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27 Oct 2003 : Column 69W—continued

Disability Appeals Tribunals

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many disabled people have sat as a panel member of a disability appeal tribunal in (a) 2000–01, (b) 2001–02 and (c) 2002–03. [132565]

Maria Eagle: This is a matter for Christina Townsend, Chief Executive of the Appeals Service. She will reply to the hon. Member.

Letter from Christina Townsend to Mr. Roger Berry, dated 27 October 2003

Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans the Government has to include fibromyalgia syndrome in the list of diseases which enable industrial injury payments. [133405]

Malcolm Wicks: We have no plans to recognise fibromyalgia syndrome as a prescribed industrial disease. A disease may only be prescribed if there is a recognised risk to workers in an occupation, and the link between disease and occupation can be established or reasonably presumed in individual cases.

Food Expenditure

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent on food by his Department and by each of the agencies for which it is responsible in (a) 2001–02 and (b) 2002–03; what proportion of that food by value was produced in the United Kingdom; what guidance he has issued to encourage the procurement of home-produced food; and if he will make a statement. [129374]

Maria Eagle: Expenditure on food in DWP is mainly limited to official hospitality, working lunches and canteen subsidies. The expenditure figures that are available are in the following table.

Our main canteen catering service provider has estimated that, where they have total control over the source and origins of products, approximately

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75 per cent. of fresh produce, by quantity, is of UK origin. It is not possible to provide a similar estimate for food provided for official hospitality and working lunches due to the large number of suppliers involved.

DEFRA are currently working with DWP private sector partners and canteen catering service providers to raise awareness of sustainable purchasing practices and to highlight local sourcing issues. We are also working with our partners to develop an action plan to implement the Sustainable Food Procurement initiative recently introduced by DEFRA.

(13)Official hospitality and working lunches (£)Canteen subsidies (£ million)

(13) The figures provided for official hospitality and working lunches relate only to that included in the former DSS financial management system. They exclude any expenditure funded by the former Employment Service as the current financial systems do not enable the spend on food to be identified. DWP is currently implementing a new financial management system which will identity all such spend in future.

Full Employment

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress is being made in achieving full employment; what further plans he has to assist people into work; and if he will make a statement. [132946]

Mr. Browne: Our aim is to deliver work for those who can and security for those who cannot.

We are well on our way to getting three quarters of people of working age people into work—not just in one year but year on year. Through a combination of economic stability and radical labour market reforms, we have achieved a lot. There are more than 1.5 million more people in work now than in 1997 and unemployment is at its lowest levels since the mid 1970s. Both the UK employment rate and ILO unemployment rate are the best of all of the major industrialised (G7) countries. Claimant long term (one year plus) unemployment has been virtually eradicated for young people and has fallen by three-quarters for adults.

But there is still more to do. High levels of employment are not enough. We need to provide employment opportunities for all groups of people who want to and can work in all parts of the country.

Through Jobcentre Plus, we are providing everyone of working age—the unemployed, lone parents, sick and disabled people—with advice and guidance on the full range of support available to help them move into work.

In areas with higher levels of worklessness we have introduced Action Teams for Jobs. From April 2004, we are also introducing a programme of intensive support in neighbourhoods with very high concentrations of worklessness. Local Worklessness Pilots will operate in 12 neighbourhoods for 2 years testing a new approach to offering intensive support to local residents to help them overcome barriers to employment.

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We are also providing more help for those who face the greatest barriers to work. We now have programmes to help, for example, former drug mis-users, the long term unemployed, people from minority ethnic communities and we are piloting reforms to Incapacity Benefit in order to give more opportunities to this group of people as well.

Income Support

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will issue guidance for determining when it is reasonable not to be paid for voluntary work, in relation to entitlement to income support. [132678]

Mr. Pond: For benefit purposes, the legal definition of a volunteer is "someone who is engaged by a charity or voluntary organisation or is a volunteer where the only payment received or due is the reimbursement of actual expenses incurred during their activity". Volunteers need to continue to satisfy the conditions of entitlement to benefit but subject to this can do voluntary work. Actual expenses incurred or to be incurred can be disregarded for benefit purposes.

Guidance relating to people receiving benefit who engage in voluntary work is contained in Volume 4, Chapter 21, Paragraph 21168 and Volume 5, Chapter 28, paragraph 28389 of the Decision Makers Guide copies of which are in the Library.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many lone parents are in receipt of income support where the youngest child is 11 or above; and what the average weekly amount is of (a) income support and (b) housing and council tax benefits which are paid to such lone parents. [132486]

Mr. Pond: The information requested is in the table.

Lone parents receiving Income Support whose youngest child is aged 11 or over, Great Britain May 2002

Thousand£ per week
Income Support recipients156,200
Income Support average amount 96.20
Housing Benefit average amount 63.50
Council Tax Benefit average amount 11.60


1. Of the 156,200 lone parents receiving Income Support, 128,000 also received Housing Benefit and 114,000 Council Tax Benefit.

2. Income Support recipients have been rounded to the nearest hundred, average weekly amounts to the nearest 10 pence.

3. Figures are based on 1 per cent. and 5 per cent. samples and are therefore subject to sampling variation.

4. Lone Parents are defined as single claimants with dependants not receiving the disability or pensioner premium.

5. Housing Benefit figures exclude any Extended Payment cases, Council Tax Benefit totals exclude any Second Adult Rebate cases. Figures for any non-responding authorities have been estimated.


5 per cent. and 1 per cent. samples of the benefit computer system

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Horam: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners have opened a Post Office card account since April. [133084]

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Mr. Pond: Information is not available in the format requested. Key figures on the progress of conversion to Direct Payment are available in the Library updated every four weeks.

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of customers his Department estimates will open a Post Office card account (a) in total, (b) for each benefit and (c) in each income decile. [133385]

Mr. Pond: It is impossible to predict accurately how many customers (a) in total, (b) for each benefit and (c) in each income decile, will eventually open a Post Office card account as this will be based on customer choice. However, the card account is proving very popular with customers. Over one and a quarter million people have already requested a Post Office card account, which suggests that customers are fully aware of the account's availability and how to open one.

Key figures on the progress of conversion to direct payment are available in the Commons Library, updated every four weeks.

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many inquiries about Post Office card accounts have been received; how many applications to open an account have been received; how many accounts have been opened; what the average time taken to process applications is; what steps are being taken to publicise the accounts; which organisations were consulted on the accounts; and how take up of accounts will be monitored. [133390]

Mr. Pond: We do not have the information in the format requested.

Key figures on the progress of conversion to direct payment are available in the Library, updated every four weeks.

Information regarding the number of Post Office card account applications received, opened, length of the application process and the development of the card account are matters that fall within the responsibilities of Post Office Ltd. (POL).

The Departments information campaign, to support the move to direct payment, provides customers with all the information they need on all of their "account options", including which accounts can be used at Post Office branches. It will be up to the customers themselves to decide which type of account they wish to have their money paid into, and those people who want to open a Post Office card account will be able to do so.

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