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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) for what reason increments to the basic state pension were up-rated by a lower percentage than the rest of the basic pension in April 2001; and for what reason the increments will be up-rated by the same percentage as the rest of the basic state pension in April 2002; 
Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is required each year by section 150 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to review the level of benefits in light of movements in RPI. As part of this consideration the Government had announced that the basic state pension will rise in the future by at least 2.5 per cent. or the rate of increase in the RPI if that is greater.
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Mr. McCartney: At 13 March, there are three special advisers in the Department. On cost, I refer the hon. Member to the answer that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to him on 20 March 2002, Official Report, column 325W.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements are in place to ensure that the receipt of linked benefits does not make jobseeker's allowance claimants better off out of work than in work. 
Malcolm Wicks: We are taking a single approach to work and benefits to make work pay, make work possible and to support those who cannot work. This service will be delivered through Jobcentre Plusa personal service with one goal: helping people of working age to live independent lives.
People receiving working families tax credit or disabled person's tax credit with net income of around £11,740 a year or less are eligible for a tax credit national health service exemption certificate. This entitles them to free national health service prescriptions, dental treatment, wigs, fabric supports, sight tests, full value optical vouchers and help with the cost of travel to hospital for national health service treatment. For those with a child under one year old baby food is available at a reduced price.
In addition, anybody in work who has a low income can claim help with the cost of national health service treatment provided they have savings of less than £8,000 (£12,000 if aged 60 or over; or £19,000 if they live permanently in a residential care or nursing home). Depending on their income people may be eligible for either a full (HC2) or partial (HC3) Department of Health exemption certificate. The HC2 certificate entitles the person to free NHS services; the HC3 certificate entitles the person to some help towards NHS charges.
People receiving working families tax credit or disabled person's tax credit (where the amount of tax credit is paid in full or reduced by £70 or less) and who have a close relative, or partner, in prison can get help with the cost of travel to visit them. Help is also available in these circumstances for people who hold a Department of Health HC2 or HC3 certificate.
Housing benefit and council tax benefit are available to people in work to help pay their rent and council tax. Part of their income is disregarded when assessing the amount of benefit payable to guarantee that a person is better off in work than out of work.
Sure Start maternity grants are available if a person or their partner is in receipt of working families tax credit or disabled person's tax credit. And help with funeral payments is available through the social fund for the person who is responsible for the funeral if they are receiving working families tax credit, disabled person's tax credit, housing benefit, or council tax benefit.
From April 2003 we will introduce two new tax credits. The child tax credit will offer a single, seamless system of support for families with children, while the working tax credit will help to improve the financial gains to work.
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We have set firm targets for reducing the amount of fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance and we have already achieved a reduction of 18 per cent., nearly double our first milestone, a year ahead of schedule.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the total savings to public funds of the Private Finance Initiative contract for the Private Sector Resource Initiative for management of the estate by comparison with a non-Private Finance Initiative alternative. 
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which Bills introduced by his Department in the last five years have contained sunset clauses; and what plans he has for the future use of such clauses. 
Malcolm Wicks: Since it came into being in June 2001, the Department for Work and Pensions has not introduced a Bill containing a sunset clause. The Department would include such provisions in future Bills in circumstances where this appeared appropriate.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people were in receipt of means- tested benefits or tax credits, by region, as (a) a percentage of population and (b) a total number, in descending order according to percentage figures in 2000. 
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|Region||Recipients (Thousand)||Percentage of the regional population(13)|
|England (Yorkshire and Humberside)||620||15|
|England (west midlands)||630||15|
|England (east midlands)||430||13|
|England (south east)||620||10|
(13) Percentage of the regional population aged over 16.
1. Key income related benefits are jobseeker's allowance, income support, minimum income guarantee, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
2. The data refers to recipients of income-related benefits which may be a single person, a member of a couple or a member of a family.
3. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10,000.
Client Group Analysis of DWP Information Centre 5 per cent. statistical samplesMay 2000, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System annual 1 per cent. sample taken in May 2000. Population figures are provided by Office for National Statistics, Population Estimates Unit.
David Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many decisions on benefits taken by decision makers were reversed by (a) Ministers and (b) officials in (i) 1998, (ii) 1999, (iii) 2000 and (iv) 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
|Benefit||2000||Approximate caseload||2001||Approximate caseload|
|IB, MA and SDA||27,536||2,700,000||26,214||2,700,000|
|LTB (RP, WB and BB)||1,699||11,300,000||1,684||11,300,000|
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