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Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in settling the 340 cases lodged by widowers at the European Court of Human Rights prior to May 2005. 
266 of the widowers, or the representatives of the widowers, have been issued with a payment or informed that a settlement will not be offered. The remaining 32 cases are in the process of having offers negotiated with their representatives.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when an accessible version of the Green Paper, A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work", will be published; and whether there will be an extension to the consultation deadline for those requiring the accessible version of the paper. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 2 February 2006]: We launched our Welfare Reform Green Paper, A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work", on 24 January. Since then, over 2,500 copies have been distributed.
We are also producing alternative versions of the Green Paperword, braille, audio, large print, easy-read and Welsh language. People can request copies of these via our email and telephone contact points. The braille, audio and large print versions have already been distributed, and we took delivery of the Welsh language version on 15 February.
It does take time to prepare the easy read version in a properly accessible format, with appropriate illustrations. The first draft of that version has been approved and the final version will be with us on 27 February 2006. Given this delay, we will respond sensibly and sensitively to individuals who require additional time to make their response. We also have a telephone helpline to provide one-to-one advice to individuals and organisations in understanding our proposals.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the Green Paper on Welfare Reform, what proportion of the one million incapacity benefits recipients that he estimates can be returned to work over a decade he expects to be (a) new claimants and (b) existing claimants. 
Margaret Hodge: We are currently working towards a public service agreement target to increase employment among disabled people and reduce the employment gap between those living with a disability and the rest of the population by 2008.
We have now, as part of our overall goal of achieving 80 per cent. employment, added an aspiration to reduce by one million the number of people receiving
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incapacity benefits over 10 years. Our proposals for achieving this aspiration are outlined in the Welfare Reform Green Paper; A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work".
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he has made an assessment of the merits of introducing a single working age benefit for all people of working age not in employment; and if he will make a statement. 
Margaret Hodge: In the Green Paper: A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work" we have said that there may be advantages in moving towards a single system of benefits for all people of working age. We shall be examining how we can move to a simpler, single system effectively and fairly while continuing to provide value for the taxpayer.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many claimants of housing benefit there were in each local authority in Hampshire in the last three years for which figures are available, broken down by electoral ward; and what total amount was paid in each case. 
|August 2003||August 2004||August 2005|
|Basingstoke and Deane||6,200||6,500||6,800|
|Basingstoke and Deane||23.1|
Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many instances there have been of housing benefit being suspended due to a tenant's failure to pay rent in each year since 2000; and in how many cases local authorities then redirected housing benefit payments directly to a landlord at the landlord's request. 
Currently regulations require that where a tenant in receipt of housing benefit has accrued eight weeks' or more rent arrears, benefit should then be paid direct to their landlord. Although the Department records data for the overall number of rent allowance cases where payment is direct to the landlord, we are not able to identify the reason for direct payments being made.
The Department has been undertaking more detailed research in those local authorities which have been testing the local housing allowance. Information collected to date suggests that around 85 per cent. of local housing allowance claims are being paid direct to the tenants. Of the 15 per cent. who are having their rent paid to the landlord, 9 per cent. are on the grounds of the tenant being assessed as unable or unlikely to pay on their own behalf and 6 per cent. on the grounds of rent arrears.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will commission new research into the impact of the non-dependant deduction regime on (a) maladministration in the housing benefit system, (b) work incentives and (c) poverty among claimants. 
Mr. Plaskitt: There are currently no plans to commission new research into the various impacts of the non-dependent deduction regime, although these issues will be considered as part of the Department's continuing programme of work to reform housing benefit.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 1 February 2006, Official Report, column 590W, on benefits, if he will list the organisations who (a) supported and (b) opposed the simplification or reform of the housing benefit non-dependant deduction regime proposed in the Housing Green Paper. 
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of not imposing housing benefit non-dependant deductions where this would leave non-dependants with an income below income support level. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The cost estimate in annually managed expenditure of not imposing housing benefit non-dependant deductions where this would leave non-dependants with an income of below income support levels is £22 million per year.
3. The impact is estimated using the Department's Policy Simulation Model for 200506, using data from the 200304 Family Resources Survey up-rated to 200506 prices, benefit rates and earnings levels, and is calibrated to latest published forecasts and policies.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of capping the maximum housing benefit non-dependant deduction at 50 per cent. of the rent due. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The cost estimate in annually managed expenditure such that all the non-dependants would not be required to contribute more than 50 per cent. of the eligible rent is £37 million per year.
2. The impact is estimated using the Department's Policy Simulation Model for 200506 using data from the 200304 Family Resources Survey up-rated to 200506 prices, benefit rates and earnings levels, and is calibrated to latest published forecasts and policies.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the new proposal for housing benefit sanctions on family members of a person committing antisocial behaviour who were not themselves responsible for antisocial behaviour; 
(2) what assessment his Department has made of the future accommodation prospects of those evicted for antisocial behaviour who have had their housing benefit reduced as a result of refusing to take up help to address their behaviour; 
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.
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Sanctions could include financial penalties or housing benefit measures. We believe this would provide a very strong incentive to encourage these households to undertake rehabilitation when they have refused other offers of help. We are currently assessing this idea more fully.
We will be consulting with the relevant bodies, stakeholders and experts in the normal way during consideration of this measure. As the number of people likely to be affected is very small, we are not planning a formal written consultation.
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