Previous Section Index Home Page

Departmental Premises

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list the premises purchased for use by her Department since 1 May 1997 and their cost. [106643]

Mr. Foulkes: No premises have been purchased by our Department since 1 May 1997.

Aid Suspensions

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development to which countries her Department has suspended aid since 1 May 1997; and what was the reason in each case. [106332]

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 78W

Mr. Foulkes: Our bilateral co-operation programme with the Government of Pakistan was suspended on 15 October 1999, in response to the military coup of 12 October. We continue to provide assistance to poor people through non-governmental channels.

Our bilateral co-operation programme with the Government of Sierra Leone was suspended on 28 May 1997, in response to the military coup. The programme recommenced again in July 1999 following the Lome peace agreement.

North Caucasus

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance her Department has provided for the people of Chechnya since 1 December 1999. [106335]

Clare Short: Since 1 December 1999, DFID has contributed $145,000 (£893,000) to the UN Inter Agency Appeal for internally displaced people in the North Caucasus. The contribution was split between the World Food Programme ($1,000,000), the United Nations Children's Fund ($250,000), the World Health Organisation ($100,000) and the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs ($100,000). In November, DFID contributed £500,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appeal for the North Caucasus; ICRC work in the region is ongoing. The UK has also contributed through our share of the 1.2 million euro pledged by the EU.

British Council

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what is the projected funding from her Department to the British Council for the financial year (a) 1999-2000, (b) 2000-01 and (c) 2001-02. [106341]

Clare Short: The resources set aside by my Department for the Grant-in-aid to the British Council (£30 million 1998-99, £31 million in 1999-2000, £32 million in 2000-01 and £33 million in 2001-02) have been transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. My Department therefore no longer provides core funding for the British Council.

The British Council continues to be a key provider of services, on a commercial basis, to implement my Department's programmes.

Departmental Public Information Line

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many calls were made to her Department's public information line in (a) 1997-98 and (b) 1998-99. [106337]

Clare Short: In 1997-98 our Public Inquiry Point received 2,410 telephone calls. In 1998-99 this rose to around 5,400.

Departmental Website

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many complaints she has

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 79W

received from the general public about the effectiveness of the search engine on her Department's website. [106338]

Clare Short: In the last year we have received six complaints about the effectiveness of the search engine.


Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funds from the TACIS programme have gone to Russia in the past six months. [106336]

Clare Short: We have been unable to obtain information in the precise form requested. However, contracts totalling euro 56,950,523 financed from the TACIS Russia programme commenced during the six months up to 20 January 2000.


House of Lords

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council when she intends to set up the joint Committee to consider the report of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords; and if she will make a statement. [105669]

Mrs. Beckett: The Government set out in its White Paper "Modernising Parliament--Reforming the House of Lords" (Cm 4183), that


Organised Fraud

Lorna Fitzsimons: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he expects to publish the report of the independent review of organised fraud. [106947]

Mr. Darling: Last February, I asked John Scampion, Social Fund Commissioner, to review the way we tackled organised fraud. Mr. Scampion has completed his review and I have placed a copy of his report in the Library.

Organised fraud occurs across the Social Security system. It includes forgery, theft and other abuse of instruments of payment, operation of multiple false identities, and fraud by landlords and tenants. Mr. Scampion was asked specifically to consider how we could counter such threats, in particular through prevention, by designing structures and processes to minimise risk and secure the system against fraud.

At present the Benefits Agency has a unit dedicated to countering organised fraud which Mr. Scampion has commended for its energy, skill and professionalism. Within local authorities there is very little co-ordinated action against organised fraud.

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 80W

Mr. Scampion's report makes a number of recommendations I will be considering further, but in the meantime I can announce that I will:

    overhaul and strengthen the capability and professionalism of investigators to tackle organised benefit fraud right across the benefit system. I will appoint a senior civil servant to manage the central organised fraud investigation service and to act as the Head of Profession for all benefit fraud investigators;

    set up new arrangements with local authorities to ensure investigations are targeted properly across the Social Security system;

    pursue (as announced last week) changes to the funding arrangements for local authority investigation work by developing a completely new anti-fraud incentive framework to be introduced from April 2001.

All of this will contribute to a significant strengthening of our defences against organised fraud and our ability to tackle it where it occurs.

In addition, as I have already announced, our plans to pay benefits through the banking system are a major step in preventing organised fraud attacks on our present, paper based, payment mechanisms.

Child Support Agency

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment the CSA has made of the contact rate between non-resident fathers and their children; and if he will make a statement. [104875]

Angela Eagle: No such assessment has been made as liability for child support is not linked to whether a non-resident parent has contact with his child(ren).

However, research 1 Shows that there is a consistent relationship between contact and the payment of child maintenance, although it is difficult to establish causality. Those who are currently paying maintenance tend to have a greater level of contact with their children than those who do not. Additionally, research 2 suggests that non-resident parents would be less likely to pay the full amount of their maintenance assessment if they lost contact with their children.

    2 Bradshaw et al (1999).

Post Offices

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proposals are being considered by his Department to help sustain and develop the viability of rural and urban sub-post offices. [105857]

Mr. Rooker: I refer the right hon. Member to the written answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 20 January 2000, Official Report, column 519W.

Winter Fuel Payments

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent arrangements he has put in place to

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 81W

advertise the winter fuel payments for the elderly; and what percentage of those entitled to the payment have received it in the last three months. [106045]

Angela Eagle: A leaflet-based information campaign began in the autumn to inform and reassure those eligible of how and when payments for this winter would be made. National and regional press advertising also took place before Christmas to inform eligible pensioners that payments were currently being made, and provided information on what to do if they had not yet received a payment. An estimated 98 per cent. of those entitled have received their payments.

Dr. Brand: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when Benefits Agency offices will be instructed to pay heating allowance to men aged over 60 years. [106178]

Angela Eagle: Winter Fuel Payments have always been available to men aged 60 and over who are in receipt of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and their benefit includes a pensioner premium.

Payments due to people aged 60 and over who are newly eligible to Winter Fuel Payments because of the recent European Court of Justice ruling, will be made as soon as possible.

To ensure these payments are made correctly, it will be necessary to determine the names and addresses of those people who are newly eligible.

We will be able to identify some people through current Departmental records. However, the majority may have had no need to contact the Department for a long period and the information we hold may not be up to date. Therefore, we will need to introduce a claims process to determine their precise entitlement.

This process will need to be developed carefully. The Benefits Agency is currently working on this and other operational issues to determine the best way to deliver the payments.

An announcement will be made as soon as possible once our plans are further advanced.

Next Section Index Home Page