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Housing Benefit (Rent Restrictions)

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of total housing benefit expenditure on private accommodation used for housing families in temporary accommodation in 2001–02. [91691]

Malcolm Wicks: The March 2002 report, "More than a roof" and the Government's response to it set out a challenging new approach to tackling homelessness. Specific measures include changes to Housing Benefit (HB) rules worth around £10 million to boost incentives for private sector leasing by local authorities.

HB expenditure for temporary accommodation is recorded where the accommodation is arranged by or through the Council. However, expenditure is not identified separately where a homeless person finds his/her board and lodging accommodation or where the council has no licensed or short-term lease accommodation available. Therefore it is not possible to reliably estimate total HB expenditure on private accommodation used for housing families in temporary accommodation in 2001–02.

Local Housing Allowance

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the Government's plans are to introduce a standard local housing allowance to replace housing benefit; when the plan's changes will be introduced throughout the UK; and in which areas the reforms are being piloted. [97318]

Malcolm Wicks: The Standard Local Housing Allowances (SLHA) will provide a better, quicker service based on simpler, clearer rules. It will allow people to know in advance what housing benefit support they will receive, promote choice and personal responsibility, and bridge the gap between benefit and work by allowing tenants to budget for their own rent.

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Details of our proposals are in the prospectus,"Building Choice and Responsibility: a radical agenda for Housing Benefit", a copy of which is in the Library.

We will be piloting the SLHA in 10 pathfinder local authorities (Blackpool, Brighton and Hove, Conwy, Coventry, Edinburgh, Leeds, Lewisham, Middlesbrough, North East Lincolnshire and Teignbridge). All 10 local authorities have accepted our invitation to participate in the pilot, based on our commitment to meet all reasonable costs. The scheme will be based on local reference rents and these local authorities were selected to reflect a wide range of housing market conditions, including areas with high value rented properties.

Extension of SLHA throughout the rest of the country will depend on the results of our evaluation of the pilot scheme.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to provide an alternative method to people to drawing their pension in person, when they suffer from sudden illness, from April. [100564]

Malcolm Wicks: If someone cannot get out to collect their state pension which is paid into an account then they can give authority for someone they trust to do this. The precise arrangements will depend on the type of account they have. If the customer could not make alternative arrangements to draw their state pension, the Department currently has arrangements in place to ensure vulnerable customers do not suffer hardship.

Pensions (Casual Agents)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people draw their pensions through post offices using casual agents. [100563]

Malcolm Wicks: Information on the number of people who draw their pensions through post offices using casual agents is not available.

There is a facility available for all benefit and pension recipients to allow an individual to complete the reverse of a giro cheque or payment foil from their order book, which gives authorisation to someone to act as their agent on a one-off or temporary basis, without notifying the Department.

Post Office Card Accounts

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he will take to advertise the benefit of the post office card accounts to those recipients of (a) war pensions and (b) child benefit who have already been contacted about changes in the method of benefits payments, prior to the start-up of the Post Office card account. [100565]

Malcolm Wicks: Those people who have already been contacted about the move to direct payment received a mailing with information which clearly set out the account options. The information material set out the key features of the various accounts and explained how people can access their money at the Post Office, if they wish to do so and what to do if they wanted a Post Office card account. War pension and child benefit customers

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who have already opted for a Post Office card account after receiving the mailing will be contacted after April when the account becomes available.

University Students (Work Placements)

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many university students his Department and associated agencies have supported or sponsored with a work placement in the last year; what his policy is on work placements; what plans he has to develop such schemes; and what his policy is on paying their university fees. [98531]

Mr. McCartney: The Department for Work and Pensions supports certain students with work placements via a combination of local and centrally-run arrangements. Figures for the former are not available centrally. For the latter, the Department supported 14 students on work placements in 2002, with the aim of attracting high-calibre undergraduates who are interested in a career in the Civil Service. The Department plans to continue to offer paid work placements to undergraduates during their breaks. Payment of university fees is not therefore an issue.


Abandoned Vehicles

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many abandoned vehicles there were in the UK in each year since 1992; and how many are projected for the next five years (a) in total and (b) in each region. [99226]

Mr. Meacher: Information on the number of abandoned vehicles in England and Wales is as follows:


In 2000–01 local authorities notified the National Assembly that there were 7,700 abandoned vehicles in Wales. This was the first year that this question was included in the National Assembly's Local Authority Municipal Waste Survey. No figures are available for earlier years.


Information on the numbers of abandoned vehicles was requested for the first time from local authorities as part of the Municipal Waste Management Survey 2000–01. Regional results from the survey, which include estimates for those local authorities that did not respond to the survey, are listed in the table. Results from the 2001–02 survey are currently being collected and initial estimates should be available in April.

Government regionAbandoned vehicles (thousands)
North East2.5
North West9.2
Yorkshire and the Humber7.7
East Midlands11.9
West Midlands20.7
East of England28.9
South East44.7
South West17.2
Estimated England Total226.4

It is not possible to provide projected figures for England or Wales as there is only one year's data to work with. Although costs of disposal will increase as a result of the depollution and dismantling requirements of the end-of-life vehicles directive, the impact on the number of abandoned vehicles is difficult to predict—much will depend upon future values of scrap metal and the effectiveness of the various initiatives which are being taken to tackle the abandoned vehicle problem.

The information requested is not held centrally in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.

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Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps she is taking to ensure that (a) abandoned and (b) end of life vehicles are disposed of in a sustainable manner; [99335]

Mr. Meacher: Waste collection authorities are required under section 3(1) of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 to remove a vehicle which is abandoned in their area on any land in the open air or on any other land forming part of a highway. Section 4 of the 1978 Act enables waste disposal authorities to dispose of vehicles in their custody which have been removed because they were abandoned. Such vehicles are normally disposed of through either dismantlers or scrap yards.

The dismantling and recycling of End of Life Vehicles (ELVs) must be carried out in compliance with the conditions of a waste management licence or under a registered exemption from licensing and in a manner which does not pollute the environment and harm human health.

The End-of-Life Vehicles Directive requires that all ELVs, including those abandoned vehicles which are ELVs, are depolluted and dismantled to specified environmental standards by appropriately-permitted facilities. The permits will replace registered exemptions (unless a site is only carrying out recovery operations on de-polluted vehicles). Draft regulations to transpose this aspect of the Directive will be published shortly for consultation with a view to their coming into effect later this year. The Directive also requires that 85 per cent. by weight of ELVs are recovered and recycled by 1 January

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2006, and 95 per cent. by 1 January 2015. The Government is currently considering its preferred approach to achieving these targets.

We estimate that disposal costs for abandoned vehicles under the 1978 Act arrangements are between £30 and £50 per vehicle. Under the ELV Directive additional costs for the takeback and treatment of ELVs are estimated to be £50 depending on the age, condition and type of the vehicle and the price of scrap metal at the time. The increase is largely due to the costs of depolluting the ELVs to the standard required by the Directive.

Information on the cost to local authorities of disposing of and administering schemes to dispose of abandoned vehicles is not held centrally.

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