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Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost of compensation claims to local government was in 200405; and what assessment the Government has made of the effect of the trend towards compensation claims on local government. 
Bob Spink: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister why the representations made by the hon. Member for Castle Point on the London Gateway Port Harbour proposal during 2005 were not included in his most recent circular letter listing representations received. 
The Secretary of State circulated on 9 January representations he received in direct response to his minded approval letter of 20 July 2005 on the proposed London Gateway Port Harbour Empowerment Order in which he had invited representations on certain particular matters. The hon. Members letters sent before the Secretary of State's letter of 20 July were taken in account in the writing of that letter.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) pursuant to his answer of 12 January 2006, Official Report, columns 7823W, on official residences (counciltax), whether (a) he and (b) a civil servant
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registered his residence at Admiralty House with Westminster City Council as a second home for council tax purposes; 
(2) pursuant to his answer of 12 January 2006, Official Report, columns 7823W, on official residences (council tax), whether he has had his council tax bill for his residence in Hull paid from public funds in each year since 199798; 
(3) pursuant to his answer of 12 January 2006, Official Report, columns 7823W, on official residences (council tax), on what date he became aware that his council tax bill on his Admiralty House residence was being paid from public funds. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The answer given by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on 12 January 2006, Official Report, column 782W, set out in full the arrangements for the payment of council tax on his official residences.
Mr. Soames: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1)what estimate he has made of how many additional (a) general practitioners, (b) hospitals, (c) health centres, (d) teachers, (e) primary schools, (f) secondary schools, (g) further education institutions, (h) police officers, (i) police stations, (j) court facilities, (k) social workers, (l) other care workers, (m) fire officers and (n) fire stations will be required in West Sussex in relation to the additional 58,000 houses indicated in the South East Plan; 
(2) what assessment he has made of what improvements to transport infrastructure will be required before an additional 58,000 houses can be built in West Sussex, as indicated in the South East Plan. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 16 January 2006]: My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has not made any such estimates. The South East Plan is still being drafted by the South East England Regional Assembly. The Assembly expects to submit the remainder to Government at the end of March 2006. Thereafter the plan will be subject of public consultation and also testing by an independent panel, to enable Government to reach conclusions about the amount of housing required in West Sussex and all other parts of the South East.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the reasons for dwellings
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being vacant in (a) each local authority in Essex and (b) each London borough in each of the last five years. 
Yvette Cooper: It is for local housing authorities to assess, as part of their strategic housing function, the reasons why dwellings in their areas are vacant. In general, the Government recognises that dwellings are vacant for a variety of reasons. About half of all private sector vacant dwellings are empty for less than six months and many of these will be unoccupied for transactional reasons to do with sale and renovation and will come back into occupation once sold or renovated. Dwellings that are vacant for non-transactional reasons often have problems associated with disrepair that must be overcome. From April local authorities will have new powers to bring empty houses back into use. We urge every local authority to use their new powers to improve housing in their area.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what criteria the Valuation Office Agency is applying in assessing whether a residential property starts incurring a business rate liability if a householder works at home in whole or part; and when these criteria were last amended. 
Mr. Woolas: The criteria applied by valuation officers of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) are set out in the council tax manual published by the VOA on its website at www.voa.gov.uk. The guidance was last updated on 4 March 2004 to reflect the decision of the Lands Tribunal in the case of Tully v. Jorgensen (VO) 2003 RA 233.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what role the Valuation Office Agency plays in valuing properties owned by (a) central government, (b) public sector agencies and (c) local authorities other than local authority housing stock. 
The range of valuation advice encompasses asset Valuations for resource accounting and compulsory purchase; advice on the purchase and sale of property; specialist building surveying advice and valuations of mineral bearing property, land fill sites and plant and machinery.
Planning Policy Statement 22 Renewable Energy" published in 2004 sets out the Government's planning policies for all types and scales of renewable energy projects. PPS22 sets a positive framework for the development of renewable energy by ensuring that local planning authorities include policies in their plans to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the development of renewable energy resources.
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In particular, it notes that small scale renewable energy projects can provide a limited but nonetheless valuable contribution to meeting local and national needs.
PPS22 does not contain specific advice on the issue of wind turbine developments on domestic premises. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be reviewing the relevant Part of the General Permitted Development Order later this year, to see if it would be appropriate to extent householders' permitted development rights in respect of the installation of micro-generation technology.
Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures are in place to notify widows and widowers of the monetary benefits available to them when a spouse has passed away. 
Mr. Plaskitt: We keep under review the way that information is made available about benefits so that bereaved people, at this very difficult time in their lives, know about their possible right to benefit and can act on it at the right time. Information is available from the local Jobcentre Plus and social security offices, and the Department for Work and Pensions website gives information about bereavement benefits together with leaflets and claim forms for downloading. Leaflets NP45 A guide to Bereavement Benefit", D49 What to do after a death in England and Wales" and D49S What to do after a death in Scotland" are available for professional advisers and the public, and are reviewed and revised as necessary annually.
As well as providing traditional sources of information, we have been working in partnership with funeral directors, registrars and voluntary groups such as Cruse, National Association of Widows and Citizens Advice Bureaux who may be contacted by bereaved people. In addition we will continue to look for opportunities across Government and their services as they develop, to improve advice about this particular benefit, to those most in need of itthe newly bereaved.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) smallest, (b) average and (c) largest amount fraudulently claimed in benefits which has resulted in a prosecution in respect of which all proceedings are complete is since 1997. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 9 January 2006]: The smallest amount fraudulently overpaid in benefits which has resulted in a prosecution is £0.00. Examples of cases where there has been no benefit overpayment are; collusive employers; attempted duplicate encashment of benefit cheques and order books; aiding and abetting; and identity fraud involving applications for a national insurance number.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department has spent on advertising in respect of benefit fraud in each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the national targets are for the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate; and what the performance of relevant offices in South Devon has been against those targets. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Nationally, the three main business objectives of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate for 200506 are; to complete 50 full and focused inspections; to complete two specialist inspections; and to complete 100 assignments by the Performance Development team.
Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what percentage of local authorities detected fraudulent claims for (a) housing benefit and (b) council tax benefit resulted in prosecutions in each of the last six years. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Information on the number of fraudulent claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit that have been detected is not available. Therefore it is not possible to provide the percentage of fraudulent claims that have been prosecuted.
|Number of court summons issued (prosecutions)||Number of successful prosecutions (convictions)|
|200506 (Q1 and Q2 only)|
Mr. Plaskitt: The National Audit Office in Annex A of its report Dealing with the complexity of the benefits system", published on 18 November 2005, acknowledged that the Department has already taken a number of steps to tackle complexity. We announced at the Public Accounts Committee hearing on 7 December 2005 that we are setting up a dedicated benefit simplification team which will seek to build on those steps.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department's expenditure was on each benefit listed in the 7 December 2005 Uprating Statement in each year from 199091 in (a) cash terms and (b) real terms using 200304 prices. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his latest estimate is of the take-up rate of council tax benefit (a) in total and (b) by income decile; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The Government set out its intention in the Queen's speech to bring forward legislation by the end of this Parliamentary Session to reform support for housing costs. We will also be setting out more broadly our proposals for welfare reform in a Green Paper to be published shortly.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what evidence he has collected on the effect of the local housing allowance on work incentives in Pathfinder areas; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The Department has commissioned a comprehensive evaluation of the nine Pathfinder local authorities where the local housing allowance is being tested. The evaluation is collecting evidence on work incentives in Pathfinder areas but this will not be reported upon until the end of the evaluation later this year.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average change has been in the amount of housing benefit overpayments going unrecovered in (a) Pathfinder and (b) non-Pathfinder areas since the Pathfinder pilots started. 
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of rolling out the local housing allowance to (a) Scotland, (b) England, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland if additional central funding was provided to benefit authorities to support the transition at a level comparable to the funding provided to Pathfinder authorities. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Until the evaluation of the local housing allowance Pathfinders is complete and the design, timing and approach to a national rollout is determined, we are unable to say what amount of transitional funding would be made.
It is unlikely that funding provision to cover the transition to the local housing allowance would be identical under a national roll-out to that provided to the Pathfinder authorities, because of the additional costs associated with running and evaluating a pilot.
Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he plans to include in the proposed Housing Benefit Bill a pilot scheme for the social rented sector and housing benefit sanctions for antisocial neighbours. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The Government set out its intention in the Queen's speech to bring forward legislation by the end of this parliamentary session to reform support for housing costs. We will also be setting out more broadly our proposals for welfare reform in a Green Paper due to be published shortly.
The Government announced in the Respect Action Plan, published on 10 January, that it is considering the use of sanctions to ensure that those households who are evicted for antisocial behaviour take up help offered to them. If we decide to go ahead, we will look for a suitable legislative vehicle.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of raising all housing benefit and council tax benefit earned income disregards in line with inflation since 1988. 
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average shortfall resulting from the single room rent restriction on housing benefit has been in each year since its introduction. 
Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will update the table on the number of households claiming means-tested benefits set out on 31 March 2003, Official Report, column 602W, broken down by (a) household type and (b) number of children. 
|Single (no children)||2,977,000||2,195,000||2,728,000|
|Couple (no children)||442,000||439,000||686,000|
|Single parent (one child)||473,000||411,000||422,000|
|Single parent (two children)||315,000||293,000||306,000|
|Single parent (three or more children)||208,000||199,000||209,000|
|Couple (one child)||92,000||91,000||99,000|
|Couple (two children)||87,000||88,000||93,000|
|Couple (three or more children)||92,000||79,000||84,000|
|Total benefit units with at least one person receiving benefit||4,686,000||3,796,000||4,628,000|
|Total number of adults in benefit units where at least one person is receiving benefit||5,399,000||4,494,000||5,591,000|
|Total number of children in benefit units where at least one person is receiving benefit||2,431,000||2,244,000||2,348,000|
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people he estimates were entitled to but did not receive each benefit administered by his Department and its agencies in each year since 199798; what the sum of unclaimed benefit was in each year; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Estimates of the numbers entitled to, but not receiving the main income-related benefits administered by the DWPminimum income guarantee/income support, jobseeker's allowance (income-based)as well as local authority administered housing benefit and council tax benefit, can be found in the DWP publication series entitled: Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up", along with estimates of unclaimed benefit. Copies of the annual reports are held in the Library. The latest edition presents patterns in the take-up of each benefit, between 199798 and 200203.
These estimates predate the introduction of pension credit, which replaced MIG in October 2003. Estimates of pension credit will be published on 31 January 2006; this publication will include the first six months of pension credit. Estimates for the full year 200405 are expected to be published in May 2006.
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Currently it is not possible to estimate take-up rates for disability living allowance and attendance allowance. Following a recommendation in Meeting DWP's long-term information needs on disability: a feasibility report", (DWP Research report number 267), the Department is commissioning research to test two possible approaches to establish whether it is possible to estimate take-up rates for these benefits. Results will be available in 2007.
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