formed in December 1999 to bring together the management of TSE research and strategic aspects of TSE surveillance. The main research aim of the unit has been to implement the recommendations of a SEAC sub-group on research and surveillance on TSEs in sheep. The unit has commissioned new and updated animal accommodation to house this research. An Open Competition (the TSE Research Requirement's document)
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was held to advertise for new research projects. As a result of this, contracts have been issued for four new projects and a further 27 are under negotiation for funding. A list of the TSE research projects currently funded by MAFF is given on the Research section of the MAFF website (www.maff.gov.uk/research).
Ms Quin [holding answer 11 December 2000]: The European Commission has undertaken an evaluation of a number of rapid BSE tests. Three tests were found to perform well in the evaluation exercise in 1999 and have been adopted by other EU countries to test for BSE in slaughtered bovines. These are tests developed by Prionics, Enfer Scientific and CEA. These are in addition to the more traditional, less rapid tests of histopathology, immunocytochemistry and, electronmicroscopy for scrapie associated fibrils.
Mrs. Browning: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the dates the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee considered each of the post mortem tests being used in other EU countries to detect BSE in bovines; and if he will place the reports of the their findings in the Library. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 11 December 2000]: SEAC has not formally considered any of the post mortem tests used in the EU. However the EC has conducted independent validation of a number of tests submitted. Three tests are now recognised by member states and a further six are currently undergoing validation.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the current tests available to detect the presence of BSE in (a) living and (b) carcases of, bovine subjects; and if he will make a statement on their unit costs and reliability and practicality for mass screening programmes. 
The European Commission has undertaken an evaluation of a number of the more rapid BSE tests. Three of these tests were found to provide good results in terms of sensitivity and specificity in comparison with histopathology. These three tests may now be used by member states in mass screening programmes.
Test kits are available for unit costs of between approximately £20 and £50 but the costs of collection of samples, identification, handling, transport and examination have to be added to the unit costs. The unit costs may well fall as the tests become more widely used.
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