Mr. Edward Davey:
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many times the Benefits Agency has overruled decisions made by the appeals tribunal in the last three years. 
The Benefits Agency cannot overrule decisions made by tribunals.
Child Support Agency
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has for the phasing in of existing CSA cases when the new method of calculating maintenance liabilities is introduced; and what plans he has to cushion large rises and falls in maintenance liabilities in such cases. 
The new child support scheme will be introduced for new cases by April 2002. Existing cases will be transferred across once it is seen to be working well and getting maintenance paid regularly and reliably.
For parents with existing child support assessments, new liabilities will be phased in stages of £2.50, £5 or £10, depending on the weekly income of the non-resident parent. These levels have been set to give parents whose liability under the new scheme will differ markedly from their current child support assessment time to adjust to the new arrangements.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list his Department's responsibilities in respect of (a) the national insurance scheme and (b) other aspects of national insurance in (i) 1979 and (ii) at present. 
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As in 1979 the Department remains responsible for matters relating to national insurance benefits and pensions. Responsibility for matters relating to national insurance contributions (apart from policy on the reduced rates and rebates payable in respect of contracted-out pensions) was transferred to the Inland Revenue by the Social Security Contributions (Transfer of Functions, Etc.) Act 1999.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what has been the average clearance time for appeals against benefit assessments in each of the last four years; 
(2) how many appeals were made during the last 12 months against benefit assessments; and how many of these appeals are outstanding; 
(3) if he will set out the strategy implemented by the Appeals Service in order to reduce waiting times for all appellants; and what assessment he has made of its success; 
(4) how many appeals were heard by the Appeals Service in (a) May 1997 to April 1998, (b) May 1998 to April 1999 and (c) May 1999 to April 2000; and how many of the appeals in each of these years were successful; 
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(5) how many appeals were lodged with the Appeals Service following refusal of benefit in (a) May 1997 to April 1998, (b) May 1998 to April 1999 and (c) May 1999 to April 2000. 
The administration of appeals is a matter for Neil Ward, Chief Executive of the Appeals Service. He will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Neil Ward to Mr. Patrick Nicholls, dated 29 March 2001:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions. You asked:
1) What has been the average clearance time for appeals against benefit assessments in each of the last four years (PQ983).
2) How many appeals were made during the last 12 months against benefit assessments; and how many of these appeals are outstanding (PQ984).
3) What strategy was implemented by the Appeals Service in order to reduce waiting times for all appellants; and what assessment has been made of its success (PQ985).
4) How many appeals were heard by the Appeals Service in (a) May 1997 to April 1998, (b) May 1998 to April 1999 and (c) May 1999 to April 2000; and how many of the appeals in each of these years were successful (PQ986).
5) How many appeals were lodged with the Appeals Service following refusal of benefit in (a) May 1997 to April 1998, (b) May 1998 to April 1999 and (c) May 1999 to April 2000 (PQ987).
I am unable to provide all the information in the form you have requested it. However the information that is available is as follows:
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|Appeals received||Average clearance time for appeals from lodgement at first tier agency In weeks||Number of appeals heard and decided||Number of appeals found in appellant's favour
|1 May 1997 to 30 April 1998||300,389||25.2||158,838(32)||50,466(32)
|1 May 1998 to 30 April 1999||316,395||30.3||282,535||98,516
|1 May 1999 to 30 April 2000||247,294||31.4||207,724||75,810
|1 May 2000 to 30 September 2000||108,879||28.8||70,564||28,668
(32) Figures include appeals not held on the GAPS system for the period 1 July 1997 to 31 December 1997.
1. Information taken from 100 per cent. download of the Generic Appeals Processing System (GAPS).
2. The table covers appeals from all sources. It is not possible to distinguish appeals against benefit assessments.
3. Figures may change as later data becomes available.
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Since taking up post as Chief Executive in 1999, initially of the Independent Tribunal Service and now of the Appeals Service, I have been fully committed to improving the services that we offer to appellants and others who use or rely upon our services. I have set about this systematically, in three ways:
(i) The backlog of oldest cases I inherited has been tackled and largely cleared. At the end of February 1999, over half--some 77,000 appeals--of our outstanding appeals load were over six months old and many of them considerably older. Priority was given to clearing these appeals on the basis that all appeals were--and still are--dealt with on the basis of "First In, First Out", with staff and tribunal members alike seeing wherever possible to clear the oldest cases first. Of that original 77,000 just over 800 remain and these are almost entirely appeals awaiting decisions from higher courts on lead cases, the outcome of which will have a direct bearing on the outstanding appeals.
(ii) At the same time and for newer appeals, we have sought to reduce both the waiting times that appellants have to wait to have their appeal heard and, where cases are adjourned by tribunals, the length of time they remain outstanding. These measures are now reflected in the targets the Secretary of State has set for the Appeals Service Agency and performance will be reported in the Agency's Annual Report. Currently, the national average waiting time for appellants is
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13.7 weeks and some 23 per cent. of our outstanding appeals are over six months old, of which 7,600 appeals cannot proceed until lead cases with higher counts are decided. The current number of appeals outstanding and sitting with the Appeals Service is some 77,600. This progress reflects improvements in delivery of our services in all regions although the extent of the gains varies. Particular attention is now being paid to reducing variations in performance aimed at bringing performance everywhere up to the standards of the best of our offices and we have strengthened our direct service delivery teams accordingly.
(iii) To secure these gains, the Appeals Service has had to become a learning organisation. We have secured Investors in People accreditation and place great importance on practical training programmes designed to improve service delivery. We use the European Foundation for Quality Management's Excellence Model to identify internally areas for improvement; we have run customer and staff surveys to tell us where those who use or operate our services believe improvements can best be made; and we make use of direct feedback from individual appellants, their representatives, Members of Parliament or the Ombudsman.
Improvements are being made and will continue to be so.
I hope this information is helpful.
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Housing/Council Tax Benefit
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the total expenditure is on (a) Housing Benefit and (b) Council Tax Benefit for pensioners with an income of less than £210 per week. 
[holding answer 15 March 2001]: The estimated Housing and Council Tax Benefit expenditure attributable to pensioners--defined as Benefit Units with at least one person aged 60 or over--with an income of less than £210 per week is £3,865 million and £1,140 million respectively, in 1999-2000, in Great Britain.
1. These estimates are based on the estimated out-turn expenditure for 1999-2000 and the May 1999 1 per cent. sample which provides information on claimant incomes.
2. The expenditure refers to the benefit paid to claimants irrespective of the source of funding.
3. Figures are rounded to the nearest £5 million.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to allow registered social landlords to undertake elements of Housing Benefit administration. 
We have secured agreement with all interested parties to involve registered social landlords in certain aspects of the Housing Benefit verification process. This builds on our commitment to improve Housing Benefit administration.
Our intention is to run a pilot in a number of areas, and we will shortly be inviting expressions of interests from local authorities in the form of a joint bid from them and their participating registered social landlords. We will set out the criteria for taking part in the pilot and the way in which we intend to evaluate the bids.