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SOLICITOR-GENERAL

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Chope: To ask the Solicitor-General if it is his policy that the Crown Prosecution Service should pay compensation to the victims of crime whose cases are the subject of administrative maladministration by the Crown Prosecution Service and who suffer loss as a result; and if he will make a statement. [147034]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service is committed to delivering a modern, first class, public service. The Crown Prosecution Service has set clear standards for performance and has a readily available complaints procedure together with systems to provide appropriate redress for citizens when administrative maladministration occurs. Redress may take a variety of forms--an apology, a correction of the error, an undertaking to improve procedures or systems, a payment, or a combination of these actions.

In the majority of cases, an apology and correction of the error will be the appropriate form of redress. On the occasions when a victim suffers a financial loss, an appropriate compensation payment may be made. Every case is considered on its merits. During this financial year two such cases have occurred and compensation payments totalling £1,112.00 have been made.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Income Limit (Benefits)

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he intends to review the earnings limit on carers in receipt of Invalid Care Allowance. [146723]

Mr. Bayley: We have reviewed the Invalid Care Allowance earnings limit and an announcement was made on 3 October 2000 of our intention to increase it to the rate of the lower earnings limit from April 2001. We will lay regulations in due course which will enable this measure to be introduced.

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the impact of the earnings limit on home carers in receipt of Invalid Care Allowance. [146736]

Mr. Bayley: One of the issues which arose in the course of the recent review of financial support for carers was the difficulty some carers experienced in combining caring with employment because of the Invalid Care Allowance earnings limit which has remained at £50 (after allowable expenses) since 1993.

The proposed increase in the earnings limit to the level of the lower earnings limit (£72 a week from April 2001), announced on 3 October 2000, will therefore allow those carers to earn substantially more while retaining their entitlement to Invalid Care Allowance.

26 Jan 2001 : Column: 731W

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what powers local authority fraud investigators have to request information from banks relating to suspected benefit fraudsters. [146353]

Mr. Rooker: Local authorities have the power to make inquiries of employers in cases where their employees are claiming or receiving housing benefit or council tax benefit where fraud is suspected.

Powers to obtain information from banks and other specified private sector organisations on suspected fraudsters are to be introduced in the Social Security Fraud Bill currently before Parliament.

Ex-miners' Compensation

Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes he is implementing to improve the administration of the compensation recovery scheme in regard to ex-miners' compensation. [147946]

Mr. Bayley: We are working very closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and its claims handlers and are introducing a number of administrative changes to speed up the whole process, not just DSS' involvement, in order to facilitate speedy payment to miners.

These changes will include, for example, easier and quicker means of determining the date of start of the disease; allowing DTI more time to negotiate with the miner, without the need to contact the DSS; and reducing duplication and red tape. These changes will ensure that delays in the process do not occur.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many asylum seekers claimed benefits in (a) Kent and (b) other parts of the UK during the most recent period for which figures are available. [147082]

Mr. Bayley: This is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Derek Wyatt, dated 25 January 2001:






26 Jan 2001 : Column: 732W

Income Support (Disabled Claimants)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many disabled Income Support claimants would see their income rise and how many people would become newly entitled to Income Support if the capital rules for people with disabilities were increased to match the new rules for pensioners. [146341]

Mr. Bayley: We estimate that around 15,000 Income Support recipients would gain, and a further 5,000 people would become newly entitled, if the Income Support capital limits for people with a disability premium were increased to match the limits for pensioners.

Social Fund (Wandsworth)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much is available in the local Social Fund budget for the London borough of Wandsworth in the 2000-01 financial year. [146511]

Angela Eagle: The Social Fund budget is allocated to Benefits Agency districts, which are not generally coterminous with local authorities. Most of the London borough of Wandsworth is covered by the Benefits Agency Thames South District, with a small part falling into the Surrey District.

Details of Social Fund allocations to districts for 2000-01 are in the Library.

Gulf War Veterans (Pensions)

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many Gulf War veterans have been waiting (a) over six months and (b) over one year for a hearing before the Pensions Appeal Tribunal; [147425]

Mr. Bayley: The information is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Invalid Vehicle Service

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many (a) people and (b) vehicles have been supported in each year since 1995-96 for which figures are available, under the Invalid Vehicle Service. [146725]

Mr. Hutton: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is shown in the table.

At 31 MarchDriversVehicles
19951,197(1)1,405
1996960(1)1,270
19978211,215
19987451,054
1999630951
2000535745

(1) Numbers of vehicles in fleet in 1995 and 1996 are estimates as figures were not kept.


Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the effect of the closure of the invalid care allowance announced in July 1998. [146724]

26 Jan 2001 : Column: 733W

Mr. Hutton: I have been asked to reply and understand that the hon. Member is referring to the Invalid Vehicle Service.

The decision to close the Invalid Vehicle Service on 31 March 2003 was taken after a thorough assessment by independent consultants of the likely effects of all available options. Ministers decided to accept the consultants' advice to close the service because the cost of maintaining an ageing fleet of vehicles was likely to rise while the number of people supported declined rapidly. Since then technical officers from the Invalid Vehicle Service have visited each remaining driver to discuss their future needs. Each driver's full circumstances will be taken into account and each will be advised on the option most suited to his or her needs.


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