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Mr. Geoffrey Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many people in England and Wales collected (a) income support, (b)
Column 626family credit, (c) child benefit, (d) pension, (e) widow's pension, (f) invalidity benefit and (g) unemployment benefit, from the Post Office each week in each year since 1989 90; (2) how many people in England and Wales had (a) income support, (b) family credit, (c) child benefit, (d) pension, (e) widow's pension, (f) invalidity benefit and (g) unemployment benefit paid directly into a bank account in each year since 1989 90.
Mr. Roger Evans: This is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Geoffrey Robinson, dated 28 November 1994:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking about the payment of benefit into bank accounts or at the Post Office.
Information is not available in the exact format requested. This is because data is not collated relating to the number of customers being paid on a weekly basis at Post Offices. To obtain this information would be at a disproportionate cost.
That information that is available regarding payments by automated credit transfer is not captured geographically nor weekly and to obtain it for England and Wales would be at a disproportionate cost.
However, I have provided at Appendix A a table showing the number of customers, on an annual basis, from the year 1989 90 who have been paid by automated credit transfer.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Customers paid by automated credit transfer |Thousands Benefits |1989-90 |1990-91 |1991-92 |1992-93 |1993-94 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Income Support<1> |- |- |- |- |44 Family Credit |37 |53 |76 |91 |105 Child Benefit |1,297 |1,407 |1,505 |1,595 |1,708 Retirement pension and widows pension<2> |1,982 |2,160 |2,392 |2,671 |3,232 Invalidity Benefit<3> |- |- |- |12 |90 Unemployment Benefit<4> |- |- |- |- |109 Notes: <1> The option to have Income Support paid by ACT came into effect in w/c 31 October 1993. <2> No separate figures are available for payments of Retirement Pension and Widows Pension. <3> The option to have Invalidity Benefit (IVB) paid by ACT came into effect in w/c 31 May 1993. Figures available showing the number of payments by IVB are combined with Sickness Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance Figures. <4> The option to have Unemployment Benefit paid by ACT came into effect in w/c 20 September 1993. These figures have been obtained from the Employment Service Agency.
Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish details of the work carried out by his Department's compensation recovery unit since it was established showing the number of cases in which it had reclaimed benefit payments, the total sum recovered for each year of its operation and the total annual operating cost of the unit including all administrative costs, salaries and all other outlays incurred by the unit since its creation.
Mr. Roger Evans: This is a matter for Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He
Column 626will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Archy Kirkwood, dated 28 November 1994:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking for the number of cases in which the Compensation Recovery Unit had reclaimed benefit payments, the total sum recovered and the annual operating costs of the Unit including all administrative costs, salaries and all other outlays since its creation.
The information requested has been provided for each financial year.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
|Number of |Total amount|Operating |cases |recovered |costs Period |£ million |£ million ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 August 1989- 31 March 1990 |- |- |0.13 1 April 1990- 31 March 1991 |3,950 |3.7 |1.7 1 April 1991- 31 March 1992 |20,781 |25.3 |1.9 1 April 1992- 31 March 1993 |30,782 |51.3 |2.1 1 April 1993- 31 March 1994 |36,094 |81.9 |2.7 1 April 1994- 31 October 1994 |22,224 |56.2 |1.7
Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will introduce legislation to restrict the use of the national insurance number by his Department to benefit-related purposes; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Arbuthnot: I have no such plans at present but the position is being kept under review.
Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what undertaking he gave to the Data Protection Registrar in respect of restricting the national insurance number to tax and benefit-related purposes; and what revision he has made to the undertaking following the use of that number by a private sector firm in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Arbuthnot: The Data Protection Registrar has been advised it is departmental policy to restrict use of the national insurance number to national insurance, tax and social security benefit-related purposes. I can confirm that a request has been received from a private sector organisation for permission to use the national insurance number and that this is currently under consideration within the terms of the policy.
Mr. Livingstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security on what criteria he decides to meet or consult organisations of people with learning difficulties.
Mr. Hague: The same criteria are used for organisations of people with learning difficulties as others representing disabled people. Since I became Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, I have met as many organisations as possible covering a wide range of disabilities, including people with learning difficulties.
Mr. Mans: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he has yet completed his review of national insurance contributions for 1995 96.
Mr. Lilley: I have completed the annual review under section 141 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. For the second year running, the Government will help employers by reducing the three rates of contributions payable for lower-paid employees. These
Column 628will be cut by 0.6 per cent. for all employees earning less than £205 a week at a cost of £250 million a year. This will encourage the creation of new jobs. It will complement a further measure which the Government propose which will give employers taking on someone who has been out of work for at least two years a full national insurance rebate for up to a year. I am also increasing the help with fuel costs for pensioners, widows and certain disabled people which I introduced last year. Together with the general increases in contributory benefit expenditure which I am maintaining, this will mean a continuing shortfall in the national insurance fund between income and outgoings, but I will maintain the stability of the fund by means of the Treasury grant. The national insurance contribution rebate will be introduced from April 1996. The other changes to NICs will take effect from 6 April 1995.
Employers and Employees
There will be no change to the standard rates of contributions for either employees or employers, which remain at 10 per cent. and 10.2 per cent. respectively.
In line with the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, the lower earnings limit for class 1 contributions is to be raised to £59 a week, which is the nearest whole pound to the basic retirement pension rate for a single person from April 1995. The upper earnings limit is to be raised to £440 a week which is slightly less than 7.5 times the new basic pension rate as provided by the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act. These new earnings limits will replace the current ones of £57 and £430 respectively. Under the current structure, employees whose earnings reach the lower earnings limit will continue to pay an initial contributions of 2 per cent. of that limit and standard rate contributions of 10 per cent. on that portion of their earnings which exceeds the lower but not the upper earnings limit. For employers the three contribution rates for the lower paid will be reduced by 0.6 per cent. each to 3 per cent., 5 per cent. and 7 per cent. respectively. The thresholds for these rates will also be raised so that from April 1995 they apply to weekly earnings which fall below the ceilings of £105, £150 and £205 respectively, compared with £100, £145 and £200 at present. Not Contracted Out Employees and their Employers
Neither the employee nor his employer will have to pay any contributions if earnings are less than £59 a week. Those whose earnings do not exceed £430--the former upper earnings limit--will pay 16p a week less in contributions than at present. This is because a further £2 of their weekly earnings will be subject to a deduction of 2 per cent. rather than 10 per cent. For employees with earnings above £430 the maximum possible increase will be 84p a week. Employers will pay between 35p and £6.53 a week less where the employee's earnings are less than £205 a week. There will be no change for employers where earnings are £205 a week or more. Contracted Out Employees and their Employers
Those with earnings between £59 and £430--the former upper earnings limit--will pay 13p a week less. For those who earn more than £430 the maximum possible increase will be 69p a week. Employers will pay between 29p and £6.57 a week less where the employee's earning are less than £205 a week. There will be little change for employers where earnings are £205 a week or more.
Column 629Rebate for Employers taking on the long-term unemployed Employers who hire someone who has been out of work for two years or more will get a full NIC rebate for that person for a year, starting in April 1996.
The flat rate class 2 contribution will be raised by 20p to £5.85 a week.
There will be no increase in the rate of class 4 contributions, currently 7.3 per cent. The annual limits of profits between which class 4 contributions are paid will be raised to £6,640 and £22,880 from £6,490 and £22,360 respectively. Self-employed people who pay only class 2 contributions will pay an extra £10.40 a year in 1995 96.
For people with profits between £6,490 and £22,360--the former upper profits limit--class 4 contributions will be reduced by £10.95 per year assuming an unaltered level of profits. For those self-employed people with profits at or above the new upper profits limit the annual charge for class 4 contributions will be £27.01 higher. Class 3 (Voluntary) Contributions
The rate of class 3 contributions will be raised by 20p to £5.75 a week.
National Health Service Allocation
The allocation to the national health service, currently 1.05 per cent. from employees and 0.9 per cent. from employers, remains unchanged.
In accordance with section 2(2) of the Social Security Act 1993, I propose to maintain the level of the national insurance fund during 1995 96 by means of a grant from the Treasury. I estimate that the grant required will be approximately £5.1 billion.
As usual, I shall be laying a draft order before Parliament together with a report by the Government Actuary describing the effects of my proposals.
Mr. Rowe: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will set out details of the new rates of benefit proposed from April 1995.
Mr. Lilley: As usual, the annual uprating of social security benefits will take place in the first full week of the tax year--in 1995 this will be the week beginning on 10 April.
The increases announced today are fully in line with the Government's commitment to help those in greatest need and includes the second stage of extra help for the effect of VAT on domestic fuel. Expenditure on social security will be £86.5 billion in 1995 96, £90 billion in 1996 97 and £93.5 billion in 1997 98.
I have reviewed social security benefits in accordance with section 150 of the Administration Act 1992. My proposals, which are set out in the schedule, fully reflect the commitment to increase all major benefits in line with inflation. The statutory instruments to implement them will be laid before both Houses for debate. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland proposes to introduce similar changes for Northern Ireland. All national insurance benefits, excluding some transitional amounts, will be uprated at least in line with
Column 630the annual increase in the retail price index up to September which this year is 2.2 per cent.
Income-related benefits will rise by around 1.9 per cent., slightly more than the Rossi index--RPI less certain housing costs--owing to the extra help for VAT on domestic fuel.
Fifteen million people gained from the extra help for VAT on domestic fuel which was announced last year. They include pensioners receiving retirement pension and those receiving income support, widow's benefit, invalidity benefit--to be replaced by long-term incapacity benefit--or severe disablement allowance. From April 1995, the total extra help will be up to £1 a week for a single person or £1.40 a week for a couple. This extra money is a permanent addition to benefit rates and will be subject to future upratings in the normal way.
Social fund cold weather payments have already increased by £1 this month. From 1 November 1995 they will rise by a further £1.50 to £8.50. This increase is higher than the amount announced last year and will give substantial extra help to income support recipients who are pensioners, disabled people or have young children.
Some key points of the 1995 increases are:
Retirement pension will rise by £1.55 to £59.15 per week for a single person and by £2.35 to £94.45 for a couple. In common with certain other benefits, these amounts include the extra help for the effect of VAT on fuel.
Incapacity benefit replaces sickness benefit and invalidity benefit from 13 April 1995, the initial basic rate of long-term incapacity benefit will be £59.15 per week. This represents a full increase in line with inflation compared with the previous rate of invalidity benefit, as well as including extra help for the effect of VAT on domestic fuel.
Unemployment benefit for a single person will rise from £45.45 to £46.45 per week.
Child benefit will be fully uprated in line with prices; this means that the new rates will be £10.40 per week for the first or eldest eligible child and £8.45 for each subsequent child.
War pensions will, again, be uprated fully in line with prices. the 100 per cent. rate of basic war disablement pension will increase from £98.90 to £101.10 per week.
Disability Working Allowance
Disability working allowance will be uprated fully in line with the Rossi index. In addition, the allowance for couples/lone parents will rise from £63.75 to £73.70 per week and the threshold for single people will rise from £43 to £54.80 per week.
A schedule of the main proposed social security benefit rates to April 1995 will be placed in the Library.
Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what would be the cost of restoring the reduction in industrial injury benefits made since 1979.
Mr. Hague: It is not possible to make a reliable estimate of the cost involved.
Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security to what level the £35 limit above which occupational pensions are deducted from unemployment benefit could be raised without the cost exceeding the estimated saving from extending such deductions to people aged under 55 years.
Mr. Roger Evans: Estimates of the precise level at which this occurs are not reliable as it is necessary to estimate the number of people who become entitled to contributory benefit because the limit has been raised, and estimating this number with accuracy becomes more difficult the higher the level of limit. However, it is estimated that the £35 per week limit above which occupational pensions are deducted from unemployment benefit could be raised to between £65 and £75.
1. Estimates assumed 2.4 million unemployed claimants (GB) and 500,000 unemployment benefit claimants.
2. Estimate assumes that the job seeker's allowance has been introduced and in particular that contributory benefit for the unemployed lasts for six months.
3. Figure estimated using the PSM with 1990 91 92 FES data and 1994 unemployment benefit statistics.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what are the projected savings resulting from the cessation of payments in respect of concomitant interest in respect of remortgages;
(2) how many people claiming income support have sold their property since May 1994 following non-payment by the Department of the concomitant interest payments to cover remortgage payments; (3) if he will make a statement regarding concomitant interest payments;
(4) how many people claiming income support who have remortgaged their home have not been paid concomitant interest payments by his Department since the rule change of May 1994;
(5) what the projected year on year figures are for concomitant interest payments in the years 1995 96 and 1996 97.
Mr. Roger Evans: The effect of the change to the rules on income support help with mortgage interest payments that came into effect on 2 May 1994 was to stop benefit from being increased to meet the interest on loans that people take out while they are receiving income support. Loans that result from the special needs of disabled person, the need to provide separate sleeping accommodation for children of different sexes over the age of 10 years or for essential repairs and improvements are excluded from this restriction. Where remortgages are concerned, income support continues to be able to held with the interest on the parts of a remortgage that were taken out to pay off loans, or parts of loans, that would have been eligible for benefit had they not been paid off. The new rules only apply if the amount of interest that has to be met has increased as a result of the remortgage, and this increase is not covered by one of the exempt categories.
We have no evidence of anyone having sold their property as a result of the rule change. The other information that has been requested is not available.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans exist to reform provision with regard to war pensioners.
Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what new advice he has received from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on medical conditions caused by exposure to organophosphorous sheep dips; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hague: I have received no new advice. The council keeps developments in the field of occupational diseases under review. I understand that the council's research working group is aware of reports on the links between organophosphates and health.
Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proposals he has to create employment opportunities for 16 to 25-year-olds.
Mr. Paice: The Government will continue with the policies that have already reduced unemployment among young people under 25 by over 100,000 in the last year and given the United Kingdom an unemployment rate for this age group among the lowest in Europe.
Mr. Mark Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what initiatives his Department has undertaken to reduce unemployment rates among the over-50 age group.
Miss. Widdecombe: The Government have introduced a number of measures to reduce unemployment among the over-50 age group.
Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what action his Department is taking to promote training for women returning to the labour market after having children.
Miss. Widdecombe: The Department is promoting training and employment opportunities for women through its new horizons and fair play initiatives. Women who wish to return to work can enter training for work without having to be registered as unemployed for six months.
Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when he last discussed the issue of unemployment with Employment Ministers of other member states of the European Union; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Portillo: Unemployment has naturally figured prominently in the discussions I have had with my counterparts. I want to make sure that it moves to the top of the Community's agenda.
Mr. Jamieson: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is his Department's expenditure per head of population in the south-west; and what is his Department's average expenditure per head for all English regions.
Miss Widdecombe: It is not possible to give a comprehensive and accurate comparison of the Department's expenditure between the south-west and other English regions because much of the Department's budget is managed on a national, rather than regional basis and because not all the Department's activities are organised within common regional boundaries.
Ms Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment his Department has made of the effect of stress on employees.
Mr. Oppenheim: In December 1993, the Health and Safety Executive published a major review of the scientific literature on the nature, causes and effects of occupational stress. A copy of the review, which was undertaken on HSE's behalf by Professor Tom Cox of Nottingham university, was placed in the Library.
Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when he last met representatives of the coalfield communities campaign to discuss employment issues.
Mr. Paice: My right hon. Friend has not been asked to meet representatives of the coalfield communities campaign.