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4 Feb 2005 : Column 1165W—continued


John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw of 13 October 2004 about the Child Support Agency and his constituent, Catherine Pears. [214071]

Malcolm Wicks: My hon. Friend's letter was passed to the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency who has replied today and apologised for the delay.

Low Income Households

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children were living in poverty in (a) 2002–03 and (b) 2003–04. [211566]

Mr. Pond: I have been asked to reply.

Poverty is about more than low income, it also impacts on the way people live—their health, housing and the quality of their environment. The sixth annual "Opportunity for all" report (Cm 6239) sets out the Government's strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion and presents information on the indicators used to measure progress against this strategy.

Data on the number of children in Great Britain living in low income households are published in the Department for Work and Pensions' Households Below Average Income series. The threshold of below 60 per cent. contemporary median income is the most commonly used in reporting absolute and relative trends in low income.

According to the latest data, in 2002–03 2.6 million children in the United Kingdom were living in households below 60 per cent. median income on the Before Housing Costs measure, and 3.6 million children were living in low income on the After Housing Costs measure. Data for 2003–04 are not available until spring 2005, when they will be published as part of Households Below Average Income publication.

In December 2003, we published Measuring child poverty" which outlines the Government's new measure of child poverty which will be used from 2004–05.

All publications listed are available in the Library.

Child Poverty (Stoke-on-Trent)

Mr. Fisher: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many children were living in poverty in Stoke-on-Trent in each of the past seven years; [213058]

(2) how many children lived in low income households in Stoke-on-Trent in each of the last seven years. [213061]

Mr. Pond: Our first step towards eradicating child poverty as set out in our current Public Service Agreement target is to reduce the number of children in low-income households by a quarter by 2004–05. This is measured using the proportion of children in relative low income households. Specific information regarding
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low income for the United Kingdom is available in "Households Below Average Income 1994–95 to 2002–03". Data are not available below the regional level and is only available as proportions at the regional level. It should be noted that the reporting of year on year changes in the regional low-income rates are not reliable.

'Measuring child poverty", published in December 2003, outlines the Governments measure of UK child poverty for the long-term. The measure will consist of three tiers; absolute low income, relative low income and material deprivation and low income combined. The Government will set a target as part of the 2006 SR06 Spending Review to halve by 2010–11 the numbers of children suffering a combination of material deprivation and relative low income. Data will not be available below the regional level.

All publications listed are available in the Library.

State Pensions

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department has made of the operational costs of the pension book in each year since 1997; and what percentage that represents of (a) the total budget for his Department and (b) the total budget of all UK Government Departments in each year since 1997. [211962]

Mr. Pond: The information is not available in the format requested.

The total cost of all DSS-DWP order book transactions at the Post Office between April 1997 and March 2004 was £2.56 billion. This represented 5.69 per cent. of all DWP DEL expenditure over the same period and 0.17 per cent. of all Department's DEL expenditure over the same period. The order book figure does not include the costs of producing and issuing order books, dealing with lost or stolen books or other maintenance work within DWP connected with making payments.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department has made of fraud connected with the operation of the pension book in each year since 1997. [211988]

Mr. Pond: A breakdown of order book loss by benefit type is not available. The available information is in the table.
Estimated order book losses across all benefits administered by Department for Work and Pensions

£ million

1. Figures include duplicate encashment and manipulation/counterfeit losses for all benefits, not just the State Pension.
2. We use a methodology assuming a constant proportion of the "at risk" figure being fraudulent and a constant amount of fraud due to counterfeits and manipulations. The "at risk" figure for a given period is the estimated value of all books stopped and not recovered in that period. This is the best estimate currently available.
3. Figures exclude War Pensions from 2002–03 onwards because Veterans Agency (War Pensions Agency) Programme Expenditure moved to the Ministry of Defence.
4. Figures exclude Child Benefit from 2003–04 onwards because Child Benefit Programme Expenditure moved to the Inland Revenue.
Losses are derived from figures from Jobcentre Plus, Payment Repository Computer System (PRCS) Centre.

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Affordable Housing

John Mann: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many low cost home-ownership schemes promoted by his Department do not involve means-tested entry requirements. [213749]

Keith Hill: The Right to Buy and Right to Acquire schemes, which give tenants of local authorities and housing associations the statutory right to purchase their rented home, are not means-tested, except that they are not available to tenants who have bankrupt petitions pending against them, are undischarged bankrupts, or have made arrangements with their creditors which remain unfulfilled.

Other schemes, such as shared ownership, Homebuy and Key Worker Living, help social tenants, key workers and others on housing waiting lists into home ownership. These schemes, offered by housing associations with funding from the Housing Corporation, include affordability checks in the application process to ensure that purchasers can sustain the financial commitment of owner occupation.

Voluntary sales by social landlords and cash grants offered by local authorities to tenants to free up their rented property are offered at the discretion of individual social landlords.

Helen Southworth: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he plans to take to increase the provision of affordable homes for people in Warrington. [213765]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently consulting on national policy for the provision of affordable housing in mixed communities. "Planning for Mixed Communities" was launched on 24 January and the consultation period ends on 15 April.

The Government Office, with its regional partners, is considering the provision of affordable housing, as part of the reviews of the Regional Housing and Regional Spatial Strategies for the North West. The strategies are expected to be with Ministers in May and September respectively this year.

The Government Office will be engaging with Warrington borough council about how best to take forward these issues through the council's development plan.

Arup Economics and Planning

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 21 December 2004, Official
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, columns 1557–58W, on Arup Economics and Planning, whether he has received the interim report on regional chambers from Arup Economics and Planning. [213199]

Mr. Raynsford: The interim report is currently being finalised.

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