§ Mr. Kirkwood
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what information he collates on shortfalls for claimants whose rent is higher than local reference rent or single room rent; 
(2) to what extent rent officers have increased the level of the single room rent by district since July 2001; 
(3) how many localities there have been since 1997 in local reference rent terms, broken down by (a) region, (b) district and (c) constituency; 
(4) what research he has commissioned to evaluate the easing of single room rent restrictions; and how he is monitoring its impact. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
The Department plans to commission a project to examine the effect of the changes to the single room rent regulations later this year. This will be a joint study with the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions. We expect to begin work on the specification for the study in the early summer.
In addition, we are gathering information on the single room rent as part of a wider project examining the options for simplification of housing benefit in the private rent sector. The results of this project are expected to be available during the summer.
Information on the extent to which rent officers have increased the level of the single room rent by district is not available. However, recent research by the Rent Service shows that the average single room rent for England increased from £52.87 per week to £54.18 per week between July 2001 and March 2002. Equivalent figures for Wales show an increase from £35.66 to £37.98 and for Scotland, from £40.94 to £42.18.
Information on shortfalls where a person's rent is higher than the local reference rent or single room rent is not available.
Localities are influenced by residential property markets which are fluid and can change rapidly in different parts of the country at different times. Information is not, therefore, collected centrally on the number of localities.