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Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what benefits are available to
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British citizens leaving Zimbabwe to resettle in the UK because of the internal problems in that country; and if he will make a statement; 
Malcolm Wicks: Officials across government stay in very close contact about the situation in Zimbabwe. On 14 January 2002, there were 25,054 British nationals registered with the British High Commission in Zimbabwe. We do not know how many of these people may wish to remove to the United Kingdom as there is no requirement for them to inform the High
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Commission if they plan to leave Zimbabwe, or of their destination. It is not therefore possible to estimate the potential impact on the social security budget.
British citizens leaving Zimbabwe to resettle in the United Kingdom currently have the same access to benefits as any other British citizen returning from abroad. If they claim income-related benefits within two years of arrival in the United Kingdom they must demonstrate that they are habitually resident in this country, in addition to satisfying the normal conditions of entitlement.
Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the financial resources and initiatives sponsored by his Department in the last 12 months for Dorset which are additional to the Government SSA grants. 
Malcolm Wicks: The information is in the table.
|Local authority||Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit subsidy payments1 #||Anti-Fraud Incentive Scheme1 #||Discretionary Rent Allowance2 #||Discretionary Housing Payments2 #||Administration Grant #||Verification Framework3 #||Benefits Agency/local authority Joint Working Payments #|
|Weymouth & Portland||15,606,859||125,476||9,256||15,408||171,624||56,714|||
1. Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit subsidy and anti-fraud incentive scheme figures are taken from local authority mid-year estimates and are subject to change on receipt of the 200102 final claims; these claims are also subject to audit.
2. Discretionary Housing Payments replaced Discretionary Rent Allowance from 1 July 2001.
3. Verification Framework figures are for on-going funding only, no payments for set-up costs were made to these local authorities in 200102.
Anti-Fraud Incentive Scheme: quarterly Weekly Benefit Savings/WIB5 returns.
Discretionary Rent Allowance: DWP circular HB/CTB S3/2001.
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP): DHP Estimate Forms.
Administration Grant: DWP circular HB/CTB A4/2001.
Verification Framework: DWP circular HB/CTB A4/2001.
Benefits Agency/local authority Joint Working Payments: DWP Counter Fraud Investigation Branch (Joint Working Unit).
Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to (a) abolish, (b) reform and (c) freeze non-dependent deductions for housing benefit and council tax benefit. 
Malcolm Wicks: For 200203, for the second year running, we are freezing the levels of non-dependant deductions while uprating the qualifying income thresholds. I also refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 14 November 2001, Official Report, column 787W.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason no devolved administration Minister attended the 2415 European Union Council of Ministers (Employment and Social Policy) meeting on 7 March; which particular suggestions or matters of concern from the Scottish Executive were raised in their absence by the UK Government delegation; and what information is being provided by his Department to guarantee effective post-council scrutiny by the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding reply 19 March 2002]: The composition of the UK delegation to specific Council of Ministers meetings is decided in accordance with the Concordat on the Co-ordination of EU Policy Issues.
For information about the meeting on 7 March I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 20 March to the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Jimmy Hood). Post-council scrutiny by the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament is a matter for that Parliament and for the Scottish Executive. Reports of Council meetings are available to Scottish Executive officials and officials stand ready to provide other information in line with the provisions of the Concordat.
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the extent of job sharing in his Department. 
Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 26 February 2002, Official Report, column 1261W.
Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason housing benefit statistics produced by his Department exclude extended payment cases. 
Malcolm Wicks: Extended payments of Housing Benefit were introduced in 1996 and are available when an Income Support or an income-based Jobseeker's Allowance claim ends due to a person starting work (or increasing their hours and/or earnings) which is expected to last at least five weeks. They can be paid for four weeks and remove the uncertainty faced by many people about whether they will be able to pay their rent and council tax between the last payment of benefit and receipt of their first wages.
As these claims are a fixed period award of Housing Benefit for up to four weeks they were originally excluded from all Housing Benefit statistics to make sure they did not inflate or distort the figures. They were, however, collected for internal use and they have been included in a footnote to tables in the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Quarterly Summary Statistics since November 1999.
Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 13 February 2002, Official Report, column 500W, on the departmental expenditure limit, to the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Fleetwood, what aspects of the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit appeals have been transferred to the Lord Chancellor's Department. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Lord Chancellor's Department has responsibility for the Social Security Commissioners. From 2 July 2001 people can appeal against a Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit decision to an independent appeal tribunal administered by the Appeals Service. A further appeal against the decision of these tribunals can be made to the Social Security Commissioners. Funds were transferred to the Lord Chancellor's Department to cover the costs of administering these appeals.
Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if attendance allowance will be paid to claimants who are recipients of the free care for the elderly scheme due to be introduced by the Scottish Executive; and if he will make a statement. 
Maria Eagle: Attendance Allowance is intended to provide a contribution towards the extra costs faced by severely disabled people as a result of their disabilities.
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In accordance with the Great Britain-wide rules which aim to avoid duplicate provision, Attendance Allowance is not paid to people living in residential care homes or nursing homes who receive financial helpwhich includes the provision of free personal carewith their placement from public funds.
Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what performance targets are in place relating to the handling of complaints and inquiries to the Child Benefit Centre at Washington, Tyne and Wear. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Child Benefit Centre has performance targets for the handling of complaints and enquiries. These are published in the Child Benefit Centre's Statement of Service. The aim is to answer all complaints, whether verbal or written within seven working days. Enquiries by letter will normally be answered within 10 working days.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under what circumstances (a) two pensioners of the same sex living at the same address and (b) two pensioners of different sexes living at the same address would separately be entitled to claim the proposed pension credit. 
Malcolm Wicks: There will be no provision for two members of the same sex to claim Pension Credit jointly.
Residence at the same address will not be the sole factor in deciding whether two pensioners of different sex should claim Pension Credit separately or jointly. Rather, of particular importance is the nature of their relationship and whether or not they were living together as husband and wife in a single household unit within that building. Each case will be considered on its individual merits, in the same way as for Minimum Income Guarantee now.
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