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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the applicable amount for housing benefit and council tax benefit will be increased to take non-pensioner tax credits into account. 
Malcolm Wicks: The amounts included in respect of children in housing benefit and council tax benefit applicable amounts will equal the maximum help available for children through child tax credit and child benefit. Both child tax credit and working tax credit will be taken into account as income, in line with the current treatment of working families' tax credit and disabled person's tax credit.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on incentives in the field of employment is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if he will list the items currently under its consideration; if he will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Committee on Community incentive measures in the field of employment is provided for by a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council, which the Council adopted on 6 May 2002, Article 129 of the Amsterdam Treaty. It runs until 31 December 2006.
The programme of employment incentive measures will cover analysis, research and co-operation among the member states to support the European Employment Strategy and help achieve the strategic goals set by the Lisbon European Council. Activities, particularly through pilot projects, will include: the forward-looking evaluation of the Strategy; promoting the exchange of experience and good practice; and increasing information and general
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awareness of the social partners and relevant local and regional authorities. It also involves raising awareness of the Employment Strategy among European citizens
The work programme for the committee, which will approved at the first meeting on 30 May, will include deciding and managing with the Commission the: general guidelines for the implementation of the activities; breakdown of funding between the activities; proposals for selection criteria for financial support; criteria for assessing activities receiving such support; and the procedure for disseminating and transferring the results. The committee will have an advisory role on the other aspects of the standard comitology decision.
The committee is likely to meet two to three times a year and will be attended by one UK official. The annual cost to public funds of UK attendance is likely to be up to £1,650 of which the Commission will reimburse up to £1,230.
Together with member states, the Commission is currently conducting a review to bring existing legislation on the conduct of comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to "simplify the requirements for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission".
As an obligation to this Decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of committees. The first report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 26 February (Commission Document 5685/02).
As part of the review process, the UK Government have encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be accessible through its website.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the mandate of the Committee of the European Social Fund is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if he will list the items currently under its consideration; if he will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The legal base of the European Social Fund (ESF) Committee is Article 147 of the treaty establishing the European Community. The committee's role is to assist the European Commission in administering the ESF. It delivers opinions on draft Commission proposals relating to the ESF including programming documents and implementing rules. It has met four times over the last 12 months.
The committee is chaired by the Commission and is composed of representatives of member state Governments, trade unions and employers' organisations. The UK has six full members: two officials from the ESF Division of the Joint International Unit of the Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Education and Skills; two representatives from the Trades Union Congress (TUC); and two representatives from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). There are also three alternate members from the UK who are entitled to attend in the absence of a full member from their
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respective category: an official from the UK Permanent Representation to the EU and representatives from the TUC and CBI. The costs to public funds for the Government full members are limited to expenses of approximately £550 per person for a one day-meeting, less reimbursement provided by the Commission.
At its last meeting on 22 March 2002, the committee considered the evaluation of the ESF, local employment initiatives, gender mainstreaming, preparation of national action plans for employment, complementarity with the Leonardo Da Vinci vocational training programme and lifelong learning.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has responsibility for ESF policy within the UK and is accountable to Parliament for the work of the UK Government members on the ESF committee. The Department for Work and Pensions prepares explanatory memoranda on EU documents on the ESF committee that are deposited in Parliament for scrutiny. These arrangements will continue.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his programme to enable people receiving disability benefit to take employment. 
Over 8,200 people have already been helped into work through the New Deal for Disabled People pilots. Building on that success we extended the New Deal for Disabled People and we now have a national network of job brokers from the public, private and voluntary sectors who work closely with employers, voluntary groups and health services to help people with health conditions and disabilities move into work. A further 2,304 people have been helped into work through the extension.
Disability employment advisers continue to provide specialist support to disabled jobseekers, and disabled employees and their employers. The roll-out of integrated Jobcentre Plus offices will provide disabled people with work-focused meetings with a personal adviser to ensure they are aware of all the help and opportunities available to them.
A range of other Government programmes are also available to help people with health conditions and disabilities find and keep employment, including Access to Work, Workstep and Work Preparation. All the programmes are subject to evaluation, and reports are published. They are available free of charge from the Department and are also accessible on the internet.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the (a) number and (b) percentage of single pensioners with gross weekly incomes of between (i) £78 and £134 and (ii) £122 and £134; and if he will estimate the (1) number and
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(2) percentage of pensioner couples with gross weekly incomes of between (A) £124 and £200 and (B) £188 and £200. 
|Gross weekly income (£)||Number||Percentage|
1. The estimates are from the Family Resources Survey 199900 and are rounded to the nearest 10,000 or 1 per cent. As with data from any survey, these estimates should not be treated as exact as they are subject to sampling error. This is the latest year for which results are available and the survey covers Great Britain.
2. The Family Resources Survey does not include information on pensioners living in residential care or nursing homes.
3. Gross weekly income is at July 1999 prices.
4. Single pensioners are defined as single (non-cohabiting) people aged 60 or over. Pensioner couples are defined as couples (married or co-habiting) where either partner is aged 60 or over. This differs from the definition used in the Pensioners' Incomes Series (singles over state pension age (65 and over for men, 60 and over for women) and couples where the man is over state pension age).
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact on payment to pensioners and those in receipt of other benefits of Consignia's plans for urban sub-post offices. 
Mr. McCartney: Access for customers will be a key feature of the Post Office's restructuring programme. Even after restructuring, it is expected that well over 95 per cent. of customers in urban areas will still live within a mile of a post office branch and the majority will live within half a mile. And the branches which make up the network should have a sounder commercial basis upon which to develop customer service.
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