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24 Oct 2002 : Column 486W—continued

Benefits Agency Medical Services

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what sanctions his Department has imposed upon the company responsible for managing the Benefits Agency's medical services tests of disabled and sick benefit recipients during the last three years for which records are available. [76090]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Service credits for failure by the Department's medical services provider to meet contractual targets have been applied in each of the last three years. Precise details are commercial in confidence and are not disclosed under part 2, paragraph 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Pensions (Married Women)

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans his Department has to review the operation of pension entitlement for married women who have paid national insurance contributions at the reduced rate where no official advice was given as to the consequences of exercising this option. [76817]

Mr. McCartney: In order to pay the reduced rate contribution, married women had to complete a form CF9 which was attached to leaflet NI1 (National Insurance for married women). This leaflet explained the consequences of the choice. In particular, it explained that the choice could affect future entitlement to benefit, including Retirement Pension. In addition, they had to sign a statement that they had read and understood the leaflet.

The option to pay the reduced rate was withdrawn in 1977 but those who were already paying the reduced rate were allowed to continue to do so with the option to revoke it at any time. This was widely publicised. Following the restructuring of National Insurance contributions in 1989, the Department again ran a publicity campaign to inform married women paying the reduced rate contribution that they could be paying more in reduced rate contributions than if they paid the standard rate.

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This campaign also reminded them that they could revoke their option to pay the reduced rate. In October 2000, they were again advised, following changes to the structure of the National Insurance scheme, to reconsider their choice to pay the reduced rate contribution.

We therefore have no plans to review the position.

Pension Benefits

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners are (a) eligible for and (b) in receipt of (i) state pensions, (ii) MIG, (iii) attendance allowance and (iv) winter fuel payments in (A) Perth constituency, (B) Scotland and (C) the rest of the UK. [76909]

Mr. McCartney: Such information as is available is shown in the table using figures for England and Wales in place of the rest of the UK.

Total Number of Pensioners in Receipt of: (i) State Pensions; (ii) MIG; (iii) Attendance Allowance; and (iv) Winter Fuel Payments

BenefitPerth (000s)Scotland (000s)England and Wales (000s)
State Pension16.0911.79,344.4
Minimum Income Guarantee2.3182.71,563.4
Attendance Allowance2.4129.81,158.4
Winter Fuel Payments17.2996.610,205.3


1. Figures for State Pension, MIG and Attendance Allowance are based on 5 per cent. samples and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling variation.

2. Figures for Winter Fuel Payments are based on a 100 per cent. sample.

3. Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred and are expressed in thousands

4. Parliamentary Constituencies have been assigned by matching postcodes against the relevant postcode directory.

5. Figures for State Pension are for individuals of pension age.

6. Figures for MIG are for benefit units where the man and/or woman are aged 60 and over.

7. Figures for Attendance Allowance are for men and women aged 65 and over.

8. Figures for Winter Fuel Payments are for men and women aged 60 and over.


State Pension—Pensions Strategy Computer System, September 2001.

Minimum Income Guarantee—Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiry, May 2002.

Attendance Allowance—AA/DLA computer system, May 2002.

Winter Fuel Payments—Matching Intelligence Data Analysis Service Winter Fuel Payment 2001/02 exercise.

Asylum Seekers (Disability Status)

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what information he collates on the disability status of asylum seekers. [76412]

Maria Eagle: Since 3 April 2000, the Home Office, through the National Asylum Support Service, has been responsible for supporting and accommodating asylum seekers awaiting a determination of their case. Information on the number of those asylum seekers who report a health condition or disability is not collected centrally.

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Those asylum seekers in receipt of benefits prior to 3 April 2000 continue to be eligible to claim Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Of the 8,700 asylum seekers receiving Income Support in May 2002 1 , 400 received a disability premium.

Disability Living Allowance

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in how many cases where care and mobility needs have not changed the disability living allowance periodic inquiry has resulted in lower entitlement with reference to the results from the first two years of periodic inquiry. [76814]

Maria Eagle: In the first two years of periodic enquiry, 33091 customers had their benefit entitlement checked. Of these, 9192 resulted in a change of entitlement, of which 6803 (74 per cent.) had their awards increased and 2389 (26 per cent.) had their award decreased.

Of the 9192 cases where entitlement changed, 2326 were due to factors other than a relevant change in their care or mobility needs, but it is not possible to say from the available data how many of these resulted in higher or lower awards of benefit.

National Insurance Numbers

Mr. Gibb: To ask Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the procedures are for obtaining a national insurance number for adults who have entered the UK (a) legally, (b) illegally and (c) on claiming asylum [72127]

Malcolm Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

The National Insurance number (NINO) allocation process for persons from abroad is known as the Enhanced NINO Process and is administered by Jobcentre Plus. The process involves a rigorous face to face interview, scrutiny of supporting documentation, and corroborative checks made on the information provided prior to the allocation of a NINO. The process applies to all foreign nationals requiring a NINO. Anyone actively seeking work may apply for a NINO regardless of their immigration status. If during the allocation process suspicions are raised as to the legitimacy of an individual's right to be in the country, the case is referred to the Department's National Identity Fraud Unit for further action. Upon arrival in this country asylum seekers are initially supported by the Home Office National Asylum Support Service. Contact with this Department for the allocation of a NINO will therefore not normally take place until a decision has been made by the Home Office on the person's application for asylum. Once this has taken place (or if the person has been in the country for more than 6 months and is still awaiting a decision), an application for a NINO can be made through the Enhanced NINO Process.

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Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Prime Minister if he will direct HM Treasury to reply to the letters from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, which he sent the Department for response with regard to Ms E. Harding and Mrs. I. O'Neill. [74861]

The Prime Minister: The Economic Secretary replied to the right hon. Member on 11 October in respect of Mrs. O'Neill. I understand that the Treasury is looking into the matter of Ms Harding's correspondence and will be contacting the right hon. Member shortly.


Bed-and-Breakfast Accommodation

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the amount spent by local authorities on bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless people in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [76406]

Mrs. Roche: Latest available information is published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in their report ''Homelessness Statistics 2000–01 Actuals''. Total estimated expenditure by local authorities in each of the past five years, based on information supplied to CIPFA, was as follows:

Local Authority Expenditure on Bed & Breakfast Provision: England



B&B accommodation includes privately owned or managed hotels/guest houses with some shared facilities, but excludes hotel annexes of self-contained accommodation where meals are not provided.

Expenditure excludes any apportionment of central or departmental administration. Net expenditure takes into account income arising from charges to clients, and housing benefit subsidy.


Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Homelessness Statistics—''Actuals'' annual reports.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress of the Bed and Breakfast Unit in reducing the number of homeless families with children living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. [76405]

Mr. McNulty: The most recent statistics on statutory homelessness showed that numbers of families with children in B&B at the end of June 2002 remained at around 6,700, the same as the equivalent figure for the end of March 2002.

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In March 2002 a #35 million programme was launched to help local authorities ensure that by March 2004 no homeless family with children is in a Bed and Breakfast hotel other than in an emergency, and even then for no more than 6 weeks. The Bed and Breakfast Unit has now funded the 44 authorities with the highest number of families with children in B&B to implement Bed and Breakfast Action Plans and will be monitoring progress closely.

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