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3 Apr 2003 : Column 833W—continued


Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what unilateral sanctions are in force by the United Kingdom against Zimbabwe that match (a) the recent Executive Order signed by the President of the United States under the title of 'Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Zimbabwe' and (b) EU sanctions against Zimbabwe. [105837]

Mr. Straw: President Bush's Executive Order of 7 March 2003 provides for an assets freeze, and so brings the United States measures against the ZANU-PF regime into line with those of the EU, which we implemented on 18 February 2002, and which were extended for another 12 months on 18 February 2003.

The United Kingdom, as a member state of the European Union, does not need unilateral measures to replicate those of the EU, which it supports and implements.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will recommend at the next Geneva Affairs Council meeting that Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe be added to the list of names on the EU sanctions list against the Zimbabwe regime and its supporters. [105838]

Mr. Straw: The EU's common position on Zimbabwe targets individuals

Only Zimbabweans have so far been subjected to the measures, but the list of names is kept under regular review.

Mr. Ben-Menashe, a Canadian national, is the state's main witness in the on-going treason trial of MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. The EU said on 20 February 2003,

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Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have died in England and Wales during the last three years from asbestosis; and if he will make a statement. [103276]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The number of deaths in England and Wales for the latest three years for which data are available, where the underlying cause of death on the death certificate was given as asbestosis, was 52 in 1998, 57 in 1999 and 63 in 2000.

Iron Mains Replacement (Transco)

Mr. Heyes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether Transco completed the replacement of all medium pressure ductile iron mains within 30 metres of buildings by 31 December 2002 as required by the HSE's Improvement Notice issued in September 2000. [102241]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Transco completed their planned replacement programme by 31 December 2002. This excluded 11.382 km, which were discovered too late to be replaced within this deadline. Transco originally anticipated replacing approximately 2,360 km of mains. However, they eventually replaced 2897.842 km within this timescale, an overrun of 537.842 km or 22.75 per cent. Transco were given an Extension to the Improvement Notice to 30 April 2003 to remove the remaining 11.382 km. I am advised that there are sound engineering reasons why this cannot be done any earlier, including safety considerations.

Basic State Pension

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many letters he has received on the recent document sent to pensioners on the percentage change in the basic pensions; and if he will make a statement. [104765]

Mr. McCartney: This is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, Chief Executive of The Pension Service. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Paul Flynn, dated 3 April 2003:

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Benefit Administration (Funding)

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the means by which the administration of (a) housing and (b) council tax benefit by local authorities is funded; [94004]

Malcolm Wicks: Half of the administration subsidy for both housing benefit and council tax benefit is funded through a grant from the Department for Work and Pensions. This is allocated to individual local authorities using a formula agreed in consultation with the local authority associations. The formula takes account of the size of the caseload and the complexity of housing benefit cases, with elements for accommodation and staffing costs. The remaining half is funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive through the Revenue Support Grant (Grant Aided Expenditure in Scotland) within their local government finance settlements.

From 2003–04 administration subsidy will be paid entirely by this Department as one direct grant to local authorities. During 2003–04 we will also distribute an additional £33 million for ongoing and transitional costs associated with the introduction of the Pension Credit as well as £11 million for ongoing costs associated with new tax credits.

The Department also helps fund the administration of the Verification Framework and payments are made through the Help Fund to support various local authority led initiatives aimed at improving housing

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benefit administration where lack of funds is a barrier. A further £223 million Verification Framework funding is being made available for the three years from April 2003. This will provide a 50 per cent. increase in both set-up and ongoing funding. We are also investing £200 million over the next three years in helping authorities meet the new Performance Standards.

Actual expenditure on the administration of these benefits, as reported by local authorities, exceeds the total subsidy provided by central Government. Local authorities account for their expenditure in very different ways. For example, some will include a portion of central charges for administrative costs that will have little to do with housing benefit administration in their housing benefit costs, some will provide a cost net of additional grants from the Department. Because the data reported by authorities do not reflect a uniform accounting standard across authorities, reported expenditure across all authorities may not be directly comparable with the grants paid figures.

The available information is in the tables.

DWP Administration Subsidy and Caseload
£ million

HB administrationAverage HB caseloadCTB administrationAverage CTB caseload


1. Caseload data refer to households claiming housing benefit which may be a single person, a couple or a family. More than one benefit household can live in one property, for example two or more adults in a flat or house share.

2. Caseload figures for any non-responding authorities have been estimated.

3. Council tax benefit caseload totals exclude any Second Adult Rebate cases.

4. Housing benefit caseload figures exclude any Extended Payment cases.

5. The data is the average of caseloads taken in May, August, November and February of each year.

6. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 100,000.


Social Security Income Related Benefits (Subsidy to Authorities) Amendment Orders 1999 to 2002. Housing Benefit and council Tax Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent caseload stock-count taken in May, August, November and February 1998–99 to 2001–02.

DWP expenditure on anti-fraud initiatives, the Verification Framework and the Help Fund
£ million

Challenge fundingBenefits agency/local authority joint working paymentsSecurity against fraud and error (SAFE) and weekly benefit savings (WBS) Verification frameworkHelp Fund


1. Although not specifically for administration local authorities are given financial incentives for investigating and detecting fraud.

2. Challenge Funding was a scheme where councils could submit bids for innovative anti-fraud initiatives.

3. The Security Against Fraud and Error (SAFE) scheme was first introduced in April 2001 and fully replaced the Weekly Benefit Savings (WBS) scheme in April 2002.

4. SAFE and WBS figures are subject to revision by local authorities.

5. Figures have been rounded to the nearest £100,000.

6. Verification Framework (VF) expenditure includes both set-up and ongoing funding.

7. The Help Fund was introduced from April 2001.

8. The reduction in SAFE and WBS funding may be attributable to increased VF funding which may have led to a fall in the level of fraud entering the benefit system.


WBS and SAFE figures are from local authorities' audited final subsidy claims. Challenge Funding and Joint Working Payment figures from 1998–99 to 2000–01 are from DSS/DWP Appropriation Accounts. 2001–02 figures are from DWP records. VF and Help Fund data is from DWP administrative records

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Reported administrative costs of local authorities in Great Britain
£ million

Housing benefitCouncil tax benefitTotalDWP funding as percentage of reported expenditure


1. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 100,000.

2. Figures are subject to revision by local authorities.


1. English authorities—reports to the ODPM, and its predecessors, using form RO4.

2. Welsh authorities—reports to the Welsh Assembly using form RO4. Prior to devolution, returns were made to the Welsh Office.

3. Scottish authorities—reports to the Scottish Executive using Local Financial Return LFR9. Prior to devolution, returns were made to the Scottish Office.

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