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Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the cost would be of increasing the earnings disregard for people in work claiming housing benefit by (a) 10 per cent., (b) 15 per cent. and (c) 20 per cent. in (i) Scotland and (ii) the UK. 
|Per cent.||Scotland||Great Britain|
1. Based on the 1997-98 Family Resources Survey and Housing Benefit Administrative data for May 1998.
2. The figures are rounded to the nearest £1 million. The level of rounding reflects the fact that some of the figures are based on small samples and may be subject to a high degree of variability.
3. The Family Resources Survey only covers households in Great Britain, so figures which include Northern Ireland cannot be provided.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for what purposes his Department requires a birth certificate to be furnished by (a) employees, (b) contractors, (c) those applying for employment and contracts and (d) other persons. 
Mr. Rooker: This Department and its Agencies require new employees to provide proof of identity and their date of birth, and the provision of their birth certificate is one means of doing this. However, a birth certificate is only required in the absence of other documentation, usually a passport. The Department and its executive Agencies do not ask for birth certificates from contractors or from those seeking a contract.
The Benefits Agency does not insist on seeing birth certificates of new claimants of Social Security benefits to verify their identity, except when they are claiming certain benefits such as Retirement Pensions and Child Benefit. For other Social Security benefits, other forms of documentation are also acceptable.
The Child Support Agency will ask for sight of a qualifying child's birth certificate where there is a paternity dispute to establish whether or not the non- resident parent is shown on the birth certificate. It is
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Mr. Rooker: As at November 1999, 9.1 million (about 36 per cent.) of all benefit recipients were receiving payment directly into a bank account, and 16.1 million (around 63 per cent.) were collecting payment by order book or girocheque at the post office. The remaining 1 per cent. was paid by other methods of payment into banks, for example, payable orders and a small proportion of girocheques paid into bank accounts.
Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the names of those Inter-Ministerial Groups whose (a) membership and (b) dates of meetings have been withheld in response to parliamentary questions. 
Mr. Rooker: Social Security Ministers chair two Inter-Ministerial Groups; the Inter-Ministerial Group on Older People and the Inter-Ministerial Group on Welfare Fraud. The membership and remit of both these groups are in the public arena.
We do not routinely reveal dates of meetings or the content of discussion between groups of Ministers as this could inhibit the necessary free and frank exchange of views within Government. However, we will do so where such an exchange of views would not be inhibited.
Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the (a) number and (b) proportion of pensioners who at the point of retirement had weekly income from pensions and other sources greater than their basic state retirement pension (i) 30 years ago, (ii) 25 years ago, (iii) 20 years ago, (iv) 15 years ago, (v) 10 years ago, (vi) five years ago and (vii) at the point when the latest available data were collected. 
Mr. Rooker: The Retirement Income Working Party is an independent body and has no links with Government. We welcome this report and are studying its recommendations. We understand that both full and summary versions of this report are available on the internet at www.bbk.ac.uk/res/pi/reports.
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what advice he is giving to people who have no record of a phone-call made reassuring them about future SERPs entitlement in respect of the compensation scheme. 
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Mr. Rooker: As our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement to the House on the 15 March, we shall put before the House full details of the inherited SERPS scheme, including what information we will require from those wishing to claim and the procedures that will be followed to scrutinise those claims.
We fully accept the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Public Administration into inherited SERPS, which concludes at paragraph 32 that the burden of proof in the scheme rests on this Department.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much it will cost in (a) the UK and (b) Scotland to increase the basic state pension for the (i) over 70s and (ii) over 80s by (1) £2, (2) £3, (3) £4, (4) £5 and (5) £10 a week. 
|Annual cost of increasing basic state pension||Great Britain Over 70sOver 80s||Scotland Over 70sOver 80s|
(3) Indicates less than £25 million.
1. Costs are rounded to the nearest £50 million and are at 2000-01 benefit rates
2. Costs do not include other benefits whose rates are linked to the rate of basic Retirement Pension
3. Gross costs are estimated by the Government Actuary's Department. Costs net of means-tested benefit savings have been estimated using the Policy Simulation Model
4. Net costs are not available for Scotland
Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many pensioners in the last three financial years have switched from weekly cash payments to four-weekly automated credit transfer; and what assessment has been made of the amount that has been saved in administrative costs as a result; 
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(3) what was the average annual cost of administering the payment of retirement pension by automated credit transfer to pensioners who receive their payment by ACT on a four-weekly basis, in each of the last three years for which figures are available. 
|Year ending April:|
|UK Pension Caseload(4)||9,545,508||9,412,145||9,478,168|
|Percentage paid by ACT 4 weekly||33||35||39|
(4) Figures exclude pensioners who are in receipt of Income Support and receive a combined payment, or receive payment abroad.
Approximately 2.3 per cent. of pensioners receive payment by ACT 13 weekly or annually.
The information on administration costs and savings is not available to the detail required. Information on the total annual cost of administering the payment of Retirement Pension is collated but not split by method of payment.
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