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Child Support Agency

20. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make it a requirement that the alleged father of a child in disputed paternity cases should be required by the CSA to take a second blood test if the mother requests it. [129341]

Angela Eagle: The CSA cannot require non-resident parents to take a blood test and we have no plans to enable them to do so. In the new child support scheme, alleged parents who refuse to take a DNA test will be presumed to be the parents of the child. If the parent with care refuses to accept the outcome of a DNA test she can apply to court for a declaration of parentage that will be binding on the CSA.

Benefit Sanctions

22. Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations he has received about depriving claimants who are in breach of community service orders of their benefits. [129343]

Angela Eagle: The Government have received a number of representations from a number of national organisations, members of the public and Members of

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Parliament, relating to the timing of the benefit sanction and the fiscal implications of the measure. We have considered carefully these opinions while designing our main policy of linking entitlement to benefits with the discharge of social responsibilities.


23. Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will take steps to link pensioners' incomes to average incomes. [129344]

Mr. Rooker: In the last 20 years pensioners' incomes have grown on average by 60 per cent. This exceeds the growth in average earnings.

27. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations he has received from pensioner organisations about the Government's policy on the basic state pension. [129348]

Mr. Rooker: Further to my written answer to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) on 19 June 2000, Official Report, column 79W, we have received about 1,000 more letters about the level of the basic pension, some of them from pensioner organisations. However, we have not kept a separate count of the latter.

31. Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the value in percentage terms of state old age pensions as against the projected level of average earnings in financial years 2000-01 and 2001-02. [129352]

Mr. Rooker: This information is contained on page 20 of the Government Actuary's Report on the Quinquennial Review for the period ending 5 April 1995, "National Insurance Fund Long Term Financial Estimates", Cm 4406, published July 1999, a copy of which is in the Library.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to eliminate pensioner poverty in Chorley. [129329]

Mr. Rooker: During the course of this Parliament, an extra £6.5 billion over and above inflation will be spent on pensioners. Of this, half is going to help the poorest third of pensioners, primarily through increases to the Minimum Income Guarantee and winter fuel payments.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if the minimum income guarantee and winter heating allowance are available to British pensioners living in other EU countries. [129736]

Angela Eagle: The minimum income guarantee and the winter fuel allowance are funded from general taxation, not from social security contributions. Payment is only made to qualifying persons who are resident in the UK.

Child Poverty

24. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the impact of policies implemented by the Government on child poverty; and what further steps he proposes to take to reduce child poverty. [129345]

Mr. Bayley: Our £7 billion a year tax and benefit package will lift 1.2 million children out of poverty by 2001. We are committed to eradicating child poverty in

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20 years, and aim to do this through a combination of measures which will reduce worklessness, and reform the tax and benefit system. But poverty is more than just low income. So we are also implementing a wide-ranging programme of action including raising standards in schools, improving children's health, and regenerating local areas. We will report on progress on all fronts in our second annual report on poverty and social exclusion, due to be published later this year.

"Winning the Generation Game"

25. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what responses he has received following the publication of the performance and innovation unit's report, "Winning the Generation Game". [129346]

Mr. Rooker: The report has been broadly welcomed and commentators have been supportive of what we are doing to improve opportunities for older people.


26. Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the cost of social security spending on welfare was on (a) 1 May 1997 and (b) 1 May 2000. [129347]

Mr. Rooker: Real terms spending on social security benefits and their administration and on Working Families Tax credit in 1999-00 is estimated to be £103.7 billion. The equivalent figure for 1996-97, the last year of the previous Government, is £104.1 billion.

Benefit Payments (Post Office)

28. Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the value of benefits paid through the Post Office was in 1999. [129349]

Mr. Rooker: The value of social security benefits paid through the post office by order book and girocheque during 1999 was £56 billion.

Housing Benefit

29. Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps he is taking to improve the administration of housing benefit. [129350]

Angela Eagle: We intend to reform Housing Benefit to improve customer service through a modernised, streamlined system, to tackle fraud and error, and to reduce the barriers to work.

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate is conducting an on-going programme of inspections of local authorities, encouraging them to develop action plans to improve administration and tackle fraud and error. Best practice guidance, developed through this programme, has been made available to all local authorities. The current round of inspections focuses on the 30 local authorities with the highest Housing Benefit expenditure. We have made it abundantly clear to all council Chief Executives that where the inspectorate finds evidence of persistent

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failings, we will use our powers to direct the authority on the standards it is to meet and the timescales for achieving them.

We have set Best Value performance indicators from this April designed to ensure that authorities provide their communities with a faster, more accurate Housing Benefit service which is more secure against fraud, and which provides value for money and takes account of the views and needs of clients. Authorities are required to set challenging targets against these indicators and demonstrate that they are achieving year on year improvements in the standard of service they provide. And we are making better use of IT to speed up administration and reduce the scope for fraud and error. By this autumn, nearly all of the 20 million forms currently sent by the Benefits Agency to local authorities through the post will be sent electronically, significantly reducing the time taken just to transfer information.

We have already made significant progress; our Housing Green Paper, currently out for consultation, sets out how we can take this further.

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Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations he has received on the performance of IT NET in the delivery of Islington's Housing Benefit contract. [129334]

Angela Eagle: I am aware of reports on the administration of Housing Benefit in Islington and of my hon. Friend's concerns about this issue. The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate is currently carrying out an inspection of Islington's benefit service and has received representations on the real problems that the borough and many people claiming benefit are facing. We will decide what further action may be necessary in the light of the inspectorate's findings.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of private tenants claiming Housing Benefit have had their benefit payments restricted to below the level of the rent payable due to (a) local reference rent restrictions, (b) single room rent restrictions, (c) exceptionally high rent determinations and (d) significantly high rent restrictions in the last year for which figures are available. [130243]

Angela Eagle: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

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Housing Benefit recipients in deregulated tenancies by Housing Benefit scheme, Great Britain, May 1998

Total private deregulated tenantsAssessed under LRR scheme(1)Assessed under SRR scheme
Total restricted under scheme--191,00010,000
As a percentage of all private deregulated tenants--241
As a percentage of private deregulated tenants assessed under each scheme--3531

(1) January 1996 and October 1997


1. Information refers to the number of benefit units.

2. The figures are rounded to the nearest thousand and the percentages are to the nearest whole number.

3. Information is in respect of tenants on Housing Benefit living in the deregulated private rented sector.

4. We do not centrally collect data on contractual rents neither do we record whether the rent is exceptionally high or significantly high because the local authority is required to use the lowest of the determinations made by the rent officer to calculate the rent for Housing Benefit purposes. They therefore record the figure rather than the determination to which it relates.


Housing Benefit Management Information System, annual 1 per cent. sample, taken on the second Thursday of May 1998.

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