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Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on how many occasions between 31 March 2002 and 31 March 2003 her special advisers travelled abroad in an official capacity; what places were visited; and how much each visit cost. 
Dr. Howells: Under the current income assessment for higher education student support, the gross taxable income of the student is added to that of their parents or partner to arrive at the total household income. Certain types of income are disregarded, in particular, any income earned by the student from jobs done during the course. Local education authorities will assess the student's income in the current academic year and, usually, the parents' or partner's income in the previous financial year. LEAs will then work out whether the student is entitled to a Higher Education Grant and whether their parents or partner should pay a contribution towards the student's tuition fees and living costs.
Mr. Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether the income of step-parents will be taken into account when assessing a student for (a) a grant award and (b) the remission of tuition fees. 
Dr. Howells: For higher education students starting their course in 2004/05 or after, the income of step-parents will be taken into account in the assessment of grants for tuition fees and grants for living costs.
[holding answer 20 December 2004]: The information requested for taskforces is listed as follows. Information on the costs of other individual ad hoc advisory groups is not available.
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|1998||Disability Rights Task Force (DRTF), New Deal Task Force (NDTF), Skills Task Force (STF)||204,000|
|1999||DRTF, NDTF, STF||539,000|
|Disability living allowance|
Winter fuel payment
Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether regulations allow ongoing legal expenses, incurred through contesting custody and access arrangements, to be included in a lone parent's necessary expenditure when an assessment is made by the Child Support Agency. 
Ongoing legal expenses incurred through contesting custody and access arrangements are not included in a lone parent's necessary expenditure when an assessment is made by the Child Support Agency under either the old or new schemes.
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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library the advice he has received on the compatibility of auto-enrolment of employees in company pension schemes with the European Distance Marketing Directive. 
Malcolm Wicks: I have asked officials to carry out research to explore the effectiveness of automatic enrolment as a way of increasing participation in work-based pension schemes, and to identify any practical and legislative requirements that may discourage employers from adopting this and related joining techniques.
Occupational pensions are not affected by the European Directive on Distance Marketing of Financial Services and its associated regulations. Personal pensions can in certain circumstances be affected where the pension contract requires an employee contribution and is established exclusively by distance marketing methods, i.e. without any face to face contact between the provider and the employee in question.
The Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004 do not prevent the use of automatic enrolment with personal pensions where the employee makes a prior request for the provision of financial services, or where there is no requirement on the employee to contribute, or where the contract is not established exclusively at a distance.
The Department is working closely with the Financial Services Authority and HM Treasury to help employers who operate automatic enrolment, or who are considering using it, to understand their obligations under these regulations.
Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what training staff who work for the Child Support Agency receive in understanding the law in relation to child support; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Pond [holding answer 7 December 2004]: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Smith. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what training staff who work for the Child Support Agency receive in understanding the law in relation to Child Support; and if he will make a statement.
Child Support Agency staff receive training on the Child Support Act using Decision Makers Guides and Child Support Guides. Training on decision-making includes the Child Support Act, Case Law and Statute Law.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will set out, including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effect on Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East constituency of his Department's policies since 8 June 2001. 
Mr. Pond: We have undertaken a fundamental overhaul of the welfare system, transforming it to an active system that fights poverty, creates opportunity and helps people become self-sufficient and independent.
Since 2001 the Government have significantly extended and improved civil rights for disabled people in areas such as employment, education, access to goods and services and transport. Disabled people in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East will have benefited from these improvements in disability rights. Similarly families with severely disabled 3 and 4-year-old children who are unable, or virtually unable, to walk will have benefited from the Government's decision to lower the minimum age entitlement to the higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance from April 2001, whilst older and less well-off carers have gained extra help through the provisions within the National Carers Strategy.
Through Jobcentre Plus, we are promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age. The number of people in work is at historically high levels of over 28.39 million; in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East, the proportion in employment has risen to 68.1 per cent.
Our New Deals have helped lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, disabled people, the over-50s and partners of unemployed people to move from benefit into work. Nationally over 1.1 million people have been helped into work by the New Deals, with over 2,890 in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East alone.
Significant progress has been made in eradicating child poverty and the latest figures for 200203 show that there were over half a million fewer children in relative low income than there were in 199697. Since 200102 incomes for lone parents in receipt of benefit have risen by more than prices or the cost of living. In April 2005 the child allowance rate in income support for a child up to 18 years old will have been increased by 40 per cent. since 200102. Child rates in income support and jobseeker's allowance are also being increased above inflation in April 2005 in line with child tax credit upratings. All of this has benefited 2,200 families in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East.
We want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country and our first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners. The Government will be spending nearly £10 billion more in 200405 (in 200405 prices) on pensioners as a result of measures introduced since 1997, with around half going to the poorest third.
Our reforms include the state second pension, which helps more future pensioners build up better pensions, especially carers. Pension credit, introduced from
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October 2003, provides a contribution to a guaranteed minimum income for those aged 60 and over and, for the first time, those aged 65 and over may be rewarded for savings and income. Around 5,000 pensioners in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East are receiving pension credit, with an average award of £37.31 per week.
We know that older people are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty. This winter (200405) we have again made available a winter fuel payment of £200 for each eligible household with someone aged 60 or over, to help with their fuel bills. The additional 80+ Annual Payment gives an extra £100 to eligible households where there is someone aged 80 or over. Last winter there were 13,740 households in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East which received the winter fuel payment and, of those, 2,885 households received the additional Annual Payment. We expect numbers to be similar for this winter (200405).
Additionally for this year eligible households with someone aged 70 or over will receive the One-off 70+ Payment of £100 to help with living expenses including council tax bills. It will be paid with the winter fuel payment and last winter there were 7,970 households in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East with someone aged 70 or over which received a winter fuel payment. We expect a similar number to receive the One-off 70+ Payment this winter (200405).
Some 17,800 pensioners in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland benefited from the above inflation increase in the rate of basic state pension from April 2003. Those over 75, of whom we estimate there are about 7,000 in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East, may also qualify for free TV licences.
In 200203 we estimate there were around 10 million adults (22 per cent.) and 0.7 million children (5 per cent.) in Great Britain likely to be covered by the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
Information on the numbers of customers in the North East who are in receipt of disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA) is in the following table. This information is not available at constituency level.
|Operational year||DLA/AA recipients|
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