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Basic Bank Accounts

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library a copy of his reply to the letter from the FSA Consumer Panel on their report into basic bank accounts. [70412]

Mr. Andrew Smith: A copy of my Private Secretary's letter of 17 May 2002 to the Chairman of the Financial Services Consumer Panel has been placed in the Library.

Social Fund

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans his Department has to review the operation of the social fund with respect to those benefit recipients whose income is marginally above the basic income support level; and if he will make a statement; [69277]

Malcolm Wicks: The Social Fund plays an important role in the welfare system by helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society with the cost of intermittent expenses. Access to the Social Fund is therefore generally limited to people receiving income- related benefits or, in the case of Sure Start Maternity Grants and Social Fund funeral payments, tax credits. Crisis loans are available to anyone where there is a serious risk to their health or safety.

We keep all elements of the Social Fund under review to see whether further improvements can be made to its operation and to ensure that the Fund supports our wider welfare reforms. However, we have no plans to broaden the eligibility criteria.

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Jobcentre Plus

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether it will be part of the duties of Jobcentre Plus staff to provide assistance with completing application forms for the new tax credits. [67243]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Yes. From 2003 customers, if they choose, will be able to have their new tax credits business (including assistance with claim form completion) dealt with by Jobcentre Plus staff.

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assistance he intends Jobcentre Plus staff will provide to people who do not have the information and evidence of income they are required to provide in connection with an application for new tax credits. [67241]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: From 2003 Jobcentre Plus staff will help people complete their new tax credits claims, including the income information they need to supply. Guidance for staff will therefore cover all the options available in helping people calculate the income details they need to enter on the claim form.

The help available from Jobcentre Plus will complement that provided by the Inland Revenue and the comprehensive guidance to the new tax credits claim form.

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what programme of training will be provided to Jobcentre Plus staff on the new tax credits. [67242]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: All Jobcentre Plus staff dealing with NTC business will receive a full package of training so that they can provide people with information about new tax credits, and assist with new tax credits claims and related inquiries.

Occupational Pension Schemes

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to bring occupational pension schemes under the jurisdiction of TUPE. [67700]

Alan Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

The Government carried out full public consultation at the end of last year on the proposed reform of the TUPE Regulations. The issue of the Regulations' coverage of occupational pension rights was one of those on which comments were sought. We are currently considering the responses received and hope to announce our decisions shortly.

Local Government Councillors

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many elected local government councillors are registered disabled; and if he will make a statement. [61949]

Mr. Raynsford: I have been asked to reply.

16 Jul 2002 : Column 272W

There is no longer a register of disabled people. However, the 2001 National Census of Local Authority Councillors in England and Wales carried out by the Improvement and Development Agency indicates that just over 13 per cent. of [the 21,268] councillors consider themselves to have a disability.


Law Commission Report

Mr. Flook: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to the answer of 29 January 2002, Official Report, column 257W, when he will announce his decision concerning Law Commission report No. 270. [68019]

Yvette Cooper: The Government accept in principle the Law Commission's recommendations on limitation of actions, subject to further consideration of certain aspects of its report, and will legislate when a suitable opportunity arises.

Freedom of Information Act

Mr. Lepper: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she plans to publish guidance on publication schemes under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for central Government and non-departmental public bodies. [70811]

Yvette Cooper: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I am pleased to inform the House that I have today published guidance for Central Government and non-departmental public bodies on Publication Schemes under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Copies of the Guidance have been placed in the House Library.


Fast Stream Recruitment

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when he will publish the 2002 Civil Service Fast Stream Recruitment report. [70675]

Mr. Alexander: The seventh annual Civil Service Fast Stream Report was today placed on the Cabinet Office website at and in the Libraries of the House. It covers the year from 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002, and reports the results of Fast Stream competitions completed during that period and the developments that have taken place.

The standard of entry to the Fast Stream Development Programme has remained consistently high and the report shows that the Civil Service has had increasing success in filling its vacancies. In addition there has again been steady progress in broadening the diversity of Fast Stream recruits. Women and men were recruited in equal numbers and the proportions of those recruited from ethnic minority groups, those with disabilities, and those attending universities other than Oxford and Cambridge have all increased.

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Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland on how many occasions between 31 March 2001 and 31 March 2002 (a) departmental and (b) non-departmental special advisers have travelled abroad in an official capacity; what places were visited; and how much each visit cost. [58781]

Mrs. Liddell: One special adviser accompanied me on a trip to Brussels in October 2001. The cost to my Department was £545.87.

All travel by special advisers is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Management Code.

16 Jul 2002 : Column 274W

Regulatory Impact Unit

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many members of her Department have been employed in its regulatory impact unit in the past five years; and if she will make a statement. [65975]

Mrs. Liddell: The Scotland Office does not have a regulatory impact unit. Staff in the Department maintain contacts with the regulatory impact unit in the Cabinet Office as required.

Crown Estates Commissioners

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations she has received about the role of the Crown Estates Commissioners in Scotland. [69288]

Mrs. Liddell: One representation on this subject has been received.