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8 Jan 2007 : Column 205W—continued

Electrical Engineers

Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many qualified electrical engineers are unemployed in (a) Wantage constituency, (b) Oxfordshire and (c) the South East. [105134]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The requested information is not available.

Home Responsibilities Protection

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in receipt of home responsibilities protection have a youngest child aged (a) between six and 11 and (b) 12 years or over. [112908]

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James Purnell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave on 14 December 2006, Official Report, column 1336W to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws).

Income Levels

Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the income thresholds used in paragraph 7 of the reply by the Government to the Second Report of the Work and Pensions Select Committee of Session 2003-04, Cm 6200, are in weekly amounts of income in 2004-05 prices (a) before and (b) after housing costs for (i) relative low income and (ii) absolute low income (A) couples with no children (equivalised income benchmark), (B) single people with no children, (C) couples with four children under 16, (D) single people with four children under 16, (E) couples with two children aged five and 11, (F) single people with two children aged five and 11, (G) couples with one child aged five and (H) single people with one aged five. [107345]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The available information is in the following table:

£ per week
Low income thresholds (weekly)
Before housing costs After housing costs

Relative low income



Absolute low income



Households Below Average Income 2002-03

Jobcentre Plus

Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will investigate the performance of the office of the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus in replying to correspondence from hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. [104965]

Mr. Jim Murphy: From January 2006 to November 2006 the Jobcentre Plus Chief Executive responded to 2,848 letters from MPs. Jobcentre Plus are currently achieving their target of responding to 90 per cent. of letters within 20 days and have achieved this target in each of the last two years.

Lone Parents

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what proportion of lone parents who have had contact with an Employment Zone adviser have moved into work in (a) London and (b) Great Britain; [108877]

(2) what evaluation his Department has undertaken of the effectiveness of (a) Employment Zone provision for lone parents and (b) the New Deal for lone parents; [108878]

(3) what estimate his Department has made of the cost per job placement of (a) Employment Zone provision for lone parents and (b) the New Deal for lone parents. [108879]

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Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 14 December 2006]: 38 per cent. of lone parents who have had contact with Employment Zone (EZ) advisers in Great Britain and 36 per cent. of lone parents who have had contact with EZ advisers in London have moved into work.

Nine reports on EZs(1) and 23 reports on NDLP(2) have been published and are available in the Library. A list of the most recent reports is reproduced in the list.

Latest available data indicate that the cost of helping lone parents into work is around £1,900 per person through EZs and around £600 per person through NDLP. Direct comparisons cannot be drawn between the costs of helping someone into work through EZs and NDLP. EZs operate in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country while the New Deals operate nationally. In London EZ areas, employment support is provided to lone parents through EZs rather than through NDLP. Outside London, lone parents in EZ areas are offered help through NDLP at their first work-focused interview (WFI), but can choose between EZ and NDLP support if they continue to claim income support and have a second WFI. This increases the likelihood of such EZ participants requiring additional, and thus more costly, support to help them into work.

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Pensioner Benefits: Warrington

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in Warrington were in receipt of (a) winter fuel payments, (b) pension credit and (c) home energy efficiency grants in the last year for which figures are available. [113312]

James Purnell: Last winter 36,790 pensioners in Warrington received a winter fuel payment. In August 2006 9,680 pensioners in Warrington received pension credit. Between June 2000 and December 2006 3,660 pensioner households in Warrington received home energy efficiency grants.

Take-up Rates: Scotland

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the take-up rate is for (a) pension credit, (b) basic state pension, (c) winter fuel payment, (d) housing benefit and (e) council tax benefit in (i) the Highland Council area, (ii) Scotland, (iii) the UK and (iv) Glasgow. [113402]

James Purnell: Take-up estimates are available for Great Britain only.

Estimates of take-up of pension credit administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as well as local authority administered housing benefit and council tax benefit, can be found in the DWP publication series entitled: “Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up”. Latest estimates relate to the year 2004-05. Copies of the latest publication are available in the Library.

Take-up of the basic state pension cannot be calculated accurately. However, the pensioners’ income series indicates that 98 per cent. of pensioner benefit units were in receipt of some state pension in 2004-05. Those not in receipt may include pensioners who are deferring their state pension and those who have mis-reported the source of their income.

Information on the take-up of winter fuel payment is not available.

Leader of the House

Parliament: Public Awareness

24. John Robertson: To ask the Leader of the House what steps he has considered to strengthen the relationship between hon. Members and the public. [113142]

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Nigel Griffiths: I know that all hon. Members believe that it is vital to engage with constituents and organisations at all levels.

My right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House has brought forward the proposal for a communications allowance, currently being considered by the Members Estimate Committee, designed to assist with Members’ contacts with their constituents.

Here in Parliament, we want the public to feel that they can contribute more directly to the legislative process, which is why recent reforms introduced the taking of oral and written evidence by Public Bill Committees (which replaced Standing Committees).

My right hon. Friend, has promoted these and other measures and we welcome further suggestions from parliamentary colleagues.

Official Report: Ministerial Corrections

26. Andrew Selous: To ask the Leader of the House if he will make a statement on progress on how ministerial corrections are to be incorporated into the Official Report. [113144]

Mr. Straw: Following my answer to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) on 28 November 2006, Official Report column 498-99W, this remains under discussion with the Official Report.

House of Lords Reform

27. Bob Spink: To ask the Leader of the House what recent consultations he has undertaken on reform of the House of Lords. [113145]

Mr. Straw: I have been working with colleagues on all sides of both Houses over the recent months as part of an intensive effort to reach a consensus on how a future House of Lords may look. I intend to bring forward a White Paper soon, setting out the Government’s proposals on composition and transition, which will take account of the recent Joint Committee on Conventions report, and the on-going cross-party discussions. A free vote in both Houses on the composition of the House will then follow.

Members' Salaries

Mr. Burns: To ask the Leader of the House how many hon. Members, including Ministers, receive more than the basic hon. Member's salary. [112883]

Mr. Straw: As at 1 January 2007, 162 Members receive more than the basic hon. Members salary.

Political Party Funding

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Leader of the House which representatives of each of the three main political parties had discussions with Sir Hayden Phillips during November and December. [109312]

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Mr. Straw: The Prime Minister has asked Sir Hayden Phillips to undertake an independent review of the system of political party funding. Sir Hayden Phillips is currently undertaking negotiations with the three main political parties. It is for Sir Hayden Phillips to say which representatives of the other political parties he has met. He has met my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Minister without Portfolio and me; in addition to other Cabinet Ministers and the relevant officials and special advisers.

Retirement Age

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to the answer of 4 December 2006, Official Report, columns 189-90W, on the retirement age, what his Department's policy is on the application of the national default retirement age to staff below the Senior Civil Service. [109545]

Mr. Straw: In line with the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations, the Privy Council Office has a compulsory retirement age of 65 for all grades.

House of Commons Commission

IT Support Services

22. Mr. Chope: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of IT support services for hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. [113140]

Nick Harvey: The Commission receives occasional reports on the performance of specific ICT services and inquires about specific issues as the need arises. In the last year the Commission has received reports on the renewal of Members IT equipment, the performance of the Virtual Private Network and the creation of PICT, as the new parliamentary ICT Service.

Surveys of Members and their staff’s views of all parliamentary services are undertaken regularly and a substantial survey will be conducted during the first part of this year.

The Administration Committee—on which the hon. Member serves—is undertaking an inquiry into Members’ ICT at present and the Commission will respond to that report in good time.

Video Conferencing

25. Keith Vaz: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what plans he has to provide for further video conferencing facilities for the use of hon. Members. [113143]

Nick Harvey: At present a portable video-conference facility can be booked via the Serjeant at Arms Department by Members for their use in some of the meeting rooms in Portcullis House. New equipment was introduced in the summer of 2006.

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In the longer term, Westminster office-to-constituency-office video-conferencing will be considered as part of a larger initiative to improve IT services to constituencies.


Car Registration

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many cars are registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. [112862]

Dr. Ladyman: The number of cars currently licensed as at December 2005 is 26,207,656.

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