John Healey: The ONS has not yet published economic growth figures for local authorities for 200405. However, the latest figures show the West Midlands was the second fastest growing region in the UK between 200304 after the North East, and that between 1997 and 2003 the Shropshire economy has grown by 37 per cent. Unemployment levels are also close to record lows, and the employment rate well above the national average of 74.3 per cent.
Dawn Primarolo: Since 1998, the new deal has helped over 1.6 million people into work, including 630,000 young people, 250,000 unemployed adults, and 500,000 lone parents. New deal for disabled people and pathways to work have now helped over 120,000 incapacity benefit claimants into work. Independent research has shown the effectiveness of welfare to work policies, with the new deal for young people alone having estimated benefits to the economy of up to £500 million a year, and each additional job achieved through new deal for lone parents resulting in an economic gain to society of £4,400.
Dawn Primarolo: The Government's measure to achieve full employment in the three northern regions are built on a platform of macro-economic stability, continued investment in the new deal, investment in skills and training, and policies to make work pay. These policies have led to near record levels of employment in those regions.
John Healey: In 1997, unemployment was over 2 million. Since then employment has risen by more than 2.3 million and unemployment has fallen by over half a million. Unemployment is now close to record lows last seen in the 1970s and it has also fallen in every region and country in the UK.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: This Government believe that a fair society guarantees security in old age and ensures that all pensioners can share in rising national prosperity and continue to play an active part in society.
Government measure have increased pensioner income directly through the basic state pension, pension credit, winter fuel payments and through additional age-related payments to help pensioners with council tax and other living expenses. The incomes of pensioner households have also been improved indirectly through reductions in the cost of public services such as free local area bus travel, prescriptions and eye tests for those over 65, and free TV licences for those over the age of 75.
Personal tax and benefit changes mean that the average pensioner household will be £26 a week better off in 200607. The poorest 10 per cent. of pensioners will be £42 a week better off in 200607 than they would have been under the 1997 system.
Dawn Primarolo: The Government receive a number of representations on tax credits, including the level of overpayments. The pre-Budget report included a package of measures to make the tax credits system work better for families, providing more certainty over their tax credits award, while maintaining flexibility to respond to falls in income and changes in circumstances. These changes should contribute towards a reduction in the level of overpayments.
Costs to public funds arising from errors in the tax credit system are included in HMRC's accounts, and losses and write-offs are specifically disclosed. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Department's latest published accounts, available at
2 Mar 2006 : Column 849W
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/about/annual_reps.htm and, in particular, part two of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on those accounts.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people in Northern Ireland have been awarded tax credits who had income of (a) £10,000 to £19,999, (b) £20,000 to £29,999, (c) £30,000 to £39,999 and (d) £40,000 to £50,000. 
Dawn Primarolo: Final income data are currently available only for 200304. Table 2.9 of Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics. Finalised awards. 200304" shows the average, taken over 200304, of the number of in-work families in each band of income used to calculate tax credit entitlement and with positive finalised 200304 awards. This document can be found at www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/personal-tax-credits/cwtc-annual-0304.pdf. The figures for Northern Ireland appear in the following table:
|Average number of in-work families in Northern Ireland in each band of income|
|£10,000 to £19,999||32|
|£20,000 to £29,999||31|
|£30,000 to £39,999||21|
|£40,000 to £50,000||10|
Alistair Burt: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many claims were made for child benefit after the death of (a) a child and (b) a newly born child in the last year for which figures are available. 
Dawn Primarolo: In 2005, about 3,300 child benefit claims were reduced or stopped following the death of a child. No figures are readily available of which such claims were received after the death, or which such children were newly born.
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