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Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the Government's priorities for the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be during the United Kingdom's Presidency of the European Union; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Pond: The main priorities of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (ESPHCA) Council are listed in the UK-Luxembourg Annual Operating Programme for 2005 which is available in the Library of the House.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he plans to take to reduce the disincentives to re-enter employment for homeless households placed in expensive temporary accommodation. 
The Department provides a range of services to help homeless people find employment, from support from personal advisers based in Jobcentres to specific initiatives such as Progress2work, Progress2work-LinkUP and Action Teams for Jobs. Additionally, homeless people can have early access to the New Deals and other national programmes.
We recognise that temporary accommodation attracts high management charges that, in turn, lead to high rents. These can act as a barrier to employment. We have no current plans for any significant changes to the housing benefit rules for those in temporary accommodation in the short term. However, we are exploring with colleagues across government all possible options to address this issue.
One of these options involves pilot work to look at the "block grant" approach, whereby tenants pay an affordable rent for their accommodation, assisted through the housing benefit scheme where appropriate, with the extra costs funded by way of a direct central Government grant.
The Government are involved in a project run by the Greater London Authority to test the effects of a lower rent together with increased training opportunities and employment advice for people living in temporary accommodation.
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Maria Eagle: We estimate that the Pathways pilots have so far helped 8,300 people into work. From October this year we will extend the programme to cover about a third of the country, offering help to nearly 900,000 people on incapacity benefits. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that her constituency will be included in this extension.
Pathways to Work is helping people to do just that and from October this year we will extend the programme to cover about a third of the country, enabling us to offer this help to nearly 900,000 people on incapacity benefits.
Mr. Tam Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his Oral Answer of 13 December 2004, Official Report, column 1386, on incapacity benefit, what progress he has made with his investigation into the rules on permitted work for claimants of incapacity benefit. 
Maria Eagle: On 14 December, we published the report "A Stepping Stone to Employment" with the findings of the independent research commissioned by my Department into the first two years of operation of the permitted work rules. Copies of the report are available in the Library.
The permitted work rules allow people with health conditions and disabilities to try out paid work while remaining on benefits, as a stepping stone to full-time work. The research showed that people on incapacity benefits participating in permitted work have been helped to return to full-time jobs and many of those surveyed found that their health conditions were not the barriers to work that they originally thought.
The Chancellor announced changes to the rules in the pre-Budget report based on the key findings of the research. Our overall intention is to bring more people into permitted work with the eventual aim of progressing into full-time employment. Therefore, we will be introducing measures to improve permitted work by raising greater awareness of the provision and encouraging more people to take advantage of the scheme; there will be more regular face-to-face contact with personal advisers and staff will get new guidance and training materials. The rules will be simplified by allowing all participants an initial period of 52 weeks.
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However, we are also acknowledging the position of those least likely to progress into full-time work. We are exploring ways to allow people with progressive conditions to be able to continue permitted work beyond the initial 52 weeks without being limited to earnings of £20.
Mr. Pond: We aim to keep up to date with the latest technology which impacts upon benefit delivery and are therefore aware of voice stress analysis as used by various insurance companies. However, we have made no formal assessment of the value of this technology and have no current plans to introduce such measures.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice he has received on the potential use of lie detectors with regard to benefit claimants; and if he will place a copy of such advice in the Library. 
Mr. Pond: No advice on the use of voice stress analysis has been received by DWP. We are in the early stages of conducting preliminary investigations into how voice stress analysis technology is currently used in the private sector.
Alan Johnson: There is no record kept of cancelled engagements in my ministerial diary. When engagements have had to be cancelled, wherever possible we try to re-instate them at a later date. All engagements are subject to ministerial and parliamentary business.
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