Previous Section Index Home Page

Road Safety Strategy

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Chairman of the Administration Committee what measures will be taken in pursuance of the Government's road safety strategy to improve the driving of (a) employees of the House who drive vehicles on House of Commons business and (b) hon. Members. [113530]

Mrs. Roe: (a) There are very few instances of House employees having to drive vehicles on House of Commons business; in any event, this would be a matter for the Heads of the individual House departments, not for the Committee; (b) this is a matter for individual hon. Members.


Retirement Pension Forecasts

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many people were awarded a penalty payment for the late processing of retirement pension forecasts in each of the last five years for which figures are available; what were the total sums awarded in each year; and if he will make a statement; [112644]

Mr. Rooker: This is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Bob Russell, dated 6 March 2000:

    There are no provisions for payment of a penalty payment for the late processing of a retirement pension forecast.

    The Benefits Agency receives approximately 600,000 applications for a pension forecast each year. The current target for issuing the reply to applicant's is 95% within 40 working days of their receipt. Actual achievement has been affected by problems we have experienced with NIRS2, however last month we actually achieved 90.3%.

    There are no plans to change this target.

    The table attached shows the number of outstanding pension forecasts as at 1 March.

    I hope this is helpful.

Outstanding pension forecasts as at 1 March 2000

ForecastsNumber of forecasts involved Reason for delay
Forecasts waiting to be processed49,965This amount of available work is the norm for this time of year. 96 per cent. of this work is still within target date
3 months773Retirement Pension Forecasting and Advice Unit are waiting for information to be supplied by different areas of Inland Revenue
6 months15Retirement Pension Forecasting and Advice Unit are waiting for information to be supplied by different areas of Inland Revenue
1 year0--

7 Mar 2000 : Column: 611W

7 Mar 2000 : Column: 611W


Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many (a) families and (b) ethnic minority families are living on below half-average income. [113467]

Mr. Bayley: The information is in the table.

Number of families and ethnic minority families below half average income 1997-98

Including the self-employed
Ethnic minority families0.50.8
Excluding the self-employed
Ethnic minority families0.40.7


1. The latest information available is for 1997-98 derived from Households Below Average Income (HBAI) data. The 1979-96/7 HBAI publication presents estimates of the income distribution of individuals by ethnic group. A copy of this is in the Library.

2. The definition used of a family is a single adult or a couple, together with any dependent children. A family is defined as ethnic minority if the head of the family is non-White.

3. The HBAI estimates for 1997-98 are taken from the Family Resources Survey and relate to Great Britain. All estimates are subject to sampling error.

4. The figures are presented on household income both Before Housing Costs (BHC) and After Housing Costs (AHC) in line with HBAI conventions. Figures are also provided including and excluding the self-employed reflecting concerns over the accuracy of income information for the self-employed at the bottom of the income distribution.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list for the Benefit Agency's study of family credit accuracy (i) the number, (ii) the percentage and (iii) the monetary value, of cases found to be (a) erroneous, (b) actually fraudulent, (c) having a high suspicion of fraud and (d) having a low suspicion of fraud. [113462]

Mr. Rooker: The Social Security Select Committee published the results of the Benefits Agency study in February 1999, a copy of which is available in the Library. The figures it contains are not a reliable guide because the study was not based on a statistically valid sample. This was due to the small sample size in a pilot study.

7 Mar 2000 : Column: 612W

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the progress of the Government's zero tolerance approach to benefit fraud by (a) individuals and (b) organised criminal groups. [111570]

Mr. Rooker: We set out our strategy for combating fraud and reducing error in "Safeguarding Social Security", published on 23 March 1999. We are putting this strategy into practice with strong and sensible safeguards to ensure the right money goes to the right people. Among the new initiatives that carry this forward are the following:

    All payments will move to automated credit transfer (ACT) from 2003 as a modern, more secure and efficient method of paying benefits. This will virtually eliminate "instrument of payment" fraud and enhance security over the life of a claim. This is expected to yield fraud savings in the region of £140 million--£240 million.

    National Fraud Intelligence Unit--announced 24 January 2000--to combine the expertise of our organised fraud investigators with that of other agencies nationwide, including the police and LAs.

    From the spring, we will launch a hard hitting TV campaign, aimed at getting the public onside in the fight against fraud. This will aim to shift public attitudes and promote intolerance of those who defraud the system.

    Strengthened gateway to Income Support--When we came into office, two out of five Income Support claims were paid without enough evidence. We have halved that. We are insisting on claimants producing more evidence before Income Support is paid. This will save over a £1 billion during the course of this Parliament.

    Verification Framework

    Sets rigorous standards for Local Authorities (LAs) in verifying HB/CTB claims, including targeted visiting. Key measure to promote fraud prevention and consistent standards of administration across LAs. £15 million funding distributed between the first wave of 84 LAs implementing in 1998-99.

    Extra funding of £100 million to enable all local authorities to implement the Framework from 1999-2000. The number of LAs starting to implement is constantly increasing and 234 LAs have so far received funding. Strategy in place to encourage remaining LAs to implement the Framework.

    Section 19 of Fraud Act took effect in September 1999. This requires all Housing Benefit claimants to provide detailed personal information that is sufficient for a National Insurance number to be traced and confirmed or issued.

    Royal Mail "do not redirect"

7 Mar 2000 : Column: 613W

    Remote Access Terminals

    Remote Access (computer) Terminals (RAT) provide LAs with direct access to some benefit information held by the Benefits Agency. These terminals have contributed towards reducing the time it takes to process claims for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

    To date, 364 LAs have at least one RAT installed. By the end of March 2000 this figure is expected to increase to 393. Additional terminals are being made available to those LAs using them to capacity.

Next Section Index Home Page