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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have claimed (a) incapacity benefit and (b) employment and support allowance in each quarter since April 2008. 
|Incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance claimants each quarter since May 2008-Great Britain and abroad|
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest ten.
2. From 6 April 2001, no new claims to severe disablement allowance were accepted. In addition from 27 October 2008, no new claims to incapacity benefit were also accepted.
Department for Work and Pensions Information Directorate: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study.
|Employment and support allowance caseload quarterly time series-Great Britain and abroad|
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest ten and displayed in thousands.
2. Employment and support allowance replaced incapacity benefit and income support paid on the grounds of incapacity for new claims from 27 October 2008
Department for Work and Pensions Information Directorate: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people aged over 65 years with terminal cancer receive (a) disability living allowance and (b) attendance allowance under special rules. 
|Number of attendance allowance and disability allowance special rules cases over 65 where the main disabling condition is malignant diseases at August 2009|
1. Figures have been rated to agree with Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study and rounded to the nearest 100.
2. Totals show the number of people in receipt of an allowance, and excludes people with entitlement where the payment has been suspended, for example if they are in hospital.
3. Where more than one disability is present only the main disabling condition is recorded.
The preferred statistics on benefits are now derived from 100 per cent. data sources. However, the 5 per cent. sample data still provide some detail not yet available from the 100 per cent. data sources, in particular, more complete information on the disabling condition of Disability Living Allowance claimants. DWP recommends that, where the detail is only available on the 5 per cent. sample data, or disabling condition (DLA) is required, the proportions derived should be scaled up to the overall 100 per cent. total for the benefit.
Department for Work and Pensions Information Directorate 5 per cent. sample
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether existing claimants of disability living allowance aged under 65 years will be able to continue to receive disability living allowance or the equivalent cash level of support when they reach 65 under the proposals for disability benefits which form part of the Government's planned social care reforms. 
Jonathan Shaw: If any disability benefits for older people are reformed as part of the National Care Service, those receiving the affected benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive the same level of cash support. We will give more details about the National Care Service in due course.
Keith Hill: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if she will set out, with statistical evidence relating as closely as possible to Streatham constituency, the effects on that constituency of changes to her Department's policies since 1997. 
Jonathan Shaw: As the biggest delivery Department in the UK, DWP makes a difference to millions of people every day, helping them to lead safer, fairer and more rewarding lives that are free from poverty. The policies that we have introduced since 1997 have aimed to give people more choice and control over their lives. Through our welfare reform programme, we are committed to providing personalised support to everyone who needs it so they have the opportunity to get into and remain in work.
Through Jobcentre Plus, we are promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age. Since 1997, the number of people unemployed in Streatham has decreased by 18 per cent. to 4,594, and the number unemployed for more than one year has decreased by 64 per cent. to 725. From May 1997 to May 2009 the number of lone parents claiming income support in Streatham has decreased by 37 per cent. to 2,540.
Our New Deal programmes have helped lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, disabled people, the over 50s and partners of unemployed people to move from benefit into work. Since their inception over 2.2 million people in the UK have found work with the support of the New Deal, and 6,070 have been helped in Streatham.
We introduced a target to halve child poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating it by 2020. Poverty is measured using a headline indicator of the proportion of children in households with an income below 60 per cent. of contemporary household median income before housing costs. This is in line with international best practice.
Statistics on the numbers of children living in poverty are not available at the constituency level, but the latest information for the Inner London area shows that the proportion of children in poverty has fallen from 39 per cent. to 27 per cent. since 1997(1).
This year we will spend over £13 billion more on pensioners than if we had continued with the policies that were in place in 1997. Around half of that money will go to the poorest third of pensioners.
In 1997 the poorest pensioners, who received income support, lived on £69 a week (£98 in today's prices). Today pension credit, which was introduced in 2003, means no pensioner needs to live on less than £130 a week, or £198.45 for couples. As of May 2009, 4,850 pensioners in Streatham are receiving pension credit.
In 2007-08 there were 900,000 fewer pensioners living in relative poverty in the UK than in 1998-99 (measured as below 60 per cent. of contemporary median household income after housing costs). Statistics on the numbers of pensioners living in relative poverty are not available at constituency level, but the latest information for the Inner London area shows that the proportion of pensioners in poverty has fallen from 42 per cent. to 29 per cent. since 1997(2).
Pensioners in the UK also benefit from a range of additional support such as the winter fuel payments which this winter is worth £250 for households aged between 60 to 79 and £400 for households aged 80 or over. These payments provide vital reassurance to older people that they can afford to turn up their heating during cold weather. Prior to winter 1997-98 less than £60 million was spent helping pensioners meet their fuel bills-this year we will be spending around £2.7 billion on winter fuel payments alone. In 2008-09, 12,410 people aged 60 and over benefited from winter fuel payments in Streatham.
We have also taken steps to strengthen and protect the private pensions system to ensure people have confidence to save for their future through the establishment of the Pensions Protection Fund, the Financial Assistance Scheme and a more powerful and proactive pensions regulator.
We have also taken forward a radical package of pension reforms in the Pensions Acts of 2007 and 2008 which will deliver a fairer and more generous state pension and extend the opportunity of workplace pension saving to millions, many for the first time.
The state pension reforms begin to come into effect from 2010 and will mean around three-quarters of women reaching state pension age in 2010 are expected to qualify for a full basic state pension compared to half without reform.
Since 2001, we have significantly extended and improved civil rights for disabled people in areas such as employment, education, access to goods and services and transport. Disabled people in Streatham will have benefited from these improvements. The Welfare Reform Act 2009 contains powers to increase choice and control for disabled adults, including disabled parents, enabling them to choose how certain state support is used to meet their individual needs. Older and less well-off carers are receiving extra help through the provisions within the National Carers Strategy.
(1) Based on three-year averages and changes are rounded to the nearest percentage point or 100,000 children between 1997-98 to 1999-2000 and 2005-06 to 2007-08.
(2) Based on three-year averages and changes are rounded to the nearest percentage point or 100,000 pensioners between 1997-98 to 1999-2000 and 2005-06 to 2007-08.
(3) Regional information about assistance payments received by members from the Financial Assistance Scheme could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: There have been dramatic falls in opium cultivation in Afghanistan in recent years-19 per cent. in 2008 and 22 per cent. in 2009. This year, despite a collapse in the price of wheat, the levels of opium cultivation is likely to be stable. Farmers have chosen not to go back to cultivating opium. They are responding to improvements in governance and security and to continuing concerns over food security.
The Government are supporting the Helmand Counter Narcotic Plan led by Governor Mangal. The plan aims to reduce poppy cultivation and demonstrate governance in Helmand. It launched in 2008 with the distribution of free wheat seed to 32,000 farmers across the province. This year, the plan has distributed wheat seed to 37,500 farmers, saplings and vines to 1,400 farmers, and will distribute summer crops (such as alfa, okra and mung beans) to 27,000 farmers.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the conditions faced by female parliamentary candidates in Afghanistan in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in that country. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Afghanistan is a young democracy, and elections are taking place in difficult circumstances. We recognise the particular challenges faced by female candidates. The UK funds a range of programmes in Afghanistan to encourage the Afghan Government to promote women's equal participation in governance and to build awareness of women's rights among civil society and policy makers. We continue to urge the Afghan Government to uphold the constitution, which demands equal treatment of men and women.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with officials of the Government in Afghanistan on the presidential decree in February 2010 on Afghan electoral law regarding the requirement for a quota of female parliamentarians in the Afghan Parliament; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We are in regular contact with the Government of Afghanistan and have discussed the presidential decree at length. We understand that the changes to Afghan electoral law enacted by the decree do not affect the quota of parliamentary seats reserved for women, but the process for filling these seats if they are empty. Previously where there were fewer female candidates than there were seats reserved for women, the remaining seats were left empty. The decree allows these seats to be filled by men after an election, rather than remaining empty. We will continue to discuss this issue with the Government of Afghanistan.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of Burma's (a) nuclear capability and (b) ability to produce uranium; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We are aware of recent media reporting suggesting that Burma is seeking to develop its nuclear capability. We take such issues very seriously, and remind all states to adhere to their obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had discussions with his EU counterparts on the matter of possible nuclear co-operation between Burma and North Korea; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We are aware of recent media reports suggesting that North Korea and Burma are expanding their military relationship. We regularly raise concerns regarding North Korean nuclear proliferation in discussions with EU counterparts, as well as with states involved in the Six-Party Talks process. The UK continues to urge all countries, including Burma, to respect their obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has discussed the case of Mr Gao Zhisheng with the Chinese Government; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the case of Gao Zhisheng with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during his recent visit to
China. Yang denied that Gao had been tortured or his rights violated, but provided no further information on his case. Later, at a press conference, Yang said that Gao had been sentenced to prison on subversion charges. He gave no details of the charges against Gao, or the length of his sentence.
We remain concerned about the case of Gao Zhisheng and the continuing uncertainty over his whereabouts. I released a statement on 3 February urging the Chinese Government to provide accurate information on Gao's situation to ease the concerns of his family and friends and to provide reassurance about his condition. The EU also issued a statement, expressing their concerns over Gao's disappearance on 9 February. We will continue to raise his case at every appropriate opportunity.
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