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Excellence in Cities

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Excellence in Cities programme. [148534]

Ms Estelle Morris: Excellence in Cities (EiC) addresses the educational problems of our major cities. It provides new opportunities for gifted and talented children; learning mentors to tackle barriers to learning; learning support units to take disruptive pupils out of the classroom; city learning centres; small education action zones; and more beacon and specialist schools.

The programme has been running just over a year in the first 25 local education authorities. By September this year, there will be 58 authorities in the programme covering close to a third of all secondary pupils aged 11 to 16. We will also be introducing excellence clusters in seven areas from September which will pilot the EiC approach in areas of deprivation beyond the big cities--such as rural areas and coastal towns.

Excellence in Cities is already making a real difference. Last year, in the first EiC areas, the percentage of pupils getting five good GSCEs or their equivalent increased by nearly twice as much as it did in other areas. The biggest increases were in the most deprived schools where over half the pupils are entitled to free school meals. In those same areas the numbers of pupils leaving schools with no qualifications fell twice as fast as elsewhere.

Finally, Excellence in Cities has provided dramatic examples of reductions in exclusions. The whole programme has been widely welcomed by schools and teachers.

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All this underpins our commitment to a programme which, when fully implemented, will account for over £300 million a year, and will change both the perception and reality of our city schools. A detailed account of the first year of the EiC programme is contained in our publication "Excellence in Cities Report: March 1999 to September 2000" (a copy of which is in the House of Commons Library).

SOCIAL SECURITY

Burial Charges

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many applications for assistance with burial charges have been made to the Social Fund in each of the last five years, and how many have been granted (a) in full and (b) in part; and if he will make a statement. [148321]

Angela Eagle: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

1999-20001998-991997-981996-97
Applications(41)69,73072,96774,27588,169
Full awards(42)2,6653,0273,3862,805
Partial awards(43)39,20740,83841,38751,688

(41) The applications column shows all new applications received in the year 1 April to 31 March, including applications subsequently withdrawn.

(42) Awards are those processed in the year 1 April to 31 March. These will include applications received at the end of the previous year but not processed until the year indicated, and will exclude applications received at the end of that year but not processed until the following year. This column includes payments subsequently returned and excludes awards made or altered following a successful appeal.

(43) 1995-96 data are not sufficiently reliable to provide a breakdown between full and partial awards.

Source:

Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System


Winter Fuel Payment

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the effect on pensioners' incomes of reducing the winter fuel allowance by £50. [148483]

Mr. Rooker: Our reform of the pensions system demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that all pensioners share in the rising prosperity of the country, and to combating pensioner poverty. This year the Winter Fuel Payment is £200. This is double the amount paid last winter, 1999-2000, to qualifying households. The Winter Fuel Payment will continue to play an important role in the fight against fuel poverty and will mean that older people should not have to worry about keeping their homes warm over the winter months. The Winter Fuel Payment, which the hon. Member opposes, has proved to be extremely popular. We shall announce our proposals for this winter in due course in the usual way.

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many claims had been made by people living in the Southport constituency for the winter fuel allowance by 26 January; [148591]

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Mr. Rooker: Information regarding how many claims were made by 26 January is not available in constituency format and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The latest information we have is that around 22,500 people in the Southport constituency have already received a Winter Fuel Payment for this winter. Claims are still being received and processed therefore payments continue to be made. This information is not available for men and women separately.

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if all payments for the winter fuel allowance have been paid; and if he will make a statement. [149479]

Mr. Rooker: Around 11 million Winter Fuel Payments have been made in respect of this winter. As promised, all automatic payments, where clear entitlement was established, were made before Christmas. The same applies to payments in respect of successful claims determined by 9 November 2000. Claims continue to be received and processed, therefore payments continue to be made. In the minority of cases where a person's circumstances changed between the qualifying week and the payment week, cases are dealt with clerically.

Pensions (Expatriates)

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security under what circumstances he will review the regulations surrounding frozen pensions for British citizens who have moved outside the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [149629]

Mr. Rooker: UK pensions are paid to anyone who satisfies the qualifying conditions, not just UK nationals. Annual upratings have never been generally paid abroad. The exception is those countries with which we have reciprocal arrangements. We have no plans to change this.

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the (a) advantages and (b) disadvantages of abolishing the regulations associated with freezing pensions for British citizens who have moved outside the United Kingdom. [149628]

Mr. Rooker: To unfreeze fully pensions paid abroad would cost an estimated £300 million a year. This would mean that we would have less to spend on pensioners living in the United Kingdom. Our priority is to focus the resources available on pensioners in the UK, especially those who are in greatest need. There are no plans to unfreeze pensions in countries where upratings are not payable.

Retirement Benefits

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners in Morecambe benefit from (a) the winter fuel allowance, (b) free television licences and (c) the Minimum Income Guarantee. [148969]

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Mr. Rooker: For information on Winter Fuel Payments and free television licences, I refer my hon. Friend to the written answer I gave the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) on 31 January 2001, Official Report, column 238W.

For information on recipients of the Minimum Income Guarantee, I refer my hon. Friend to the written answer I gave on 5 February 2001, Official Report, column 364W.

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what public expenditure on pensions including Winter Fuel Payments and Free Television Licences was at the end of the (a) 1996-97, (b) 2000-01 and (c) 1999-2000 financial years; [148975]

Mr. Rooker: The information is in the table.

£ million cash terms

1996-971999-20002000-01
Retirement Pension31,99537,72638,745
Non-contributory Retirement Pension302827
Winter Fuel Payments09021,701
Income Support/Minimum Income Guarantee3,8153,8124,082
Social Fund412629
Christmas Bonus111106107
Non-contributory Christmas Bonus151617
Concessionary TV licences00346
Total40,80847,77450,248

Notes:

1. Consistent with Social Security benefit expenditure totals published in the pre-Budget report, November 2000, and in Departmental Reports for earlier years.

2. Winter Fuel Payments were introduced in the winter of 1997-98.

3. The Free Television Licence scheme began in November 2000, and is administered by TV Licensing for the BBC.

4. Any household where a person is aged 75 or over is entitled to a free TV Licence.

5. State Pension Age is currently age 60 for women and age 65 for men.

6. Men and women aged 60 and over are entitled to Winter Fuel Payments. The amount is £200 per household.

7. The figures provided relate to Income Support/MIG/Social Fund for men and women aged 60 or over.

8. The figures quoted for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit are assuming a qualifying condition based on age, ie 60 for women and age 65 for men.

9. Christmas Bonus is paid mainly to pensioners but includes other categories of claimants. It is paid with pensions and Income Support to people over pension age.



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