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The issue under review is a complex one and a full statement must await consideration of the commission's report.
Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a supplementary housing capital allocation to East Lothian district council for the current year following the Parliamentary Under- Secretary's comments on 16 June about his Department's overestimate of capital receipts and the impact of the negative capital allocation ; and if he will make a statement.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The estimate of capital receipts in 1989-90 was prepared earlier this year with the agreement of the district council. I am aware of the representations made by the council about a supplementary allocation in the light of more recent information. I am not yet in a position to make an announcement about supplementary allocations but hope to do so shortly.
Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his preferred routes for the proposed A1 dual carriageway at Gladsmuir, Haddington, East Linton and Dunbar ; and what procedures will be adopted for public consultation about these proposals.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Our proposals for dualling the A1 as far as Haddington and, in the longer term, to Dunbar form part of strategic proposals on which we are currently consulting widely. Once these consultations are complete and decisions taken, detailed proposals will be prepared for individual schemes. These proposals will be made public in the usual way in accordance with the statutory procedures supplemented where appropriate by local public exhibitions.
Mrs. Ray Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends to make a decision about the Police Arbitration Tribunal's newly proposed system to calculate rent allowance for Scottish police officers ; what representations he has received regarding the apparent delay ; and what steps he intends to take.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The decision of the Police Arbitration Tribunal on rent allowance is still under consideration by the Police Negotiating Board. However, following an agreement reached by the board last April, my right hon. and learned Friend has now advised the chairman of the board of his intention to bring forward regulations as soon as possible to make provision for interim payments to Scottish officers. The regulations, which will be backdated to 1 April 1989, will have the effect of restoring to those officers whose circumstances have not changed since 31 March 1989 the level of rent allowance (including the rates element) which they were receiving at that date.
Mr. Terry Davis : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many general practitioners were at 1 October 1987 and 1988 in contract with health boards to provide contraceptive services to their patients.
Mr. Terry Davis : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many patients were registered with general practitioners for National Health Service contraception services for 1987 and 1988 in Scotland.
Mr. Terry Davis : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the number of family planning clinics and family planning clinic sessions in each health board in Scotland for the years 1987 and 1988.
Family planning (clinic) services<1> Premises in whFamily planning clin family planninsessions held are held |1987 |1988 |1987 |1988 --------------------------------------------------------- Scotland |184 |168 |22,389|20,728 Argyll and Clyde |16 |17 |1,975 |1,897 Ayrshire and Arran |9 |9 |760 |741 Borders |5 |5 |236 |236 Dumfries and Galloway |13 |13 |536 |537 Fife<2> |15 |n.a. |1,096 |n.a. Forth Valley |5 |5 |810 |799 Grampian |12 |12 |1,452 |1,338 Greater Glasgow |41 |41 |7,735 |7,644 Highland |6 |4 |242 |239 Lanarkshire |13 |14 |1,826 |1,862 Lothian |27 |27 |4,068 |3,855 Tayside |20 |19 |1,589 |1,518 Islands<3> |2 |2 |64 |62 <1>Includes all clinic services provided including hospital, and including any provided on an agency basis. Excludes any non-clinic services which might be given to hospital in-patients or day patients. <2>Excludes data from 1 December 1987 for Fife health board; this information is not available. <3>Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles health boards.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : As the Secretary of State made clear in his announcement in May, detailed decisions about funding levels for the roads programme will be taken in the course of annual reviews of public expenditure. The current year's review is now in progress and I expect that, as is usual practice, the Secretary of State will announce his public expenditure plans for the three years 1990-91 to 1991-92 towards the end of this calendar year.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will consider amendments to the Social Work Scotland Act 1968 to make statutory provision for educational resources to be made available to children's panels disposing of references to children's hearings as well as existing social work facilities and professional expertise ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang [holding answer 19 October 1989] : Social work authorities are responsible under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 for implementing compulsory measures of care decided by children's hearings, and I strongly encourage those authorities to co-operate with statutory and voluntary organisations in those cases where the latter have a positive contributon to make. I have no plans to amend social work legislation to oblige other services to provide resources.
Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received for the clarification of his proposals for private new towns companies contained in his White Paper, "Scottish New Towns, The Way Ahead" ; and what reply he has had.
Mr. Lang [holding answer 19 October 1989] : A number of inquiries from both the public and the private sector have been made to the Scottish Office for the purpose of clarifying in detail the White Paper proposals. My officials have met with a number of people who have expressed an interest in participating in some way in the setting up of private sector local development companies within the Scottish new towns. These discussions are yet at an early stage and are being treated as confidential.
26. Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what transfer of social security funds he anticipates making to social services authorities in the light of the recent statement on community care.
Mr. Scott : As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health explained in his statement on 12 July, the Government propose to transfer to local authorities the resources which would otherwise have been provided to finance care through social security payments to people in residential care and nursing homes. The precise amount of the transfer will not be settled until next year.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : We are building on the success of the 1988 social security reforms which have made the scheme easier for the public to understand and simpler for staff to operate. As a result in 1989-90 there has been a 20 per cent. improvement in the average time taken to process income support claims compared with 1987-88 and a 24 per cent. reduction in the average time income support and social fund callers spend in our offices.
I am aware, however, that there is still room for further improvement particularly in certain inner cities. We are tackling this by relocating some work, which requires no face-to-face contact, away from London to areas where we have fewer problems over staff recruitment and retention. In addition between now and 1991, we expect our programme to computerise social security operations in all local offices to make a major impact on the speed and accuracy of the service they provide.
Column 337and rates payment or income support to help with mortgage interest payments. Also the travel to interview scheme operated by the employment service gives financial assistance to unemployed job seekers attending job interviews away from home.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Community charge benefit is significantly more generous than rate rebates and will go to an estimated 1 million extra people. Our most recent estimate is that 1 in 4 of those liable to the community charge will receive community charge benefit. The numbers will of course be affected by the community charge transitional relief scheme but no estimates are yet available.
Mr. Scott : Social fund officers have met the individual needs of more than 1.5 million people since April 1988 by the payment of interest- free loans and non-repayable community care grants. Details of the purposes for which payments were made in 1988-89 are in the Secretary of State's annual report to Parliament published in July 1989.
32. Mr. John Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on Government policy towards the transfer of unspent social fund allocations in social security offices from one year to the next.
Mr. Scott : Local office allocations are made for a financial year. Unspent balances at the end of a financial year are not available for expenditure in the following year. We have no plans to change these arrangements.
Mr. Scott : Between 1 April 1989 and 31 August 1989, nearly 26 per cent. (based on provisional figures) of applications for first review were successful. Information given to me by the social fund commissioner, shows that on second review, social fund inspectors either substituted their own decisions or referred cases back to the social fund officer in 38 per cent. (based on provisional figures) of the applications for review made to them.
Mr. Scott : Over a million people received help from the social fund in 1988-89 through the payment of 884,000 interest-free loans and 153,000 non-repayable community care grants. Further details are in the Secretary of State's annual report to Parliament, copies of which are available in the Library.
Mrs. Beckett : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what information is available regarding delays in forwarding applications for review to the office of the social fund inspectors ; and whether he has received any representations on this subject from social fund inspectors or the social fund commissioner.
Mr. Scott : The Social Fund Commissioner drew attention to such delays in her annual report. Remedial action has been taken by the Department to ensure that applications are referred promptly and this matter will be kept under review.
24. Mr. Evennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he has any plans to introduce legislation to make attendance at post-natal or child health clinics a condition of receiving child benefit.
21. Mr. Neil Hamilton : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people on income support have received interest-free budgeting loans from the social fund in its first year of operation.
Mr. Scott : We have already spent some £7.3 billion on disability benefits, an increase of 90 per cent. in real terms since 1979. We have received a number of representations from disability organisations about the introduction of a comprehensive disability income. Whilst these proposals warrant consideration the extra cost of such a scheme is a significant obstacle. We shall, however, consider carefully all the comments made on the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys reports on disability.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The normal range of benefits available to young single people is also available to those who are homeless. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State will be making the general uprating statement soon.
Mr. Hood : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will give details of the percentage of his Department's budget expended on the homeless each year since 1979 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The Department's plans for the computerisation of the social security system will benefit claimants in Fylde and the rest of the United Kingdom by introducing computer systems which will process claims faster, reduce payment errors and provide a quick and more efficient enquiry service.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The social security computerisation programme is coming to fruition according to plan. The three major computer projects, the departmental central index, the pensions and income support computer systems have been piloted in 23 social security offices. A rolling programme of national implementation, which will extend the systems to all social security offices, will start this month.
28. Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has formally to consult organisations of and for disabled people about the overall structure of the disability benefits review.
Mr. Scott : I have received a number of representations about the format of the disability benefits review and am keen to encourage comments on the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys reports from organisations of and for disabled people and others.
Column 342the benefits received by carers, including invalid care allowance, in preparation for the forthcoming review of disability benefits ; and when the results of such research will be publicly available.
Mr. Scott : We have commissioned the social policy research unit at the university of York to undertake a study of invalid care allowance and its financial and economic effects for carers. We have not yet received the final report of the study or agreed a date for publication.
When a lone parent claims income support the Department tries to obtain maintenance from the absent parent for his dependants. The Department can take proceedings if he refuses to make payments which it appears he can afford. In addition the lone parent can apply direct to the courts for maintenance from the absent parent. It is for the courts to decide in the circumstances of the case whether and how much maintenance to award.
Source : Income Support Annual Statistical Enquiry 1988.
33. Ms. Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make it his policy that the uprating of benefits next April will include an increase based on inflation for those in receipt of transitional protection.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Income support special transitional additions are increased in line with inflation. Other transitional protection, including housing benefit non-statutory payments, is not increased.
37. Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will introduce new pension rates for the over-75s to take account of the losses suffered from the severing of the link between pension and earnings rates.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Restoring the link between pensions and earnings is not the key factor in improving pensioners' incomes. In recognition of the fact that not all pensioners shared equally in the 23 per cent. real terms increases in pensioners' average total net income between 1979 and 1986, we introduced new and enhanced premiums into the income support and housing benefit schemes on 9 October this year. Disabled pensioners and those aged 75 and over will benefit by up to £2.50 a week (single) and £3.50 a week (couple).
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Retirement pension will be increased by 7.6 per cent. with effect from 9 April 1990. The increase will take full account of the movement in the retail prices index over the 12 months to September 1989.
41. Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has, in the light of the findings of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys' surveys, to increase the allocation of resources to people with disabilities.
46. Mr. Geraint Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what additional resources he is committing to implement the proposed review of disability benefits ; and if he will make a statement.