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Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether representations will be invited from officers in local authorities strategic housing and homeless services when the local housing allowance is reviewed by his Department. 
Kitty Ussher [holding answer 20 January 2009]: As part of the two year review of the local housing allowance, we have begun to engage with local authorities, including on issues of homelessness. If there is specific written evidence that officers in local authorities strategic housing and homeless services would like to submit, then this will be welcomed.
Mrs. Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will commission research into the effects on expenditure on benefits of patients with rheumatoid arthritis receiving treatment that enables them to continue to work or return to work. 
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the recommendations of the 2006 Carpenter Report, if he will support a set of core criteria for health and safety pre-qualifications, as a baseline for recognising competences across different pre-qualification schemes. 
The Government already support a set of core criteria for assessing the competence of individuals and organisations prior to their appointment to carry out construction work. They are set out in the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which provides advice on compliance with the provisions of the
Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM2007). These core criteria are based on the criteria recommended in the Carpenter Report. As well as forming part of the practical advice that the ACoP provides on compliance with the competency provisions of CDM2007, the core criteria aim to provide a basis for simplifying the wide variety of competence assurance schemes operated by the construction industry. Since publication of the ACoP, the Government have supported the work the industry is doing to both raise standards and simplify assessments in this area.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effect on pensioners of the Government Actuarys decision to reduce draw-down rates from pension funds; and if he will make a statement. 
Tables drawn up by the Government Actuarys Department on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) determine the rates for income withdrawal rates from pension funds. The current tables took effect on 6 April 2006 and have not subsequently been changed by the Governments Actuary. The tables are used to calculate the maximum level of unsecured pension or alternatively secured pension that may be paid in light of the pensioners age, gender and the prevailing yield figure on UK gilts. The rates of pension that can be provided using these tables have changed along with movement in gilt yields.
Flexibility in the withdrawal rules allows pension schemes to pay between 0 and 120 per cent. of amounts shown by the Government Actuarys tables to members under the age of 75, and so, in most cases, to pay as much income as if an annuity had been purchased.
Kitty Ussher: We have made substantial progress in tackling child poverty. 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty since 1998-99. As a result of the support we have introduced, families with children in the poorest fifth of the population, including those in the Vale of York, are, on average, £4,100 a year better off than in 1997. The measures we announced in the pre-Budget report 2008 will increase this to £4,400 from April 2009. In addition, Government measures over the past two years will result in lifting around a further 500,000 children from relative poverty. Our plans for reducing levels of child poverty in England were set out in Ending child poverty: everybody's business which is available in the Library.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children classified as being in relative child poverty were of (a) white, (b) Pakistani or Bangladeshi and (c) black non-Caribbean ethnicity in (i) the Vale of York and (ii) England in the latest period for which information is available. 
Kitty Ussher: Available information is given in the table. Child poverty statistics, published in the Households Below Average Income series, only allow a breakdown of the overall number of children in relative poverty at Government Office Region level or for Inner or Outer London. This means information for the Vale of York is not available.
|Numbers of children living in households with incomes below 60 per cent. of median from 2004-05 to 2006-07 for white, Pakistani/Bangladeshi and black non-Caribbean ethnic groups, before housing costs, England|
|Ethnic group of household reference person||Number of children (million)|
1. These statistics are based on Households Below Average Income, sourced from the Family Resources Survey.
2. Small differences should be treated with caution as these will be affected by sampling error and variability in non-response.
3. The reference period for Households Below Average Income figures are single financial years. Three sample years have been combined as regional single year estimates are subject to volatility.
4. The income measures used to derive the estimates shown employ the same methodology as the Department for Work and Pensions publication 'Households Below Average Income' series, which uses net disposable household income, adjusted (or "equivalised") for household size and composition, as an income measure as a proxy for standard of living.
5. Incomes have been equivalised using OECD equivalisation factors.
6. Numbers of children have been rounded to the nearest 100,000 children.
7. Children have been classified according to the ethnic group of the household reference person. The household reference person is classified as the highest income householder without regard to gender. This is consistent with the Households below Average Income publication.
Households Below Average Income, 2006-07
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the contribution credit unions can make to the delivery of the Government's social fund; and what discussions he has had on this matter. 
Kitty Ussher: An informal consultation paper, Social Fund: A New Approach was published on 1 December 2008 discussing a number of reforms to the social fund. One of the reforms on which initial views were sought was contracting with credit unions or other external organisations to provide credit in place of social fund loans. The intention is to move from a scheme that provides only loans to people on benefit to one that also connects our customers to organisations with whom they can maintain a relationship when they move off benefit and into work which could include better financial advice and support. The views expressed through the consultation, including those from the Credit Union movement, will inform the next steps in developing this type of scheme.
In the mean time the Government are taking the opportunity offered by the Welfare' Reform Bill to take powers to work in partnership with organisations capable of delivering interest free external provider social loans.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average time was for decisions to be taken on crisis loan applications in Lancashire in each month of 2008; and if he will make a statement. 
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much the Targeting Benefit Thieves section of his Departments website costs to run each year; and what the initial implementation cost of this section of the website was. 
Maintenance of DWP websites is mostly carried out by the Departments own in-house digital media team. It is not possible for us to quantify internal staff costs, because in most cases, staff are engaged in more than one role. In addition, we are unable to establish accurately our infrastructure costs because they form part of a wider departmental IT contract.
DWP is currently working with the COI to develop a standardised method for quantifying website costs across Government. We will be implementing this standard from March 2009 in line with the current timetable.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 15 December 2008, Official Report, columns 419-20W, on social security benefits: overseas residence, what the outcomes of his Departments consideration of the implications of the European Courts decision are for UK citizens who live in another EEA state area or in Switzerland and who wish to claim a disability benefit; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 15 December 2008, Official Report, column 420W, on social security benefits: overseas residence, how many of the 1,700 requests for payment of (a) disability living allowance (care component), (b) attendance allowance and (c) carers' allowance made by people who previously lived in the UK and are now living in another EEA state or Switzerland have been granted; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 15 January 2009]: Guidance is already available to employers in Heat stress in the workplace. What you need to know as an employer and in detailed supporting information which is on the Health and Safety Executive website.
5. Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the quantity of fuel smuggled between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the last 12 months. 
Paul Goggins: Latest HMRC figures indicate that the amount of fuel used but not sourced in NI is reducing. However, the OCTF is not complacent, during 2007-08 HMRC seized 0.82 million litres of fuel, disrupted eight laundering plants and seized 844 vehicles.
6. Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the most recent Northern Ireland quarterly employment survey findings on levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland. 
Paul Goggins: While this is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland Ministers, I understand from the statistics that have been published today that the seasonally adjusted number of people claiming unemployment related benefits in Northern Ireland stands at 35,900 which represents an unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent.
Mr. Woodward: I have taken urgent steps to ensure the remaining running costs are kept as low as possible. A package of measures has been agreed with the inquiry to reduce the projected cost by approximately £1 milliona 20 per cent. reduction for the remaining stages. The revised estimated final cost is now £190 million.
8. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the threat to security in Northern Ireland arising from the recent threat by the Real IRA to fight the long war. 
Mr. Woodward: As the Chief Constable and Garda Commissioner have indicated, dissident republicans remain a serious and continuing threat with a determination to kill or injure police officers. These criminal gangs are isolated within the wider community and law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border remain resolute in their determination to tackle such criminality.
Mr. Woodward: Dissident republicans remain active and committed to killing or injuring police officers. Progress from loyalists towards decommissioning has been disappointing and I would again encourage them to take advantage of the extension to the decommissioning amnesty.
9. Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions the Government had in June 2008 with representatives of the Democratic Unionist party on public spending in Northern Ireland. 
10. Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions the Government had in June 2008 with representatives of the Democratic Unionist party on public spending in Northern Ireland. 
Mr. Woodward: I have regular meetings with all the Northern Ireland political parties which cover a range of issues relating to Northern Ireland. These discussions have included the post-devolution policing and justice budget. However, public spending on devolved matters is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive.
Paul Goggins: The statutory arrangements for the supervision of offenders are kept under regular review. I am introducing a range of new measures to strengthen the management of offenders and protect the public. This includes: tightening the framework for managing dangerous offenders; increasing the scope of offender supervision; and implementing new technology.
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