|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects all Child Support Agency clients registered prior to 3 March 2003 to be transferred to the child support scheme introduced on 3 March 2003. 
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.
24 Feb 2005 : Column 821W
I am not able to respond precisely to the question as asked. However, I can say that at 31 March 2005 the Agency is planning to employ around 10,300 staff. We have recently baselined the size of our head office function as 286 staff.
We are currently employing 930 staff within the agency either directly in teams handling complaints and/or teams handling correspondence from Members of Parliament, stakeholder groups or clients who may have earlier made a complaint.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what impact he expects the proposals in his Department's five-year strategy to have on (a) the number of people who start claiming incapacity benefits each year and (b) the proportion of these who are still claiming incapacity benefits 12 months after the commencement of their claims; 
(2) how much of the one million fall in the numbers of people on incapacity benefit targeted in his Department's five-year strategy he expects will be attributable to (a) an increase in the rate at which existing claimants leave incapacity benefits and (b) a reduction in the number of new claimants; 
(3) what impact he expects the proposals in his Department's five-year strategy to have on (a) the number of people who start claiming incapacity benefits in each year and (b) the proportion of these who are still claiming incapacity benefits 12 months after the commencement of their claims; 
This long-term aspiration is challenging. It will require continued macroeconomic stability and further radical welfare reform to build on the success that has already been achieved. New claims are already down by 30 per cent. since 1997. The caseload has peaked after decades when the numbers increasedparticularly in the 1990s when the caseload trebled. And in the latest two quarters there have been the first signs of a fall.
It is not possible to put a firm timetable on this. Not only does it require legislative changes we also need to review the evidence from the successful Pathways to Work pilots and successfully roll-out the programme.
We are already making progress. The significant improvement in off-flow rates registered in the pathways to work pilots, with 5,500 job entries up to last August, also shows for the first time how significant additional numbers of people on incapacity benefits can be helped back to work.
Realisation of our aspiration will depend on further evidence from pathways (for example on the impact of work-focused interviews for existing claimants, starting this month) and other initiatives. It will also depend on when we can start to understand the additional impact of the new arrangements set out in the five year strategy. Outside of DWP it will also depend on the scale of progress on, for example, fitness for work issues and progress on employers' sickness absence management policies.
Progress towards our aspiration should come, in part, from improving support so people do not need to come onto IB, that is, reducing inflows and improving off-flows by helping more people to leave the benefit for work.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the treatment of lump sum payments for those who have deferred drawing their retirement pension under the terms of the Pensions Act 2005 in (a) measurement of capital when assessing entitlement to means-tested benefits and (b) liability for income tax in the year in which the lump sum is drawn. 
Malcolm Wicks: For the first time ever we are giving people the chance to defer their State Pension and build up a lump sum. Where a person chooses to take a lump sum, the intention is for the full amount to be disregarded in the calculation of their capital in pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit during their lifetime.
Taxation is a matter for the Chancellor, but it is proposed to tax the lump sum at the marginal rate (currently 10 per cent., 22 per cent., 40 per cent. or if not liable to taxno deduction) applicable to the person's other income, either in the tax year in which the person starts drawing his State Pension or, if the person so chooses, the tax year following. Payment of a lump sum will not count as income for the age-related personal allowance.
24 Feb 2005 : Column 823W
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has sought European Commission state aids approval for all or part of the Government's and Invest Northern Ireland's financial support to the Andersonstown News Group; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Gardiner: During the five-year period for which figures are readily available (1 April 199931 December 2004) funding from Northern Ireland central Government sources has been made available to the Andersonstown News Group (ANG) from a number of Northern Ireland Departments. The state aids approval position in respect of this funding is detailed as follows.
DETI offered £92,248 under the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation's (Peace I) Interest Relief Subsidy Scheme (a scheme offered through local banks, subject to scrutiny by DETI and the European Investment Bank). This was notified to the European Commission and clearance received.
DETI offered £270,000 under the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace II) for workspace units (not related to the ANG's printing and publishing of newspapers.) This was assessed against state aid rules and was deemed not to be state aid as the support was not considered to have the potential to distort competition.
The Local Enterprise Development Unit (a predecessor body of Invest NI) provided funding for marketing, employment and management salary grants. This funding was issued under a notified scheme approved by the European Union Commission.
Support of £37,056 for training and development was provided under the Company Development Programme (CDP)(now managed by Invest NI). In 1993 the Commission formally acknowledged CDP as a regional aid scheme. In 1998 the Commission required all training support to be compliant with a new framework on training aid. At that stage action to re-notify was started but not followed through. To address this the block exemption report on CDP issued to the Commissioners on 27 July 2004 and the Commission acknowledgement was dated 30 July 2004.
DETI are providing funding of £4,000 via InterTradeIreland 1 through the Acumen programme. This programme is designed to stimulate cross-border trade by assisting individual SME's with tailored consultancy and sales salary support mechanisms. The programme is a partnership funded by Invest NI, Enterprise Ireland (in the Republic of Ireland) and InterTradelreland. The programme was treated as exempt under the SME Block Exemption. This has been registered with the European Commission
Funding of £33,500 provided by OFMDFM was for the Irish language newspaper Lá. As it was the only Irish language newspaper in existence OFMDFM took the
24 Feb 2005 : Column 824W
view that there was no distortion or potential distortion of competition and consequently the state aid rules would not be applicable.
Peace I funding of £5,095 was provided by DFP under the District Partnerships Sub Programme for which Department of the Environment had oversight. This funding was for accommodation and administration costs. The amount involved did not exceed €100,000 and accordingly was within the Commission's established relevant de-minimis arrangements for small amounts of aid.
DFP in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in the Republic of Ireland, have approved funding of £199,150 in respect of a joint application from Preas an Phobail and Comharchumann Forbartha. Funding is for the expansion of Lá in selected border areas. The funding complies with state aid regulations on the basis that it is the only existing Irish language newspaper and does not have the potential to distort competition between EU member states.
The Arts Council for Northern Ireland (a non-departmental public body of DCAL) provided £54,400 funding towards the production of La. The amount involved did not exceed €100,000 and accordingly was within the Commission's established relevant de-minimis arrangements for small amounts of aid.
DCAL, through Foras na Gaeilge 2 the Irish Language Agency, has provided funding of £148,439 for the publication of La. DCAL has been advised by Foras that the aid is compatible with European Union law on state aid.
DSD provided £277,375 under the Department's Urban Development Grant (UDG) scheme (23 November 1999) to assist the construction of new purpose built printworks and offices. The UDG scheme has been notified to the European Commission who consider it to be compatible with the EC Treaty. Consequently, UDG funding to the Andersonstown News is compatible with state aid rules.
DSD also provided £70,000 via Making Belfast Work (MBW) (March 2000). MBW is designed to augment mainstream spend by Departments in the most deprived areas of Belfast across a range of community interventions. At the time of funding, the Andersonstown News was a local community newspaper which did not trade across boundaries, and the content of which meant that it was not considered to have the potential to be tested across national boundaries. Following an internal economic appraisal the grant was not considered to support a tradable activity because the paper was unique and covered only local community issues. This funding was therefore not considered to be a notifiable state aid.
1 InterTradeIreland (the Trade and Business Development Body) is funded jointly by DETI in Northern Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) in the Republic of Ireland. DETI contributes 33.3 per cent. and DETE 66.6 per cent. of the funding.
2 Foras na Gaeilge (the Irish Language Agency of the North/South Language Implementation Body) is funded jointly by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCGRA) in the Republic of Ireland. DCAL contributes 25 per cent. and DCGRA contributes 75 per cent. of the funding.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|