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James Purnell: The seventh annual Opportunity for all report (Cm 6673) sets out the Governments strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion and reports progress against a range of indicators.
The Government have introduced a number of measures since 1997 to help older people enjoy a better standard of living, such as minimum income guarantee, and then its successor, pension credit, winter fuel payments, free TV licences for over 75s and increases above inflation in the basic state pension. The minimum level of income pensioners are expected to live on has increased by a third in real terms since 1997. As at November 2005, 4,800 people in Coventry South constituency were receiving pension credit.
Between 1996-97 and 2004-05 numbers of pensioners in Great Britain in relative low income, after housing costs, have fallen by over a third from 2.8 million to 1.8 million. Pensioners are now less likely to be in low-income than younger people, on an after housing costs basis. Information on the numbers of pensioners in low income is not available at constituency level.
The Pensions White Paper Security in retirement: towards a new pensions system (Cm 6841) announced our commitment to uprate the pension credit standard guarantee and the basic state pension in line with earnings growth ensuring that we continue to tackle pensioner poverty.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether under his proposals for pensions women with no childcare responsibilities will qualify for a full basic state pension with 30 years' contributions. 
James Purnell: The proposals, published in the White Paper, Security in retirement: towards a new pensions system (Cm6841), are designed to enable more women and men to maximise their state pension entitlement, while retaining the contributory basis of the system.
Under these proposals, women with no childcare responsibilities who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2010 would qualify for a full basic state pension on the basis of 30 years' contributions. The thirty qualifying years could be achieved through paid national insurance contributions, the award of credits, or a combination of both, including our proposed more generous crediting arrangements. The proposals would apply equally to men in this position.
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Work Search Premium (WSP) pilots are running in eight Jobcentre Plus districts. Lone parents participating in the pilots are paid a £20 a week premium for a maximum of 26 weeks to help with the costs associated with searching for work. Participation is voluntary and certain eligibility criteria must be met. Participants agree to undertake intensive work search and will also be entitled to help with the cost of formal childcare while undertaking work search activities.
The evaluation of the pilots aims to assess the long and short term effect of the pilots on lone parents and movements off benefit and into work. It consists of a quantitative impact assessment which will estimate the net impact of the WSP pilots on patterns of flows off Income Support and other working age benefits like jobseekers allowance, as well as other outcomes like entry into work.
The first published report, which we expect to publish in the autumn, will use 12 months of programme data and will examine the impact of the WSP on those lone parents already claiming benefit at the time of introduction of the pilot. A report covering 30 months of data will be published in autumn 2008, and one covering 48 months of data will be published in spring 2010.
In addition, qualitative evaluation will explore the impact of the pilots on the attitudes, motivations and responses of eligible lone parents, and examine the effectiveness of delivery. This will include interviews with lone parents and Jobcentre Plus lone parent advisers. We expect this report to be available in spring 2007.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the main barriers to the UK making more and better use of energy efficiency methods; and what steps his Department is taking with other Departments to overcome these barriers. 
Ian Pearson: The Energy Efficiency Innovation Review, published jointly by Her Majesty's Treasury and DEFRA last December, assessed the barriers to the increased take-up of energy efficiency measures. These include high up-front investment costs, lack of access to capital, split incentives, other market failures, the hassle factor, lack of consumer information and mistrust of suppliers or installers. Further information can be found on the DEFRA website:
This evidence has been used to inform the Review of the UK Climate Change programme, published in March this year, and the ongoing Energy Policy Review. For example, in the household sector, the Energy Efficiency Innovation Review identified consumer misapprehension of the costs and benefits of energy efficiency as a key barrier. The Government have subsequently announced a £20 million initiative to promote consumer uptake of energy efficiency measures, working with energy suppliers and local authorities.
Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 6 June 2006, Official Report, column 499W, on the Environmental Liability Directive, why the first of the two consultations on the Environmental Liability Directive on policy options has been delayed. 
The Government are still considering how best to present the options for transposing the Directive. The Directive raises many issues because of its relationship with existing domestic environmental protection legislation. The Government want to ensure that the issues are clearly set out for optimum stakeholder engagement.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he will report on the progress of his Department's 10 demonstration plants to encourage new technologies to treat biodegradable municipal waste. 
The four signed contracts are with Bioganix, Greenfinch/South Shropshire, Premier Waste and Novera. Further information on these technologies is available on the DEFRA website at the following address:
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has commissioned into stress in rural areas; what assessment he has made of levels of stress in rural areas; and what measures are being taken to reduce levels of stress in rural areas. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 22 June 2006]: In 2003 DEFRA funded a study by Exeter university reviewing research on rural stress. In 2005 a study into The Wider Social Impacts of Changes in the Structure of Agricultural Businesses also considered issues of stress in the farming community.
DEFRA is closely involved with a number of voluntary and community organisations working to alleviate the level of stress in rural areas through the Rural Stress Action plan. The plan supports £300,000 worth of projects each year, and funds are committed until March 2008.
Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the failure of Thames Water to meet its leakage targets for the regulatory year 2005-06; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: The failure of Thames Water to meet its leakage targets for the regulatory year 2005-06 is disappointing. The Economic Regulator, Ofwat, has already said that it views the issue as serious and will carefully scrutinise the company's annual return before deciding on regulatory action. Ofwat is responsible for setting leakage targets and has powers to deal with poor performance. I will not pre-empt Ofwat's response on this issue.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what definition of research he uses in relation to (a) the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (No. 2) Regulations 2006, Part 2(4) and (b) EC Regulation 999/2001. 
[holding answer 26 June 2006]: It is not possible to define research specifically in the context of the above regulations; indeed, it is not deemed necessary to do so. My Department, in collaboration with other funding bodies, seeks to facilitate investigations that will further scientific knowledge on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) but has to take into account the likelihood of success, scope for sound interpretation of data and relevance to policy needs
before funds can be committed. Investigations that are specifically addressed by the above regulations and which are statutory obligations would normally be classed as surveillance, namely investigations that determine the existence of TSEs in individual animals or targeted populations. Research and surveillance are complementary, and evidence arising in one area inevitably impacts on the other.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many staff in his Department have had (a) five or more, (b) four, (c) three and (d) two periods of sick leave of less than five days in each of the last three years. 
|Periods of sick leave||2003-04||2004-05||2005-06|
The Department is committed to managing sick absence effectively and to putting in place the recommendations of the Managing Sickness Absence in the Public Sector report. The DfT Board takes an active interest in the issue of attendance management, and a number of steps have already been taken.
Gillian Merron: Information about overseas visits undertaken by Ministers in the Department for Transport on official business, during 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006, has been placed in the Libraries of the House.
All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Library. Since 1999, the Government have published on an annual basis a list of all overseas visits by Cabinet Ministers costing in excess of £500. Copies of the lists are available in the Library. Information for 2005-06 is currently being compiled and will be published when it is ready.
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the (a) earliest and (b) last trains (i) to Cheltenham Spa from London Paddington and (ii) from London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa were on (A) 6 June 1986, (B) 6 June 1996 and (C) 6 June 2006; how many direct and indirect train services were provided on a weekday between Cheltenham Spa and London Paddington on each of those dates; and how many of those services were direct in each case. 
|At 6 June each year:|
The connecting services shown are where connections are made at Swindon.
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