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Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme

Mr. Ian Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his oral statement of 27 June 2000, Official Report, column 720, what additional payments will be made to people who received a (a) £10,000, (b) £20,000, (c) £30,000 and (d) £40,000 payment under the 1979 Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme; and on what basis these amounts have been calculated. [130842]

Mr. Bayley: Top-up payments are intended to represent the difference, in real terms, between the original payments and the proposed new £100,000 rate. Calculation of the proposed top-up payments is as follows:

£
Original paymentTop-up payment
10,00067,000
20,00062,500
30,00061,500
40,00058,000

The original payment made to past recipients has been revalued from the date that the relevant rate of that payment was introduced up to April 2000 using the Retail Prices Index (All items) and the normal method applied in revaluing Social Security benefits across successive upratings.

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) where he intends to publish the criteria which will be used under the revised Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme to determine whether a person is 60 per cent. disabled; [131126]

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Mr. Bayley: Section 1(4) of the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 directs that the level of disablement in vaccine damage cases be assessed as for the purposes of section 103 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. Assessment is further covered in Schedule 6 to the latter Act, and in the Social Security (General Benefit) Regulations 1982 (SI 1982/1408), reg 11 and Schedule 2.

Assessment of 80 per cent. disablement is made by doctors specially trained in disability assessment medicine. They assess the degree of disablement by reference to and comparison with assessments, including guidance on percentage impairments, prescribed in the above legislation. They are assisted in this task by guidance contained in "The Severe Disablement Allowance Handbook for Medical Advisers", approved by the Department of Social Security's Chief Medical Adviser and published by Sema Medical Services, a copy of which will be placed in the Library. Because of the proposed change to the disability threshold under the scheme the need for revised guidance on the 60 per cent. disablement criterion will be considered, and made publicly available as appropriate, before the new threshold comes into force.

Sema doctors advise on whether, on the balance of probabilities, a person's injuries were caused by a vaccine on the basis of the current consensus of informed medical opinion. The use as reference the book "Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines" by the Institute of Medicine. Sema doctors also carry out regular electronic searches of published medical research papers. The majority of such research in the past three years has been published in The Lancet. The current consensus of informed medical opinion is summarised in Sema medical Services' procedural guidance to its doctors on processing referrals for advice on vaccine damage claims, a copy of which will be placed in the Library.

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) when he plans to publish regulations increasing the statutory sum available under the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme; [131127]

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Mr. Bayley: The draft Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 Statutory Sum Order 2000 was laid on 5 July and is being debated in both Houses this week. We estimate that the costs of implementing the proposals as they affect all existing cases will be around £60 million. There is a statutory entitlement to a vaccine damage payment if the relevant criteria are met and such payments will be made regardless of the future number of awards.

The original payment made to past recipients has been revalued from the date that the relevant rate was introduced to April 2000 using the Retail Prices Index (All items) and the normal method applied in revaluing Social Security benefits across successive upratings. The top-up payments represent the difference between this figure and the proposed new £100,000 rate.

We will bring forward primary legislation to implement the proposed changes to the time limit and the disability threshold as soon as possible.

Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he expects to receive the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority's fourth annual report; and if he will make a statement. [131562]

Mr. Darling: I have received the fourth report of the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority which documents how the organisation has carried out its regulatory functions and worked with others to raise standards in the pensions industry. I have laid copies of the report before both Houses today.

Widowers

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many widowers have had their claims for retrospective payment of Widow's Benefits or compensation for not receiving those benefits recently refused; and if he will make a statement on the grounds on which those claims were refused. [131184]

Angela Eagle: In the two months to 31 May 2000, 104 claims for Widow's Benefits were received from men. All such claims are disallowed as men are not entitled to Widow's Benefits under current legislation.

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many widowers have contacted his Department to make an inquiry about the possible payment of retrospective Widow's Benefits to men or a settlement following the European Court of Human Rights ruling. [131183]

Angela Eagle: There has been no ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR's published judgments on two cases explained that, having reached a friendly settlement, these cases have been struck out of the list.

We have received 40 letters inquiring about Widow's Benefits for men in relation to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many widowers have claims for Widow's Benefit for men or compensation for the non-payment of those benefits before the European Court of Human Rights. [131185]

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Angela Eagle: Fifteen applications have been referred to us by the European Court of Human Rights, including two cases which have been struck out of the list following acceptance of the Government's offer by way of friendly settlement.

Disability Benefit

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how he intends to respond to the Social Security Commissioner's decision that telephone conversations could in certain circumstances count as attention for the purpose of giving entitlement to Attendance Allowance or the care component of Disability Living Allowance. [131563]

Mr. Bayley: We know that many people get support from telephone contact with friends and advisers. However, the purpose of Attendance Allowance and the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is to provide a contribution for the extra costs of people who are so severely disabled that they need another person present to help them. We must ensure that the benefits are provided for those people for whom they were intended. Subject to Parliamentary approval, we therefore intend to introduce amending regulations to ensure that benefit entitlement is not available simply where people speak over the telephone or similar media.

Other assistance is available from social services and social work departments; they have powers to provide assistance with telephone expenses to people who are assessed as needing them for emergency situations.


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