Mr. Paterson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if VAT default surcharges will be imposed on VAT liabilities subject to time to pay arrangements introduced in response to the foot and mouth outbreak. 
3 Apr 2001 : Column: 154W
Dawn Primarolo: Customs and Excise will deal sympathetically with all businesses who are seriously affected by the foot and mouth outbreak. Where this results in a time to pay arrangement to discharge outstanding VAT liabilities, default surcharges will not be imposed during the term of the agreement.
Mr. Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Inland Revenue will complete its benchmarking of the level of fraud within Working Families Tax Credit and Disabled Person's Tax Credit; and if he will place a copy of the results in the Library. 
Dawn Primarolo: The benchmarking exercise currently under way to determine the level of fraud within Working Families Tax Credit and Disabled Person's Tax Credit is expected to be completed by early next year.
Mr. Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (a) investigations of fraudulent claims, (b) prosecutions of fraudulent claimants and (c) penalties for fraudulent claimants have been made in respect of the Working Families Tax Credit. 
Dawn Primarolo: Up to the end of February 2001, approximately 29,250 inquiries have been opened in respect of Working Families Tax Credit applications, and approximately 250 penalties have been levied. Up to the end of March 2001, there have been 15 prosecutions in respect of Working Families Tax Credit.
Mr. Andrew Smith: The offer for sale of 51 per cent. of the equity in Partnerships UK closed on 27 March 2001 and was oversubscribed. The successful institutions have been informed of their individual allocations and I will be making a further announcement shortly.
Dawn Primarolo: Since May 1997, £2,000 has been spent on external graphic design work relating to the Treasury corporate crest logo. Most issues concerning the corporate logo are dealt with in-house by the Treasury's publishing unit and the costs are minimal.
3 Apr 2001 : Column: 155W
Mr. Chope: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list by Valuation Office area the number of proposals to alter the 2000 rating list which have yet to be determined and the last date on which the programme is targeted for completion. 
Appeals made by 30 September 2000 are programmed to be dealt with by 31 March 2003. Some appeals made since 1 October 2000 to date are also programmed into this period and the remainder are planned to be dealt with in 2003-04.
|Valuation Office areas
Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what specific support his Department has provided to coalmining communities since 1997 by (a) region and (b) social security district. 
3 Apr 2001 : Column: 156W
We now have the lowest unemployment rate in 25 years. The New Deals are helping lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, the over-50s and partners of the unemployed to move from benefit into work. In the period since May 1997 the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance nationally has reduced from 1,562,400 to 960,600; and the number of lone parents who claim Income Support has decreased from 1,013,500 to 894,100 nationally.
Older people are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty. So we have introduced Winter Fuel Payments to help with their heaviest bill. This winter, the payment is £200 for households who qualify. Around 11 million older people nationally have received a Winter Fuel Payment for this winter.
To demonstrate our commitment to combating pensioner poverty, this year we will spend £4.5 billion extra in real terms on pensioners. Over 10 million pensioners nationally will benefit from the substantial increases in the basic State pension this April and next; this year's increase is £5 a week for single pensioners and £8 for couples. In addition we have introduced free TV licences for the over-75s of whom we estimate there are over 4 million nationally. Around 1.7 million pensioner families nationally are receiving the Minimum Income Guarantee, which we introduced in April 1999 to help our poorest pensioners. From April they will be at least £15 a week, or £800 a year, better off in real terms as a result of Government measures since 1997.
Other reforms in the pipeline include: the new Pension Credit in 2003 designed to ensure that pensioners benefit from their savings; the launch of Stakeholder Pensions in April this year; and the introduction of the State Second Pension in April 2002 both of which will help provide greater security for tomorrow's pensioners.
3 Apr 2001 : Column: 157W
received on the length of time taken to process applications for Housing Benefit; and if he will make a statement. 
Although Housing Benefit administration is the statutory responsibility of local authorities, we are determined to help under-performing authorities to improve standards and build on best practice. Our strategy for reforming Housing Benefit was set out in "Quality and Choice: A decent home for all--The way forward for housing" published in December 2000. Our priority is to work with local authorities to improve administration, drive out fraud and error and promote work incentives.
Raising standards of administration is the biggest challenge facing Housing Benefit today. That is why we have set up the Expert Help Team, bringing together advice and support from experienced local authority managers, the Department's staff and external consultants.