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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if the provisions which allow a benefit recipient to sign the reverse of their giro to authorise another person to collect their benefit from a post office will continue once the transfer to benefit payment by automated credit transfer is complete. [105568]

Mr. Rooker: Arrangements currently exist for customers paid by girocheque and order book who are unable to attend the post office, that ensure customers can access their benefit. Similarly arrangements also exist for customers currently paid by automated credit transfer (ACT) who are unable to attend the bank or building society.

Arrangements ensuring that all customers who are unable to attend the post office or bank can access their benefit, will continue once the transfer to payment by ACT is complete.

Income Support

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when his campaign to encourage the take-up of income support by pensioners will begin. [104914]

Mr. Rooker: An announcement of our plans to encourage pensioners to take-up their entitlement to the minimum income guarantee will be made shortly.

18 Jan 2000 : Column: 431W


Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps his Department has taken in the past year to ensure that appraisal of the performance of staff working for the Department's agencies takes account of anti-fraud work. [105567]

Mr. Rooker: Each Agency currently has its own appraisal system to reflect differing business needs, but each has a system on which staff are assessed annually across a range of objectives and competencies, including anti-fraud activity. All staff in the Department has a role to play in the fight against fraud. The Department is currently reviewing staff performance appraisal and will be seeking to further strengthen the role between individual performance and the drive to reduce fraud.

Benefit Rules

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on his Department's examination of benefit rules to see if they contribute to fraud and error as detailed in section 2.13 of the White Paper, Safeguarding Social Security. [105566]

Mr. Rooker: The examination of the rule whereby a couple who declare they are living together receive less benefit than 2 people who purport to live separately is still under way.

The other rules are being reviewed as part of wider welfare reform work.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the total public expenditure on housing benefit in each of the past 10 years in respect of (a) private and (b) public rented housing. [105231]

Angela Eagle: The information is in the table.

18 Jan 2000 : Column: 432W

£ million

Rent allowancesRent rebatesTotal housing benefit


1. Sum of DSS-funded and additional Local Authority expenditure.

2. Figures for 1989-90 to 1996-97--source: table 8 of Social Security Departmental Report 1999 (Cm 4214) and earlier equivalents. Figures for 1997-98 and 1998-99 are estimated outturn.

3. Figures may not sum due to rounding.


Petrol Prices

Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding the continued rise in petrol prices in rural Wales. [105569]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I met my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss a range of issues. As part of his pre-Budget Report late last year, he announced that the fuel duty escalator would be scrapped, which means that in future there will no longer be automatic rises in fuel prices but the appropriate level of fuel duties will be set on a Budget by Budget basis. Revenues from any increases in fuel duties over and above inflation will go straight to a ring-fenced fund for improving public transport and improving the road network.