Previous Section Index Home Page

Mortgage Interest Payments

23. Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will change the system of benefit payments in respect of mortgage interest payments to monthly payments. [9051]

Mr. Keith Bradley: We have no plans to do so.

Lone Parents

26. Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what will be the net saving to her Department from the removal of lone-parent entitlements to additional income support and child benefit. [9054]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The estimated net saving from the removal of entitlement for new cases to the lone-parent rates of child benefit and the family premium in income support, jobseeker's allowance and housing and council tax benefits is, in the three years starting from 1998-99, £60 million, £140 million and £195 million.

39. Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on her Department's proposals to reduce dependency on benefits among lone mothers. [9067]

Mr. Bradley: We believe that work is the best form of welfare for all people of working age, including lone

28 Jul 1997 : Column: 101

mothers, and that children should grow up in an environment where work is the norm, not life on benefits. Currently, over 1 million lone mothers bring up 2 million children on income support--we are determined to change this. Our new deal for lone parents will bring opportunities to those previously excluded from society and help to build a one-nation Britain.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate she has made of the number of lone parents who would (a) be unaffected, (b) lose up to £2 per week, (c) lose £2 to £3.99 per week, (d) lose £4 to £5.99 per week and (e) lose £6 or more per week from (i) the abolition of the higher rate of child benefit paid to lone parents, (ii) the reduction of the lone-parent family premium in income support and related benefits to the same level as the family premium for two-parent families and (iii) (i) and (ii) simultaneously; and in each case if she will list the average loss for all lone parents, and the total effect on public funds. [10795]

Mr. Bradley: Removal of the lone-parent rates of child benefit and family premium for new cases will not create any cash losers because existing recipients will be protected. Some lone parents making new claims will receive less benefit than they would have done without the changes.

Information for 1998-99, the first year of the changes, is in the tables. All numbers refer to the total number affected, or not, at the end of the year. Average losses refer to the average notional loss for the lone parents who will be affected. The numbers unaffected refer only to those lone parents in receipt of social security benefits; reliable estimates of the total number of lone parents unaffected are not available.

Removal of the higher rate of child benefit for lone parents

Child benefit
£0 to £2 loss0
£2 to £3.99 loss0
£4 to £5.99 loss75,000
£6 + loss0

Average notional loss: £5.85--only those affected.

Removal of higher rate of family premium in income-related benefits

Income supportHousing benefit(22)Council tax benefit(22)
£0 to £2 lossNegligibleNegligibleNegligible
£2 to £3.99 lossNegligibleNegligible45,000
£4 to £5.99 loss260,000NegligibleNegligible
£6 + loss060,000Negligible

(22) Excludes those on income support, who are covered in the income support estimate.


1. Average notional loss:

Income support = £4.75

Housing benefit = £7.20

Council tax benefit = £2.20

2. Reliable information on the precise number losing specified amounts through the interaction of the changes in the different benefits is not available. The maximum overall notional loss will be £10.25 and applies to lone parents who are not on income support, for example, because they are in work, who are not able to claim the lone-parent rate of child benefit, but who become eligible for housing benefit and council tax benefit. The majority of those who will be able to claim the lone-parent rate of child benefit as well as housing and council tax benefit will notionally lose a maximum of £9.40. The majority of lone parents moving on to income support will lose £4.75, since the changes to other benefits will not affect them while on income support.

3. The total effect on public funds is forecast to be a saving of £60 million in 1998-99.

28 Jul 1997 : Column: 102

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security to what extent child benefit received by lone parents is counted as income when a claim for family credit is made. [10793]

Mr. Bradley: Child benefit is disregarded when calculating family credit. Account is taken of the level of child benefit when the family credit children's rates--the "child credits"--are set. The child credits and child benefit combined are greater than income support children's rates to provide a contribution in lieu of free school meals and welfare foods available only to children of families on income support.

Claimants (Improved Services)

27. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the Government's plans for improving services to claimants. [9055]

Mr. Keith Bradley: We want to modernise the social security system we have inherited to improve services to claimants. We want a system that is speedy, fair and efficient. The Social Security Bill laid before the House on 9 July has measures that will enable us improve the service provided to those claiming benefits.

38. Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans she has for improving services to those making social security appeals. [9066]

Mr. Bradley: I refer my hon. Friend to the oral answer I gave earlier today to our hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts).

Long-term Sick and Disabled People

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the total spending on benefits for the long-term sick and disabled in (a) 1978-79 and (b) 1996-97; and what change this represents in real terms. [10849]

Mr. Denham: Total spending on benefits for the long-term sick and disabled, in real terms, was £5.4 billion in 1978-79 and £22.4 billion in 1996-97.


28. Mr. Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the Government's proposals on fraud in the benefit system. [9056]

Mr. Denham: We are committed to modernising the structure and delivery of social security to encourage independence, social cohesion and well-being; to develop an active welfare system that supports work, savings and honesty; and to help tackle effectively unjustifiable social

28 Jul 1997 : Column: 103

and economic inequalities. To that end, we are examining the major components of the system.

As part of this work, we are re-examining the strategic objectives governing counter-fraud work throughout the Department. This will ensure that there is coherence between counter-fraud objectives and other policy and operational strategic objectives, in particular those aimed at controlling loss of programme expenditure. We are also looking at the assumptions underpinning the calculation of estimated fraud savings. We will be involving external parties in discussions on these issues and inviting experts in their field to a fraud seminar to be held in September.

30. Mr. Hutton: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the level of fraud in housing benefit. [9058]

Mr. Denham: We are determined to clamp down on housing benefit fraud as part of our drive to restore public confidence in a secure social security system.

Estimates of the level of housing benefit fraud vary. A 1995 survey of housing benefit accuracy estimated the level of fraud to be almost £1 billion, whereas evidence presented to the Social Security Committee in 1996 suggested the figure could be as high as £2 billion. Over the next six months, with the help of local authorities, we will conduct a further detailed study to provide an accurate and up-to-date estimate of the level of fraud and profiles of those who perpetrate it, including the extent to which unscrupulous landlords are involved in fraud. As a first step, I have written to chief executives of local authorities emphasising the importance of the study and inviting their authority to participate.

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will list in 1997-98 prices (a) the amount which the Government have saved as a result of measures to tackle benefit fraud in each year since 1978-79 and (b) the current projections for savings in future years.[10847]

Mr. Denham: This Government's aim is to reduce poverty and welfare dependency and to build confidence and integrity into the benefit system. An important part of that is the fight against benefit fraud.

Benefit savings figures prior to 1986 are not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Such information as is available is given in the tables.

The projected savings figures are based on the estimates of the previous Administration, and I shall examine carefully the assumptions underpinning them.

Past savings

£ million
YearDSS savings £(1997-98 prices)LA savings(23) £ (1997-98 prices)Total

(23) No central records are kept of any local authority savings achieved prior to April 1993. Local authority figures are net of subsidy payments.

(24) Includes savings from initiatives in the security and control programme. Savings of £1,524 million at 1996-97 prices are shown in the Benefits Agency annual report and accounts, HC78, published on 22 July 1997.

(25) Local authority savings are provisional and subject to audit.

1. Figures have been converted to 1997-98 prices using the adjusted GDP deflator at market prices.

2. Figures have been rounded to the nearest £1 million.

3. The information is given in terms of weekly benefit savings deriving from activity in the given year, not public expenditure savings which could be accounted for in that year. Weekly benefit savings are calculated by taking the difference between the amount incorrectly paid to an individual and the correct amount of benefit due, following intervention of the fraud officer. This amount is multiplied by 32. Based on research which mainly covered income support, 32 weeks is the average length of time a claim would have continued if the fraud had not been detected. This multiplier is currently applied to all benefits.

28 Jul 1997 : Column: 104

Future projections

£ million
YearDSS savingsLA savings(26)Total
£ (1997-98 prices)£ (1997-98 prices)

(26) Local authority figures are net of estimated subsidy payments.


1. The savings figures are estimates and have been calculated on a different basis to past savings. Estimates weekly benefit savings figures have been adjusted so that the savings are counted in the year when they actually occur to align more closely with the public expenditure process.

Next Section Index Home Page