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Benefit Uprating

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the effect upon claimants' (a) income and (b) entitlement to income related benefits arising from the uprating of benefits by RPI. [100736]

Mr. McCartney: (a) Uprating of benefits by RPI ensures that claimants' benefit incomes rise at least in line with the rise in cost of living. Some benefits will be uprated by more than prices from April. For example, retirement pension will be uprated by 2.6 per cent., giving a pensioner on full state pension an extra £100 a year, and the minimum income guarantee by earnings (4 per cent.).

(b) Income-related benefits, excluding the minimum income guarantee, are uprated by the Rossi index, which is the RPI excluding housing costs and local taxes. This is because housing costs and local taxes are met through separate hypothecated benefits, for example housing benefit for rent. The impact of RPI itself on income-related benefits depends on the relative values of the two indices, but since any marginal increases in eligible rents and council taxes are almost always met in full by increased benefits, most claimants will see their benefits rise at least in line with the cost of living.

Benefits Payments

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in what circumstances can payment of benefits in cash at post offices can be continued. [106178]

Malcolm Wicks: All customers who wish to continue to collect their benefit or pension in cash at the Post Office need to choose one of the account options that can be accessed at post offices.

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DWP is providing customers with information (including letters and leaflets) which clearly sets out the account options as part of the move to payment direct into accounts. This information material sets out the key features of the various accounts and explains how people can access their money at the Post Office, if they wish to do so. Customers can choose the account which best suits their needs and circumstances.

British Sign Language

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 14 March 2003, Official Report, column 494W, on British Sign Language (BSL), what projects the Government have funded (a) to increase the number of BSL interpreters and (b) to improve the infrastructure for interpreter training and assessment, broken down by region. [106901]

Maria Eagle: The former Department for Education and Employment let contracts with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) to address the shortage of interpreters and to improve the training infrastructure. No information is held with regard to breakdown by region.

CACDP contract has now come to an end. The RNID contact runs until 2004.

In the statement he made to the House on BSL on 18 March 2003, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced a discrete programme of initiatives to support the statement. We will be consulting organisations of and for deaf people about how the additional funding of £1 million should be allocated.

Council Tax Benefit

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much council tax benefit was paid in 2001–02 in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [104761]

Malcolm Wicks: Council tax benefit helps people with low incomes to pay their council tax whether they are in or out of work.

The information is in the table.

Council Tax Benefit Expenditure 2001–2002

£ million


1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 5 million.

2. Figures have been compiled using 2001–2002 pre-audited subsidy claims from individual local authorities.

3. The figures include estimates for local authorities that have not responded. These estimates are based on historical data. These types of estimates are standard practice in reporting totals where there have been non-respondents.

4. Figures may be subject to revision by local authorities.


Annual subsidy returns by local authorities to the Department for Work and Pensions.

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Deaths at Work

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many deaths at work there were in (a) the UK and (b) Buckinghamshire in 2002. [105702]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The number of deaths at work reported to the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities for 2002 is not yet confirmed. Provisional figures for 2001–02, as well as final figures for 2000–01 are as follows:

Table 1: The number of fatal injuries reported to HSE and local authorities 2000–01 to 2001–02(28)

Member of the public444384

Table 2: The number of fatal injuries in Buckinghamshire(28) reported to HSE(29) and local authorities 2000–01 to 2001–02(28)

Member of the public42

(28) Provisional

(29) County of Buckinghamshire identified by local authorities: Aylesbury; South Bucks; Chiltern; Wycombe and Milton Keynes Unitary Authority.


1. The figures for Buckinghamshire do not cover the mining, offshore and railway industries. The figures are based on notifications from employers and others, which for these industries are assigned to a national or other basis and are not readily assignable to a particular county. The figures also do not cover chemical manufacturing industries due to the availability of data at county level from specific HSE information systems.

2. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is enforced by HSE and local authorities in Great Britain only. Northern Ireland is not within HSE's jurisdiction.

3. The figures only include fatal injuries reported to HSE and local authorities under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995. They do not include numbers of deaths in work-related road traffic accidents, for example.

4. The annual basis is the planning year from 1 April to 31 March.

Departmental Computer Systems

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which computer systems within his Department use XML. [98110]

Mr. McCartney: Any Internet/Intranet-based channel into current DWP systems uses XML. XML is also used as part of the Department's IT infrastructure for systems to communicate with each other—in particular the communications between the new modernised systems a nd the legacy systems.

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Current Departmental systems using XML are:

Departmental Staff

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to classify groups of staff within his Department as working in a high-risk occupation. [106121]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Department ensures all work activities undertaken by its staff are thoroughly risk assessed in accordance with Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Where particular hazards are identified through the assessment process appropriate control measures are then put in place to ensure any risks are properly managed out.

There are currently no plans to classify particular groups of staff.

Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Oliver Heald To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 27 January 2003, Ref. 93561, what plans he has to conduct a further assessment of the level of fraud in relation to disability living allowance; and if he will make a statement on the reasons why no such assessment has been conducted since February 1997. [95040]

Malcolm Wicks: We announced on 3 March, at the Public Accounts Committee hearing on tackling benefit fraud that the Department is intending to run a further benefit review to provide an up-to-date picture of the level of fraud and error in disability living allowance.

As the approach will be different from that used in 1996, we are planning to run a small pilot during May and June this year. Although the pilot results will not be

published, the exercise will enable us to test out the most appropriate methodology prior to running the main review next year.

Measurement of fraud and error is complex and expensive and so we have concentrated our measurement efforts on Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit, which we estimate account for around two-thirds of all losses through fraud and error. However, we keep the need for further measurement of other benefits under review.

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We believe that we should concentrate our resources on prevention and detection of fraud and error rather than just measuring it and latest results show that our efforts are being successful. Between 1997–78 and 2001–02, we had reduced fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance by 24 per cent. more than double our target of a 10 per cent. reduction.

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