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Giro Cheques

Ms Lynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many giro benefit cheques have been recorded lost in each year since 1979. [371]

Mr. Heald: The information is not available in the format requested. Figures are available to show the numbers of requests received by Girobank for giro cheques which have been cashed, to be returned to benefit offices. These requests will be made for a number of reasons:


These statistics are only available from 1992-93 and are as follows:



    1992-93: 697,954
    1993-94: 493,113
    1994-95: 444,054

In 1994-95, 82.9 million giro cheques were issued by the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service.

Income Support

Mr. French: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people aged under 19 years and in non-advanced education are currently claiming income support on account of their being estranged from their parents. [173]

Mr. Roger Evans: This information is not available.

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 126

Mortgage Interest

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his latest estimate of the total number of claimants receiving income support towards mortgage interest in 1995, the average amount of each payment and the total cost of all such payments. [313]

Mr. Roger Evans: On the basis of the November 1994 quarterly statistical inquiry, the latest available data, it is estimated that the total number of claimants receiving income support help towards mortgage interest is 510,000, the average weekly award is £36.66 and the total annual cost is £973 million.

Industrial Injuries

Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to make hand and arm vibration syndrome a prescribed industrial disease. [1063]

Mr. Roger Evans: We are currently considering the recommendations made by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council in its report "Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome", Cm 2844.

Staffing

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many staff his Department employs on a regional basis in each standard English region; what is the cost of running these regional operations; what was the total budget for each region in 1994-95; and what are the main purposes for which the budget is used. [263]

Mr. Burt: The information is not available in the format requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. Such information as is available is in the table:

Region Number of staff employed by the Department including its Executive Agencies as at 1 October 1995
North16,347
Yorks and Humberside7,592
North west20,795
East Midlands4,069
West Midlands7,071
East Anglia1,748
South east19,147
South west5,092

The table excludes: 1. Staff on loan or secondment and not being paid by the Department. 2. Staff on unpaid leave for more than three months or on unpaid maternity leave; and 3. Casual staff.


Invalid Care Allowance

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many children with the metabolic disease phenylketonuria have been awarded invalid care allowance; how much has been spent by Her Majesty's Government on appeals after which they have turned down the original application; how many applications have been refused; and for what reasons the refunds were made. [154]

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 127

Mr. Burt: Invalid care allowance is available to people who provide care for severely disabled people. The disability causing the person to require care is not recorded centrally and the information asked for could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [967]

Mr. Burt: There is a statutory agreement with the Public Accounts Committee to publish the results of the annual payment of bills exercise in its present format-- expressed as percentages of invoices paid timeously.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices. [922]

Mr. Burt: The information is not available in the format requested.

Our aim is that all such bills should be paid within any special terms agreed, or if none exist within 30 days of receipt of the goods or service, or 30 days of receipt of a valid invoice, whichever of these is the later. Our latest monitoring exercise of the timeous payment of bills show that to date we are achieving 96 per cent. payment on time.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the amount owed to those businesses whose invoices were not paid within 30 days or in accordance with special terms agreed in each of the last five years. [1124]

Mr. Burt: Information is not available for the financial years 1990-91 and 1991-92. For 1992-93 and 1993-94 information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. Details for the financial year 1994-95 and 1995-96 to 31 October are in the table.

Agency 1994-95 1995-96 to 31 October
DSS Headquarters179,810.00385,221.00
Benefits Agency248,143.4762,526.36
Resettlement Agency1,872.871,948.86
War Pensions Agency1,373.0223,781.77
Child Support Agency185,583.3253,773.75
Information Technology Services Agency 24,899.67 1,255.20
Contributions Agency1,298,024.3847,178.46

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many (i) orders and (ii) firms are represented by the 10.5 per cent. of invoices not paid by his Department within 30 days or in accordance with contractual agreements in 1994-95; and how many of those are related to firms with fewer than 500 employees. [915]

Mr. Burt: The information is not available in the format requested.

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 128

The number of firms represented by the 10.5 per cent. of invoices not paid by DSS headquarters within 30 days or in accordance with contractual agreements in 1994-95 is 33.

The method of recording suppliers and payments does not allow for differentiation categories of suppliers with fewer than 500 employees.

Living Standards

Mrs. Beckett: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in which year since 1965 the living standards of each decile of high to low income population were half their present level; and in which such year average living standards were half their present level. [1518]

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: The available information relates to income as measured in "Households Below Average Income"; this is "equivalent" income-- household income adjusted for household size and composition. The DSS series runs from 1979; the Institute for Fiscal Studies has extended it back to the 1960s. This shows that incomes in the top decile doubled between 1965 and 1992-93. Average equivalent income as measured in HBAI, and incomes in other deciles, did not double within this period. The HBAI measure has weaknesses as a guide to living standards, especially at the bottom of the income distribution.

HEALTH

NHS Capital Investment

Mr. Pearson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on procedures for, and stages of, public consultation in relation to NHS capital investment plans which involve transfer of services and closure of hospitals. [582]

Mr. Sackville: Health authorities are expected to consult local people and statutory and voluntary agencies in drawing up their annual purchasing plans and longer-term strategies. Health authorities also have a statutory responsibility to consult community health councils on any proposals for substantial changes in service provision. Where a community health council contests a proposal to close or change the use of a hospital the matter is referred to the regional health authority. If the regional health authority supports the proposal, it is referred to Ministers to make a decision.

NHS Staff

Mr. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many vacant posts for (a) consultants and (b) other medical staff there were in English NHS trusts in each region on (i) 15 April 1994 and (ii) at the latest date for which figures are available in (1) psychiatry, (2) accident and emergency, (3) geriatric medicine, (4) general surgery, (5) anaesthetics, (6) general medicine and (7) obstetrics and gynaecology. [542]

Mr. Malone: This information is not available centrally.

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 129

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to introduce a system of assessment for (a) consultants and (b) general practitioners; and if he will make a statement. [326]

Mr. Malone: The report, "Maintaining Medical Excellence", made a number of recommendations to ensure that standards of professional performance are maintained at a higher level. For hospital doctors, it recommended that employers and professional bodies should explore the feasibility, costs and benefits of mentoring systems and report back. For general practitioners, it recommended that for regulatory purposes systems of objective assessment against a national framework should be introduced into vocational training, subject to satisfactory costing.

The report was issued for consultation in August and we are awaiting the outcome of the consultation exercise, which ends on 29 December 1995.


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