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21 Jan 2004 : Column 1346W—continued

Pension Credit

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many calls to the Pension Credit Helpline since April were completed with a successful claim of the Pension Credit. [146040]

Malcolm Wicks: Between 7 April and 31 December 2003 the Pension Credit application line received approximately 1.84 million calls. By 31 December approximately 590,000 application forms had been returned to Pension Centres since the start of the campaign and approximately 377,000 had already been successful. Not all applications for Pension Credit originate from a call to the application line. Customers can obtain paper application forms in a number of ways, for example by returning a tear-off slip or through one of the external organisations with whom we are working at local level.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in the Buckingham constituency (a) have applied for, (b) are eligible for and (c) have received the pension credit in 2003. [149189]

Malcolm Wicks: At 31 December 2003 there were 1,666 pensioner households (2,007 individuals) in the Buckingham constituency receiving pension credit. Information on the number of people who have applied for or are eligible for pension credit is not available in respect of individual constituencies. However, we estimate that approximately 350,000 pensioner households in the South East region are eligible for pension credit.

Pensioners (Hemsworth)

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in Hemsworth constituency receive benefits at the Post Office. [145918]

Mr. Pond: The number of Pensioners in the Hemsworth constituency receiving at least one benefit which can be collected at the Post Office is 10,911. This information has been compiled from data available on 29 November 2003.

War Pensions accounts are not included in this reply as they are now the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence.


Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on poverty levels in (a) Scotland and (b) the UK in the last five years. [145682]

Mr. Pond: Poverty and social exclusion are complex and multi-dimensional issues, affecting many aspects of peoples' lives—including their living standards, health, housing, the quality of their environment and not just low

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income. The fifth annual 'Opportunity for all' report (Cm 5956) sets out the Government's strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion and presents information on the many different indicators used to measure progress against this strategy.

The Scottish Executive also publish their own annual report on poverty and social exclusion. The latest of which, 'Social Justice . . . a Scotland where everyone matters' sets out their long term strategy for tackling poverty in Scotland.

Specific information regarding low income for Great Britain is available in 'Households Below Average Income 1994–95—2001–02'.

All publications listed are available in the Library.

Social Fund

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many applications were made by lone parents to the Social Fund in England in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what proportion of those applications were successful. [144485]

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

Number of decisions made on Social Fund applications from lone parents in England for December 2002 to November 2003

Application typeDecisionsProportion of decisions which were successful (per cent.)
Community Care Grant117,90043.7
Budgeting Loan572,10079.8
Crisis Loan185,40079.3
Sure Start Maternity Grant63,60089.3
Funeral Payment4,200Not available


1. Data are not available on the total number of applications made by lone parents.

2. Data refer to initial decisions only and do not include review decisions or awards made after review.

3. The numbers of decisions have been rounded to the nearest 100 and the proportions of decisions which were successful to the nearest 0.1 per cent.


Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System.

Social Housing

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what additional expenditure resulting from large scale voluntary transfers and the formation of arm's length management organisations for council housing has been incurred on housing benefit previously paid out of housing revenue accounts on a cumulative basis in each year since 1997. [147224]

Mr. Pond: The information is not available. To determine such a figure would require detailed assumptions about the rents each authority might theoretically have charged had it retained the stock.

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However, the potential impact on housing benefit where stock is transferred to registered social landlords is considered as part of the overall value-for-money assessment of transfers.

Stock managed by an arms length management organisation (ALMO) remains owned by the council and subject to national rent restructuring policy. The formation of an ALMO does not therefore affect rent levels or housing benefit entitlement.

Third Age Service

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the progress his Department have made in respect of the Third Age Service. [149788]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department for Work and Pensions is in the early stages of developing a Third Age Service which is seen as a network of service providers providing improved access to a range of more integrated services. In this respect, we are working with partners, in particular the Partnerships Against Poverty Group and the Third Age Working Group which DWP chair and which include representatives from Age Concern, Help the Aged, Better Government for Older people and other key stakeholders.

We have already made progress in developing the main aspects of a third age service e.g. Joint Financial Assessment & Benefit Teams with local authorities. Experience and research evidence indicate that this is the right approach to integrated services. Already, nine joint teams are operational and plans are in place to roll out nationally over the next two years.

This, together with the work we are doing to enable partner organisations to take benefit claims and verify evidence (on which guidance has been issued), and the work on the Partnership Fund (which will be published in spring this year) shows that we are already delivering on the Government's Manifesto commitment which was 'to build on Care Direct to provide integration of health, housing, benefits and social care for older people'. We await the Lessons Learned report on Care Direct pilots (April 2004) before developing further building blocks.

Winter Fuel Payment

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will extend the winter fuel payment to severely disabled people under 60. [149097]

Malcolm Wicks: Help is already available through disability benefits and the disability premium in Income Support in recognition of the extra costs, including heating, which disabled people may have. There are no plans to extend the winter fuel payment scheme to disabled people under age 60.


Building Regulations

Sue Doughty: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what information he has collated on the ways in which other EU governments intend to implement Article 7.3 of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. [149365]

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Phil Hope: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 13 January 2004, Official Report, column 723W.

Mr. Love: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects to report on the review of Part M of the Building Regulations; and if he will make a statement. [149611]

Phil Hope: The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2692), which amend the non-domestic elements of Part M of the Building Regulations, were laid before Parliament on 27 October 2003 and come into force on 1 May 2004. The revised Approved Document M (2004 Edition), which gives guidance on the application of the amended Regulations, was published on 5 November 2004 and announced in a press release from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2003/0229).

Fire Services

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans there are to replace green goddesses with more up-to-date firefighting equipment. [149060]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently considering alternatives to the green goddess (reserve) fleet. Drawing down the lessons from recent experiences, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends to have in place appropriate and effective emergency firefighting capabilities.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the newly-appointed Chief Executive of Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh, will be in post. [149055]

Phil Hope: An open competition to appoint a new chief executive will be announced shortly. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects to make a permanent appointment by early summer.

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