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10 July 2006 : Column 1576W—continued

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of the review of the Child Support System being carried out by Sir David Henshaw. [77981]

Mr. Plaskitt: The Henshaw redesigns estimated total costs between February 2006 and July 2006 will be as follows:

Cost of: Amount (£)

Sir David Henshaw’s time


Henshaw’s redesign secretariat staffing


Henshaw’s redesign non-staff costs and publication


Henshaw’s redesign research/consultation


(1) Up to. Note: Figures are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

The DWP also meets the costs of general office overheads for example accommodation, IT etc. These costs are not separately identifiable from DWP running costs.

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what facilities are available to the Child Support Agency to verify a non-residential parent's (a) address and (b) working arrangements. [80423]

Mr. Plaskitt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is the matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to my hon. Friend with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty:

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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the potential impact on the Child Support Agency of the Law Commission's proposals on the rights of cohabiting couples; and if he will make a statement. [76218]

Mr. Plaskitt: We look forward to the outcome of the consultation. Unlike other legislation child support law does not distinguish between married and unmarried parents.

Community Care Grants

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many community care grants enabling homeless prison leavers to buy a tent and sleeping bag were awarded by Jobcentre Plus in 2005; [76784]

(2) what system is in place to ensure that homeless prison leavers who receive a community care grant from Jobcentre Plus for a sleeping bag and tent spend that grant for that purpose. [76785]

Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 12 June 2006]: The information requested is not available.

When a customer applies for a community care grant for an item or items and is subsequently awarded a grant no further check is made to ascertain whether the customer actually used the award to obtain the items requested. It is the responsibility of the customer to use the grant appropriately.

Exceptionally, where the Decision Maker has evidence that the award may not be used for its intended purpose, for example from information held on departmental systems or from a case worker involved in the case, then the Decision Maker has the power under Sections 138(3) and 139(5) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 to make payment to a third party who can provide, or arrange for the provision of, the items covered by the award.

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Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will reply to the letter on widowers’ claims sent to him by Guy Dodd Solicitors on 14 June. [80763]

Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 27 June 2006]: The letter of 14 June from Guy Dodd Solicitors addressed to The Widowers Litigation Department was answered by Jobcentre Plus Bereavement Benefits on 29 June 2006.

Council Tax Benefit

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the take-up rate of council tax benefit was in (a) Edinburgh, West constituency and (b) other Edinburgh parliamentary constituencies in each year since 1996-97; and how many pensioners (i) were entitled to and (ii) received council tax benefit in each year. [82705]

Mr. Plaskitt: Estimates of take-up and entitlement for Council Tax Benefit are not available below national level; the latest available information is in “Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2003-04”, a copy of which is in the Library.

Figures for the number of council tax benefit claimants are not available broken down by parliamentary constituency. Figures for pensioners in receipt of council tax benefit are not available prior to 2004. The available information is in the following table.

Council tax benefit recipients aged 60 and over: Edinburgh city council
November Number





1. The data refer to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple.
2. Caseloads have been rounded to the nearest 10.
3. Council tax benefit totals exclude any second adult rebate cases.
4. ‘Aged 60 and over’ is defined as benefit units where the claimant and/or partner are aged 60 and over. Therefore figures will contain some claimants aged under 60 where there is a partner aged over 60 years.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent. caseload stock-count taken in November 2004 and November 2005.

Credit Unions

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department will provide information and membership forms for credit unions to its employees. [79943]

Mrs. McGuire: The Government welcome the contribution made by the various savings institutions in providing for greater choice and diversity in the financial services sector.

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The Government’s guiding principles are to ensure impartiality and to help create a level playing field for all providers of financial services in order that their specific attributes can be properly harnessed.

It would be inconsistent for a Government Department to favour credit unions above other financial institutions and I therefore do not plan to provide information and membership forms for credit unions to employees of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

DWP employees are of course free to join in credit unions if they meet their relevant membership criteria. DWP will consider what levels of support would be appropriate should its employees wish to set up a credit union.

Departmental Decision Making Standards Committee

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what role the Departmental Decision Making Standards Committee will play in monitoring (a) qualitative and (b) quantitative aspects of service; and if he will make a statement on the membership and frequency of meeting of this Committee. [69274]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions Decision Making Standards Committee (‘the Committee’) monitors the standards of decision making on benefit issues in Jobcentre Plus, The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers’ Service. The Committee has three key objectives:

The Committee has five independent members including the chairperson. Formal meetings of the Committee are held not less than three times a year. Working meetings of members are held when required.

Departmental Expenditure

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent by his Department on refreshments in each year since 1997. [41255]

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent on entertainment by his Department in 2004-05; and how much of that sum was accounted for by (a) food, (b) alcohol, (c) staff and (d) accommodation. [50899]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001 from the Department of Social Security and parts of the former Department for Education and Employment including the Employment Service. Therefore it is not possible to provide information prior to that date. Such information as is available is provided as follows.

Expenditure on refreshments is taken to include working breakfasts or lunches, refreshments at meetings, as well as official hospitality and is incurred
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in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting.

Expenditure on refreshments( 1)







(1) Rounded to nearest £000

Departmental Finance Directors

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) name, (b) professional and academic qualifications and (c) relevant experience are of the finance director of his Department. [80073]

Mrs. McGuire: The finance director general for the Department for Work and Pensions is John Codling. He is a chartered public finance accountant and holds a BA (Hons) degree in Economics. His career includes senior appointments in local government, a regional health authority, and he was director of finance at the Funding Agency for Schools. John Codling joined the Benefits Agency as finance director in April 1998. He was subsequently appointed the DSS finance director in May 2000 and then finance director general for DWP in December 2001 following an external competition.

Departmental Legislation

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his practice is regarding meeting, discussions with and taking into account the views and opinions of (a) private individuals and (b) representatives of organisations when drawing up and framing legislation to be introduced by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [81657]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions always seeks a full range of views when drawing up and framing legislation. Consultation is a key part of the policy-making process—both informal and formal. The Department holds regular meetings with representatives of the principal stakeholder groups for our policy areas and with relevant experts.

Organisations and individuals can also contribute to the Department’s formal consultations, which abide by the code of practice on consultation. Our regular stakeholder contacts are alerted to the fact that a formal consultation is taking place. As required by the code, the Department then gives feedback on the responses received and on how the consultation process influenced the policy decision.

Recently, there has been extensive consultation, with both individual members of the public and stakeholder organisations, about both pensions reform and welfare reform proposals, supplementing the formal consultative papers with both meetings, and online opportunities to comment on the proposals.

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Departmental Websites

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many websites there are within his responsibilities; and what the total cost of maintaining such websites was in the last year for which figures are available. [79075]

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James Purnell: The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is responsible for 21 websites. These were listed in PQ/06/65209 and in the following tables.

Table A lists those websites operated by Department for Work and Pensions where

we are responsible for the content.

Table A:
Website Name Website Address Contracted and quantifiable costs (£)

Department for Work and Pensions

Jobcentre Plus


The Pensions Service


Child Support Agency


Directgov Disabled People and Carers



Directgov Over 50s Section


Age Positive

Employment Zones

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

Office for Disability Issues

European Social Fund


Total Table A


Notes: 1 Production, management and maintenance of DWP websites is carried out by the Department's own in-house E-Communications team. It is not possible to quantify internal costs for each site but contracted and quantifiable costs have been included where possible. 2 Contracted and quantifiable costs include payments to suppliers for services such as research, user testing and site builds, and payments to interim personnel. 3 Departmental sites are hosted by our IT contractors. In most cases it is not possible to separate these costs from contracted costs.

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