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Means-tested Benefits

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the (a) gross and (b) net cost, after taking account of increased taxation receipts and means-tested benefits savings, of raising (i) the Minimum Income Guarantee and (ii) Income Support for people aged 60 years and over to £90 per week for single pensioners and £135 for pensioner couples; and how many more pensioners would be eligible for Income Support at these levels. [115742]

Mr. Rooker: The Minimum Income Guarantee is payable through Income Support to people aged 60 and over. Means-tested benefits are calculated net of tax and do not affect tax revenue. The information is in the tables.

An estimate of the effects on caseload and expenditure of an increase of £90 a week for single pensioners and £135 a week for couples in the Minimum Income guarantee levels, and the consequential increases to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit

Caseload (Thousand)
Income Support1231,4331,557
Housing Benefit22709731
Council Tax Benefit331,0041,037
Expenditure (£ million)
Income Support40460500
Housing Benefit5175180
Council Tax Benefit(27)--8080

(27) Denotes negligible expenditure of less than £2.5 million

23 Mar 2000 : Column: 662W

A modelled estimate of the numbers of people eligible for Income Support following the change

Newly entitled pensioners
Income Support220
Housing Benefit45
Council Tax Benefit115


1. Caseloads are rounded to the nearest 1,000, and expenditure to the nearest £5 million.

2. Costs net of means-tested benefits have been calculated using the Policy Simulation Model based on the 1997-98 Family Resources Survey uprated to 2000-01, and calibrated to November 1999 PBR forecasts.

3. Floaters-on are by number of claims rather than total numbers of people affected, but an indication rounded to the nearest 5,000 has been given of how many pensioners would become entitled, based on the 1997-98 FRS survey.

4. Caseload figures exclude Residential Care and Nursing Home cases.

5. Totals may differ due to rounding.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Stevenson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the status is of Winter Fuel Payments following the European Court judgment of 16 December 1999; and when he expects to complete the payments to those who are eligible. [115618]

Angela Eagle: Following the judgment in the case of Taylor, the age at which Winter Fuel Payments can be made will be equalised at 60, and the need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit will be removed. As before, these payments are intended to people who are ordinarily resident in Great Britain.

Payments to those newly eligible will be made as soon as possible. To ensure that these payments are made correctly, it is necessary to determine names and addresses. Some people will be identified through current Departmental records, but the majority may have had no contact with the Department for a long period, and information held may not be up to date. Therefore, there is a need to introduce a claims process to determine precise entitlement.

The process needed to be developed carefully. The Benefits Agency have been working on this and other operational issues to determine the best way to deliver the payments. Details of delivery arrangements will be announced shortly.

In-work Support

Mr. Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the sources of in-work support for people without dependent children; and if he will make a statement. [115108]

Angela Eagle: We are committed to providing a better deal for all working people including those without dependent children. In the longer term we are attracted to the idea of extending the principle of tax credits to all low-income households through an Employment Tax Credit. The new Employment Credit for over 50s is one of the first steps in this process.

23 Mar 2000 : Column: 663W

The New Deal 50 plus is being introduced nationally at the beginning of April. This is aimed at people aged 50 or over who have been claiming benefits for at least six months and their dependent partners. It can provide an Employment Credit of £60 a week for up to 52 weeks for those taking up full-time work and £40 a week for part-time work and this is available to people without dependent children.

The Disabled Persons Tax Credit replaced the Disability Working Allowance. It has higher income thresholds and a lower taper and is available to disabled workers without dependent children. It currently provides a guaranteed income of at least £155 a week for a single person and £230 a week for a couple and from April it will be paid through the wage packet.

People without dependent children can claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit to help with housing costs while working. They can also claim the four-week Housing Benefit extended payment and owner-occupiers without dependent children will be able to benefit from the new four week run-on of mortgage interest support when this is introduced in April 2001.

In-work help with prescriptions and NHS charges under the NHS low-income scheme is available to people without dependent children.

People without dependent children can receive a Jobmatch allowance of £50 a week for six months to encourage them to take up part-time jobs.

Other sources of support such as Invalid Care Allowance, providing the earnings do not exceed £50 a week after allowable expenses, Disability Living Allowance, Widow's Pension and Retirement Pension are also available to people without children irrespective of whether or not they are working.


Police (Sick Leave)

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the average number of days taken on sick leave per police officer for each police force in England for the latest year for which figures are available. [116055]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The average number of days taken on sick leave per police officer in each force in England in 1998-99 is shown in the table, which also includes data on the four forces in Wales.

Police days lost through sicknessAverage police strengthAverage days sick per officer
Avon and Somerset31,4703,01210.4
City of London10,44979013.2
Devon and Cornwall31,2282,94610.6
Greater Manchester97,6826,91314.1
Metropolitan Police289,79126,56610.9
North Wales16,7591,41611.8
North Yorkshire16,3811,36012.0
South Wales48,9582,98916.4
South Yorkshire38,3493,16512.1
Thames Valley49,8943,82213.1
West Mercia22,7962,03311.2
West Midlands88,3417,25012.2
West Yorkshire59,9115,05311.9
England and Wales Total1,468,140125,69511.7

23 Mar 2000 : Column: 664W

Criminal Record Checks

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has received from (a) individuals and (b) organisations expressing concern about the £10 levy for the criminal record checks; what plans he has to lower this charge in respect of inquiries by charities and voluntary organisations; and if he will make a statement. [115923]

Mr. Charles Clarke: We have received a substantial number of letters from individuals and organisations on this matter. When the Criminal Records Bureau comes into operation, it will be expected to recover its costs through charges for the certificates that it will issue, on application, to individuals. It will be for employers and organisations to decide whether to reimburse the cost. Until the Bureau's operating costs have been determined, it will not be possible to fix the charges, but the cost has previously been estimated at between £5 and £10, depending upon the type of certificate. We have no plans to lower the charge in respect of those applying from the voluntary sector. This presents substantial problems of principle and would inevitably increase costs for the public purse or for other applicants for certificates. We have made clear our determination to keep the cost as low as possible.

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