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Reduced Earnings Allowance

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners will be affected by the reductions in the reduced earnings allowance. [30833]

Mr. Roger Evans: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) on 25 April, column 252.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what modification will be made in the application of the good cause clause in reduced earnings allowance cases which are restricted to 12 months' retrospection; and how they will now apply. [31258]

Mr. Evans: No change has been made to the application of the good cause provisions for late claims to reduced earnings allowance. However, where there is good cause for a late claim or application for review of an award made on or after 24 March 1996, a maximum 12 months arrears of reduced earnings allowance is payable, in line with other, non-industrial injuries benefits.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if reduced earnings allowance will continue to be paid to a married woman who reaches 60 years of age but who has insufficient national insurance contributions to claim a retirement pension in her own right and her husband is in full-time employment and under 65 years of age. [31256]

Mr. Evans: Reduced earnings allowance recipients who have given up regular employment will transfer to retirement allowance after reaching state pension age.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the reasons for the 12-month restriction on back dating reduced earnings allowance in cases where the effects of a latent injury or disease have resulted in a loss of faculty which has reduced the claimant's earnings capacity; and what further retrospection will be allowed in such cases to the date of the last application for an award. [31257]

Mr. Evans: The introduction of a maximum 12-month period for payment of arrears of reduced earnings allowance is designed to bring the allowance into line with other, non-industrial injuries, earnings replacement benefits such as incapacity benefit or income support. Reduced earnings allowance is payable only in respect of industrial accidents occurring or prescribed diseases with a date of onset, before 1 October 1990. It is not justifiable to continue backdating payments in such claims indefinitely. Reduced earnings allowance can still be backdated for a maximum of 12 months where someone can show good cause for making a late claim.

Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many representations he has received regarding the reduction in reduced earnings allowance; and how many of these representations express support for the changes he has made. [31143]

Mr. Evans: As at 31 May, 97 right hon. Members and two organisations have written to Ministers. The letters have generally expressed concern or sought clarification.

6 Jun 1996 : Column: 530

Disability Discrimination Act

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will issue a code of practice on access to goods, facilities, services and premises under part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. [32084]

Mr. Burt: I have today laid a draft code of practice covering rights of access to goods, facilities, services and premises before Parliament under the powers contained in sections 51 and 52 of the Act. Proposals for the code were made by the National Disability Council following a very successful public consultation exercise. Response to the NDC's draft was favourable, with particular praise for the clear drafting and use of examples to explain the concepts contained in the Act.

In conjunction with the consultation by the NDC, the Government consulted on a number of proposals for regulations under part III of the Act. Regulations covering powers of attorney; insurance; guarantees and the exclusion of certain education-related services will be laid before Parliament in the near future.

The draft code of practice and the regulations will come into force on 2 December 1996, subject to parliamentary approval. The code will be published as soon as possible to give service providers, those involved in the selling, letting and managing of premises and others affected time to take account of its guide.

The Disability Discrimination Act is a huge step forward for disabled people. The code forms part of a co-ordinated framework of advice and guidance to ensure that the business community and disabled people are aware of their new duties and rights.

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will issue guidance on the definition of disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. [32149]

Mr. Burt: I have today laid draft guidance before Parliament under the powers contained in section 3 of the Act. A draft of the guidance was issued as part of the recent consultation exercise carried out by the Department for Education and Employment. Many respondents to that consultation felt that the draft could be improved in terms of its structure and should provide fuller guidance. They also felt that the guidance in the draft should be put into context with references to the relevant provisions of the Act. The draft which I have laid before Parliament reflects these views. The Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. People who have had a disability in the past which met this definition are also protected by the Act. The guidance explains some of the matters to be taken into account in determining whether an impairment has this effect.

The guidance is not legally binding, but an industrial tribunal or court must take it into account where it appears to be relevant. In most cases it will be clear whether or not someone meets the definition of disability in the Act. The purpose of the guidance is to provide help where there is doubt over whether someone is disabled. It is designed primarily for courts or tribunals, but may also be of help to disabled people and businesses.

6 Jun 1996 : Column: 531

I have also laid regulations before Parliament which refine the Act's definition of disability. Proposals for the use of regulations on the definition of disability were also included in the DfEE's consultation exercise, and the regulations have been drafted to reflect views expressed. The regulations make it clear that addictions, anti-social behaviour and tattoos and body piercings will not entitle people to protection under the Act. They also make it clear that babies and young children are protected by the Act.

The regulations and the draft guidance will commence on 30 July 1996 subject to approval by Parliament.

TRANSPORT

MV Derbyshire

Mr. Loyden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will estimate the cost of the technical experts listed by his Department to take part in the second survey of the MV Derbyshire wreckage field. [31273]

Mr. Norris: I refer the hon. Member to my reply on 7 May, Official Report, column 52.

Railfreight Distribution

Sir David Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to privatise Railfreight Distribution; and if he will make a statement. [32067]

Mr. Watts: I have today announced that the Government have decided that Railfreight Distribution--British Rail's channel tunnel freight business--should be offered for sale as soon as possible. I have asked BR, in consultation with my Department, to draw up a programme for its disposal. The offer for sale will be based on the existing business.

Railfreight Distribution is heavily loss-making. Privatisation will enable the business to be put onto a sound financial footing so that the growth potential of international freight services via the channel tunnel can be exploited on a commercial basis, thereby furthering the objective of transferring more freight from road to rail.

Departmental Research Sites (Sale)

Mr. Riddick: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about the proposed sale of his Department's former research site at Crowthorne and Livingston. [32169]

Mr. Norris: My Department no longer needs to own the sites at Crowthorne and Livingston after the sale of the Transport Research Laboratory to the Transport Research Foundation. It has a 15-year lease at Crowthorne and a one-year tenancy at Livingston. Healey and Baker are to market the Crowthorne site and Richard Ellis the Livingston site. Applications are about to be made to the local planning authorities to confirm the existing use and planning status of each site, including the scope to rebuild on the sites. The sites will be put on the market in the near future.

6 Jun 1996 : Column: 532

British Rail Maintenance Ltd.

Sir David Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when Ernst and Young's report of their emerging findings on the sale of British Rail's former heavy maintenance depots, British Rail Maintenance Ltd., will be available. [32068]

Mr. Watts: I have today placed a copy in the Library.


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