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Strategic Defence Initiative

Ms. Gordon : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many research contracts awarded to his Department's research establishments under the United States strategic defence initiative have been sub- contracted to United Kingdom universities and other such educational establishments ; what is the total worth of these sub-contracts ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sainsbury : None.

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AWRE Burghfield

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he is now able to make a statement about the explosion at atomic weapons research establishment, Burghfield in December during the disposal of potentially explosive material.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 17 February 1989] : This event has been the subject of a thorough investigation and I shall write to the hon. Member in due course when I have the findings.

Procurement Expenditure

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish a table indicating the regional breakdown of defence procurement expenditure for each year from 1974, in percentage terms.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding reply 23 January 1989] : The estimates given taken from our computer records, which include for each contract let a single "location of work" code which represents the place at which we expect most of the work to be carried out by the main contractor. These figures do not take account of the different location of subcontractors or of supplies to the main contracts. The latest estimates of regional distribution of the Ministry's United Kingdom equipment expenditure from 1983-84 onwards are as follows :


Standard Region  |1983-84        |1984-85        |1985-86        |1986-87                        


North            |5              |6              |6              |8                              

Yorkshire and                                                                                    

 Humberside      |1              |2              |3              |3                              

East Midlands    |5              |4              |4"             |3                              

East Anglia      |3              |3              |1"             |3                              


South East       |49             |50             |47"            |49                             

South West       |14             |11             |14"            |13                             

West Midlands    |4              |3              |3"             |4                              

North West       |12             |12             |10             |9                              


Scotland         |5              |6              |6              |5                              

Wales            |1              |2              |2              |2                              

Northern Ireland |1              |1              |1"             |1                              


1. Estimates of expenditure on equipment are available by region only from 1983-84.              

2. The estimates for 1985-86 and later years are more reliable because of a change in            


3. The figures for 1986-87 may be subject to minor revision for publication in "Statement on the 

Defence Estimates (Vol. 2), 1989".                                                               


Working for Patients"

Mr. Robin Cook : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what level of expenditure on information technology he estimates will be necessary to implement the proposals in "Working for Patients" ; and what provision has been made in public spending plans to meet this expenditure.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The NHS needs to invest in modern management. The precise level of the investment required in information technology will depend on the outcome of our discussions with those concerned about

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the detailed implementation of the White Paper's proposals, and, where appropriate, on the outcome of any trials of new systems. The cost will not be met at the expense of plans for patient provision.

Race Relations

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will describe his Department's principal achievements in respect of race relations and equal opportunity since May 1979.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : My Department is fully committed to achieving equality of opportunity throughout all its activities.

In the employment field my Department has implemented many of the recommendations of the joint review of policies and procedures on race relations in the Civil Service (1983) and the programme of action for women (1984). The more significant initiatives on race equality which have been carried out include.

a. the participation in the phased programme of departmental ethnic surveys of staff which was completed last year with the then DHSS response rate averaging 75 per cent.

b. the introduction of ethnic monitoring of recruitment in 1987 when early surveys indicated a shortfall in ethnic minority recruits compared with the ethnic minority working population, and c. following a pilot exercise, ethnic monitoring of promotion and job allocation will be carried out this year.

In addition my Department has undertaken to sponsor a Windsor Fellow in 1990.

With regard to sex equality my Department has seen an increasing number of women progressing to middle and senior management grades (14 per cent. of SEOs and above are women). Encouragement is given to part-time working and job sharing with over 3 per cent. of staff (about 200) working part-time. Improved special leave provisions have specifically targeted help for single parents and those caring for elderly or infirm relatives and a "Keeping in Touch" scheme was introduced in 1988 which allows preferential reinstatement for people who have to take a break from work for domestic reasons. A holiday play scheme for the children of staff working in headquarters will run during Easter 1989 and child care provision is one of the areas being examined in a review of opportunities available to women employees in the Department.

Turning to employment in the NHS, every opportunity has been taken to remind health authorities of their responsibilities under the Race Relations and Sex Discrimination Acts and they have been urged to take account to implement the codes of practice of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission.

My Department supports the work of the King's fund task force on racial equality and has also established the national steering group on equal opportunities for women in the NHS.

My Department's social services inspectorate (SSI) is engaged in a programme of work to promote race equality in the provision of social services by local authority social service departments (SSDs). In 1988, the SSI issued a document of guidance on good practice for use by SSDs. Since 1987 we have funded the race equality unit at the National Institute of Social Work. The unit provides independent advice to SSDs on implementing effective race relations policy and practice. Funding to the unit will

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rise from £95,000 in 1988-89 to £127,500 in 1989-90. The SSI is currently running a series of workshops focusing on the professional needs of senior women managers in SSDs.

In the area of health care services, in 1982 my Department appointed an adviser on ethnic minority health. She had already directed the "Stop Rickets" campaign, designed to explain the nature of the disease and the role of vitamin D in its prevention through material in the major languages of the Indian sub-continent, and through meetings with members of the community. From 1984 she directed the Asian mother and baby campaign, a key feature of which was the appointment of "link-workers" to overcome the barriers of language and culture which often exist between patients from ethnic minorities and health professionals.

My Department has provided funding for a number of voluntary organisations concerned with ethnic minority health. For example, grants to organisations working with people affected by sickle cell disease and thalassaemia and their relatives amounted in 1988-89 to £15,000 each to the Sickle Cell Society, the Organisation for Sickle Cell Anaemia Research and the Thalassaemia Society. Altogether, we have provided over £ million since 1984 for a variety of innovative projects to improve access to health care for ethnic minorities. A further £1 million is being provided over three years from 1988-89 to produce health promotional material in minority languages. In 1987 the Minister for Health chaired a seminar on ethnic minority health for chairmen of regional and district health authorities, and Ministers are monitoring the progress of health authorities and family practitioner committees in this area.

In 1986 we became the first Government specifically to identify women's health within the responsibilities of a Government Minister. In addition to implementing screening programmes for breast and cervical cancers we are providing funding of almost £ million in 1988-89 for some 20 voluntary organisations concerned with women's health. The Health Education Authority is planning to give more prominence to women's health and the maternal death rate continues to fall.

Model guidance on equal opportunities proofing of policy proposals, recommended by the ministerial group on women's issues, covers race and sex discrimination and has been extended in my Department to include disability issues. This guidance will shortly be circulated within the Department and this will direct further attention to equal opportunities issues in all the Department's activities.

Soft Cheese

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice has been given by the Chief Medical Officer about the consumption of soft cheeses.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The chief medical officer at my Department issued general advice to the public about listeria in food on 10 February 1989. He also gave specific advice to pregnant women and to some patients, who are particularly vulnerable because of their illness or treatment, to avoid eating certain cheeses.

His advice said that public attention had recently been drawn to findings of the presence of listeria monocytogenes in a number of different food products. It must be remembered that listeria is widely distributed in the environment and some exposure to this organism is

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unavoidable. Indeed at any one time a number of us, perhaps as many as 1 in 20, carry this bacteria in our gut without any ill-effects. The disease, listeriosis, caused by infection with this organism is fortunately still quite rare. Last year 287 cases were reported, although it is certain that there were some other unreported cases. When it occurs it can give rise to a mild flu-like illness, although more serious cases may develop meningitis and septicaemia. Of considerable concern is the fact that in pregnant women it may also infect the developing baby and lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in the newborn baby.

Unlike most of the bacteria causing food-related illness that we have been used to dealing with in the past, listeria has the unusual property of being able to multiply at the sort of temperatures which may be found in refrigerators. Fortunately in most foods where it is present, it occurs at very low levels and is killed by adequate cooking.

However, for some soft cheeses, the situation is different because the method of preparation and the time they may be kept before eating allows listeria to multiply. High numbers of listeria have been found in several varieties of soft cheeses, and a number of cases of listeriosis--both in this country and abroad--have been associated with eating heavily contaminated soft cheese.

Because of this, having taken the best possible expert advice, the chief medical officer advises that pregnant women should avoid eating certain types of soft cheeses. It is not possible to specify precisely the cheeses in which listeria is likely to grow, but on the basis of current information these are likely to be soft ripened cheeses such as the brie, camembert, and blue vein types. On the other hand, hard cheeses such as the cheddar and cheshire types, processed cheeses, cottage cheeses and cheese spreads have not given cause for concern.

The levels of listeria that have been found in other foods such as cooked- chilled meals and ready-to-eat poultry have usually been very low. Given the particular risks to the developing foetus the chief medical officer feels that it would be prudent for pregnant women to re-heat these types of food until they are piping hot rather than to eat them cold. Otherwise all that is necessary is for pregnant women to follow the normal, general hygiene precautions summarised here and to take care that they maintain a well-balanced diet during pregnancy.

Other people who appear to be at special risk and should therefore follow this advice are those with underlying illness which results in impaired resistance to infection, such as patients who have had transplants, those on particular drugs which depress the immune system, and those with leukaemia or cancers of the lymphatic tissues.

The chief medical officer also said that although the wider public have become worried about reports of listeria contamination of a variety of foods, including salads and some cooked-chilled ready-to-eat foods on sale, the evidence so far is that the amount of listeria in these foods is generally very low. Provided that the good hygiene practices recommended are followed there is no need to change the type of food regularly eaten and enjoyed.

The general advice to the public is that listeria monocytogenes is widely distributed in the environment, for example, it has been found in vegetation, water, soil and the faeces of man and animals and therefore some exposure to this organism is unavoidable. For the average healthy member of the public the risk of becoming ill with listeriosis from eating food is very small indeed.

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Nevertheless there are a number of simple precautions which the public can take which will reduce their exposures to listeria and other pathogenic bacteria :

(i) Keep foods for as short a time as possible, follow the storage instructions carefully and observe the "best-by" and "eat-by" dates on the label ;

(ii) do not eat under-cooked poultry or meat products. Make sure you re- heat cooked-chilled meals thoroughly and according to the instructions on the label. Wash salads, fruit and vegetables that will be eaten raw ;

(iii) Make sure your refrigerator is working properly and is keeping the food in it really cold ;

(iv) Store cooked foods in the refrigerator away from raw foods and cheeses ;

(v) When re-heating food make sure it is heated until piping hot all the way through and do not re-heat more than once ;

(vi) When using a microwave oven to cook or re-heat food observe the standing times recommended by the oven manufacturer to ensure that the food attains an even temperature before it is eaten ; (

(vii) Throw away left-over re-heated food. Cooked food which is not to be eaten straight away should be cooled as rapidly as possible and then stored in the refrigerator.


Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the localities of any unexplained clusters of cases of meningitis in the three counties of Yorkshire for 1988 and to date ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : The information requested is not available from the notifications of infectious diseases reported to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, as those notifications do not identify clusters.

Sex-change Operations

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the number of sex-change operations performed by the National Health Service for (a) male to female and (b) female to male in each area health authority of the Trent regional health authority for each of the last 20 years ; and what was the cost to the Exchequer in each case.

Mr. Freeman : Such information is not held centrally. The hon. Member may like to write to the chairman of the Trent regional health authority for such information as is held by the region.

Emergency Services

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what reviews are taking place in the various health authorities in the Trent regional health authority of the conduct of accident and emergency services.

Mr. Freeman : Trent regional health authority is currently reviewing the accident and emergency services at Newark general hospital, in central Nottinghamshire and at the Montagu hospital, Mexborough, in Doncaster. Sheffield district health authority is reviewing its own accident and emergency services.

Renal Transplants

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients are awaiting renal transplant ; and what is the average waiting time for such a transplant.

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Mr. Freeman : The United Kingdom waiting list for renal transplants, as notified to the United Kingdom transplant service on 16 February 1989, was 3,521.

Waiting time information is not readily available in the form requested. Of those waiting, 35 per cent. had been on the list for less than one year, 19 per cent. for between one and two years, 12 per cent. for between two and three years, nine per cent. for between three and four years, and 16 per cent. for more than four years. The remaining nine per cent. were not classified. The length of time a patient waits for a transplant depends on a number of factors, the principal one being how difficult it is to find a suitably matched donor organ.

Renal Dialysis

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients are provided with home dialysis treatment through the National Health Service. Mr. Freeman : I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) on 30 January at columns 42-44.


Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research his Department is aware of into the link between sanitary tampon use and vaginal ulceration.

Mr. Freeman : Some reports of research on this matter were published in the United States of America several years ago. Vaginal ulceration was associated with the use of tampons in a small number of women but the ulcers healed when tampons were no longer used. The reports suggested various mechanisms which might have caused the ulcers.

Cook-chill Food

Mrs. Wise : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether any maternity units use cook-chill food.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : Health authorities are responsible for the delivery of catering services which meet the needs of all their patient groups.

We do not collect centrally information on the production of food for specific categories of patients.

Mrs. Wise : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many hospitals currently use cooked-chilled food ; and how many hospitals are intending to use cooked-chilled food under present plans.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : We do not hold centrally information on those hospitals which provide cook-chill catering.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Mr. Peter Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance his Department has given to district health authorities to ensure the recognition of the problems of sufferers from myalgic encephalomyelitis and the co-ordination of their treatment.

Mr. Freeman : The Department has issued no guidance to district health authorities on myalgic encephalomyelitis.

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Mr. Peter Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his Department's latest estimate of the number of persons diagnosed as suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Mr. Freeman : I regret that no information is held centrally on which to base an estimate of the number of people diagnosed as suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Mr. Peter Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research programmes are supported by his Department into the problem of myalgic encephalomyelitis ; and what is the the total of financial support in the current financial year.

Mr. Freeman : The Department is not funding research into myalgic encephalomyelitis. The Medical Research Council is the main agency through which the Government support clinical research ; it receives its grant-in- aid from the Department of Education and Science.

Rural Dispensing Arrangements

Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether, as part of his proposed reforms of the National Health Service, he envisages changing the present arrangements relating to rural dispensing by doctors or rural pharmacies contained in the Clothier regulations ; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The proposed reforms of the NHS set out in the Government's White Paper Working for Patients' do not alter the principles underlying the regulations for determining the arrangements for NHS dispensing in rural areas. As a result of the changed composition and responsibilities of family practitioner comittees, however, some changes to the regulations will be necessary. We shall be putting forward detailed proposals later in the year.


45. Mr. Conway : To ask the Secretary of State for Health by how many the number of nurses in the National Health Service would have to be increased or cut to achieve the number in the service in 1979.

Mr. Freeman [holding answer 21 February 1989] : The total number of nursing and midwifery staff (including agency staff) employed in the NHS in England at 30 September 1987--404,000 wholetime equivalents-- would have to be reduced by 21,700 wholetime equivalents to achieve the September 1979 level adjusted to take account of the change in the working week from 40 to 37.5 hours introduced in 1980-81. Taking no account of such a reduction in the working week the reduction required would be 45,600 wholetime equivalents to reach the 358,400 employed in 1979.


Benefits (South Yorkshire)

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people in the Doncaster and Mexborough areas of South Yorkshire were receiving (a)

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attendance allowance at (i) the higher rate and (ii) the lower rate, (b) invalid care allowance, (c) mobility allowance, (d) invalidity benefit, (e) severe disablement allowance, (f) industrial disablement pension, (g) war disablement pension, (h) retirement pension, (i) income support and (j) supplementary benefit at the latest dates for which figures are available ; what are those dates ; and if he will give comparable figures for five years and 10 years ago.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that information is not available in the precise form requested. Nor are details

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available of the numbers of people receiving (a) attendance allowance, (b) invalid care allowance, (c) mobility allowance, (f) industrial disablement pension, (g) war disablement pension or (h) retirement pension in the Doncaster and Mexborough areas of South Yorkshire.

The table gives the information available on the dates shown for the Department's local offices at Doncaster, East, Doncaster, West, Mexborough and Wath-on-Dearne which serve the Don Valley constituency, although their boundaries are not conterminous.

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                                 |Doncaster, East  |Doncaster, West  |Mexborough<2>    |Wath-on-Dearne<3>                  


(d) Invalidity Benefit<1>                                                                                                  

As at 31 January 1989            |4,461            |5,831            |2,220            |-                                  

As at 15 January 1985            |3,912            |4,659            |1,562            |-                                  


(e) Severe Disablement Allowance                                                                                           

As at 31 January 1989            |701              |933              |239              |-                                  

As at 15 January 1985            |213              |692              |132              |-                                  


(i) Income Support                                                                                                         

As at 30 November 1988           |10,164           |12,951           |-                |7,118                              


(j) Supplementary Benefit                                                                                                  

As at 18 November 1987           |11,712           |14,559           |-                |7,879                              

As at 6 December 1983            |10,269           |12,633           |-                |7,172                              

As at 27 November 1979           |5,818            |7,082            |-                |4,170                              

<1> Includes an unknown number of sickness benefit claimants as separate records of sickness/invalidity benefit claimants  

are not kept.                                                                                                              

<2> Mexborough NIO does not deal with income support/supplementary benefit claims.                                         

<3> Wath-on-Dearne local office deals only with income support/supplementary benefit claims.                               

Note: With the exception of supplementary benefit, comparable figures for five years and 10 years ago are no longer held.  

Source: 100 per cent. count of cases in action. The figures include a small number of cases not actually in receipt of     

benefit. The data for 1988 are provisional and subject to amendment.                                                       

Attendance Allowance

Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the average and maximum amounts of time taken to process claims for attendance allowance ; how many of such claims go to appeal ; and what are the average and maximum amounts of time taken to process such appeals in addition to the initial processing of claims.

Mr. Scott : The average time taken to decide new claims is currently 7.5 weeks. In the 12 months to 31 December 1988, some 56, 000 decisions on new claims were reviewed. The average time taken to process a review is currently 13.3 weeks. Information about the maximum times for deciding claims of processing reviews is not available.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many residents in Liverpool have received overpayments of housing benefit ; how much money is involved ; how many appeals have been lodged ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that the information requested is not available.

Private Retirement Homes

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the total amount paid by his Department to support those in private homes for the elderly ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that the information is not available in the form requested. However, relevant

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information in respect of independent--that is private and voluntary--homes was provided in my reply to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) on 21 December 1988 at columns 304-06.

Retirement Age (Statistics)

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the number of people over retirement age in the United Kingdom for the latest available date ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The latest available estimate (July 1987) is that there are approximately 10.4 million people in the United Kingdom over state pension age.

Source : Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

Supplementary Benefit (Transitional Protection)

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps he is taking to monitor the effects of the social security changes of April 1988 ; and if he is inviting views from the public.

Mr. Scott : I refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) on 27 January at columns 802-03. The views expressed by members of the public are carefully considered as part of the monitoring process.

Retail Prices Index (Error)

Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish a list of those

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organisations who applied for grants under the retail prices error index fund, the outcome and amounts of any awards ; and if he will make a statement about the operation of the fund.

Mr. Scott : I refer the hon. Member to my replies to my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) on 3 May 1988 at columns 422-24 and to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) on 9 February at column 277. A list of the latest organisations to receive payments has been placed in the Library.

Family Benefits

Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will provide a breakdown by benefit of the 25 per cent. real increase in family benefits since 1978-79.

Mr. Moore : A breakdown by benefit of the 25 per cent. real increase in family support since 1978-79 is provided in the table. Since I quoted this figure to the House on 18 January 1989 at column 359 I understand that the Inland Revenue has advised DSS officials that its provisional estimate of the value of child tax allowances in 1978-79 has been revised down from £515 million to £460 million. The effect of this change is to reduce family support in real terms in 1978-89 to £6,741 million ; this produces a real increase of 27.3 per cent. between 1978-79 and 1988- 89.

|c|Family support 1978-79 to 1988-89|c|                            

£ million                                                          

                           |1978-79  |1978-79  |1988-89            

                           |cash     |real     |cash/real          


Child benefit              |1,776    |3,872    |4,522              

One parent benefit         |22       |48       |174                

Child tax allowances       |515      |1,123    |-                  

Additional personal tax                                            

 allowance (lone parent)   |60       |131      |165                

Family income supplement   |24       |52       |-                  

Family credit              |-        |-        |422                

Maternity grant            |16       |35       |-                  

Maternity allowance        |105      |229      |27                 

Statutory maternity pay    |-        |-        |240                

Supplementary allowance<1> |569      |1,241    |-                  

Income support<1>          |-        |-        |2,009              

Housing benefit<1><2>      |60       |131      |971                

Social Fund                |-        |-        |49                 

                           |---      |---      |---                

  Total                    |3,147    |6,861    |8,579              

<1>Supplementary allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit     

paid to one parent families and to people looking after elderly    


<2>Includes rate rebates.                                          

Cold Weather Payments

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will take steps to enable offices of his Department to use the information provided under the income support scheme to identify which claimants are eligible for cold weather payments and to remove the necessity for claimants to make separate claims for such payments ; and if he will give an estimate of the likely effect of such action on the level of take-up.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : No. It would not be possible to identify income support beneficiaries eligible for cold weather payments and thereby remove the need for separate claims to be made unless the same capital limit were to be applied for both purposes.

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Disabled Child Premium

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many dependent children and young persons in households in receipt of income support are currently in receipt of the disabled child premium on the grounds of (i) receipt of attendance allowance, (ii) receipt of mobility allowance and (iii) who are or have recently been registered as blind with the local authority ;

(2) what percentage of all families in receipt of income support with dependent children and young persons those families in receipt of the disabled child premium form ;

(3) how many claimants of income support receive the disabled child premium ; how many supplementary benefit claimants received additional requirements in respect of dependent children in 1987-88 ; and what was the average weekly amount of these additions.

Mr. Scott : The information requested for supplementary benefit is not available and that for income support will not be available until later this year.

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