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Duplicate Benefit Payments

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 31 October 2000, Official Report, columns 346-47W, what conclusions the Benefits Agency internal audit came to regarding the role of EDS in the duplication of income support payments on 17 and 18 January. [138338]

Mr. Rooker: The administration of benefit payments is a matter for Alexis Cleveland the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to my right hon. Friend.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Frank Field, dated 17 November 2000:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to respond to your Parliamentary Question asking what conclusions the Benefits Agency (BA) internal audit came to regarding the role of EDS in the duplication of income support payments on 17th and 18th January.
The report concluded that responsibility for the error lay with DSS Information Technology Services Group (ITSG), Benefits Agency (BA) and EDS. The report did not apportion levels of responsibility; it identified errors on the part of all parties. The report concluded:
'Following a technical problem, incorrect (re-start) action by ITSG led to the creation of the £10.5m Income Support file with an incomplete number of records. The EDS automated system to transfer files to BACS had limited in-built validation and reconciliation checks and this allowed the £10.5m file to be forwarded to BACS . . . Reconciliation checks undertaken within the BA identified a problem but the incident handling and escalation procedures were inadequate'.
As mentioned in my response on 30 October, Official Report columns 346-347, the report contained a series of thirteen recommendations. EDS is a key stakeholder, working with DSS in the programme of activity to implement these recommendations, which include improvements to validation and reconciliation checks to prevent a reoccurrence of the original incident. My previous response provided more detail.
I hope this additional information is helpful.

Climate Change

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what strategic measures he is taking to allow for environmental changes induced by climate change. [137183]

Mr. Bayley: I refer my hon. Friend to the written answer from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Environment on 13 November 2000, Official Report, columns 469-70W.

Civil Servants (Relocation)

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 2 May 2000, Official

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Report, column 37W, on relocation of civil servants, which relocation companies hold contracts with his Department for the relocation of civil servants; when these contracts were last renewed; where the contracts were advertised; and what the length and value is of each contract. [137096]

Mr. Rooker: This Department has a contract with Cendant Relocation plc. The contract was advertised in Official Journal European Communities (OJEC0) on 13 August 1997. The contract was renewed in May 1998 for three years with a possible two-year extension and has an estimated annual value of £800,000.

Pensioner Incomes

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what information he collects on the minimum incomes required by different categories of pensioner households to afford a minimum acceptable standard of living; and what proposals he has to improve its (a) flow and (b) accuracy. [137270]

Mr. Rooker: A number of research studies have been conducted in this area. The range of methods which can be used to explore questions of absolute and relative adequacy of benefits include budget standards methodology, deprivations studies, expenditure studies and consensual studies. All these research methods are considered when assessing benefit levels; however, no single method can be used to calculate an "adequate" income. What people need to live on varies greatly depending on their needs, age, proximity to friends and relatives--it is not possible to produce figures showing what is adequate for all pensioner families.

Pensioner Statistics

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many (a) men and (b) women will reach the statutory retirement age in each of the next five years. [138521]

Mr. Rooker: The information is in the table.

Population attaining state pension age in year shown, United Kingdom



1. State Pension age is currently 65 for men and 60 for women.

2. Population projections for the United Kingdom and its constituent countries are carried out every two years by the Government Actuary's Department in consultation with the Registrars General. The latest projections, based on the population at mid-1998, were published in November 1999.

3. Population projections provide estimates of the number of people by age last birthday at the middle of each year. The figures in the table have been derived from these estimates.

4. Not everyone starts to receive State Retirement benefits on reaching the State Pension age.


Government Actuary's Department

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Minimum Income Guarantee

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners who are entitled to the Minimum Income Guarantee there are in the constituency of Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East. [138857]

Mr. Rooker: There are around 2,800 recipients of the Minimum Income Guarantee in the parliamentary constituency of Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East.

Notes: 1. Figures are based on a 5 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling error. 2. Pensioners are defined as where the claimant and/or partner are aged 60 or over. 3. The figure is rounded to the nearest hundred. 4. Cases are allocated to each parliamentary constituency by matching the postcode against the 2000 version 1 ONS Postcode Directory.
Source: Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiry, May 2000


Mr. Terry Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the Benefits Agency will have fully recovered from the effects of the delayed implementation of the NIRS2 computer; and if he will make a statement. [139571]

Mr. Rooker: The contract for NIRS2 was signed in 1995 and there have been problems with the system from the start, the full effects of which we are still trying to resolve.

We are sorry to report that the Benefits Agency (BA) will not complete its review of benefit claims affected by the delayed implementation of NIRS2 by the end of this year as had been expected. Although good progress has been made with outstanding cases in BA offices, full completion of the necessary benefits reviews is dependent on the clearance of work arrears in the Inland Revenue's National Insurance Contributions Office (NICO) that result in a change to the contribution record.

NICO is urgently looking at when it expects to have completed its own recovery from the late implementation of NIRS2. BA recovery cannot be achieved until after the NICO recovery has been achieved and this will not be by the end of this year.

As contribution records are brought up to date, BA offices will be prompted by NIRS2 to review an old or existing benefit claim if the change to the record has affected the previous benefit rate. Many of these prompted reviews however will not require the rate in payment to be revised because the contingency arrangements deployed by the Benefits Agency will have ensured the new NIRS2 rate is already in payment.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my regret and apologise to those pensioners and other benefit claimants who have been adversely affected by these delays. Although most benefit reviews have been completed and in the great majority of cases the rate in

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payment found to be correct because of the contingency measures deployed by the Benefits Agency, my hon. Friend will wish to know that:

There are still a small number of new benefit and pension claims for which NIRS2 cannot provide all or some of the amounts payable. For these cases, contingency arrangements such as manual calculations remain in place. The priority is to ensure that benefit or pension is paid on time. Where this is not possible, however, payment of compensation is available either within the normal rules of the Department's Special Payments Scheme or by way of the special £10 scheme we announced on 1 February 1999.

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