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Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of increasing Child Benefit and the Family Premium in Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit by (a) £10, (b) £20 and (c) £30 for each family in which there is at least one child aged three or under. [1566]

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Malcolm Wicks: The information requested is in the table.

Proposed increase£ million


1. Expenditure is based on the caseload given by the February 2001 Child Benefit administrative data.

2. The cost is for one year.

3. The figure is rounded to the nearest £50 million.

Exchange Trading Schemes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice his Department offers to individual officers on how to treat benefit claimants who are also engaging in local exchange trading schemes. [1353]

Malcolm Wicks: Guidance for Benefits Agency staff on the treatment of people engaging in local exchange trading schemes is contained in the "Decision Maker's Guide", a copy of which is in the Library.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his policy is on the granting of Jobseeker's Allowance to jobseekers with temporary national insurance numbers. [1126]

Malcolm Wicks: If a person does not have a national insurance number and makes a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance, their local Benefits Agency office should invite them to attend an evidence of identity interview and complete the relevant documentation for the allocation of a national insurance number to be considered. Provided the person's identity can be verified their claim for Jobseeker's Allowance will be treated in the normal way.

Temporary national insurance numbers are designed only for use by employers who send their returns to the Inland Revenue electronically, and do not know a new employee's national insurance number.

Housing Benefit

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of council house occupiers are claiming Housing Benefit in Stockton, South; and how many people in Stockton, South in total are claiming Housing Benefit. [1092]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested as Housing Benefit data for the parliamentary constituency of Stockton, South are not available. Such information as is available is as follows.

At February 2001, a total of 12,800 people were claiming Housing Benefit in Stockton on Tees borough council, 8,600 of whom were local authority tenants.

Information on the number local authority tenancies in existence in each authority is not collected by central Government.

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to reform Housing Benefit in respect of amalgamating the tax and benefit systems. [1085]

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Malcolm Wicks: Our long-term aim is to make structural changes to Housing Benefit and its interaction with the tax system. The final design of Pension Credit and the new tax credits, and how they will interact with Housing Benefit, will be set out in due course.

However, our immediate priority is to continue to improve the administration of the current Housing Benefit scheme.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average length of time is for a Housing Benefit application to be processed, broken down by local authority. [933]

Malcolm Wicks: From April 2000, local authorities in England and Wales have been collecting data against best value performance indicators for the speed, accuracy, cost and security of their Housing Benefit services. Analogous performance indicators have been set by the Accounts Commission for Scottish authorities.

The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions expects to publish this summer unaudited and estimated data for 2000–01 against all best value performance indicators in respect of English authorities. Final results will be published once this provisional data have been fully analysed.

Prior to the introduction of best value, the Audit Commission collected data for the last six months of 1999–2000 on the average length of time taken by English and Welsh authorities to process new Housing Benefit claims. This information is set out in two reports: "Local Authority Performance Indicators 1999–2000—Council Services Compendium For England", published on 10 January 2001, a copy of which is in the Library; and "Local Authority Performance Indicators In Wales, 1999–2000", published on 26 March 2001.

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason Working Families Tax Credit is taken into account in full when calculating Housing Benefit. [1089]

Malcolm Wicks: Housing Benefit (HB) is an income- related benefit and most types of income are generally taken fully into account when calculating entitlement. This applies equally to the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), which is intended to help meet ordinary living costs. To disregard WFTC when calculating HB entitlement would result in double provision from the Government for the same basic living costs.

However, limited situations exist where WFTC is partly disregarded in the assessment of HB. People who work 30 hours a week or more and who have children may get a partial disregard of WFTC if their earnings are very low. In addition, people with relevant child care costs which cannot be fully met from earnings can have the balance of those costs disregarded.

Pensioner Poverty

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) of 25 June 2001, Official Report, column 35W, on pensioner poverty, if he will set out how the Government have ensured that no pensioner has to live on less than £92.15 a week. [1560]

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Mr. McCartney: The significant increase in the Minimum Income Guarantee and the increase in the lower and upper capital limits in April together with our successful publicity campaign ensure that no pensioner has to live on less than £92.15 a week. We will continue to work in partnership with the voluntary sector and local authorities to find ways of identifying and encouraging those who are likely to benefit from the Minimum Income Guarantee to claim.

Working Age/Pensioner Organisations

Kali Mountford; To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the new organisations for people of working age and pensioners will be established. [2393]

Mr. Darling: The Government are establishing a new business for people of working age, Jobcentre Plus, and a new service for pensions and pensioners, the Pension Service.

Jobcentre Plus will bring together the Employment Service with the working age part of the Benefits Agency to deliver a single, integrated service to people of working age and employers. The Pension Service will provide a unified, better and more modern service for today's and tomorrow's pensioners.

The first Jobcentre Plus offices will be launched in the autumn. Beyond that, we intend that Jobcentre Plus and the Pension Service will formally come into existence as national organisations from 1 April 2002. The Benefits Agency and the Employment Service will therefore cease to exist at the end of this financial year on 31 March 2002.

Age Discrimination

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what evidence he has about the impact of age discrimination in restricting employment opportunities; and if he will make a statement. [259]

Mr. McCartney: There is a wealth of UK and European research which has tried to measure the effect of age discrimination, but it is difficult to give a robust statistical analysis of its extent and impact. Research is inevitably based on people's own perceptions of employment related age discrimination. Initial findings from the evaluation of the code of practice on age diversity in employment indicate:

These initial findings were published in March in "Age Diversity: Summary of Research Findings", copies of which are in the House Library.

The Government are continuing to promote vigorously age diversity in the workplace through the age positive campaign, which highlights the business benefits of an age diverse work force. This includes: three national and regional awards initiatives, which serve to publicise and reward achievements and examples of good practice; direct mail campaigns targeting selected industry sectors; and the placing of articles in trade sector and regional

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press. Later this year we are launching an age diversity website, which will provide information and guidance and include a discussion forum.

As part of the work on taking forward the development of clear and effective employment legislation on age by 2006, the Government have set up an age advisory group of key social partners to help in identifying the issues that need to be addressed. The group, which includes representatives from the CBI, TUC, Age Concern, CIPD and Employers Forum on Age, will also be offering advice on further ways of achieving the changes in culture that will contribute to the success of tackling age discrimination.

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