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Compensation Recovery Unit

Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the amount of money recovered by the compensation recovery unit in respect of benefits paid to persons who subsequently received compensation for accident, injury or disease in the first six months of the fiscal year 1996; what projection he has made as to the level of such payments in the period April to September 1997; and if he will make a statement. [20647]

Mr. Roger Evans: From April to September 1996, just over £69 million was recovered by the compensation recovery unit. It is estimated that approximately £75 million will be recovered during the same period in 1997. These figures are provisional and subject to change.

Benefit Reliance (Evaluation)

Ms Harman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on reliance on means-tested benefit and the impact on the incentive to save. [20474]

Mr. Roger Evans: Two recent studies commissioned by the Department provide information relating to the relationship between receipt of income-related benefits and savings. DSS research report No. 38, "Managing Money in Later Life", explored older people's knowledge of the capital limits for income support and their attitudes towards asset holding in relation to these limits. Research report No. 53, "Moving Off Income Support: Barriers and Bridges" provided information on the extent to which income support claimants have savings.

Private Pension Schemes

Ms Harman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to adjust the level of rebates to reflect changes in the Government Actuary's assumptions about the rate of return which private pension schemes can expect to earn. [20443]

Mr. Heald: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) on 11 March, Official Report column 198.

Pensioner Numbers

Ms Harman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the increase in the number of pensioners (a) between 2020 and 2040 and (b) after 2040. [20487]

Mr. Heald: Estimates of the number of pensioners are published in "National Insurance Fund Long Term Financial estimates: Report by the Government actuary on the Third Quinquennial Review" under section 137 of the Social Security Act 1975 (HC160).

All Work Test (Appeals)

Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many appeals against incapacity benefit all work test decisions are currently outstanding in Greenock and Port Glasgow; what is the average waiting time for such appeals to be heard; what was the number of all work test decisions made in Greenock and Port Glasgow in 1996; and if he will make a statement. [20646]

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Mr. Burt: There are currently 317 appeals against incapacity all work test decisions outstanding in Greenock and Port Glasgow. The average waiting time for such appeals to be heard is 25 weeks and a total of 200 all work test decisions were made in Greenock and Port Glasgow in 1996.

Social Fund Funeral Payments

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has to change the provision of social fund funeral payments. [20953]

Mr. Roger Evans: Amending regulations and a copy of the Social Security Advisory Committee's report, along with my response, have been laid before the House today. After having carefully considered the committee's report, we have decided to proceed with the main changes as originally proposed.

The changes will target help more precisely on those most in need. In cases where there is no surviving partner, where a parent, son or daughter of the deceased exists,

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and neither they nor their partner are in receipt of an income-related benefit, it will be considered unreasonable for someone who is receiving such a benefit to take responsibility for the funeral expenses.

The level of help available will increase and be much easier to understand. The person responsible for arranging the funeral will be free to decide which elements they wish to be included, taking into account the level of help available from the social fund. This includes the choice of either burial or cremation, for which the necessary cost will be met separately. In the case of a burial, this cost alone can exceed £1,500 in some parts of the country.

Where the deceased lived in a remote area of the country, or died away from home, extra help will be available. In addition, up to £600 will be available for other funeral expenses.

The revised scheme aims to balance the needs of someone who has good reason for taking responsibility for arranging a funeral and the taxpayer who has to fund the cost.