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Mr. Plaskitt: The Benefits Simplification Unit was set up in December 2005. When fully staffed, the unit will have five full-time staff (one SEO and four HEOs) with additional input from a senior civil servant (Grade 5) and a Grade 7.
The unit's role is to act as a catalyst in driving forward simplification across the benefits system, and as a first step published Simplification: Guide to Best Practice on 4 May 2006. Copies have been placed in the Library. The unit is now working to raise awareness of the simplification agenda across DWP and to embed best practice, so that the need to move towards a simpler, more transparent system is at the heart of future benefit design and delivery.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on what date the Child Support Agency will bring the case of Ms L. Leech of Great Northern Road Dunstable to court.
As details about individual cases are confidential I have written to you separately about this case.
Mrs. McGuire: A facility is available to my senior civil servants and some other specified staff to use a credit card acquired by the Department from one of the major UK banks. The cards are issued to named individuals, they are not transferable and are not interchangeable between cardholders or other colleagues.
The cards are authorised for use to cover immediate expenses when time prevents the purchase of travel and other similar services, for official purposes, through the Departments normal purchasing arrangements.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effects of staff reductions in his Department and its agencies on performance in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. McGuire: The departmental report, published in June 2005, set out an initial assessment of the progress made against the efficiency challenge and delivery of the Departments SR2004 public service agreement targets. The autumn performance report, published on 15 December 2005, provided an update on delivery of these public service agreement targets, in the context of the efficiency agenda. Copies are available in the Library.
Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff are employed by his Department in each departmental region; and how many staff he expects to be employed by his Department in each such region in (a) 2007 and (b) 2008. 
Data on the total number of staff expected to be employed in the Department at 31 March 2007 and 31 March 2008 are not available by Government office region as detailed plans are currently being developed.
|Government office region/country||Actual staff||2007||2008|
| Notes: 1. Figures are point in time at dates stated and comply with Office for National Statistics definitions. 2. Figures are FTE and include temporary staff. 3. Planned figures are rounded to nearest 50 FTE and are subject to change.|
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the reporting of the effectiveness of his Departments spending on staff learning and development. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Department has introduced an effective learning and development evaluation strategy across all business areas. Our strategy and processes are linked to maintaining the Investors in People accreditation. Each business area has identified its priorities for learning investment and these are formally evaluated to measure the efficiency of the learning that has taken place. All departmental expenditure on learning and development is collated centrally and is reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance has been given to jobcentres, including Jobcentre Plus Partnerships, on the restricting of references to a geographical area to meet the requirements of race relations legislation. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what guidance has been given to jobcentres including Jobcentre Plus Partnerships on the restricting of references to a geographical area to meet the requirements of race relations legislation. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus guidance states that employers are permitted to set out requirements in job advertisements, such as the arrangement of transport from an allocated location to take employees to and from a place of work. Where an employer
wishes to state that potential applicants must reside in a particular town or city this cannot be accepted, as it may exclude some groups of people.
Jobcentre Plus must ensure that it meets its obligations under equal opportunities legislation. Where Jobcentre Plus staff have concerns that an employer is placing restrictions that may exclude potential applicants, they advise the employer of this and suggest alternative wording.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how many occasions (a) civil servants in his Department and (b) special advisers have stayed overnight in (i) five star, (ii) four star and (iii) three star hotels in each of the last three years. 
Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions cannot provide the information on the star rating of accommodation used by civil servants and special advisers as it is the cost of the hotel and not the star rating which will have influenced the choice of the hotel.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total cost was of overnight accommodation for (a) civil servants and (b) special advisers in his Department staying overnight in (i) mainland Great Britain, (ii) Northern Ireland, (iii) the Republic of Ireland and (iv) other countries in each of the last three years. 
|Financial year||UK accommodation costs||Foreign accommodation costs|
Unfortunately, we are unable to provide information relating to specific countries of travel as this is not collected by the supplier. The totals given in the table include all travellers within DWP including special advisers. Unfortunately, we are unable to identify separate costs relating to individual groups of travellers.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discounts are available in relation to hotel accommodation used by (a) civil servants and (b) special advisers in his Department. 
Mrs. McGuire: All staff within the Department for Work and Pensions currently benefit from a 5.45 per cent. discount for hotel bookings when made through the Departments hotel accommodation supplier in relation to official business. All bookings made for special advisers share the same discounts.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how many occasions Ministers of State in his Department stayed overnight in (a) five
star, (b) four star and (c) three star hotels on foreign visits in each of the last three years. 
Mrs. McGuire: The information requested could be supplied only at disproportionate cost. Under the terms of the Ministerial Code on Travel by Ministers, when travelling on official business Ministers are expected to make efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements.
Since 1999, the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. This information includes accommodation costs. Copies are available in the Library.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the potential cost savings which would result from reducing the level of income support for women aged over 25 years pregnant with their first child to the level of income support for pregnant women with their first child aged 18 to 24 years. 
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to retain the Post Office card account beyond 2010 as an option for those who wish to continue using it; and if he will make a statement. 
The Post Office card account will be funded by the Government until 2010 as always planned. Every customer who currently collects their benefits from the Post Office will still be able to do so if they wisharound 25 different bank accounts can be accessed at Post Office branches now, and we hope that there could be more in the future.
We are working with Post Office Ltd. to develop a joint strategy to move customers from the Post Office card account with the best interests of our joint customers in mind. Post Office Ltd. has already introduced one new savings account, and is developing other savings and banking products, which are likely to be more attractive to many of their customers than the current Post Office card account.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the latest birth rate per 1,000 women was to those aged (a) 19, (b) 18, (c) 17, (d) 16, (e) 15, (f) 14 and (g) under 14 years in the UK; and what forecast he has made for each of the next 20 years. 
As the National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your question about the latest birth rate per 1,000 women to those aged (a) 19, (b) 18, (c) 17, (d) 16, (e) 15, (f) 14 and (g) under 14 years in the UK; and what forecast has been made for each of the next 20 years. (75628)
Birth rates by age for females aged under 20 are shown in Table 1. Figures relate to births that occurred in 2005. The birth rates are provisional, as they are calculated using the 2004-based population projections for 2005.
Because of the relatively small numbers of births to girls aged 14 and under, ONS only routinely reports birth rates for the age-group 15 and under. In 2005, there were 1,092 births to girls aged 15, 210 births to girls aged 14, and 26 births to girls aged under 14.
|Table 1: Births per 1,000 females at each single year of age below age 20,( 1) United Kingdom, 2005|
|Age||Births per 1,000 females|
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