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Social Security Policy

Mr. Terry Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the effect on inequality in the United Kingdom of his Government's social security policies. [3583]

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: Analysis by the Central Statistical Office, based on the family expenditure survey, shows that the tax and benefits systems help to reduce the gap between the bottom and top fifth of the income distribution--by more than four fifths of its original size.


Lone Parents

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people are paid allowances as single parents; what sum of money is involved; and if he will make a statement. [3941]

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Mr. Andrew Mitchell: Total expenditure on lone parents in 1994-95 is estimated to be £9.1 billion and is expected to reach £9.4 billion in 1995-96.

The numbers of lone parents receiving income support, family credit and one-parent benefit are shown in the table:

Benefit: Case load at May 1994:
Income support1,039,000
One-parent benefit911,000
Family credit236,000

Notes: 1. Expenditure includes spending on income-related benefits, child benefit, one-parent benefit, and maternity benefit. 2. For income support single parents have been defined as those persons in receipt of the lone parent premium. For family credit the numbers are single persons with dependants. 3. Numbers have been rounded to the nearest thousand. 4. Some people may receive more than one of the named benefits. Source: Income Support Statistics Quarterly Enquiry May 1994. Family credit statistics 5 per cent. sample of awards. Expenditure figure consistent with the departmental report.


Benefit Reform

Mrs. Peacock: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what reforms of the benefit system he is planning to help unemployed people back to work. [5037]

Mr. Roger Evans: Throughout the review of the social security system, helping people to return to work has been a central focus. In July, we increased family credit by £10 per week for those working 30 hours or more. Last month, we published the draft rules for the earnings top-up scheme, to help those without dependent children. From April 1996 we are smoothing the transition into work through a four-week extension of housing costs. We are encouraging employers to take on those who have been unemployed for more than two years, by introducing a "holiday" from national insurance contributions. We are now building on existing work incentives. In his statement on the Budget, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced an increase of £20 in the child care disregard in family credit and disability working allowance. Child care costs to the value of £60 will now be disregarded during benefit assessments. Helping people to return to work is the best way to improve people's living standards and the best way to improve their prospects.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Ministerial Offices

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much has been spent on furnishing and decorating ministerial offices for which he is now responsible in each of the last three years. [5568]

Mr. Willetts: Expenditure on furnishing and decorating ministerial offices in each of the last three years is included in the running cost expenditure of the Cabinet Office which is published in the annual report.

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Internet

Mr. Timms: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the final report of the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency study of ethical issues and the Internet will be (a) published and (b) placed in the Library. [4787]

Mr. Willetts: The report by CCTA, the Government centre for information systems, on the ethical issues of information super-highways is currently being completed. I expect it to be published early in January. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House as soon as it is available.

Charter Scheme

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what objectives for more efficient service and customer care have been (a) set and (b) met, by the citizens charter office and the office of charter mark (i) to date and (ii) for the future; [5541]

Mr. Willetts: The unit is currently working to the following targets;


The unit is consulting its customer on whether these targets should be formalised into a charter standard statement.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what is his estimate of the total cost to date of running the charter mark publications line, number 0345 223242; what date was this line established; and how many calls there have been since establishment. [5532]

Mr. Willetts: The citizens charter publication line on 0345 22 32 42 was set up on the 16 March 1994. Calls are charged at a local rate.

Publications Line 16 March 1994 current
Total calls£13,811
Set-up costs£1,880.00
Operating costs£46,161.62


Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what is the total annual cost of running the charter mark assessment office. [5534]

Mr. Willets: The cost of the assessment for the 1995 charter mark scheme is estimated to be approximately £500,000. A final figure is not yet available.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what is his estimate of the cost of running the charter mark seminars inquiry line since it was established; what was

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the date on which this line was established; what is the total number of calls to this line to date; and what is the budgeted expenditure for this line in 1995-96 and 1996- 97. [5536]

Mr. Willetts: The charter mark seminar inquiry line is provided by the contractor, Glasgow and Associates, and was set up on 9 January 1995 as part of the overall seminar package. There are no separate running costs for this service. So far, 5,000 calls have been received.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what was the cost of producing, publishing and distributing the rural services check list, devised by the charter unit. [5538]

Mr. Willetts: The cost of producing, publishing and distributing the rural services check list was £4,756.99, excluding VAT and postage.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many complaints about the offices of the citizens charter and charter mark have been received since their establishment; and what procedures to handle complaints have been established. [5539]

Mr. Willetts: Complaints about the workings of the charter unit have historically been dealt with under the procedures for handling general correspondence; they have not been recorded separately. Between April 1992, when records were started, and September 1995 the unit dealt with 7,802 letters. A very small number of these have involved complaints about the unit.

Formal complaints handling guidance was drawn up for the unit in April 1995. This sets out action to be taken on receiving a complaint, targets for responding, and procedures for review.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many copies of "Charter News" are printed and distributed quarterly and at what total cost; and what is the total cumulative cost to date of producing, printing and distributing this publication. [5531]

Mr. Willetts: In its present format, 88,000 copies of "Charter News" are printed and distributed quarterly at an average total cost of £78,299. The total cumulative cost to date of producing, printing and distributing nine issues of "Charter News" has been £623,277.17.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what is his estimate of the total cost to date of seminars held in relation to charter mark; what is the estimated cost for such seminars in 1995-96 and 1996-97; and what is his estimate of the number of such seminars which will be held. [5535]

Mr. Willetts: Before 1994, informal charter mark seminars were held at the charter unit--the cost of these is not recorded. The total cost of the 13 seminars held for organisations interested in applying for charter mark in 1994-95 was £153,000. The estimated cost of the 19 seminars being held in 1995-96 is £200,000. We plan to hold about 20 charter mark seminars in 1996-97 at a total estimated cost of £200,000.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what was the date on which the citizens charter mark office was established; what assessment of its performance has been made to date; and if he will publish the assessment. [5537]

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Mr. Willetts: The charter mark award scheme is administered by the citizens charter unit in the Cabinet Office, Office of Public Service. The charter unit was set up in July 1991 and the first charter mark awards were made in October 1992.

The performance of the charter unit can be measured by an increase in the number of applications of more than 250 per cent., and the increase in the number of winners of more than 600 per cent. In 1995, 1,824 people attended charter mark seminars around the country.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list each publication produced in relation to the charter mark scheme since its establishment; and if he will estimate for each publication the total cost of production , printing and distribution. [5533]

Mr. Willetts: The publication are as follows:

Cost
1995
Guide for Applicants 1995
What is Charter Mark? £31,000
Why You Should Apply
Charter Mark Awards 1995: The Winners£40,000
Make Your Mark (public nomination leaflet)£123,000


The costs shown relate to printing and production. Total distribution costs for the year amounted to £132,000, reflecting the distribution of leaflets as part of the public nomination campaign.


Total costs for printing, production and distribution were £112,500.

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Costs for 1992 and 1993 can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what has been the total annual cost of running the citizens charter unit since its establishment; and what is the projected annual cost for each year until 1998- 99; [5543]

Mr. Willetts: The annual cost of running the citizens charter unit since its establishment and the projected annual cost for each year until 1998-99 are set out in the following table:

Financial year Cost £
1991-92700,000
1992-932,300,000
1993-945,100,000
1994-953,800,000
1995-96(19)4,600,000
1996-97(19)4,600,000
1997-98(19)4,100,000
1998-99(19)4,100,000

(19) Projected expenditure.


More than £250 billion of taxpayers' money was spent on public services last year. The charter programme aims to improve public services by raising standards, making them more responsive to their users, and by encouraging them to apply for the charter mark scheme. The results are reported annually in the charter White Paper.

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