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12 Dec 2002 : Column 499W—continued

Specialised Services (Commissioning)

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the process and timetable is for completion of the review into commissioning specialised services; and when he plans to announce the outcome of the review. [86240]

Mr. Hutton: A summary of the responses will be placed in the Library in December and guidance will be issued in the new year.

Student Nurses

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many student nurses have failed to complete their studies since 1997, broken down by nation of the UK. [84602]

Mr. Hutton: Information for England on the number of student nurses who have not completed their course is given in the table below. Information for Scotland and Wales is a matter for the devolved Administrations. For Northern Ireland, although the Administration is devolved, responsibility rests with the Minister in the Northern Ireland office.

Student nurses (England)



This data is based on a snapshot in time of a particular cohort(s) and therefore each year there will still be students who have yet to complete their course.

Glossary of terms:

Leavers—students who have withdrawn completely from the course.

Interrupted—students who have temporarily withdrawn but who intend to return.

Active—students who have still to complete their studies.

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Terrorism (Mass Contamination)

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many primary care trusts have fully developed plans to deal with (a) chemical, (b) biological, (c) radioactive and (d) nuclear emergencies; [82163]

Mr. Hutton [holding answers 21 November and 25 November]: The main health response to a chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) emergency will involve the ambulance services and hospital sector where there has been an overt deliberate release.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) took on overall emergency planning responsibilities from 1 October 2002. All PCTs are required to prepare major incident plans. The Department will shortly be reviewing their progress.

A programme of work is underway to support PCTs in developing their major incident plans and response arrangements. This is led by the regional directors of public health (RDsPH) and regional health emergency planning advisers. RDsPH have been tasked to ensure that PCTs have an all hazards approach in place for dealing with major incidents. This will draw upon the expertise of the relevant agencies such as the regional chemical incident provider units, the Public Health Laboratory Service, the communicable disease surveillance centre, consultants in communicable disease control and the National Radiological Protection Board.


Invalid Care Allowance

Mr. Oliver Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will commission research into the levels of take-up of invalid care allowance. [86995]

Maria Eagle: We have no plans to do so at present. Awards of invalid care allowance are steadily increasing, although subject to seasonal fluctuations. Information about financial and practical help for carers is readily available from a range of sources. We expect that the publicity surrounding the recent changes to ICA (allowing access to older carers, and extending entitlement after the death of the disabled person), will also serve to increase awareness of all the benefits available to carers.

Benefit Uprating

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list each (a) social security benefit and (b) revenue and capital disregard that has not been uprated since (i) 1997, (ii) 1992 and (iii) 1990. [86312]

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Malcolm Wicks: The information is as follows:

Benefits and income/capital disregards not uprated since 1990:

Departmental Buildings

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department spent on (a) buildings maintenance and (b) accommodation capital projects in each of the past three years. [87001]

Mr. McCartney: The information requested is in the table.


Buildings maintenance16,747,40316,342,36819,190,951
Accommodation capital13,935,8777,956,30518,695,526

The increase in buildings maintenance costs is due to the requirements to refurbish, to corporate standard, the pathfinder offices for Jobcentre Plus.


Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what targets for the reduction of benefit fraud have been set since 2000; and what performance has been against each target. [86997]

Malcolm Wicks: We set a Public Service Agreement target in March 1999 to achieve a reduction in the level of fraud and error in income support and jobseeker's allowance by 10 per cent. by March 2002. In April 2001 two further targets were added: a 25 per cent. reduction by March 2004 and a 50 per cent. reduction by March 2006. In July this year we announced an increase in the target for working age customers to a 33 per cent. reduction by 2004 while maintaining our longer-term commitment to the 50 per cent. reduction by 2006. We have also announced a new target of a 25 per cent. reduction in fraud and error in housing benefit by 2006.

In income support and jobseeker's allowance the latest results show that, by March 2002, we had achieved a 24 per cent. reduction, more than double the target of 10 per cent.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the investigation of monthly random samples of cases in each benefit agency area has shown

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the level of fraud and error to be in (a) income support and (b) job seeker's allowance, in each of the past six months for which figures are available. [86998]

Malcolm Wicks: We have made very good progress in reducing the level of fraud and error in income support and jobseeker's allowance. Latest national figures show that by March 2002 we had achieved a reduction of 24 per cent., more than double the target of 10 per cent. A full report giving the regional figures will be published early next year.

The latest published regional figures are for the period April 2000 to March 2001 and are in The Results of the Area Benefit Review and the Quality Support Team from April 2000 to March 2001: Fraud and Error in Claims for Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance, a copy of which is in the Library. The information is not available on a monthly basis.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people were employed in the Benefit Fraud Investigation Service in (a) 2001 and (b) 2002; and how many are employed there. [86999]

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 than 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 information currently available suggests that, throughout the period, around 5,000 staff have been employed by the Department and its agencies in work to investigate suspicions of fraud. This figures includes staff employed within the Benefit Fraud Investigation Service. However, taking account of changes in data collection measures over time and the integration of investigators more fully with front-line staff, it is clear that we need to improve the validity and reliability of year- on-year comparisons, and we have asked officials to undertake further work on this. We have concluded that it is not possible to make valid comparisons between figures year-on-year.

We will therefore undertake a review to improve the consistency of centrally collected information for the future.

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