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British Pensioners Overseas

32. Mr. Colvin: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what step he is taking to ensure that British pensioners living overseas receive up-rated pensions to which they are entitled. [73069]

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Mr. Timms: Over 380,000 British pensioners living overseas in around 30 countries are paid the up-rated UK State Pensions to which they are entitled. These are paid under European Community regulations, and certain long standing social security agreements which allow for the payment of upratings.

Unclaimed Benefits

34. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the total amount of benefits administered by his Department unclaimed by those entitled to them; and what measures he proposes to encourage take-up. [73071]

Angela Eagle: Information relating to the total amount of unclaimed Social Security benefit is not available, because for most benefits, these data are not routinely collected. Estimates of take-up of income-related benefits published for the year 1993-94 (covering Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Family Credit) indicate that the total amount unclaimed was in the region of £2.5 billion. More recent data are currently being reviewed following an error discovered in the data relating to take-up among pensioners, which suggests that the level of take-up is likely to be somewhat higher than previously thought.

Recent initiatives to encourage take-up include a major publicity campaign to promote in-work benefits which was launched on 1 June last year. This campaign comprised TV and radio advertisements and a direct mailshot to lone parents. A special help line was established to handle telephone enquiries arising from the campaign.

We are also planning measures to encourage take-up of the Minimum Income Guarantee by pensioners. These measures will build on the findings from research into the reasons why pensioners do not take up their Income Support entitlement, and the nine pilot projects which the Department undertook last year to test different methods of encouraging pensioners to claim. We expect to publish the results of the research and the pilots later this year.

Child Poverty

35. Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has to tackle the problem of child poverty. [73072]

Angela Eagle: Since November last year an extra £2.50 a week has been made available to less well off families with children under age 11, through the income- related benefits. From April this year we will implement the largest ever increase in Child Benefit, an extra £2.95 a week for the first or eldest child. A similar increase in the family premium will ensure that those on income-related benefits also gain.

We consider that helping parents to work is the best form of assistance. The New Deal for Lone Parents and National Childcare Strategy will together make it possible for more parents to start work or increase their hours. Around two million children will be better off as a result of the introduction of the Working Families Tax Credit and Childcare Tax Credit and, along with the National Minimum Wage, will help to ensure that work pays for more families with children.

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Millennium Compliance

36. Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on progress with the millennium compliance of computer systems involved in the provision of benefits. [73073]

Angela Eagle: All the computer systems used to assess and pay benefits were made compliant during 1998 (the majority before the end of August 1998). In addition, by the end of last year, we had successfully tested all these systems using dates before and after the Year 2000.

Disabled People

37. Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action his Department is taking to help disabled people into employment. [73074]

Mr. Bayley: Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment we have introduced the New Deal for Disabled People to help disabled people and those with long term illness move into, or remain in, work: piloting a voluntary personal adviser service in 12 areas throughout Great Britain, for claimants of incapacity benefits; and funding a number of innovative schemes to test different approaches. From June we will also be piloting the Single Work Focused Gateway in twelve areas. In these areas, where appropriate, people of working age who claim benefits will be given a Personal Adviser who will be able to access information and the opportunities for employment, training and rehabilitation, and will help them plan a route back to independence.

In October 1998 we introduced a new 52 week linking rule for incapacity benefits and abolished the 16 hour limit for voluntary work. We have increased the therapeutic earnings limit from April 1999 and plan to pilot further changes to benefits from April. In addition the disabled persons tax credit, will be more generous than the Disability Working Allowance it will replace. We will also reform the All Work Test so that, as well as establishing the level of incapacity for benefit purposes, it will also provide information which will be potentially helpful to disabled people and their personal advisers when planning a return to work. The Department for Education and Employment has an extensive range of measures aimed at helping disabled people into employment.

Second-tier Pensions

38. Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals he has to encourage the spread of second-tier pensions. [73075]

Mr. Timms: The proposals in the pensions Green Paper for introducing stakeholder pension schemes, strengthening occupational pension schemes and providing a new State Second Pension will all encourage second-tier pension provision.

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Legislation to provide for stakeholder pension schemes forms part of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill introduced last month.

Single Gateway

40. Mr. Derek Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he expects to pilot the Single Gateway to Benefits for people of working age. [73077]

Angela Eagle: The pilots for the Single Work-Focused Gateway will commence from June 1999.


Departmental Publicity

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate his Department's expenditure on (i) publicity, (ii) advertising and (iii) press operations in (a) 1997-98, (b) 1998-99, (c) 1999-2000, (d) 2000-01 and (e) 2001-02; and if he will make a statement. [69251]

Mr. Dewar [holding answer 4 February 1999]: Details of expenditure on publicity, advertising and press operations are:

Press operations1,824,0001,545,000

Figures for 1998-99 are for expenditure to date. Figures for subsequent years are not available.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the expenditure of his Department, its agencies and associated public bodies on publicity and advertising for each year since 1985-86. [69242]

Mr. Dewar [holding answer 4 February 1999]: The details are:

The Scottish OfficeAgenciesNDPBs

(12) To date

Expenditure by agencies prior to 1993-94 is not held centrally. Expenditure for NDPBs for the current financial year is not presently available. The figure for 1997-98 is the forecast outturn.

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National Assets

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland which assets, listed in the National Assets register, have been sold off since 1 July 1997; how much money has been realised as a result; and if he will make a statement. [69197]

Mr. Dewar [holding answer 8 February 1999]: Those assets owned by The Scottish Office and its Associated Departments and Agencies which are listed under Scotland in the National Assets Register which have been sold since 1 July 1997 are as listed, together with the money realised.

Information about property sold by other public bodies is not held centrally.

Scottish Office Core
56 High Street, Lossiemouth25,000
Land, Rosyth72,000
Lowland Estate180,438
Office Equipment13,395
Agencies & Associated Departments
Scottish Prison Service
29 Staff Quarters531,077
88 Garages27,969
2.85 ha of land631,000
Plant and Equipment1,874
Historic Scotland
Office Equipment500
Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory
Research Vessel600,000
Registers of Scotland
Plant and Machinery500
Computer Hardware3,100
Scottish Courts Administration
Lanarkshire House1,340,000

From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

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