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Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she will answer the questions from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight of 1 March, Ref 39912 and 40038. [55434]

Mrs. Liddell: With apologies for the delay, I replied to the hon. Member's questions on 20 May.


Benefits Agency

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the staff turnover in (a) administrative officer and (b) administrative assistant grades in the Benefits Agency was in each year since 1997; and if he will break down the turnover by region. [51051]

Mr. McCartney: The information requested is not available for the period before April 2000. Such information as is available is in the following tables.

Period April 2000 to March 2001

Joiners Leavers
RegionAdministrative AssistantsAdministrative OfficersAdministrative AssistantsAdministrative Officers
London East360580187233
London North390477253172
London Central and South408580237285
East Midlands254174155157
West Midlands26417412265
Greater Manchester18513610270
West of Scotland322217196147
East of Scotland305153194103
Agency Central Services207123151119

Period April 2001 to March 2002

Joiners Leavers
RegionAdministrative AssistantsAdministrative OfficersAdministrative AssistantsAdministrative Officers
London East511640257159
London North530620304179
London Central and South667840372379
East Midlands39739822191
West Midlands41448816792
Greater Manchester25923412456
West of Scotland33428416052
East of Scotland38419421158


Agency Central Services became part of DSS Corporate Services Directorate on 1 April 2001.

23 May 2002 : Column 539W

Head Injury Rehabilitation

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to assess the availability of vocational rehabilitation services for people who sustain a head injury; [56435]

Maria Eagle: Regular assessments are carried out of the availability of vocational rehabilitation services, including those for people who sustain head injuries. The services which are now in place, and delivered under contract through the Department's Work Preparation Programme, meet current and expected demand within the catchment area of individual providers.

Ministers and officials have regular meetings with colleagues across Government to discuss rehabilitation, including services for people with acquired brain injury. A meeting was held with Ministerial colleagues from the Department of Health on 15 April to discuss a range of issues concerning health and rehabilitation. The Department is working jointly with a number of other Departments, including the Department of Health, to ensure that what is in place fully contributes towards our objective of helping as many as possible of those not working following injury or ill-health to make a prompt return to work.

Departmental Report

Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the Departmental report will be published. [58526]

Mr. Darling: The Work and Pensions Departmental Report, which sets out the Department's expenditure plans for 2002–03 to 2003–04, has been published today. A copy has been placed in the Library.


Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons the letter from the hon. Member for Ilford, North on behalf of Mrs. C. A. Beadle of Tomswood Hill, Ilford dated 2 July 2001 took nine months to answer. [49020]

Malcolm Wicks: The delay in replying to my hon. Friend's letter is regretted. This was due to administrative error.

23 May 2002 : Column 540W

Housing Benefit

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will amend the housing benefit regulations to take into account those individuals whose financial circumstances have changed between selling the property they continue to reside in, and making a claim for housing benefit; [52955]

Malcolm Wicks: The intention of Housing Benefit regulation 7(1)(h) is to halt the abuse of the scheme where an owner-occupier transfers ownership of his or her home without money changing hands, or sells it for less than the market price, and then rents it back.

Housing Benefit is still available to anyone who can demonstrate that he or she was forced to transfer or sell, for example because of impending repossession for mortgage arrears. A further amendment, from May 2001, allows a former owner to claim Housing Benefit provided five years have elapsed since he or she ceased to own the property.

We keep all our policies under review but have no plans to make further amendments to this provision.

Data Protection

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library copies of each version of the internal guidance which have been drawn up by her Department since 1 January 1999 to assist staff in her Department to answer subject access requests under the Data Protection Act 1998. [53373]

Malcolm Wicks: Since 1 January 1999 the Department has only had one version of internal guidance to assist staff to answer subject access requests under the Data Protection Act 1998. The guidance is contained in the Data Protection Manual, which is available in the Library.

Medical Services

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on his plans to extend SchlumbergerSema's contract for the supply of medical services; and if he will list the service improvements that SchlumbergerSema will be expected to deliver as a result of a contract extension; [54037]

23 May 2002 : Column 541W

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke), 22 May 2002, Official Report, column 374–75W.


Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of the staff employed undertaking specific work on counter fraud policy issues on 1 April had less than (a) six months, (b) 12 months, (c) two years, (d) three years, (e) four years and (f) more than four years experience of working in this specific area. [54717]

Malcolm Wicks: The overall aim of the Department's anti-fraud strategy is to have a benefit system which is secure from first claim to final payment.

The implementation of this strategy means that an anti-fraud focus is integral to the work of all staff in the Department, as is dealing with the wider agenda of error and incorrectness in benefit payments.

The Fraud Strategy Unit (FSU) manages the setting and dissemination of fraud policy for the Department's Agencies and has a central role in undertaking specific work on counter-fraud policy issues. The information requested, in respect of FSU staff, is in the table.

FSU staff's length of experience of working on counter-fraud policy issues as at 1 April 2002

Less than 6 months6 to 12 months1 to 2 years2 to 3 years3 to 4 yearsMore than 4 years

The staff in Fraud Strategy Unit bring with them a wide range of skills and experience, notably in counter-fraud operational work, social security administration, legislation and programme/budget management. Many staff in the unit have had several years' experience in social security administration and dealing with customers, where countering fraud is the concern of all staff.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many prosecutions for fraud involving housing or council tax benefit were undertaken by local authorities in (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000, (d) 2000–01 and (e) between 1 January and 31 December 2001. [54725]

Malcolm Wicks: The latest information available on the number of prosecutions for fraud undertaken by local authorities is in the table.

23 May 2002 : Column 542W

Local authority investigations

ProsecutionsCautions and penalties as an alternative to prosecutionTotal


1. Figures are taken from local authority management information returns. It is possible that there could be some double counting with Benefits Agency data if there were cases which involved a joint prosecution.

2. Information is not available for all 408 local authorities. The total for Great Britain includes estimates for local authorities that have not responded. These estimates are based on historical and regional data. This type of estimate is standard practice in reporting totals where there have been non-respondents. The figures for financial years 1997–98 to 2000–01 have been rounded to two significant figures.

3. Administrative penalties, as an alternative to prosecution, were introduced by the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act (1997) with effect from December 1998.

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