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Departmental Expenditure

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list Government expenditure on social security and welfare services as a percentage of gross domestic product following the definition adopted by "Eurostat, General Government Accounts and Statistics 1981-1992", page 25, table D for (a) the United Kingdom and (b) as many OECD countries as are readily available to his Department. [3068]

Mr. Burt: I refer the hon. Member to Eurostat publication "General Government accounts and statistics 1970-1993", a copy of which is available in the Library.

War Pensioners (Hearing Disorders)

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent changes in provision for hearing disorders the War Pensions Agency is now introducing; how they affect the provision of remedial help for service-related hearing loss; when these changes were submitted for parliamentary approval; what representations he has received about them; and if he will make a statement. [3072]

Mr. Heald: Article 26 of the Service Pensions Order 1983 gives the Secretary of State a discretionary power to defray necessary expenses relating to the treatment of an ex-member of the armed forces arising as a result of disablement due to service, including the cost of aids and appliances such as hearing aids. The power cannot be used, however, when the treatment, aid or appliance is provided under other UK legislation.

The long-standing policy has been to use that discretionary power to defray the costs of non-standard hearing aids for war pensioners only where a standard aid was not medically suitable.

With the implementation of the NHS Trust and Community Care Act 1990, the NHS is no longer restricted to supplying hearing aids from a limited list of models. NHS hearing aid centres may now purchase and supply on free loan any type of hearing aid that they consider appropriate in any individual case.

It was recently recognised that our operational procedures had not kept up with this change in the NHS arrangements. The procedures have now been amended to ensure that they reflect fully both the policy intention and the limitations placed on the Secretary of State's discretionary powers.

Any war pensioner resident in the UK approaching the War Pensions Agency for a hearing aid is now being advised to access the NHS system in the normal way. War pensioners will not be disadvantaged by these operational changes as there is now no specific hearing impairment for which the NHS cannot supply a suitable aid.

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The changes have not been submitted for parliamentary approval because there has been no change in either the law or normal policy.

We have, to date, received one letter concerning the changes, from the national chairman of the Royal British Legion.

National Insurance

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of uncollected national insurance contributions for (a) 1991-92, (b) 1994-95 and (c) 1995-96; and if he will make a statement. [3386]

Mr. Heald: all employees whose earnings reach or exceed a minimum level are liable to pay class 1 national insurance contributions. It is the responsibility of the employer, in the first instance, to pay both their own (secondary) and their employee's (primary) share of the contribution at the time earnings are paid.

Estimates of the underpayment of class 1 NICs have been made through two employer compliance surveys; however these covered only the years 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1995-96. The survey in respect of the 1995-96 tax year provided an estimate that £92.8 million NICs (primary and secondary) were not paid. This figure represents 0.21 per cent. of the total amount paid by way of NICs in 1995-96.

The Contributions Agency commissioned the first survey in 1994 and following analysis and review of the results a further survey was carried out in respect of the performance in the 1995-96 tax year.

Self-employed contributors pay class 2 and class 4 contributions. Class 2 contributions are paid by direct debit payments or in response to the issue of quarterly bills. Estimates as to unpaid class 2 contributions could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.

Class 4 contributions are collected by the Inland Revenue, which draws up its accounts on the last Friday in October. The figures for the year ended 1996 are not available, the figures for the years ended 1992 and 1995 the amounts of class 4 contributions uncollected and written off were:

Figures for class 4 contributions are for England, Wales and Scotland only.

War Pensioners

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which local authorities in the year ended March 1995 had a policy in addition to the statutory scheme (a) of disregarding all of a war pensioner's income when assessing housing and council tax benefit, (b) of no disregard and (c) of disregarding an element of the income; and for each of those named in (c) what was the level of disregard applied, the cost to each authority of applying the disregard and the number of war pensioners in each authority to whom the disregard applied. [3591]

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Mr. Roger Evans: The information is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what regulations his Department proposes to repeal by the end of 1996; if he proposes to conduct a compliance cost assessment on each regulation repealed; and what is the estimated cost of undertaking a compliance cost assessment to determine the advantages and disadvantages of such a repeal. [3446]

Mr. Heald: The Department currently proposes to amend the following regulations which impact on business by the end of 1996;

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It is anticipated that the changes will come into effect on 6 April 1997.

Since the effect will be to reduce rather than increase compliance costs, a compliance cost assessment is not required. Departments do, however seek to estimate approximate savings where ever possible. The cost of undertaking a CCA varies from case to case but is generally modest. Because part of the cost falls on the business consulted, a full CCA would be inappropriate for measures designed to reduce business burdens.

We plan to repeal a number of other regulations which have no effect on business.

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