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23 Apr 2007 : Column 924Wcontinued
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many house sales were completed in the UK in 2006. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 17 April 2007]: Data for the UK are not held centrally. A provisional estimate for Great Britain is that there were 1.4 million residential property sales in 2006. This is made up of 1.25 million sales in England and Wales as reported by the Land Registry and 150,000 residential property transactions in Scotland according to Registers of Scotland giving a total of 1.4 million for Great Britain.
Mr. Malik: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the merits of increased flexibility in rules governing listed buildings to allow them to become more energy efficient without seriously deviating from the character of the building. 
Angela E. Smith: Ancient monuments and listed buildings are exempt from the Building Regulations energy efficiency requirements if compliance would unacceptably alter their character or appearance and I would not want to change this. However the Department works closely with English Heritage to encourage energy efficiency improvements whenever this is appropriate and contributes to the guidance they publish. Interim guides to compliance, where appropriate, were published in 2002 and updated in 2004 and a further comprehensive guide is, I understand, to be published shortly.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her policy is on the extension of unitary authorities to include additional adjoining areas; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: In the White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, we recognise that some councils face challenges by having too tightly drawn boundaries. These may be overcome by cross boundary working, multi area agreements and in some cases a boundary review might be the right option. Our Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, currently before the House, contains provisions for the Boundary Committee to undertake a boundary review at the request of the Secretary of State or a local authority, or on its own initiative.
13. Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the results of the Pathways to Work employment programme. 
Mrs. McGuire: Latest figures show that Pathways has already helped over 26,500 customers move from an incapacity benefit into work.
In Pathways areas, the number of recorded job entries for people with health conditions or disabilities has increased by around two-thirds in the 12 months following roll-out.
Independent evaluation confirms our confidence that our Pathways to Work programme is a success.
14. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on new digital TV job search services. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: As part of the Departments commitment to broadening access to job search services, Jobcentre Plus has been working with Looking Local to provide digital TV viewers access to more than 400,000 vacancies advertised by Jobcentres across the country.
This innovative service enables people seeking work to look for a job at a time and a place convenient to them, and is currently being used 250,000 times a month.
15. Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the contribution made by the European social fund to projects promoting employment. 
Mrs. McGuire: The European Social Fund supports our policies to extend employment opportunity and develop a skilled work force. It has invested £5 billion in employment and skills provision in Great Britain since 2000.
16. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact that the 2007 Budget will have on the work of his Department. 
Mr. Hutton: The Budget contained a range of measures from benefit simplification to substantial changes to the Financial Assistance Scheme which were debated in this House last week.
17. Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the recent performance of the Child Support Agency. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The performance of the Child Support Agency has been steadily improving under the Operational Improvement Plan. After just the first year of the plan, early results are already showing improvements in key areas.
I am confident the performance figures for the last quarter, due to be published later this week, will continue to demonstrate the ongoing improvements in the Agencys performance.
Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when his Department expects the Child Support Agencys successor body to be fully operational. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Subject to parliamentary approval, during 2008-09.
18. Peter Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total value is of all pensions and benefits available to a married pensioner with no savings living in a council house. 
James Purnell: The total value of benefits available to married pensioners depends on their circumstances, in particular their national insurance records, income and capital.
Angela Watkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the likely impact of the provisions of the Budget 2007 on the Financial Assistance Scheme. 
James Purnell: I refer the hon. Member to the oral answer I gave for question number 5 to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne) today.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to improve access to affordable credit for those in receipt of benefit. 
Mr. Plaskitt: DWP is delivering the £36 million Growth Fund, which has increased the capacity of credit unions and community development financial institutions to make affordable loans to financially excluded people, many of whom are in receipt of benefit, and who might otherwise turn to doorstep lenders, and loan sharks charging exorbitant rates of interest.
Up to 31 March the 100+ credit unions and community development finance institutions delivering the affordable loan service across England, Scotland and Wales had made more than 18,000 loans, with a total value in excess of £7.6 million, to people on low income. Around 80 per cent. of Growth Fund loans are made to people in receipt of working age benefits.
DWP are also delivering the Now Let's Talk Money campaign, which will make people on low incomes aware of the services the Government have made available to them, services such as free face-to-face money advice and affordable credit.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what recent discussions he has had with disability organisations on the implications of the use of lie detection software for benefit claimants affected by mental health conditions; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the implications of the use of lie detection software for benefit claimants who do not have English as a first language; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) if he will monitor and evaluate the impact on vulnerable benefit claimants of the piloting of lie detection software; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: We have had several discussions with disability and other organisations about the plans to test voice risk analysis software as part of wider efforts to improve customer service and reduce fraud. The Department will be considering the impact of this technology on all customers including those who do not have English as a first language and those who are particularly vulnerable.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what training will be required of operators of lie detection software in benefit authorities. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 20 April 2007]: Voice risk analysis software analyses changes in voice frequency and helps to identify risk. It is not a lie detector. We intend to pilot this software in the London borough of Harrow, and in income support/jobseekers allowance claims to test whether it can be used to improve customer service and reduce fraud.
The amount of training operators of voice risk analysis require varies according to their existing skills and knowledge. However, four days of training supported by a period of mentoring is typical.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he plans to use evidence from lie detection software (a) to initiate investigation into the validity of benefit claims, (b) to suspend commencement or payment of benefits and (c) to bring charges for benefit fraud; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 20 April 2007]: Voice risk analysis software analyses changes in voice frequency and helps to identify risk. It is not a lie detector.
We intend to pilot this software in the London borough of Harrow on housing benefit and council tax benefit claims and in IS/JSA claims, to test whether it can be used to improve customer service and reduce benefit fraud. The technology should help
indicate which claims can be processed quickly and which may need additional investigation, but it will not replace existing procedures.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many staff were employed to answer Social Fund hotline calls in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available; 
(2) how much was spent on administering the Social Fund hotline in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available; 
(3) what the average length of time taken to process an application to the Social Fund via the Social Fund hotline was for the last year for which figures are available; 
(4) what the average length of call was to the Social Fund hotline in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available; 
(5) whether calls to the Social Fund hotline are (a) recorded and (b) monitored; 
(6) how many calls to the Social Fund hotline were (a) answered and (b) unanswered in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 23 April 2007:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions about Social Fund telephony. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus does not have a Social Fund Hotline. To date, 11 Social Fund Delivery Centres have rolled out nationally. We do not hold information on the cost of administering the Social Fund calls within these centres as these costs will form part of the programme to centralise benefit processing by March 2008. Calls to Social Fund lines are not currently recorded or monitored. Each Jobcentre Plus Region undertakes its own applications and different telephone numbers are currently in place. I am unable to give you a figure for the number of staff taking Social Fund calls in the delivery centres as staff numbers fluctuate in response to the demands on the service.
We do not have statistics on the average length of each call, however, the introduction of a telephony based crisis loan application system, where the customer applies directly via dedicated telephone numbers, usually allows a loan application to be made within 20 minutes and performance in this area is improving. It is now taking, on average, 1.5 days to process a crisis loan against a target of 2 days.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent representations he has received on improvements to the Eleven Plus system; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Knight: From time-to-time the Government receive representations both in favour of and against academic selection at eleven plus.
The Government do not support selection by high academic ability and do not wish to see it extended. Where schools require children to sit selective tests it is for admission authorities to decide upon and administer the testing process.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many and what percentage of (a) pupil referral units and (b) special needs units in each local authority conform to Building Bulletin 98 and Building Bulletin 99 regulations. 
Jim Knight: Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and Special Educational Needs (SEN) units are not required to conform to Building Bulletin 98: Briefing Framework for Secondary Schools or Building Bulletin 99: Briefing Framework for Primary Schools. Special Educational Needs units are, however, recognised in these bulletins as requiring supplementary area to the recommended gross internal floor area for secondary and primary schools. There is separate guidance for Pupil Referral Units and Special Educational Needs units. The Department does not hold the information requested.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many pupils entered further education after completing GCSEs in (a) England and Wales, (b) each region and (c) each London borough in each of the last five years. 
Jim Knight: The figures in this answer are for all 16-year-olds, there is no information solely on those that have completed their GCSE qualifications.
(a) The following table gives the number and percentage of 16-year-olds in England participating in full-time education at a sixth-form college, further education college, at school or in a higher education institute. The latest year for which data are available is end 2005.
|16-year-olds participating in full-time education by institution type, England 2001-05|
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