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29 Nov 2005 : Column 422W—continued

Council Tax

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when pensioners in Coventry, South will receive their financial support for council tax bills due for 2005. [32323]

Mr. Timms: 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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Housing Benefit

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost of administering the appeals system for housing benefit was in each year since 1997. [5486]

Mrs. McGuire: This is a matter for Christina Townsend, chief executive of the Appeals Service. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Christina Townsend to Mr. Paul Goodman dated 29 November 2005:

Cost (£)

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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Pension Service

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. [33062]

Mr. Timms: The administration of the Pension Service is a matter for the chief executive, Ms Alexis Cleveland. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland, dated 29 November 2005:

Breakdown by pension centre
Attempted calls receiving an engaged tone or message (a)
Received calls (b)

Calls answered (c)

Area served
Bath041,87940,597Avon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and S. Devon
Birmingham030,42029,267Birmingham, Warwickshire, Coventry and Staffordshire.
Blackpool018,81317,854Shropshire, parts of Surrey, Brighton and Eastbourne
Burnley026,85025,416North Lancashire, Cumbria and parts of Essex (incl. Colchester and Southend)
Cwmbran529,87028,532Worthing, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and parts of Surrey
Dearne Valley037,22936,241West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Nottingham
Dundee046,36745,241East of Scotland and Scottish Highlands. Humberside and East Yorkshire.
Leicester022,33021,032Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire and parts of Derbyshire
London Pension Centre (Glasgow)022,94621,579Inner city London (incl. Harrow, Ealing and Hackney)
London Pension Centre (Newcastle)050,84047,937London (incl. Tottenham, Ilford, Fulham, Romford) and parts of Surrey
Motherwell041,57839,649West of Scotland and Kent.
Norwich Baltic013,21512,601Norwich.
Norwich Kingfisher08,7838,346Parts of Essex including Basildon and Harlow.
Pension Credit Application Line0107,418102,101National
Seaham031,11329,846Tyne and Wear, Bradford.
Stockport044,45640,901Manchester, Fylde Coast, Cheshire, and parts of Derbyshire
Stockton018,10117,448Teeside, Durham, Northumberland. Grimsby.
Swansea048,02945,141Wales, Cornwall and N. Devon
Walsall021,66020,284Walsall and Wolverhampton. Herefordshire and Worcestershire
Warrington037,23435,262Merseyside, Wigan, Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
International Pension Centre3,13145,60641,950International (Customers living outside GB)
Retirement Pension Tele Claims039,36737,656National
Pensions Direct172,96172,186National
Pensioners Information Order line07,9587,182National
Pensioners Guide Order line08,2437,180National
Deficiency Notices Helpline020,57719,433National
RP Forecasting Team1106,888100,529National
Winter Fuel Helpline035,81635,420National

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I hope this information is helpful.

Welfare Reform/Incapacity Benefit

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. [33208]

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.

On checking the record of that debate, I accept that the hon. Member referred to the retirement age of existing members of public sector pension schemes.

Winter Fuel Allowance

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. [33172]

Mr. Timms: The £200 payment is intended to assist older people who pay at least part of their council tax—that 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.

People in receipt of the guarantee credit element of pension credit, who are entitled to the maximum help available through council tax benefit, are not entitled to the £200 payment.


Alcohol Sales

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. [26661]

Paul Goggins: 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
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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.

The document was published on 18 November, and we will continue to work with the industry to ensure rapid implementation.

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