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4 Mar 2009 : Column 1613W—continued

Departmental Written Questions

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how many occasions in the last 12 months Ministers in his Department have used their discretion to rule that a parliamentary question for written answer should be answered because it would be in the public interest to do so, even though to do so would exceed the disproportionate cost threshold of £700. [249132]

Jonathan Shaw: The information requested is not collated centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Housing Benefit: Essex

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will publish information on changes in the level of benefits experienced by local
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housing allowance claimants resident in (a) Southend-on-Sea and (b) Essex who move address; and if he will make a statement; [255104]

(2) what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of persons residing in (a) Southend and (b) Essex who will receive (i) an increase, (ii) a decrease and (iii) no change in benefit paid following the introduction of local housing allowance; what recent representations he has received on this issue; and if he will make a statement; [255105]

Kitty Ussher: We have no immediate plans to publish specific information on the level of benefit change experienced by local housing allowance claimants who move address. We are in the process of carrying out a two year review of local housing allowance.

A claimant who is receiving the local housing allowance and who moves address within their existing broad rental market area, and who has no other changes to their family composition, will normally see no change in the amount of local housing allowance that they receive.

From 7 April 2008, the local housing allowance is being rolled out to customers making new claims for benefit and customers who change address. The local housing allowance provides a clear and transparent set of allowance rates that helps tenants know how much financial help is available. A claimant can obtain details of the relevant rate of local housing allowance in advance, allowing them to make an informed choice about the affordability of specific accommodation.

Information on all local housing allowance rates and details of broad rental market areas are available from the rent service website at:

The Department carried out a full public consultation before introducing the local housing allowance. We have received a wide range of representations about all aspects of local housing allowance. Details of individual representations, and our response to them, could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Mortgage Interest Rate Relief

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what mortgage interest rate his Department is currently paying claimants entitled to assistance with mortgage interest; how many claimants have been paid less than this interest rate since the pre-Budget report; by how much those claimants have been underpaid; when he expects to be able to make good the payments to those claimants; and if he will make a statement. [251941]

Kitty Ussher [holding answer 27 January 2009]: On 24 November 2008, the Chancellor announced in the pre-Budget report that because of the exceptional circumstances in the economy and the housing market, the Government would maintain, for six months, the level of support for mortgage interest based on a standard interest rate of 6.08 per cent.

Some people will experience a temporary drop below 6.08 per cent. (to 4.58 per cent.) because our IT systems had been programmed to track the Bank of England base rate. When the Chancellor's decision was made,
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our IT systems that are used to assess and pay DWP benefits had started automatically to implement the 1.5 per cent. reduction in the base rate announced by the Bank of England on 6 November.

We were able to re-adjust the rate back to 6.08 per cent. for people getting income-based jobseeker's allowance and income-related employment and support allowance. This amounted to 5 per cent. of the affected cases.

We could not do so for those getting income support and pension credit without a high risk of disrupting the normal running of our IT systems, most critically the uprating of benefits, which would have affected many more people than just those getting support for mortgage interest.

We estimate that 80,000 income support customers and 115,000 pension credit customers receive support for mortgage interest and these are currently being paid at 4.58 per cent.

We are taking urgent action to ensure that these customers do not lose out, and that cases are corrected to reflect the Chancellor's commitment. I can assure the House that no one is being paid support for mortgage at an interest rate below 4.58 per cent.

In total, departmental expenditure on support for mortgage interest is currently being underpaid at £1.5 million per week. In the vast majority of cases, we transfer customers' support for mortgage interest direct to their lender, so the customer will not see a fall in the amount of money they themselves receive each week. However, we estimate that, on average, support for mortgage interest in respect of pension credit customers will have been underpaid by £7 per week and in respect of income support customers by £11 per week.

We will make a corrective adjustment for a period of five weeks from 2 February to 8 March 2009. During this period, customers will receive an increase in their benefit to compensate them for the earlier reduction. Then, from 9 March benefit will be readjusted to the correct level with the standard interest rate set at 6.08 per cent.

Mortgage lenders, via the Council of Mortgage Lenders, have also been advised about the situation to ensure that lenders are aware of exactly what is happening.

Our staff have been fully briefed and we have issued clear guidance to local authority staff.

Pension Schemes

Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of people who are auto-enrolled into the pension's savings scheme from 2012 will receive more than (a) £5, (b) more than £6, (c) more than £7 and (d) £8 or more worth of value for each £8 invested in their pension. [258219]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Pages 55-56 of the report ‘Saving for retirement: Implications of pensions reforms on financial incentives to save for retirement’, DWP Research Report 558, contain information about the modelled expected returns for individual contributions to a defined contribution pension with employer contribution after 2012. Distributions of returns are shown by birth cohort and results are shown for a range of case studies.


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Pensioners: Poverty

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his most recent estimate is of the percentage of pensioners resident in (a) the London borough of Bexley and (b) London living in poverty. [259512]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Poverty is a complex and multidimensional issue and, as such, there are many possible measures of poverty.

Our public service agreement “Tackle poverty and promote greater independence and wellbeing in later life” includes a range of indicators related to low income for pensioners. These are relative low income (below 50 and 60 per cent. contemporary median household income), and absolute low income (below 60 per cent. of 1998-99 median income uprated in line with prices), all measured after housing costs have been taken into account.

The data source does not allow us to provide robust numbers for estimates below the level of Government office region. The information that is available for the percentage of pensioners in London below each of these thresholds is given in the following table.

Percentage of pensioners falling below various thresholds of median household income, after housing costs, London, 2004-05-2006-07

Percentage

Below 60 per cent of contemporary median household income

22

Below 50 per cent of contemporary median household income

12

Below 60 per cent of the 1998/99 median household income uprated in line with prices

12

Notes:
1. Three survey year averages are given as robust single year estimates cannot be produced because of small sample sizes.
2. 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” (HBAI) series, which uses disposable household income, adjusted (or “equivalised”) for household size and composition, as an income measure as a proxy for standard of living.
3. The figures are based on OECD equivalisation factors.
4. Figures are based on survey data and as such are subject to a degree of sampling and non-sampling error.

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his most recent estimate is of the percentage of pensioners living in poverty resident in (a) Winchester constituency and (b) Hampshire. [260598]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Poverty is a complex and multidimensional issue and, as such, there are many possible measures of poverty.

Our public service agreement “Tackle poverty and promote greater independence and wellbeing in later life” includes a range of indicators related to low income for pensioners. These are relative low income (below 50 and 60 per cent. contemporary median household income), and absolute low income (below 60 per cent. of 1998-99 median income uprated in line with prices), all measured after housing costs have been taken into account.

The data source does not allow us to provide robust numbers for estimates below the level of Government office region. The information that is available for the percentage of pensioners in the south east Government office region below each of these thresholds is given in the following table.


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Percentage of pensioners falling below various thresholds of median household income, after housing costs, south east Government office region, 2004-05 to 2006-07

Percentage

Below 60 per cent. of contemporary median household income

16

Below 50 per cent. of contemporary median household income

9

Below 60 per cent. of the 1998-99 median household income uprated in line with prices

8

Notes:
1. Three survey year averages are given as robust single year estimates cannot be produced because of small sample sizes.
2. 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’ (HBAI) series, which uses disposable household income, adjusted (or “equivalised”) for household size and composition, as an income measure as a proxy for standard of living.
3. The figures are based on OECD equivalisation factors.
4. Figures are based on survey data and as such are subject to a degree of sampling and non-sampling error.

Poverty: Children

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 28 January 2009, Official Report, column 575W, on poverty: children, for which years information on the number of children born into families in relative poverty is available; and if he will make a statement. [260100]

Kitty Ussher: Information on the number of children born into families in relative poverty is not available for any period.

This is because the main source of income data, the Family Resources Survey, is a snap-shot survey, capturing a household’s situation at the time of interview. This means that the sample size for households with new born children will be small. It may also be the case that the response rate from families with very young children will be lower than usual and therefore may not be representative.

Roscommon Way Extension

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice the Health and Safety Executive provided in relation to (a) Phase I and (b) Phase II of the Roscommon Way extension, Canvey Island. [258357]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 25 February 2009]: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not been formally consulted by the planning authority on the health and safety implications of this development's proximity to major accident hazard sites and pipelines on Canvey Island.

In 2008 HSE advised a consultant acting for Essex county council and, separately, a member of the public that it would not advise the planning authority against a development comprising a single carriageway road passing through the consultation distances around major accident hazard sites in the vicinity.

HSE also confirmed that Essex county council were aware of the presence of hazardous pipelines in the area and provided the consultant with information on their approximate location. HSE also advised the consultant to contact Calor Gas Ltd for more detailed information on two liquefied petroleum gas pipelines.


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Social Security Benefits

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in (a) each region of England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland receive both working tax credit and housing benefit. [259525]

Kitty Ussher: 200,000 families received both working tax credit and housing benefit in the UK in 2006-07, the latest year for which figures are available.

The Family Resources Survey (FRS) has been used to provide this estimate but sample sizes do not permit results at a regional level.

State Retirement Pensions

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 10 February 2009, Official Report, columns 1807-08W, on state retirement pensions (1) what the cost of the (a) payments and (b) administration of the age addition was in the last 12 months; and if he will estimate the cost of increasing the age addition to (i) 50p, (ii) £1, (iii) £5 and (iv) £10 in 2009-10; [257554]

(2) if he will estimate the cost of increasing the age addition to (a) 50 pence, (b) £1, (c) £5 and (d) £10 and linking it to (i) earnings and (ii) prices in each of the next five years; and how many people currently receive the addition. [258707]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The estimated cost of payments of the age addition in the last 12 months is £35 million.

The information is not available for the costs of administration of the age addition in the last 12 months. The Pension, Disability and Carers Service do not separately identify the administration costs of delivering the age addition to state pensions.


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The estimated cost of increasing the age addition to (a) 50p, (b) £1, (c) £5 and (d) £10 and linking it to prices and earnings in each of the next five years are shown in the following tables.

Table 1: Cost of increasing the age addition to (a) 50p in 2009-10 and (i) no linking, (ii) linking it to prices and (iii) earnings thereafter

(i) No linking (ii) Prices (iii) Earnings

2009-10

70

70

70

2010-11

70

70

70

2011-12

70

75

75

2012-13

70

75

80

2013-14

70

80

85


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