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Atos Origin

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the levels of performance against the key performance targets in respect of Atos
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Origin for each month since Atos Origin (formerly Schlumberger Sema) was awarded the Benefits Medical Assessment Contract; on how many occasions a financial remedy has been applied to Atos Origin in respect of this contract; how much the financial remedy was on each of these occasions; and if he will make a statement. [200245]

Maria Eagle: Details of the levels of achievement against the key performance targets in each of the three contract packages for the period June 2003 to October 2004 have been placed in the Library.

Service credits for failure to meet contractual service level targets have been applied as appropriate in each month during the above period.

Specific details of service credits for failure to meet contractual service level targets are commercial in confidence and not disclosed under part 2, paragraph 13 of the code of practice on access to government information.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimates he has made of (a) confirmed, (b) high suspicion and (c) low suspicion (i) fraud and (ii) error since 1997; and if he will place the results in the Library. [200153]

Mr. Pond: The available information has been placed in the Library.


Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what safeguards are in place to prevent third parties from making inappropriate withdrawals when collecting benefits from the Post Office; and if he will make a statement. [202949]

Mr. Pond: Appropriate measures are in place for each method of payment that entitles the customer to obtain their payment of benefit, pension or allowance at the Post Office. Some measures are not disclosed because to do so would reduce their effectiveness. This is in line with part 2, paragraph 4 of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information. Those that are in the public domain include:

For cheque encashment, evidence of identity is required for all cheques over £100 or where there is any reason to doubt the identity of the person presenting the cheque for payment. Where an agent acting on the customers1 behalf presents a cheque for encashment, the agent must produce identification for both themselves and the payee. Suggested forms of identification are noted on the reverse of the cheque.

There is provision in the Post Office card account service for a customer to nominate a trusted friend/relative to act as a permanent agent for them for the purpose of withdrawing funds. This person would have their own card and Personal Identification Number (PIN) to access the customer's funds. To enable the customer to identify all withdrawals made by their permanent agent each transaction (including the card number used for each transaction) is shown on the payment statement issued to the customer. Only one
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permanent agent is permissible for each card account customer and the customer has the option to cancel the arrangement at any time that they wish.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many known drug misusers were receiving (a) invalidity benefit and (b) disability living allowance in 2003–04. [202855]

Maria Eagle: Information is not available in the format requested.

The primary medical diagnosis for each incapacity benefits claimant is recorded. Drug abuse is included as a diagnosis; the available information is in the table. However, this only includes those whose primary diagnosis is drug abuse; it does not include those drug misusers who have other conditions as their primary diagnosis.

Information is not available for disability living allowance.
Incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance claimants with a primary diagnosis of drug abuse

Quarter endingNumber
31 May 200343,800
31 August 200345,200
30 November 200345,500
29 February 200445,700
31 May 200446,100

1. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. Totals may not sum due to rounding.
2. Figures include all incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance and incapacity benefit credits-only cases.
3. All diagnoses are coded using the International Classification of Diseases, 10 Edition, published by the World Health Organisation.
IAD Information Centre, 5 per cent. samples.

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to change the operation of bereavement benefit to permit its payment to common law partners of deceased persons; [201712]

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of extending bereavement benefit to common law partners of deceased persons. [201713]

Mr. Pond: We have no plans to extend payment of bereavement benefits to common law partners of deceased persons, nor have we made an estimate of the cost of doing so. A founding principle of the social insurance system is that all rights to benefit derived from another person's contributions are based on the concept of legal marriage.

British Indian Ocean Territories

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received on the applicability of the habitual residence test to claims for assistance from UK citizens from the British Indian Ocean Territories; and if he will make a statement. [203132]

Mr. Pond: Within the last year, we have received no such representations, other than in the context of litigation. The habitual residence test applies to UK
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citizens from the British Indian Ocean Territories, as it does to other UK citizens who enter Britain for the first time from outside the common travel area (of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland) and make an immediate claim for income-related benefits.


Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will review the rules which prevent payment of carer's allowance and retirement pension at the same time. [204523]

Maria Eagle: Carer's allowance, (previously invalid care allowance), has always been subject to the overlapping benefits rules which put into effect one of the principles of the social security system that only one benefit at a time can be paid for the same purpose.

The reason why carer's allowance and state pension overlap is that they are both directed at providing a benefit for those whose circumstances typically mean that a traditional source of income is no longer available. Carer's allowance replaces income where the carer is over working age or has to give up the chance of working to look after a severely disabled person; state pension replaces income in retirement.

Although an entitlement to both benefits will mean that carer's allowance is not payable, or not payable in full, an underlying entitlement to carer's allowance gives access to the carer premium in housing benefit and council tax benefit and the additional amount for carers in state pension credit.

We continue to look at ways of helping both carers and the elderly, although we have no immediate plans to change these arrangements.


David Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Walsall, North of 26 October, ref. POS(7)10644/0040, which was passed to the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus; and what the reasons are for the delay in a reply being sent. [204385]

Jane Kennedy: A reply was sent to my hon. Friend on 7 December. I regret the delay which was caused by an administrative error.

Council Tax Benefit

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost was of administering council tax benefit to (a) central Government and (b) local government in England in the latest year for which figures are available. [202289]

Mr. Pond: The amount paid by central Government to local authorities in England, for the administration of council tax benefit in 2003–04 was £188,340,000.

The net current expenditure on administering council tax benefit by local authorities in England in 2003–04 was £235,704,000.
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Because the data reported by authorities do not reflect a uniform accounting standard across authorities, reported expenditure across all authorities may not be directly comparable with the grants paid.

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