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16 Dec 2002 : Column 621W—continued

Social Fund

Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to reform the Social Fund; and if he will make a statement. [82078]

Malcolm Wicks: The Social Fund plays an important role in our agenda for tackling poverty and social exclusion by providing people on low incomes with grants and interest-free loans to help them manage a wide range of unexpected or occasional costs.

We have introduced a number of important changes to the Social Fund since 1997, including a simpler and more transparent claims process. In the PBR, we announced that from April 2003, #90 million will be added to the discretionary Fund over the three years to 2005–06. Also from next April, a further #15 million will be available for the funeral payment scheme, increasing the amount allowed for unspecified funeral expenses from #600 to #700. This extra investment will bring the total amount of cash available through the Social Fund to around 900 #million and enhance the Fund's ability to help people on low incomes manage their finances.

We also aim to improve the administration of the Social Fund and have announced that further work on this will be taken forward in conjunction with the Treasury.

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Statistics (Privileged Access)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the series of statistics to which his Department has privileged access prior to publication. [86732]

Mr. McCartney: We have pre-release access to statistical series produced within the department and to the following National Statistics released by other government departments:

The Department was also given early access to the 2001 population census results. On some occasions the Department has had access to the redistribution of income series produced by the Office for National Statistics. It may also be involved in quality assurance of statistical series produced by other departments before they are finalised and published.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

Mr. John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) couple families with children and (b) one parent families he estimates will be passported to the Sure Start maternity grant in Leeds West, under the new tax credit scheme. [83480]

Malcolm Wicks: Information on eligibility for Sure Start Maternity Grants by family type is not available, either at local or national level.

From April 2003, Sure Start Maternity Grants will be available to families in receipt of Child Tax Credit at a rate greater than the family element (#545/year or #1090 for families with a child under the age of one), or Working Tax Credit where a disabled worker is included in the assessment.

It is estimated that nationally there will be around 250,000 awards of Sure Start Maternity Grants in 2003–04 under the new rules. This compares with 201,000 in 2001–02. Around 25,000 of the additional successful claims will be due to the link to the new tax credits.

Victims of Crime

Mr. Heald : To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department concerning the protection of new identities of victims of crime. [87160]

Mr. McCartney: While there have been no recent discussions between the two Departments, arrangements do exist for additional protection to be applied to the records, held by the Department for Work and Pensions, of certain individuals at risk when requested by the Home Office.

Requests for additional protection from individuals at particular risk are also considered.

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Winter Fuel Payment

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate how many people became newly entitled for the 2002–03 winter fuel payment and who needed to make a claim before 20 September in order to receive their payment before Christmas but failed to do so; and what the value was of such payments. [87600]

Mr. McCartney: We estimate that for winter 2002–03, there could be around 500,000 people newly entitled to a winter fuel payment. Some 250,000 of these are being paid automatically but others, who are not in receipt of certain benefits, will need to claim.

By 20 September 2002, around 170,000 claim forms had been received, although some of these may have been from people entitled to an automatic payment. By the end of November, about a further 35,000 claims had been received.

It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the value of unclaimed winter fuel payments because the amount due depends on the composition of the household. It is up to an individual, where a claim is necessary, to decide whether or not to make that claim.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate how many single (a) women and (b) men in 2002 will reach the age of 60 years after the qualifying week for winter fuel payment eligibility, but before 25 December. [87601]

Mr. McCartney: It is estimated that around 18,000 single women will attain the age of 60 after the qualifying week (16 to 22 September) and before 25 December 2002 in Great Britain.

It is estimated that around 13,000 single men will attain the age of 60 after the qualifying week (16 to 22 September) and before 25 December 2002 in Great Britain.



Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office to which bodies the Cabinet Office makes appointments; how many members there are (a) in total and (b) in each body; and how many of those appointed are (i) businessmen, (ii) businessmen in SMEs and (iii) businessmen in micro-businesses. [87387]

Mr. Alexander: The Cabinet Office has published information on public bodies and appointments to them in XPublic Bodies 2001". Copies of this publication may be found in the House Libraries. It gives details on the number of members in total, for each body and a breakdown by gender.

There is no requirement to collect data and analyse how many of the appointees are businessmen and of different sized businesses. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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Better Regulation Task Force

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many times the Better Regulation Task Force has met in the last year; what allowances from public funds are made available to members of the Better Regulation Task Force; and what the cost has been since the task force was established. [87608]

Mr. Alexander: There were 10 meetings of the Better Regulation Task Force during the past year. Members of the task force are unpaid, but can claim reasonable travel and subsistence expenses. Before July 1999, when a dedicated support team was established, the administrative costs for the task force were met from within the budget of the Regulatory Impact Unit (and its predecessor) in the Cabinet Office. It is not possible to identify the specific costs within this overall budget. But over the period from July 1999 to the end of November 2002, the administrative and running costs of the task force, covering staff salaries, printing and publication costs etc., have totalled approximately #1,422,000.

Civil Servants and Spending

Chris Ruane: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many civil servants are employed by his Department; and how much money was spent by his Department in the last 12 months, broken down by local authority area. [87178]

Mr. Alexander: The data are not available in the format requested, except at disproportionate cost. Data for the number of civil servants in the major Departments are published in Table D of Civil Service Statistics, copies of which are laid in the Libraries of both Houses. The latest information, for April 2001, was published in June this year. The remaining information is available for the Government Office Regions of Great Britain.

Ministerial Engagements

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many engagements were undertaken outside London (a) by him or his predecessor and (b) by Ministers in the Cabinet Office in January (i) 2000, (ii) 2001 and (iii) 2002. [87433]

Mr. Alexander: Since 1999 this Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing #500 or more during each financial year. The Government have also published on an annual basis the cost of all Ministers' visits overseas. Copies of the lists are available in the Libraries of the House.

Detailed information requested in respect of UK travel is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

All travel is undertaken fully in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

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