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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the population of the travel to work areas covering (a) the Isle of Wight, (b) Bournemouth, (c) Southampton and (d) Portsmouth work outside their travel to work area. [45010]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Mr. Len Cook to Mr. Andrew Turner, dated 21 March 2002:

Employment Statistics (St. Helens)

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the work force in (a) St. Helens, South, (b) the St. Helens metropolitan

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borough council area, (c) Merseyside, (d) Manchester, (e) the north-west, (f) other regional development area regions and (g) England in (i) 1996, (ii) 1997, (iii) 1998, (iv) 1999, (v) 2000 and (vi) 2001, were employed in (A) manufacturing, (B) hotel and catering, (C) retailing, (D) finance and business services, (E) IT, (F) wholesale and distribution, (G) construction and (H) other services. [44490]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Mr. Len Cook to Mr. Shaun Woodward, dated 21 March 2002:

Annual Employment Survey Rescaled (1996,1997); Annual Business Inquiry (1998–2000)
ONS Crown copyright reserved [from Nomis on 20 March 2002] Analysis: Number of employees expressed as a percentage of employees in all industries Sex: persons Percentage

IndustrySt. Helens, SouthSt. HelensMerseysideManchesterNorth-west Government office region(17)England
Industry: 15–37: Manufacturing
Industry: 55: Hotels and restaurants
Industry: 52: Retail trade, except of motor vehicles
Industry: 65–67, 74: Finance and business services
Industry: 72: Computing and related activities
Industry: 51: Wholesale trade/commission trade, etc.
Industry: 45: Construction
Industry: 93: Other service activities

(17) Including Merseyside


1. The percentages are based on aggregates from which agriculture class 0100 (1992 SIC) have been excluded.

2. The numbers in the industry descriptions correspond to industries contained in the Standard Industrial Classification, 1992.

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Governor of the Bank of England

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer by what date he intends to announce the appointment of the next Governor of the Bank of England; and if he will make a statement. [44404]

Ruth Kelly: The term of office of the current Governor of the Bank of England runs until June 2003. The appointment of the next Governor will be announced in good time to ensure a smooth transition.


Benefits (Administration)

Phil Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to improve the performance of local authorities in administering housing benefit and council tax benefit. [46218]

Malcolm Wicks: Improving the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit is a key part of our reform programme.

We are today launching a set of comprehensive performance standards covering the full range of administration. For the first time local authorities will know exactly what it is we are expecting them to achieve. A copy of the product has been placed in the Library and this month two copies of the package will be sent to every English, Welsh and Scottish authority administering these benefits.

Local authorities will now be able to undertake a comprehensive self-assessment against the standards, to determine how far they deliver these benefits effectively and securely.

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The standards cover seven functional areas and deliberately address the full range of administrative activity, not just speed, accuracy and security. They will provide a basis for measuring performance in administering housing benefit and council tax benefit, enabling local authorities to conduct a self-assessment to determine their own level of performance and to work in an environment of continuous improvement.

In addition, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate will assess performance against these standards using an authority's self-assessment as part of the inspection process.

The performance standards demonstrate our determination to improve the standard of housing benefit and council tax benefit administration, as part of our wider drive to reduce barriers to work, promote dignity and security in retirement and to protect the system against fraud and error.

Benefit Fraud

Phil Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will publish the inspection report of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate in respect of the city of Salford council. [46217]

Malcolm Wicks: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's report on the city of Salford council was published today and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The report finds the city of Salford council to be a poorly performing authority in almost all aspects of benefits administration and counter fraud activity.

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BFI reports finding evidence of good policies and procedures, but these were undermined by inadequate implementation or monitoring. For example, a benefit take-up policy existed but there was limited evidence of implementation.

The report identifies a range of examples of poor administration. This includes an inadequate management checking regime, poor standards for verifying claims for benefit, and failure to process all new claims within 14 days of receiving all the necessary information.

Procedures for dealing with changes to claimants' circumstances were found to be flawed and a failure to apply the law was likely to lead to over and under- payments of benefit.

The council had no policy on overpayments. The lack of quality management information and a lack of managerial or supervisory involvement contribute to poor overpayment recovery. In March 2000 the council's recorded overpayment debt stood at almost £5 million and was rising year on year.

While the city of Salford council had a positive counter fraud strategy and had provided officers with a good procedures manual, investigation quality was found to be inadequate. There was no control over investigations, nor over the workload of each investigator which was found to be excessive.

The report makes recommendations to help the council address weaknesses and to improve the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit, as well as counter fraud activities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and will be asking the council for its proposals in response to the findings and recommendations of the BFI.

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