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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff in his Department, agencies and non-departmental public bodies receive paid leave to undertake union duties; how many days they are allocated; and what has been the cost to public funds in each of the last four years. 
|Agency/body||Full-time post allocation(65)||Approximate cost(66) £|
|Child Support Agency||28.50||551,100|
(65) This is not necessarily equivalent to the number of union officials because (i) some officials are part-time; (ii) some union posts are not filled.
(66) The figures have been calculated using average, not actual, salaries.
(67) Amounts are rounded to the nearest one hundred pounds.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total cost of his Department's website was in real terms in each of the last four years; and how many hits it received in each of those years. 
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A new DSS website was launched in August 2000 at a production cost of £183,650 for the research, design and building of the site. In December 2001 the site was rebranded for DWP and broadened to include information for the new Department at a cost of £48,193.
Web hosting and provision of web services is provided by the Department's IT contractor. However, internet services are not accounted for separately and it is not possible to disentangle the costs from overall IT services.
|No. of hits received on DSS/DWP website|
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many cases of work-related stress have been reported in his Department; how much compensation has been paid to employees; how many work days have been lost due to work-related stress, and at what cost; what procedures have been put in place to reduce work-related stress, and at what cost, in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. 
We have procedures in place in each of its businesses to enable managers and individuals to identify and report those issues which are causing uncomfortable pressure at work. The detail of the procedures differs across the businesses, but the Department is confident that each procedure follows the good practice recommended by the Health and Safety Executive. The cost of operating these procedures includes variable amounts of management and staff time, plus the costs of implementing changes and adjustments to control any identified risks. These costs are not quantifiable.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment has been made of the effect of the Working Time Directive on his Department's employees; how many employees are working in excess of 48 hours per week; what steps he is taking to reduce this number; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to improving the work-life balance of all staff, and is fully committed to implementing the provisions of the Working Time Directive. With this in mind, we are currently negotiating the detailed provisions of a collective agreement which includes measures aimed
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at minimising the numbers of staff working in excess of 48 hours per week, while maintaining operational effectiveness.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people are employed in his Department on a job share contract; and what percentage of vacant positions was advertised on this basis in the last 12 months. 
Our equal opportunities statement actively promotes and supports the use of flexible working patterns to enable those working for us to balance home and work responsibilities. Vacancies are open to people with different working patterns unless real operational needs preclude it.
Mr. McCartney: The average total cost to the Department of external consultations for the last four financial years was £27.85 million. This compares with an average of £41.65 million for the four years prior to that (199394 to 199697).
|Cost at April 2002 prices £ million|
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the target time is for housing benefit appeals to be heard by the Appeals Tribunal, from the date of application for appeal; and what the average length of time has been for appeals to be heard by the Tribunal. 
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Malcolm Wicks: The target for hearing housing benefit appeals is for the average waiting time from receipt by the Appeals Service to first hearing to be no more than 14 weeks. No target exists for the time taken prior to receipt of the appeal by the Appeals Service for local authorities to prepare the schedule of evidence and to forward the appeal to the Appeals Service.
For housing benefit appeals, the average time taken from receipt at the Appeals Service and the first hearing is 8.0 weeks. The average time between being lodged at a local authority and the first hearing is 30.2 weeks.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many appeals against local authority housing benefit decisions have been (a) lodged and (b) heard since the introduction of the new appeals system in July 2001. 
|Housing benefit||Housing/council tax benefit (combined)|
|Total case load (August 2001)(68)||3,854,000||Not available|
|Lodged at a local authority(69)||925||870|
|Number of first hearings(69)||260||190|
(68) The data refer to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple; the figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand; figures for any non-responding authorities have been estimated; housing benefit figures exclude and extended payment cases; approximately 80 per cent. of housing benefit recipients also receive council tax benefit.
Source: Housing Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent. case load stock count taken in August 2001.
(69) All figures are subject to change as more up to date data become available; figures are rounded to the nearest five; all figures are provisional.
Source: 100 per cent. download of the Generic Appeals Processing System.
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