Previous Section Index Home Page

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when payments will be made to those people under the age of 65 years entitled to receive winter fuel payments. [112656]

Angela Eagle: Following the European Court's judgment in the Taylor case, we have decided that help through Winter Fuel Payments will be extended to everyone aged 60 or over, regardless of whether they are receiving a pension or another qualifying benefit.

We accept the judgment of the Court and intend to comply by equalising the age of the Winter Fuel Payment entitlement to men and women at age 60.

The Winter Fuel Payment qualifying age will be increased in line with the increases previously announced in respect of the State Retirement Pension (between April 2010 and April 2020 State pension age for women will be increased in stages until both men and women share a State pension age of 65).

We intend to make retrospective payments to all people now included within the scope of the scheme in respect of the previous three winters (1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000).

We are carefully considering what arrangements need to be made in order to issue payments securely to customers not already in the scope of the existing scheme. An announcement outlining the full details of how and when these payments will be made will be announced as soon as possible.

Asbestos-related Diseases

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many workers and former workers in the power industry received awards for asbestos-related diseases in the last year for which figures are available; and how many deaths from asbestos-related diseases occurred in this sector for the same period. [113330]

Mr. Bayley: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

Awards of industrial injuries disablement benefit for asbestos related prescribed diseases in the generation, production and distribution of electricity

January to September 199950
January to December 199857


1. The following prescribed diseases have been used when identifying asbestos related diseases:

D1--Pneumoconiosis (in the asbestos industry).

D3--Diffuse mesothelioma.

D8--Primary carcinoma of the lung with accompanying evidence of 1 or both (a) asbestosis (b) unilateral or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening.

D9--Unilateral or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening.

2. D1 and D3 are paid from 1 per cent. disablement, and D8 and D9 are paid from 14 per cent. disablement.

3. Figures are based on the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) of economic activities 1992 and the following has been used:

40.10--Production and distribution of electricity; Electricity generation.

4. These figures are based on a 100 per cent. count of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit initial assessments.

5. Figures for 1999 are for nine months only. December 1999 quarterly figures are not yet available.

6. The number of deaths related to this sector resulting from asbestos-related prescribed diseases is not available.


Analytical Services Division.

9 Mar 2000 : Column: 805W

Verification Framework

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what has been the average cost to local authorities since April 1999 of implementing the Verification Framework; and how much of that cost has been met by (a) central Government and (b) local government since April 1999. [113625]

Angela Eagle: The information is not available in the form requested. The cost of implementing the Verification Framework (VF) will vary according to the size and nature of each local authority's caseload, and the extent to which they already have systems required under the VF in place.

The funds the Department makes available to local authorities are distributed on the same basis as they receive their main administration subsidy. We expect to pay over £29 million in total to 229 local authorities for the Verification Framework during 1999-2000. Some authorities will have received set-up costs, some will have received continuing costs and some will have received both set-up and continuing costs.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent examination of the performance of housing benefit delivery in the London Borough of Islington he has undertaken. [113673]

Angela Eagle: As part of our determination to drive up the standards of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit administration, we have asked the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate to inspect the 30 local authorities which spend most on these benefits. The London Borough of Islington is included among these authorities and will be inspected this summer.

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what will be the margin of error of the estimate of housing benefit (a) fraud and (b) error to be provided by the on going Area Benefit Review. [113817]

Angela Eagle: The margin of error expressed as a percentage of estimated losses depends to a degree on the amount of fraud and error found in the review: the less found the wider the margin.

The current prediction for the first set of review data covering the period October 1999 to March 2000, is that the margin of error on the estimated value of losses will lie between +/- 10 per cent. and +/- 20 per cent. of those

9 Mar 2000 : Column: 806W

losses. When data for the period October 1999 to September 2000 become available we expect the margin of error to contract.

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many local authorities are covered by the Area Benefit Review of Housing Benefit. [113784]

Angela Eagle: 195 Local authorities have volunteered to take part in the Area Benefit Review of Housing Benefit.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what data his Department collates on the time taken to process (a) initial and (b) repeat housing benefit applications for each London borough. [113669]

Angela Eagle: The Department collects data from all local authorities on a quarterly basis in relation to both new and renewal Housing Benefit claims. The data collected for both types of claim includes:

    the number of claims determined unsuccessful;

    the number of these claims ((a) + (b)) determined within 14 days of receipt of all necessary information.

From this April, Best Value performance indicators will be the main yardstick against which local authorities' performance will be judged. The indicators we have set for Housing Benefit delivery include new measures of the average time taken to process new claims and notifications of changes of circumstance, and the percentage of renewal claims processed on time. Local authorities will be required to set challenging targets for improved performance against these indicators year on year.

The Department has made arrangements for data on performance against all the Best Value indicators to be reported periodically by authorities as part of the normal provision of Housing Benefit management information. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced to the House on 6 March 2000, Official Report, column 756, his intention to use his statutory powers to compel authorities to provide this information.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many tenants were evicted from (a) local authority, (b) housing association and (c) private rented accommodation in each London borough because of delays in payment of housing benefit in 1999. [113672]

Angela Eagle: The information is not collected centrally.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the average cost, for each London borough, of the administration of housing benefit in the last year for which figures are available. [113670]

Angela Eagle: The information is in the table.

Housing benefit administration costs 1998-99

Local authorityAverage cost per case
Barking and Dagenham37
City of London206
Enfield 116
Hammersmith and Fulham139
Kensington and Chelsea194
Kingston upon Thames82
Richmond upon Thames101
Tower Hamlets81
Waltham Forest86


1. 1998-99 are the latest figures available.

2. The "average cost" has been calculated as the cost per case using the authority's total expenditure on administration costs and the total Housing Benefit caseload.

3. The total expenditure on administration costs used in the calculations are those reported by the authorities to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on the RO4 forms. The caseload figures used are the Housing Benefit caseloads supplied by the local authorities on the Management Information Statistics Stats forms 121 and 122. The caseload figures for financial year 1998-99 were calculated by taking an average of the data for the four quarters May 1998 to February 1999.

4. As can be seen from the table, the average cost per case varies considerably between authorities. Different local authorities use different basis to calculate the administration costs they report. The reasons for the differences include the different mix of caseload the authorities have and their relative complexities to administer, and also the different components included in the total administration costs expenditure, for example, the treatment of overheads.


The information is as supplied on the RO4 forms to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions by the local authorities.

MIS information supplied by local authorities on forms 121 and 122.

9 Mar 2000 : Column: 807W

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if remote access terminals are being installed with software that will automatically cross reference details of claimants of housing benefit with other benefits. [113624]

Angela Eagle: Remote Access Terminals are currently used by LAs to access a range of the DSS held information which is relevant to the administration of Housing and Council Tax benefit. Although there are no plans in place to install software for the purpose described, the Housing Benefit Matching Service performs a similar function. This quarterly operation cross

9 Mar 2000 : Column: 808W

references a range of DSS held data with data provided by the LAs. The results are then used to identify potential fraud and error.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which local authorities, in each of the past three years, have been served with improvement notices on the administration of housing benefit. [113671]

Angela Eagle: The Secretary of State has powers under section 139D of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to direct an Authority as to the standards which it is to attain, in the prevention and detection of fraud relating to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit or otherwise in the administration of benefits. To date, we have not issued any such directions.

However, as my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State announced in the House on 6 March 2000, Official Report, column 756, we have warned councils that where investigation by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate identify persistent failings, we will use our statutory powers to direct standards and timescales for improving performance.

Next Section Index Home Page