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16 Oct 2008 : Column 1374Wcontinued
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) whether a disability impact assessment was carried out on the tendering process for the Post Office Card Account contract; 
(2) what accessibility criteria were included in the tender for the Post Office card account contract. 
Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 14 October 2008]: The Invitation to Tender requested that potential suppliers provide details of their facilities for disabled people and supplier responses were considered during the tender evaluation to ensure compliance with the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and 2005. The successful supplier will be contractually bound to provide the services in accordance with these Acts.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps he is taking to reduce the levels of fraud and error in the benefit system; 
(2) what steps his Department is taking to tackle benefit fraud. 
Mr. McNulty [holding answer 14 October 2008]: The Government are committed to paying the right benefits to the right people at the right time. As part of that commitment we have specific strategies in place to tackle both fraud and error.
We have a well defined and successful strategy for tackling benefit fraud based on preventing, detecting and deterring fraud. Strategy initiatives include professionally qualified investigators, a hard hitting media campaign and cross checking information on benefit claims against other data sources.
At 0.6 per cent. of benefit expenditure, fraud is at its lowest ever level. This is down from 2 per cent. in 2000-01. But we are not complacent and are introducing innovative new measures such as data matching with credit reference agencies and piloting voice risk analysis.
We are now applying the same drive and determination to tackle error. In January 2006, the Department created a task force with a specific aim of reducing official error in the most vulnerable benefits and has subsequently published and implemented its first ever error reduction strategy, published in January 2007. The strategy addresses both over and underpayments and is based on preventing new error from entering the system; ensuring that customers and staff comply with benefit rules and identifying and correcting existing errors.
The Department has also established a dedicated Benefit Simplification Unit to tackle complexity in the benefits system which is a major cause of error.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people did not receive benefits to which they were entitled due to (a) fraud and (b) error in the benefit system in each of the last five years. 
Mr. McNulty [holding answer 14 October 2008]: Information is not available.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the proportion of all cases of fraud and error in the benefit system that arose from misdirected mail in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. McNulty [holding answer 15 October 2008]: The information requested is not available. However, this Department has an agreement with Royal Mail not to redirect benefit related communications sent to customers by the Department and local authorities.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit payments were made in error due to fraud arising from the impersonation of the deceased in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. McNulty [holding answer 15 October 2008]: The information requested is not available. However we cross check our records with the Office for National Statistics on a weekly basis to capture information on deaths recorded with the local registrars so benefit payments can be stopped immediately in such cases.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times the definition of the unemployment claimant count and any inclusions to or exclusions from that count have changed since 1997; and what the reason for the change was in each case. 
Kevin Brennan: I have been asked to reply.
The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.
Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated October 2008:
As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking how many times the definition of the unemployment claimant count and any inclusions to or exclusions from that count have changed since 1997; and what the reason for the change was in each case. (226203)
The definition of the unemployment claimant count has not changed since 1997, following the introduction of Jobseeker's Allowance in 1996.
Although not a change to the definition of the unemployment claimant count, the introduction of the system of joint claims for Jobseeker's Allowance from 2001 has meant that both members of certain couples are now required to claim JSA jointly and both are required to look for work. This change has led to certain claims being counted as two separate claims when they would previously have appeared as one claim. Without this change, the current level of the unemployment claimant count would be about 9,000 lower than it currently is.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Leader of the House how many and what proportion of written questions for answer on a named day her Office has answered on the due date in the current session of Parliament to date. 
Chris Bryant: The Leader of the House of Commons has substantively answered 100 per cent. of the 34 named day questions on the specified date so far in the current parliamentary session.
The information is available on the Commons Leader website at:
To ask the Leader of the House (1) how many hours the House sat in each session (a) in 1980,
(b) in 1990 and (c) in each session between 1996 and 2006; 
Mr. Baron: To ask the Leader of the House how many hours the House spent considering (a) primary legislation on the Floor of the House and (b) delegated legislation (i) in Committee and (ii) on the floor of the House in each session commencing in (A) 1980, (B) 1990 and (C) each session between 1996 and 2006. [Official Report, 10 November 2008, Vol. 482, c. 3MC.] 
Chris Bryant: The information given in the table is available in the sessional information digests:
|Number of hours the house sat each session||Number of hours considering primary legislation on the floor of the house||Number of hours considering delegated legislation on the floor of the house|
|n/a = Not available. Up until the 1984-85 session the sitting hours were not broken down. Therefore, only the total number of sitting hours can be provided.|
The number of hours considering primary legislation and delegated legislation in committee can be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what proportion of invoices for goods and services procured from small- and medium-sized businesses were paid within 30 days of receipt by (a) his Department and (b) the agencies for which his Department is responsible in 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wills: The proportion of invoices for goods and services procured from all businesses paid within 30 days of receipt in 2007-08 is as follows:
|(1) Ministry of Justice Core Department includes former Department for Constitutional Affairs HQ, Wales Office, Scotland Office, Office for Criminal Justice Reform and National Offender Management Service HQ elements. (2) Executive agencies for the Ministry of Justice include HM Courts Service, Tribunals Service, Office of the Public Guardian and HM Prison Service.|
The Ministry has launched a major drive to improve this performance towards the target of paying 100 per cent. of correctly rendered invoices within 30 days. Two of the main actions are to enforce compliance with purchasing processes within the Ministry, and to reinforce the policy with suppliers that they are required to send their invoices directly to the Shared Service Centre which processes payments centrally, rather than to individual offices around the Ministry.
The proportion of invoices paid within 30 days of receipt for small and medium sized businesses could be provided only at a disproportionate cost, as the Department does not currently hold this information.
The Ministry welcomes the initiative announced by the Prime Minister in Prime Minister's Questions on 8 October 2008, and is preparing plans to pay all small and medium-sized enterprises within 10 days of receipt of invoice.
Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what progress has been made in the interdepartmental review on representative actions; and how many officials have responsibility for the review, broken down by pay band. 
An inter-departmental steering group of officials has been established to consider this issue. It has met twice, most recently on 29 September, and has agreed to organise a meeting with the Civil Justice Council (CJC) to discuss its interim report. The group will advise ministers on the way forward early next year,
following publication of the CJC's final report. This process is being managed by two Ministry of Justice officials at Band A and Band B (under the oversight of a member of the senior civil service). None of these officials work exclusively on this area.
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