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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: There will be no question of weakening the rigorous controls that currently exist for the protection of customer confidentiality. The contract specifications will contain all the necessary safeguards to ensure confidentiality of information is maintained to the high standards required of civil servants; with all staff involved being bound by the same stringent security and confidentiality rules. These include a requirement for all staff to sign a declaration acknowledging the provisions of Section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, which makes it a criminal offence to disclose information provided for Social Security purposes.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We have a rolling programme to review and redesign the way we administer benefits. The aim is to develop processes that actively support our objectives for improved accuracy and security at each stage of a claim. We will remove steps and activities which we have identified through analysis of current processes to be of limited or no value. At the same time tasks and activities will be
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The restriction in benefit entitlement for asylum seekers is intended to reduce the incentive to economic migrants to abuse the asylum process. The genuine asylum seeker does not come here to get benefits but for protection against persecution. It is the economic migrant who responds to economic incentives.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The regulations which Parliament has just confirmed are intended to limit the financial incentive to make and pursue a bogus application for asylum. The asylum seeker who makes his position clear from the start will qualify for benefit while his application is being considered by the Home Office. Once a person has been awarded refugee status they will be able to claim a retrospective payment in respect of any part of their asylum claim during which they were excluded from the benefit system.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We are still considering the legal implications of the Court of Appeal judgment and the possible advantages of a further appeal. We decided that it would be right to act to restore the Government's policy on benefits for asylum seekers as quickly as possible.
The policy was intended to deter economic migrants from abusing the UK asylum system. Since genuine refugees come to this country to seek refuge rather than benefits. The decline in asylum applications shows that the policy has successfully deterred economic migrants from claiming asylum in the UK.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Article 31.1 prohibits contracting states from penalising refugees for illegal entry. Holding in-country asylum applicants to their assurances that they will have no recourse to public funds is entirely compatible with that article.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: No. While EDS is the prime supplier of IT systems development and support requirements for the CSA, the Child Support Agency's computer system consists of several elements. EDS and Lockheed were the only companies invited to tender for the operational accounting element of the system. Lockheed IMS is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. EDS Scicon was owned by General Motors but this is no longer the case: they became an independent public company on 10th/11th June 1996.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: EDS is the prime contractor for the development of the Child Support Agency's computer system. EDS has consistently met the user acceptance criteria for each contract awarded.
EDS is also contracted to provide live service support for the Child Support computer system to specified standards of availability; response times; and output handling and dispatch. On all three EDS meet or exceed the customer requirement and provide a satisfactory level of service.
Public sector procurement is governed by EC directives which ensure fair and open competition and which result in the selection of the supplier whose bid offers the most economically advantageous deal. The department cannot speculate as to the outcome of any future procurement exercise.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Gross general Government debt as a percentage of gross domestic product--the ratio used in the European Union excessive deficits criteria--is estimated to have been 54¼ per cent. at end March 1996, well below the 60 per cent. reference level.
What is the comparison between the United Kingdom's debt as a percentage of GNP and that of the other major European Union member states including Germany and France.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The question of which countries fulfil the necessary conditions for adoption of the single currency will be decided by the Council, meeting in the form of Heads of State of Government, in accordance with Article 109j of the EC treaty. The latest Commission Spring forecast and the UK Summer economic forecast provide comparable information on the current and projected debt of each member state.
|Debt (percentage of GDP)|
UK: Summer Economic Forecast 1996.
Non UK: Commission Services Spring 1996 Economic Forecast.
(1) UK figures are for financial years 1995/96 and 1997/98.