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9 Dec 2003 : Column 415W—continued

Housing Benefit Subsidy Reform

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his written statement of 1 December 2003, Official Report, column 49WS, on housing benefit subsidy reform, how the new subsidy system for housing benefit and council tax benefit will be implemented, with particular reference to transitional relief; and what the arrangements will be for payment of the administration grant. [143212]

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Mr. Pond: The new subsidy system will be introduced on 1 April 2004 to all local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland. All claims relating to the 2004–05 subsidy year will be made under the new rates and rules. We issued a subsidy Circular (S9/2003) to authorities on 1 December to explain all the detailed changes; a copy of this circular is available in the Library.

Although the overall levels of funding under the new system will be cost neutral compared to the old system, we recognise that individual authorities may gain or lose under the new arrangements. A transitional protection scheme has therefore been put in place. At the end of 2004–05 subsidy claims from each local authority will be compared with the amounts of subsidy they would have received had they claimed under the subsidy rules in place in 2003–04. The scheme will ensure that in the first year no authority will lose more than 1 per cent. of the funding which they would have received had the rates not changed.

Details of individual allocations to authorities of administration grant for 2004–05 will be issued in a circular by the end of the month. The administration grant will be paid to authorities in 12 monthly instalments from April 2004.

New Deal for Disabled People

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will publish statistics for New Deal for Disabled People job broker programmes regularly on the internet. [141498]

Mr. Browne: New Deal for Disabled People statistics are currently published quarterly on the New Deal website. The latest figures are available at:

Pension Credit

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners he estimates have yet to apply through the Pension Credit scheme in (a) West Derbyshire, (b) the East Midlands and (c) the UK; and what efforts are being made to simplify the Pension Credit process to make it easier for pensioners to claim their entitlement. [141438]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the form requested, but we estimate that around 300,000 pensioner households in the East Midlands region and around 3.8 million pensioner households in Great Britain are eligible for Pension Credit. The table gives the numbers of pensioner households and individuals in West Derbyshire, the East Midlands and Great Britain receiving Pension Credit at 17 October 2003. The number of pensioner households in Great Britain receiving Pension Credit had increased to approximately 1.97 million by 31 October.

The application process for Pension Credit has been designed to be straightforward for pensioners and their family and friends, who may apply on their behalf. The Pension Credit application line (0800 99 1234), which is the main method of applying, is working well and has taken over 1.3 million calls (to the end of October) since it became operational on 7 April. The Pension Service is able to offer alternative ways of applying to suit individual circumstances, including a textphone number

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and a paper application form. We are working closely with partner organisations to ensure that they can obtain paper application forms, through the Pension Service's local service, for those who want them. The local service can also arrange to see pensioners face-to-face either in a local surgery or, where appropriate, in the pensioner's home.

We continue to review and improve the application process in the light of experience.

Pension Credit recipients at 17 October 2003

AreaPension Credit pensioner householdsPension Credit individuals
West Derbyshire parliamentary constituency2,1852,505
East Midlands Government Office Region (GOR)130,935155,725
Great Britain1,902,7152,247,605


1. Figures in the table have been rounded to the nearest five.

2. The parliamentary constituency and the GOR are assigned by matching postcodes against the relevant ONS postcode directory.


IAD Information Centre, Generalised Matching Service, 100 per cent. sample.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in what way the size of the lump sum available to an individual at age 70 to those who defer drawing their retirement pension will relate to the weekly retirement pension entitlement at age 65 of that individual. [143107]

Malcolm Wicks: We intend that the lump sum will comprise the total of the state pension given up during the period of deferment, plus a rate of return. Further details will be available when the Pensions Bill is published.


Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the research conducted by his Department comparing a New Deal 25 plus unit of delivery and an Employment Zone in terms of (a) outcomes, (b) costs and (c) other factors; if he will place the findings in the Library; and if he will make a statement. [140481]

Mr. Browne: As with all our welfare to work programmes, Employment Zones are subject to extensive evaluation. The following reports have been published and placed in the Library: Working Age Evaluation Report 124—a qualitative study of Zone operations, published in July 2002; Working Age Evaluation Report 139—a qualitative study of Employment Zone and New Deal 25 Plus Personal Advisers, published in August 2002; Working Age Report 175—an economic study on the wider labour market impact of Employment Zones, and Working Age Report 176—a cohort study comparing characteristics and outcomes of Employment Zone participants with those of similar long-term unemployed clients published on 28 November 2003.

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Report No. 176 compares the outcomes of Employment Zone and New Deal 25 Plus. However, this study does not provide us with a national evaluation of New Deal 25 Plus, but compares Employment Zone outcomes with New Deal 25 Plus outcomes in disadvantaged areas which are similar to the Employment Zone areas.

We keep all our programmes under on-going review to ensure they provide the most effective approach to helping long-term unemployed people into work.

Shell Brent Bravo

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to set up an inquiry into the deaths on the Shell Brent Bravo rig on 11 September. [140668]

Mr. Browne: A rigorous and detailed investigation into the two deaths on the Brent Bravo offshore installation on 11 September 2003 is already under way by both the Police and the Health and Safety Executive. The Health and Safety Executive will send their report to the Procurator Fiscal before the end of 2003. The Police will independently report to the Procurator Fiscal. Decisions on legal proceedings and Fatal Accident Inquiries are a matter for the Crown. The Health and Safety Commission does not consider it appropriate to seek the Secretary of State's consent for a public inquiry in addition to the investigations in progress.


Sellers' Packs

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to the proposed seller's packs what the Government's estimate is of the (a) average cost, (b) number of properties that will be involved, (c) total cost, (d) number of surveyors required, (e) number of transactions accelerated and (f) number of transactions that would otherwise be aborted in a calendar year. [142008]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimates that:

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