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Disability Benefits

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will list the number of claimants and the number of new claims of (a) disability living allowance care, (b) disability living allowance mobility, (c) attendance allowance and (d) long-term incapacity benefit in each year since 1992 in the Newcastle Benefits Agency District; and if she will estimate the age-distribution of claimants of these benefits in this district in the age bands (i) up to 30, (ii) 31 to 40, (iii) 41 to 50, (iv) 51 to 60 and (v) over 60 years. [22985]

Mr. Denham: The administration of Social Security benefits is a matter for Peter Mathison, Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my hon. Friend. In addition, some tables have been placed in the Library.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Jim Cousins, dated 30 January 1998:

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Cabinet Committee on Women

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Women last met; and when it will next meet. [27050]

Ms Ruddock: In accordance with longstanding practice, information about the proceedings of the Cabinet and Cabinet committees is not made public.

Cold Weather Payments

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if cold weather payments would have been triggered for (a) Orkney and (b) Shetland for the period 17 to 20 January if the wind chill factor had been incorporated into the recorded or forecasted temperatures.[26084]

Mr. Denham: The information requested cannot be ascertained, because the existing Cold Weather Payments scheme does not contain a trigger criterion which combines wind speed with external air temperature.

A number of formulae are used to calculate the combined effects of air temperature and wind speed on the human body when in the open air ("wind chill"). The Building Research Establishment advises that this way of combining temperatures and wind speed is not appropriate when assessing heat loss from buildings, because different heat transfer mechanisms apply.

The amount of additional heating required during a spell of low air temperatures depends on a number of varying factors in addition to wind speed. These include the house type, site and location, insulation standard, the method of heating and its efficiency.


Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how long on average it takes her Department to answer letters from hon. Members; what target date her Department sets; what percentage receive replies within the target date; and what assessment she has made of how long it takes to deliver a letter after it has been typed.[27030]

Mr. Denham: The information is not kept in the format requested.

Our target is to reply to letters from hon. Members within 20 working days. Due to the very high volume of letters in the last six months this target was achieved for only 51 per cent. of the letters received during 1997.

We remain committed to answering all correspondence within 20 working days and are taking active measures to reduce turnaround times.

Family Credit

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will provide a break-down of family credit recipients by gender in the last year for which figures are available. [26251]

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Mr. Keith Bradley: 757,000 families are currently in receipt of Family Credit. Of these, 14,300 families are headed by a male lone parent and 336,400 by a female lone parent. The vast majority of couple families have a female recipient as there is a requirement for the female member of a couple to be the claimant. There are, however, occasional exceptions to this rule, for example, to cover mental incapacity. Source:

National Insurance Fund

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what has been the Exchequer subsidy to the National Insurance Fund for each of the last 10 years.[26852]

Mr. Denham: The amount paid to the National Insurance Fund for each year in the period from 1987-88 to 1996-97 are shown in the table.

Payments into the National Insurance Fund(13) 1987-88 to 1996-97

YearAmount (£ million)

(13) Treasury Supplement until 1988-89; Treasury Grant from 1993-94.

Benefits Statistics

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the total cost of non-means tested benefits in 1996-97; and what estimates he has made of the costs of means tested benefits in 1997-98 separately identifying (i) the cost of payments to customers and (ii) the cost of administration. [26981]

Mr. Denham: Information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is set out in the table.

Cost of payments to customers for benefit expenditure only
£ million

Non-means tested benefit60,152--
Means tested benefit--33,530


The information about the cost of administration is not available. The information requested for 1996-97 is currently being finalised and will be included in the Departmental Report scheduled for publication following the Spring Budget Statement. The report will also contain benefit forecasts and forecasts for contributory and non-contributory benefits administration costs on a Departmental basis only. Administration costs are not forecast by individual benefit.


March 1997 Social Security Departmental Report.

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Pensions Policy

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when she expects to publish her Department's proposals on pensions policy; and if she will make a statement. [27006]

Mr. Denham: The pensions review, announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 17 July, is looking at the central areas of insecurity for elderly people. A key objective of the review is to ensure that pensioners should have an adequate pension in retirement; that they should share fairly in rising prosperity, and that public finances should be both sustainable and affordable.

The first part of the review ended on 31 October and we are now carefully considering the many responses we have received. We are also consulting on how best to take forward our proposals for Stakeholder Pensions and have asked for comments by the end of this month. We aim to publish an initial framework for change in the first half of this year. There will then be a period of further consultation before final proposals are developed.

Building Societies

Mr. Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will list (a) the building societies used in the calculation of the standard rate of interest, (b) their current rate of interest and (c) the current standard rate of interest used to calculate income support for mortgage interest; and if she will publish the rate of interest which would apply based on the interest rates of the top 20 mortgage lenders. [26957]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The standard rate is based on the weighted average interest rate charged by building societies. A list of the societies used in the calculation of standard rate, whose combined assets represents over 95 per cent. of the industry's assets, is below, together with the basic rate currently charged to existing borrowers.

Building societyCurrent interest rate (per cent)(14)
Birmingham Midshires8.70
Bradford and Bingley8.45
Leeds and Holbeck8.45
Leek United8.60
National Counties8.29
Norwich and Peterborough8.10
Stroud and Swindon8.55
West Bromwich8.45


(14) Moneyfacts.

It should be noted that the standard rate is calculated using the weighted average of basic rates. The most recent

average figure of 8.15 per cent., published in Table 7.1L of January's "Financial Statistics", did not increase the standard rate, currently 7.97 per cent., as changes are triggered by a minimum movement of 0.25 per cent.

The rate of interest based on the top 20 mortgage lenders it not readily available and could be produced only at disproportionate cost However, a combined rate of the top building societies and banks, currently 8.53 per cent., is also published in Table 7.1L of "Financial Statistics".

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