28. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make it a requirement for both parents in disputed cases before the Child Support Agency to take a second independent test if either party requests it. 
Angela Eagle: The CSA can offer a DNA test to help resolve the issue of disputed parentage but it cannot force any parent to take a test. If either parent does not accept a test result, they may apply to the courts for a declaration of parentage.
From 31 January this year, the CSA will be allowed to make and enforce a maintenance assessment against the person named by the parent with care as the child's parent if that person refuses to take a DNA test. If the non-resident parent continues to dispute parentage, it is up to him to take the test, or to apply to the courts for a declaration of parentage which will be binding on the Agency.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will complete his investigation into the complaint lodged by Ms Nancy Bath of Paignton, Devon against the Child Support Agency; and if he will make a statement concerning the reason for the delays in the Independent Case Examiner beginning an investigation into the complaint and the Plymouth CSA collating the papers required. 
Angela Eagle: The current clearance times for cases in the office of the Independent Case Examiner's office is 29 weeks in total. There are currently 227 cases awaiting investigation. Cases referred currently wait around 11 weeks on average for an investigation to begin.
29 Jan 2001 : Column: 86W
Angela Eagle: We are committed to the principal of extending opportunity for all to everyone regardless of age, and tackling age discrimination in the workplace. New Deal 50 plus has already helped nearly 25,000 people aged over 50 back into work.
It is known that the economic cost of the drop in work rates among the over 50s since 1979 is high. It has been estimated that about £16 billion a year in GDP is lost and it costs £3-5 billion in extra benefits and lost taxes. Savings in benefit payments from the New Deal 50 plus have not yet been established.
Evaluation of New Deal 50 plus is currently under way to test the design and delivery of the programme. This will be published later this year. The evaluation includes a mix of quantitative and qualitative work with participants as well as some qualitative research with New Deal personal advisers and Benefits Agency staff.
Evaluation of the pathfinder areas has already been carried out and a report published. Participants' initial impressions of the programme were very positive. Views about the Employment Credit, a key element of the New Deal 50 plus package, were generally very positive, and it was unanimously seen as an incentive to take up work.
Angela Eagle: Our New Deal for those aged over 50 has helped nearly 25,000 people move into jobs in the first nine months of national operation. The Department for Education and Employment has developed links with a number of voluntary organisations in order to promote this New Deal and to harness their experience and expertise.
Angela Eagle: From April 2001 we are increasing the higher rate disregard in the income-related benefits, for lone parents, disabled people and other special groups, from £15 to £20 a week (other than for those lone parents
29 Jan 2001 : Column: 87W
receiving Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit who are already eligible for a disregard of £25 a week). This will benefit over 55,000 people.
We also want all children, including those in families on Income Support, to benefit directly from child maintenance paid. As part of the child support reforms we will therefore introduce further changes to enable parents with care on Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance (Income Based) to keep up to £10 a week of any child maintenance paid.
Angela Eagle: A lone parent family on Income Support, with two children aged under 11, are nearly £25 a week better off as a result of measures announced this Parliament. A two-parent family with the same aged children are nearly £30 a week better off.
33. Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on his policy on Benefits Agency staff giving advice to applicants and claimants relating to benefits to which they may be entitled. 
Angela Eagle: We are committed to improving access to benefit information for customers and to ensuring that they get the right information through a choice of communication methods. We are currently running the Minimum Income Guarantee take up campaign--the first time any Government has actively encouraged those who are eligible to claim their entitlements.
29 Jan 2001 : Column: 88W
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what discussions he has had with employers' organisations about his Department's involvement with the New Deal for disabled people. 
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners in Chorley will receive the increase in the basic State Pension outlined in the Chancellor's pre-Budget report. 
Mr. Rooker: As at 31 March 2000 (the latest date for which figures are available) there were around 15,000 pensioners receiving the State Pension in the parliamentary constituency of Chorley. They will benefit from an increase in the pension this April and next, as announced in the Chancellor's pre-Budget report.
Angela Eagle: The non-HRA rent rebate thresholds and subsidy caps have not kept pace with increases in the costs of temporary accommodation in the private rented sector over recent years. Increasing these thresholds will help local authorities in housing those granted asylum and other homeless persons. This will cost around £25 million.
The effect of this increase will be that the non-HRA rent rebate threshold in London will be increased, from April 2001, by £50 to £200, and the subsidy cap increased by £120 to £300, with corresponding percentage increases elsewhere.