|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the adjudication and operations circulars and guidelines on (a) Housing Benefit and (b) Council Tax Benefit that have been issued to local authorities since May 1997; and place copies of these in the Library. 
Angela Eagle: As well as giving local authorities advance notice about changes in the operation of the scheme, the circulars provide them with routine information: for example, advising them of changes to DSS personnel contact phone numbers, or notifying them of uprating changes.
Angela Eagle: In March 1999, we commissioned independent researchers to monitor the effects of the Council Tax Benefit restrictions introduced in April 1998. The report has now been finalised. However, the data obtained for this project proved to be of variable quality and therefore the findings are not generally reliable. Copies of the report will be placed in the Library in February and will be available on request.
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if a client of the Child Support Agency may request the agency to close his case prior to the introduction of the new scheme with the intention of re-applying after April 2002. 
Angela Eagle: The Child Support Agency may close a child support case when asked to do so by the person who originally made the application, provided that the parent with care is not in receipt of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
The new child support scheme will start first for new cases from April 2002. Existing cases will be transferred at a later date once we are sure that the new scheme is working well and changes in the levels of assessment will be phased in.
If an existing case is closed before conversion to the new scheme, any fresh application made within 13 weeks will lead to an old scheme maintenance assessment, followed by conversion to the new scheme on the same date as other existing assessments. It would not be right for existing clients to be able to manipulate the rules for their own advantage by going off the books for short periods.
1 Feb 2001 : Column: 289W
(3) how many CSA cases have been referred to the Independent Case Examiner for each year since its establishment; what was the annual funding for the ICE since its inception; how many outstanding cases are with the ICE; and what is the waiting time for ICE referred cases to be processed. 
Angela Eagle: The current clearance time for cases referred to the Independent Case Examiner by Members of Parliament and members of the public is 29 weeks. This is an improvement on the financial year 1999-2000 when clearance took 33.7 weeks on average. Additional funding was allocated in September 2000 for the recruitment of seven extra staff. The office of the Independent Case Examiner is currently in the process of recruiting the extra staff, which will result in a 17 per cent. increase in investigative resources.
|Financial year||Complaints received||Annual funding (£)|
|2000-01 (to date)||1,195||(3)1,176,040|
(3) Actual costs
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the average waiting time is for clients awaiting investigations by the Independent Case Examiner's Office looking at the work of the CSA; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Eagle: Cases referred to the Independent Case Examiner currently wait around 11 weeks for investigation to begin. Average clearance times are currently around 29 weeks overall. Additional funding was allocated in September 2000, representing a 17 per cent. increase in investigative resources.
Angela Eagle: We are introducing bereavement benefits in April which will be available to both men and women equally for the first time. There will be a new weekly benefit for widowed parents who satisfy the qualifying conditions and a new lump sum bereavement payment of £2,000--double the existing widow's payment.
1 Feb 2001 : Column: 290W
Mr. Nick Brown: I last met livestock farmers' representatives only yesterday at the MLC Outlook Conference. I met the President of the NFU on 30 January, and livestock farmers in Cirencester, Kirton, Corby, Norfolk, Great Yarmouth and Braintree on 6, 18, 19, 23 and 24 January respectively.
11. Mr. Peter Bradley: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the implications of the everything but arms initiative for British sugar producers and processors. 
Ms Quin: The Commission's proposal would progressively reduce duties on imports of sugar from the least developed countries and the principle of access for LDC's is one which the Government support (which, depending on the volume of imports the LDCs were able to supply, could require the EU to respond by taking action to reduce existing cane or beet supplies.) However, the proposal also contains a safeguard clause to guard against any large-scale disruptive increase in imports. We are pressing for the implications of the LDC proposal to be fully examined in the context of current discussions on the future shape of the EU sugar regime.
Mr. Morley: Prior to the December Fisheries Council, I met with the UK fishing industry to discuss the scientific advice on the state of fish stocks as well as prospects for the 2001 TACs and quota package. I also saw the UK industry on 10 January to discuss their ideas about the North Sea cod and Northern hake recovery plans.
13. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to ensure that scientific advice to Ministers relating to BSE is placed in the public domain. 
Ms Quin: Under this Government, several steps have been taken to ensure that scientific advice on BSE is put into the public domain, including the establishment of the Food Standards Agency and greater openness for the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee. There are no restrictions on the publication of scientific advice to Ministers on BSE risks.
26. Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what contingency plans he has made in the event of research showing that the BSE causative agent crosses further species barriers. 
1 Feb 2001 : Column: 291W
Ms Quin: As part of the Government's approach to risk management, officials from a number of Departments have been preparing a contingency plan in case in the future BSE is found to be occurring naturally in sheep. I shall want to discuss the draft plan, when it is ready, with those who would be involved in its implementation. It will be a public document.
14. Mr. Best: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with his counterparts in central and eastern Europe concerning the effect of enlargement of the European Union on agriculture in the United Kingdom. 
Ms Quin: Over the past 12 months, my Ministerial colleagues and I have held discussions with our counterparts from Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania. Further meetings are planned.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|