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Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what recent discussions she has had on the possibility of enabling the local housing allowance to be paid into a Post Office card account; 
(2) what recent assessment her Department has made of the merits of enabling the local housing allowance (LHA) to be paid into the Post Office card account (a) for tenants receiving LHA, (b) for tenants who do not have bank accounts, (c) for local authorities and (d) for the Post Office; 
Helen Goodman: The Department has had no recent discussions, and only a small number of representations, about enabling housing benefit (HB) calculated using local housing allowance (LHA) rules, to be paid into the Post Office card account (POCA).
One of the key features of the LHA rules is that, where possible, the benefit is paid to the customer, so that they can take more personal responsibility for their housing, helping them to prepare for when they move into work. In support of this, we want customers living in the private sector to have housing benefit paid into a bank account and to set up a direct debit or standing order to pay their rent to their landlord.
The POCA is a simple account designed to receive payments of benefits and pensions. It does not have the facility for the customer to set up direct debit or standing order payments and is therefore not suitable to receive payments of HB. The Department has recently signed a new contract with Post Office Ltd. for the POCA and no provision was made for direct debits, standing orders or for HB payments.
Most people should be able to open a basic bank account which can be used to receive HB and which also has the facility to set up direct debits or standing orders. There are over 25 such accounts, including 17 basic bank accounts which can be accessed at post offices. These accounts enable customers to use their local post office if this is important to them and also provides additional footfall for sub-postmasters.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent estimate her Department has made of the number of people receiving local housing allowance who do not have a bank account. 
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when she expects the inquiry by the Health and Safety Executive into the circumstances surrounding the firefighter fatalities at Atherstone on Stour, Warwickshire on 2 November 2007 to be concluded; and if she will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Work Related Death Protocol provides a framework for co-operation between the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in circumstances such as these. HSE is actively working with Warwickshire police, who currently have primacy in this investigation.
HSE have taken enforcement action against Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and also advised them on compliance with health and safety legislation. HSE have led the investigation with regard to the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety). The latter includes the responsibilities of the owners of the building. That aspect should be completed very soon. However, as the overall inquiry is being managed by Warwickshire police, I am unable to give any precise or indicative dates. No decisions on individual parts of the investigation will be made until all aspects of this complex and large scale investigation have been completed.
Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average period was during which jobseeker's allowance (JSA) claimants resident in (a) Houghton and Washington East constituency and (b) Sunderland received JSA was in each of the last five years. 
As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking what the average period during which jobseeker's allowance (JSA) claimants resident in (a) Houghton & Washington East constituency and (b) Sunderland received JSA was in each of the last 5 years. (301726)
The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is taken from the Jobcentre Plus administrative system. The length of a claim has been defined as the time between the start of an individual's claim and that claim ending. Table 1 shows the median length of completed claims (off-flows) during the October count period of the last 5 years.
|Table 1. Median length of completed claims (off-flows) of Jobseeker's Allowance for claimants resident in Houghton and Washington, East parliamentary constituency and Sunderland|
|Houghton and Washington , East||Sunderland|
Jobcentre Plus administrative system
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people aged between 16 and 24 resident in (a) Lewes constituency and (b) the South East have claimed jobseeker's allowance for over (i) six and (ii) 12 months in each of the last 24 months for which figures are available. 
As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking how many people aged between 16 and 24 resident in (a) Lewes constituency and (b) the South East have claimed jobseeker's allowance for over (i) six and (ii) 12 months in each of the last 24 months for which figures are available. (301285)
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) compiles the number of claimants of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) from the Jobcentre Plus administrative system. Table 1 shows the number of persons aged between 16 and 24, resident in Lewes and the South East, who were claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for over six and 12 months in each month from November 2007 to October 2009.
National and local area estimates for many labour market statistics, including employment, unemployment and claimant count are available on the Nomis website at:
|Table 1: Number of persons( 1) aged 16 - 24 claiming Jobseeker's Allowance by duration of claim|
|Duration||Over 6 months||Over 12 months||Over 6 months||Over 12 months|
|(1) Duration of claims is only available for computerised claims, which account for 99.7 per cent. of all claims.|
Data rounded to nearest 5
Jobcentreplus Administrative System
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people are receiving assistance with their mortgage payments at an interest rate greater than their lender is charging; how much her Department spent on payments to such people in each of the last six months for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if she will commission research on the likely radius of any damage to local communities that would be caused by an explosion or other disaster following the disruption of the gas distribution pipeline by HM Prison Gartree near Market Harborough. 
Jonathan Shaw: Risk and hazard assessments for natural gas pipelines are based on research carried out over many years by pipeline operators (for example; British Gas, Shell) and HSE. A common understanding has been reached on the types of event that require assessment and these have been used to develop models to determine the hazards from pipeline releases. These models and methodologies are published. Consequently, further research work is not required.
Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment she has made of the scale of hazard to local communities presented by the gas distribution pipeline by HM Prison Gartree near Market Harborough; and if she will estimate the TNT equivalent of the explosive qualities of the gas in the pipeline. 
Jonathan Shaw: The pipeline being described by the hon. and learned Member is the National Grid Gas (NGG), National Transmission No. 2 Feeder from Duddington to Churchover. The hazards and risks from the pipeline have been assessed by HSE using published models.
HSE considers that an explosion event is extremely unlikely with this pipeline at this location. Overall, based on HSE's assessment of the hazards, a failure of the NGG No. 2 Feeder at the point closest to HM Prison Gartree should not cause any significant harm to local communities.
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