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Cardiff County Council

Clive Efford: 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 Cardiff county council. [65666]

Malcolm Wicks: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's (BFI) report on Cardiff county council was published today and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The report finds that, generally, the council performed well in administering benefits but needed to improve counter fraud work.

Inspectors found a marked difference in performance between the city hall and area office teams. Performance was poorer, and sickness levels higher, at the city hall which was dealing with a backlog of 4,500 documents.

The report notes good performance in a number of areas including the verification of claims, a good working relationship with the Benefits Agency, excellent complaints procedures and good internal audit practices.

Areas of poor performance included decision notices that did not comply fully with legislation, fraud investigations which were curtailed too early meaning that Cardiff was unable to prosecute fraudsters, and the lack of a counter fraud publicity policy and risk analysis of fraud.

There was mixed performance in dealing with overpayments of benefit with the classification of overpayments being poor. Inspectors note that the council had begun to improve in this area.

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The council had a service improvement plan in place prior to the inspection. This comprehensive plan addresses many of the points that the report identifies. Elected members and staff are jointly driving through the objectives of the plan.

Cardiff administered some £80 million in housing benefits in 1999–2000.

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.

Special Advisers

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many special advisers were employed by himself and his predecessor (a) between 1 May and 31 December 1997 and (b) in each year from 1998 to 2001 inclusive; and what the total amount spent on special advisers by the Department was in each of those years. [41261]

Mr. McCartney: Two special advisers were employed by the Department of Social Security and subsequently by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in each year from 1997 to 20 January 2002. From 21 January 2002, in recognition that DWP now has a Minister who attends Cabinet, it employed three special advisers.

Details of costs for special advisers with individual Departments are not given in order to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned.

Independent Remuneration Panel

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the work of the independent remuneration panel. [61950]

Mr. Raynsford: I have been asked to reply.

Local authorities are required to establish and maintain an independent remuneration panel. The purpose of this panel is to make recommendations to the authority about the allowances to be paid to elected members. Authorities are under a duty to have regard to the recommendation of their independent remuneration panel when establishing their scheme and levels of allowances.

Means-tested Benefits

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the estimate is of the cost of means-tested benefits for (a) men over 65 and (b) women over 60 for 2002–03. [61259]

Mr. McCartney: The information is not available in the format requested. The costs of means tested benefits, that is the minimum income guarantee, housing benefit and council tax benefit, to people aged 60 and over for 2002–03 are estimated to be £10.415 million.

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Immigration Appellate Authority

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what reasons have been given for adjournments in hearings dealt with by the IAA since January 2001; and how many adjournments have been granted under each reason. [63460]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The reasons for adjournments are wide ranging, therefore, I have listed the top 10 reasons for adjournments since 1 June 2001–31 May 2002.

In adjudicator hearings these are:

Reason givenNumber of adjournments granted
Lack of court time1,821
For further evidence to be supplied by representative1,367
Representative need to supply medical report1,173
Home Office reconsidering their decision1,140
Other reasons for representatives needing more time1,060
Document needs to be authenticated or translated993
Appellant sick768
Home Office documents missing671
New Home Office issue raised630
Representative sick622

In tribunal hearings they are:

Reason givenNumber of adjournments granted
For further evidence to be supplied by representative100
Other reasons for representatives needing more time55
New Home Office issue raised40
Home Office reconsidering their decision27
Other reason for representative's non attendance25
Representative sick22
Representative need to supply medical report14
Needs a combined hearing12
Representatives instructed late11
Document needs to be authenticated or translated11

Figures prior to June 2001 are not available.


Leggatt Report

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the Government's response to the Leggatt report on tribunal justice. [64535]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I have been asked to reply.

The Government are considering its response to the Leggatt review and will announce its conclusions later in the year.

The Government's response will take into account the public consultation exercise completed in December 2001, which generated over 350 responses.

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Staff Numbers

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many staff were employed by his Department on (a) 2 May 1997 and (b) 31 May 2002. [60897]

Beverley Hughes: In respect of (a) 2 May 1997, I refer the hon. Member to reply given to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Alexander) on 13 June 2002, Official Report, column 1158W.

In respect of (b) 31 May 2002, while published figures for 1 April 2002 have not yet been centrally compiled, estimates are available from the Home Office Personnel Information Manpower Management System (PIMMS) and the personnel systems of the Home Office Agencies, and I have provided them in the table.

Full-time equivalents

Home Office area(202)1 April 2002
Home Office main(21)13,573
Forensic Science Service2,448
(United Kingdom Passport Agency)2,807
Her Majesty's Prison Service43,420
Grand total64,251

(20)The Fire Service College moved to the Department of the Enviroment in the machinery of Government changes 8 June 2001.

(21)The number includes 4,511 extra staff recruited since 31 March 2002 to deal with immigration and asylum work within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

Street Crime

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the street crime initiative courts in London; how they are proposed to operate and for what purpose; what role is envisaged for the Witness Service in relation to them; and if he will make a statement. [60540]

Hilary Benn: There are 19 specially designated street crime courts in London. Of these nine are Crown courts and 10 are magistrates courts.

The Crown courts are: Blackfriars, Croydon, Harrow, Inner London (designated Youth Crown court for Inner London), Isleworth, Kingston, Middlesex Guildhall, Snaresbrook, and Wood Green.

The 10 magistrates courts designated as special street crime courts are: Acton, Balham, Brent, Camberwell Green, Croydon, Harringay, Stratford, Thames, Waltham Forrest, and West London

As well as fast tracking street crime cases the designated courts are designed to ensure that victims and witnesses have separate facilities, such as secure waiting areas, to avoid the risk of intimidation from alleged offenders. The Witness Service, provided by victim support also provides support to witnesses before, during and after they give evidence, to lessen the number of cases failing to proceed.

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The specialist street crime courts are part of a package of measures across the Court Justice Service and other Government departments, designed to tackle street crime by dealing swiftly and effectively with the perpetrators of these offences.

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