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The £200 payment to help with council tax bills is being issued with the winter fuel payment. Payments commenced in early November and will continue until Christmas. Eligible people who do not receive a winter fuel payment will need to claim and all claims must be received by 30 March 2006.
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The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question regarding what the cost of administering the appeals system for Housing Benefit was in each year since 1997. As the Appeals Service only assumed responsibility for Housing Benefit appeals from July 2001, I am unable to supply figures prior to that date.
As the cost of processing appeals does not vary significantly between the different types of appeals, our accounting records do not analyse our costs by different appeal type. The best indication I can, therefore, give of the cost of administering the appeals system for Housing Benefit, is by providing on a pro-rata basis the costs of the Appeals Service to the proportion of Housing Benefit appeals.
The rise in costs reflects the increase in the number of Housing Benefit appeals being handled by the Appeals Service, which has risen from 3,963 in 2001/2 to 9,793 in 2003/4.
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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many calls made to the Pension Service (a) met an engaged tone, (b) were received and (c) were handled by an adviser during September, broken down by call centre; and what area is served by each call centre. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning how many calls made to the Pension Service have (a) met an engaged tone (b) been received and (c) been handled by an adviser during September broken down by call centre; and if he will provide details of the area served by each call centre. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of The Pension Service.
The table below shows the number of calls received, calls answered and calls blocked in September 2005 for all Regional Pension Centres and the Pension Credit Application Line and shows the area served by each call centre. In addition I am now also able to supply details for the other telephone lines offered by the Pension Service.
You will see that almost all the blocked calls occurred in our International Pension Centre. The telephony system in this centre is being upgraded, and since September the number of lines available to customers has been increased.
Breakdown by pension centre
|Attempted calls receiving an engaged tone or message (a)|
Received calls (b)
Calls answered (c)
|Bath||0||41,879||40,597||Avon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and S. Devon|
|Birmingham||0||30,420||29,267||Birmingham, Warwickshire, Coventry and Staffordshire.|
|Blackpool||0||18,813||17,854||Shropshire, parts of Surrey, Brighton and Eastbourne|
|Burnley||0||26,850||25,416||North Lancashire, Cumbria and parts of Essex (incl. Colchester and Southend)|
|Cwmbran||5||29,870||28,532||Worthing, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and parts of Surrey|
|Dearne Valley||0||37,229||36,241||West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Nottingham|
|Dundee||0||46,367||45,241||East of Scotland and Scottish Highlands. Humberside and East Yorkshire.|
|Leicester||0||22,330||21,032||Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire and parts of Derbyshire|
|London Pension Centre (Glasgow)||0||22,946||21,579||Inner city London (incl. Harrow, Ealing and Hackney)|
|London Pension Centre (Newcastle)||0||50,840||47,937||London (incl. Tottenham, Ilford, Fulham, Romford) and parts of Surrey|
|Motherwell||0||41,578||39,649||West of Scotland and Kent.|
|Norwich Kingfisher||0||8,783||8,346||Parts of Essex including Basildon and Harlow.|
|Pension Credit Application Line||0||107,418||102,101||National|
|Seaham||0||31,113||29,846||Tyne and Wear, Bradford.|
|Stockport||0||44,456||40,901||Manchester, Fylde Coast, Cheshire, and parts of Derbyshire|
|Stockton||0||18,101||17,448||Teeside, Durham, Northumberland. Grimsby.|
|Swansea||0||48,029||45,141||Wales, Cornwall and N. Devon|
|Walsall||0||21,660||20,284||Walsall and Wolverhampton. Herefordshire and Worcestershire|
|Warrington||0||37,234||35,262||Merseyside, Wigan, Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.|
|International Pension Centre||3,131||45,606||41,950||International (Customers living outside GB)|
|Retirement Pension Tele Claims||0||39,367||37,656||National|
|Pensioners Information Order line||0||7,958||7,182||National|
|Pensioners Guide Order line||0||8,243||7,180||National|
|Deficiency Notices Helpline||0||20,577||19,433||National|
|RP Forecasting Team||1||106,888||100,529||National|
|Winter Fuel Helpline||0||35,816||35,420||National|
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his oral statement on welfare reform and incapacity benefit of 22 November 2005, Official Report, column 1417, where and when the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam made the remarks to which he refers. 
Mr. Hutton: My recollection was that the hon. Member made the remarks during the Health Question Time" session in which he and I participated, at the Royal College of Nursing Congress on 25 April 2005.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the £200 one-off payment this winter with the winter fuel allowance will be (a) means-tested and (b) paid to pensioners receiving 100 per cent. council tax benefit. 
Mr. Timms: The £200 payment is intended to assist older people who pay at least part of their council taxthat is, people who do not qualify for 100 per cent. council tax benefit. It is paid to eligible people who are not receiving the guarantee credit element of pension credit. It is a tax free lump sum payment that will not affect any state pension or benefit a person may get including council tax benefit, housing benefit and pension credit.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress in working with alcohol retailers and producers to agree and implement minimum standards for socially responsible promotion and retailing of alcohol products. 
We are taking forward a comprehensive alcohol harm reduction programme that will tackle a range of alcohol harms, including crime, and is being implemented across government. As part of this, we have been working closely with the alcohol industry to develop
29 Nov 2005 : Column 426W
a principles and standards document that will help retailers and producers to prevent sales to under-age children and drunks, put an end to irresponsible drinks promotions and put in place end of evening dispersal policies to help drinkers get home safely and quickly.
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