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4 Nov 2002 : Column 88W—continued

Post Offices

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to inform benefit and tax credit claimants that they will be able to receive their entitlement in cash over the counter at the Post Office after April 2003; [76105]

Malcolm Wicks: Customers are being supplied with information (including letters and leaflets), which clearly sets out their 'account options'. They can choose the bank or building society account (including the Post Office card account) which best meets their needs and circumstances. All of the Department for Work and Pensions material sets out the key features of the various accounts and mentions the availability of collecting cash from the Post Office, and the Post Office card account.

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The material the Inland Revenue have sent out with new Tax Credit application forms also clearly sets out the various account options, and the fact that people will still be able to collect their money from the Post Office if they wish.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 15 October 2002, Official Report, column 643W, on winter fuel payments, on what basis he has estimated the one-off cost of paying backdated winter fuel payments for 1997–98 to 2001–02 to British citizens living within the European Economic Area to be less than the future annual cost. [78482]

Mr. McCartney: The one-off costs quoted in my written answer on 15 October 2002, Official Report, column 643W were the administrative costs associated with the implementation of the changes.

The annual cost is the estimated on-going cost of the actual winter fuel payments. Our estimate of the first year cost of such winter fuel payments is around #21 million, which takes account of entitlement for past periods.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average time taken by his Department's Operational Intelligence Unit to respond to requests from local benefit fraud inspectors to requests for data in suspected fraud cases under the terms of the Social Security Fraud Act has been. [74843]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list external (a) public relations/communications companies, (b) advertising and marketing companies, (c) management consultancies, (d) accountancy companies, (e) banking firms, (f) individual consultants and (g) other specialist consultancies used by his Department since June 2001; what actions those consultancies/companies have performed within his Department; and what costs have been incurred through use of these consultancies/companies. [74682]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Jobcentre Plus

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that Jobcentre Plus services are available throughout rural areas. [73983]

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Mr. Nicholas Brown: We understand the difficulties that people living in rural areas can face, both in securing employment and gaining access to our services. We are therefore developing new ways of making Jobcentre Plus services more accessible to such people, for example by:

We have introduced new services which should be particularly useful for Jobcentre Plus customers in rural areas. XJobseeker Direct"—on 0845 6060234—is a telephone jobfinding service available to both unemployed and employed people. They can also look for jobs and learning opportunities on the internet, through two websites and

The integrated Jobcentre Plus offices which we will be extending throughout Great Britain over the next four years will offer a significantly enhanced telephone service that will improve access to services for those who do not live near a Jobcentre Plus office. Each Jobcentre Plus office will have a dedicated telephone contact centre open from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm. Customers will be able to make their initial claim to benefit through this service and book appointments with Personal Advisers.

Employment Initiatives

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to increase the (a) amount and (b) quality of support for the educational, training and employment scheme employees. [74405]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The amount and quality of support available to participants on our educational, training and employment programmes is under constant review as part of our continuous improvement agenda. This is led by Jobcentre Plus in partnership with the organisations delivering the programmes. Organisations wishing to compete for our education, training or employment related contracts are asked to set out how they intend delivering the programme, including the amount and quality of support they will offer participants. The providers who win the contracts are then subject to contractual and quality audits by Jobcentre Plus regional contracts managers, district quality management teams and, in some cases, the Adult Learning Inspectorate. These seek to ensure that providers deliver to the standards proposed in their bids and to support continuous improvement in the quality of their provision.

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Food Import Inspections

Mr Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects harmonised European Union legislation will be in force covering food of non-animal origin. [75921]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that the European Commission is still preparing its proposal for a regulation on official feed and food controls which will cover, inter alia, harmonised controls for imports of food of non-animal origin. The Commission expects to submit its final proposal to the European Council in late November 2002. It is unlikely, therefore, that the Regulation will be agreed and come into force before 2004.


Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list local authorities that are (a) failing to meet Government recycling targets, (b) expected to meet them and (c) exceeding them; and what the estimates are for recycling in England for (i) the current year and (ii) 2003–04. [71110]

Mr. Meacher [holding Answer 19 July 2002]: Local authority Statutory Performance Standard (Xtargets") for recycling and composting of household waste have been set for the years 2003–04 and 2005–06. Local authorities will submit performance data against which these targets will be measured to the Audit Commission in Summer 2004 and audited performance figures will be available towards the end of 2004.

Targets for individual authorities are listed in the publication XGuidance on Municipal Waste Management Strategies" March 2001. Copies of this document were placed within both libraries of the House on 5 March 2001. They are also published on DEFRA's website at

We will have audited recycling performance figures for 2001–02 in December 2002 and this should give us an indication of progress to targets. A document setting out individual local authorities' targets and the most recent available data for their household waste recycling rates (2000–01), set out in ascending order according to their recycling and composting rate for 2000–01, has been placed in both libraries of the House (Table A).

A further document (Table B) setting out the same information, but also including a column showing the difference between the 2000–01 rate and the 2003–04 target, in order to show Xprogress to target", has also been placed in both libraries of the House. Those furthest from their target in percentage points are shown at the top of the table. Note that, since all authorities had to achieve different levels of improvement to reach their target, that table does not allow for exact comparison.

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We set targets in a way which means all authorities would have to improve their performance over their rate in 1998–99, no matter what their starting point. For that reason, when tracking local authorities' recycling performance, we consider how much the recycling rate has increased, rather than looking simply at the rate.

I have written to the leaders of the local authorities that are listed below about recycling. In these authorities, preliminary performance data for 2001–02, taken from 2002–03 Best Value Performance Plans, shows that the authority's recycling rate has decreased, stayed the same, or only increased by 1 per cent. between 1998–99 and 2001–02. I have invited the relevant leaders to identify work that is already in hand to meet their 2003–04 Statutory Performance Standard for recycling and composting of household waste and to consider the need for further action where this is relevant.

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