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Mr. Meacher: Our energy crops scheme provides grants to encourage planting of short-rotation coppice (SRC) and miscanthus, and setting up SRC producer groups. Early uptake in the scheme depends on the markets created by projects funded under the non-fossil fuels obligation and six projects utilising energy crops have potential to make progress. Just over 230 hectares of energy crops have been planted under the scheme this year and we have two applications for producer group
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funding. We are working closely with industry and others to develop electricity and heat markets and promote uptake. A good example of this is the community renewables initiative announced by the Countryside Agency on 9 July which will stimulate community based partnerships to develop renewable energy, including energy crops, in their localities.
Alun Michael [holding answer 3 July 2001]: Officials met the director of the Soil Association and senior colleagues on 21 June. The meeting was primarily an opportunity for the Soil Association to brief the Department on recent initiatives and activities. We warmly welcome continuing contacts of this sort.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the impact of investment in (a) insulation and other energy efficiency measures in the home and (b) expansion of the gas network on (i) reducing greenhouse gas emissions, (ii) alleviating fuel poverty, (iii) upgrading housing stock and (iv) the creation of jobs. 
Mr. Meacher: Government investment in domestic energy efficiency in this year will be around £190 million. In addition this year, local authorities plan to spend about £1.7 billion on capital works to their housing stock, some of which will contribute to improving energy efficiency.
It is estimated that the new home energy efficiency scheme, the Government's main programme for tackling fuel poverty in England, will save 0.2 million tonnes of carbon per year and treat a target of 800,000 homes over the period from 200004.
A recent report by the Energy Saving Trust, which looked at seven schemes, estimated that for every £1 million of expenditure in energy efficiency, including private investment, between 10 and 58 jobs are directly created.
The Government are very aware of the potentially valuable contribution which the extension of the gas network could make to tackling all of these issues. It has set up a working group with representatives from Government, Ofgem, the gas industry and consumer bodies to look at the feasibility of extending the gas network where it is viable to do so. This group is not due to report until October and no decisions have yet been taken on investment.
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The Prime Minister: Lord Falconer of Thornton, Minister of State in the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, has responsibility for the rough sleepers unit. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the same Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble), answers on the subject in this House.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 3 July 2001, Official Report, column 93W, on voting systems, if it is his policy to hold a formal review of the voting systems for the Scottish Parliament, the
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Welsh Assembly, the European Parliament, and the London Assembly within the lifetime of this Parliament; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister: The overriding criterion I apply in recommending Labour working peers is that the individual concerned should be able to make a significant contribution to the work of the House of Lords.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 5 July 2001, Official Report, column 269W, on hospital downrating, how many people would benefit in each case. 
|Retirement pension||Incapacity benefit||Severe disablement allowance|
|Estimated numbers benefiting from abolition of 652 weeks downrating||21,000||7,000||14,000|
|Estimated numbers benefiting from abolition of over 52 weeks downrating||11,000||3,000||10,000|
|Total number of beneficiaries||31,000||11,000||25,000|
1. Caseload estimates source: 5 per cent. from the relevant computer systems in 2000.
2. Numbers rounded to the nearest 1,000.
3. Numbers may not sum due to rounding.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) on what criteria persons will be (a) selected for triennial screening for Incapacity Benefit, (b) passed for continued receipt and (c) rejected for future claims; 
(3) what the proposed timetable and arrangements are for (a) consultation and (b) implementation of changes in Incapacity Benefit; 
(4) what consultations took place, and on what dates, with disability organisations before the announcement of Government plans for Incapacity Benefit on 4 July; 
(5) what categories of disabled persons will be exempt from the requirement for triennial screening for Incapacity Benefit; 
(6) what the cost of triennial screening for Incapacity Benefit will be (a) per individual case and (b) in total annual expenditure. 
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what consultation he had with groups representing disabled people prior to his announcement of his plans to reform Incapacity Benefit. 
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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Incapacity Benefit reviews were undertaken in each of the last five years; and what is his estimate of the annual additional number of reviews that will be undertaken once his plans for reviews every three years are fully implemented. 
Mr. Darling [holding answer 9 and 10 July 2001]: The Government are committed to ensuring there is full employment and opportunity for all. This means we must extend the necessary help and support to all people of working age who are out of the labour market.
In the past, many people were moved onto Incapacity Benefit with limited help to make sure that they got the right level of support. There was no help to get people into work, nor any support or rehabilitation. Yet as the Disability Rights Commission has said, one million disabled people say they would like to work. We have a duty to help them to do so.
From October, the first pathfinder offices of jobcentre plus will open to strengthen the services available to help people back to work. It will be a condition of benefit in these offices that all new IB claimants attend a work focused interview to discuss what options people have around work and inform them of the help available. I can announce today that regulations under the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 will be laid before both Houses in the autumn. These will include a provision that no one should go more than three years without a review of their circumstances and an interview unless there are good reasons, such as the state of their health. The regulation will set out how these reviews will be implemented. Each case will be looked at on an individual basis: a further work focused interview and/or personal capability assessment will be carried out where appropriate. All new IB claimants will be affected by these changes and will be told they are subject to the regular review, initially in the 50 pathfinder sites but then rolled out nationally.
At present, cases are looked at again if their medical condition is expected to improve. But some categories of case are exempt from medical testing. The changes I am announcing today do not change these exemptions. However, they will ensure that there is a review at least every three years to make sure people are getting all the help they need.
I will publish an explanatory memorandum when the regulations are laid which will be placed in the Library of both Houses. We will also discuss with groups representing disabled people the precise administrative arrangements that will underpin the regulations. Operational information will become available when the pathfinder offices open.
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