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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the total external spending by his Department was on public private partnership (PPP) consultants in each of the last two years; how many full-time equivalent consultants were employed over this period; how many billed consultancy days there were per year; what the implied average cost of each PPP consultant was; how many consultancy firms were used by his Department over this period; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the implications for education funding of the results of the recent ruling regarding the educational entitlement of autism sufferer, Mr. Paul Murray. 
Mr. Gardiner: The hon. Member will understand that I cannot comment on individual cases. However, in relation to children in Northern Ireland with special educational needs, it is the Education and Library Boards which are responsible under special education legislation for identifying, assessing and, in appropriate cases, making special educational provision for these children in their areas. This legislation does not give the Department of Education any role in the identification and assessment of children's special educational needs, nor any power to intervene in the process, which is intended to be conducted between parents, schools and boards.
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the underspend was for the Department of Education in cash terms in 200304; and what the projected underspend is in cash terms for the same Department in 200405. 
Mr. Gardiner: Since the introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting arrangements from 200102, budgets and budgetary underspends have been on an accruals basis. Therefore underspend figures on a cash basis are not available for the years in question.
Mr. Spellar: The Government introduced winter fuel payments as part of their commitment to alleviate fuel poverty by providing help to older households towards their winter fuel bills. Older people are targeted because they are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather during the winter months than other groups. The Winter fuel payment is not intended to cover the total cost of a household's fuel bills, but to provide a significant contribution.
The winter fuel payment was £20 when it was first made in 199798. It was increased to £100 in 19992000 and to £200 in 200001. These increases are well above inflation. When the payment was increased to £200, the Chancellor announced that it would remain at that level for the remainder of this Parliament. An additional £100 for households with someone aged 80 or over was introduced from 200304.
This year the Government are also making a one-off, tax free, lump sum payment of £100 to all eligible households with someone aged 70 or over. This payment is intended to provide extra help with living expenses and pensioners are free to use the payment as they wish. In the majority of cases it will be paid along with this year's winter fuel payment.
Employers have obligations under regulation 6 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 to ensure that their employees are provided with such health surveillance as is appropriate. The employer's risk assessment should identify the circumstances in which health surveillance is necessary, including those circumstances in which health surveillance is required by other specific health and safety regulations such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003.
7 Dec 2004 : Column 449W
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps are being taken by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to prevent the practice by tenants in receipt of housing benefit sub-letting the property to others who also claim housing benefit for the same address; and what estimate he has made of the scale of this problem in Northern Ireland. 
Mr. Spellar: The practice of sub-letting part of a property can be legitimately undertaken in the social and private-rented sectors with the permission of the main landlord. If a property is sub-let with the landlord's permission housing benefit may be claimed by both of the approved tenants but only on their proportion of the rent and all such claims are assessed in accordance with the regulations. Where two claims are made from the same property they are automatically identified as "duplicate claims" and the apportionment of rent charged is thoroughly investigated before any payment of benefit is made. Where a tenant sublets the whole property, housing benefit would only be payable to the sub-tenant.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many meetings have been held in the past 12 months between the Minister for Social Development and (a) Mr. Brian Rowntree, Chairman of the Housing Board, (b) Mr. Sidney McDowell, former Chairman of the Housing Board and (c) Mr. Paddy McIntyre, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. 
|Number of meetings|
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