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Mr. Lilley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will answer the question from the right hon. Member for Hitchen and Harpenden of 15 February (ref. 109572). [115579]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I did so earlier today.

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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list those games which have been produced with European Community money to teach people about the euro; what age groups are targeted; and how many have been produced. [115577]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The UK Government have not produced any educational games to teach people about the euro, nor have any such games been funded by the Commission in the UK.

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ECOFIN Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the outcome of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 13 March; and if he will make a statement. [115547]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) on 17 March 2000, Official Report, columns 352-53W.

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Child Poverty

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many children were living in poverty in each year from 1979 to date in (a) Shrewsbury and Atcham and (b) Shropshire; and if he will make a statement. [107253]

Mr. Bayley: There is no single official measure of poverty. Poverty and social exclusion are complex multi-dimensional issues, affecting many aspects of people's lives; their income, health, housing, the quality of their environment and their opportunities to work and to learn. There is no single measure which captures the complex problems which need to be overcome.

We are determined to tackle the problems that condemn many individuals and communities to poverty. That is why we set out our strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion in our first annual report "Opportunity for all" (Cm 4445). The report includes a range of indicators that capture the many aspects of poverty and social exclusion.

We are unable to present low income statistics for Shrewsbury and Atcham and Shropshire local authorities because they are not statistically robust for areas smaller than geographical regions. However, information for the whole of the West Midlands is shown in the table:

Number of children below 60 per cent. median income in West Midlands, including the self-employed

Before housing costsAfter housing costs


Some of the fluctuation in numbers between years may be due to sample variability.


Households Below Average Income

Some indicators of poverty and social exclusion are available at the local authority level. For example, the table shows the number of children in families receiving Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.

Number of dependants under age 16 included in Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance (income based) claims for Shrewsbury and Atcham and Shropshire

PeriodShrewsbury and Atcham Shropshire
May 19933.09.3
May 19943.38.4
May 19953.07.9
May 19963.07.9
May 19972.67.4
May 19981.95.8
May 19992.06.4


1. Numbers are taken from the Income Support Statistics Quarterly Enquiries for May 1993-1999, which is a point in time survey based on a 5 per cent. sample of Income Support claimants.

2. The figures include the unemployed who until 1996 were included in Income Support caseloads. Income Support for the unemployed was replaced by income-based Jobseeker's Allowance from October 1996.

3. Numbers are based on sample cases and will therefore be subject to sampling error.

4. Numbers have been rounded to the nearest hundred and expressed in thousands.

5. The local authority district is assigned by matching postcodes against the relevant 1995-1999 version 1 postcode directories.

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Improving educational attainment is an intrinsic part of our strategy for tackling the causes of poverty and social exclusion. In 1997 in Shropshire, 62 per cent. of students in English and 61 per cent. in Maths achieved Level 4 and above in Key Stage 2. By 1999 this had improved to 74 per cent. in English and 72 per cent. in Maths.The health of our children is also an important indicator of levels of poverty and social exclusion. In Shrewsbury and Atcham in 1997-98, the rate at which children (aged under 16) were admitted to hospital as a result of an unintentional injury resulting in a hospital stay of more than three days was 1.5 per thousand (to the nearest 0.5 per thousand). This is broadly unchanged from 1995-96.

Further information on the indicators we will use to monitor its progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion, including definitions and baseline data, was placed in the House of Commons Library on 21 September to accompany "Opportunity for All".

Independent Tribunal Service

Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many doctors who are panel members for the Independent Tribunal Service are also employed by SEMA to report on the condition of applicants for incapacity or disability benefit. [113647]

Mr. Bayley: The Contractual Terms of employment for Sema Group Medical Services state that any employee must not, at any time during their employment with Sema Group, enter into any contract of employment with an outside employer which might lead to a conflict of interest.

In view of the conflict of interest, which would arise if a doctor employed by Sema Group Medical Services were to be employed by the Tribunal Service, no doctors would be given permission to work for the tribunal service.

We do know that some doctors employed by Nestor Disability Analysis (NDA) to work on a sessional/EMP basis for Medical Services sit on Appeals Services panels. Neither we, nor Sema Medical Services, have any details of numbers. It is however for the Appeals Service and the Lord Chancellor to ensure that panellists they appoint are sufficiently independent and impartial under paragraph 6 of the Social Security Act 1998.


Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Dobbin) on 7 March 2000, Official Report, column 612W, on what date he estimates these savings in respect of instrument of payment fraud will be achieved; [114689]

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Mr. Rooker [holding answer 14 March 2000]: The move to Automated Credit Transfer as the normal method of payment will bring significant savings from reduced levels of fraud. The move will begin in 2003, but full savings will not be realised until 2005, when the transition from current paper based methods of payment is complete.

Anticipated savings from the elimination of instrument of payment fraud are based on estimates of current losses due to the fraudulent encashment of girocheques and order books, and our best estimate of the potential for further losses.

Minimum Income Guarantee

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will backdate awards of the pensioners' minimum income guarantee to the date when he announced that there would be a take-up campaign for all pensioner claimants who would have qualified had they applied earlier. [114718]

Mr. Rooker: No. An announcement of our plans to encourage pensioners to take-up their entitlement to the Minimum Income Guarantee will be made shortly.

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's programme of inspections for the forthcoming year (a) generally and (b) with special reference to housing benefit administration. [114832]

Mr. Rooker: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) reports to the Secretary of State for Social Security on the administration of Social Security benefits by local authorities and seeks to drive up standards of administration. This work is part of a process that will transform the delivery of Housing Benefit so that local authorities provide a faster, more accurate service, which is more secure against fraud.

To date, we have published 42 reports following BFI inspections of Housing and Council Tax Benefit administration in local authorities. The BFI programme includes a further 55 local authority inspections, which are due to be completed before April 2001. This includes the inspections that were announced last September, which focus on the 30 local authorities with the highest benefit spend. A further programme of inspections, some of which will be completed in the coming year, is due to be announced in April.

In addition to the programme of inspections in local authorities, the BFI will be completing a further inspection in the Benefits Agency during the coming year.

With the advent of Best Value, the BFI will be responsible for undertaking Best Value inspections on HB/CTB issues working, as necessary with the Housing Inspectorate and the Audit Commission. This programme

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of work will depend on the local authorities performance plans, which are due to be submitted by the end of this month.

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