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21 Jul 1997 : Column WA137

Written Answers

Monday, 21st July 1997.

Government Reviews

Lord Chesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 7 July (WA 51), whether the statement that the costs of a review are to be "met from within planned departmental running costs" means that civil servants have been taken off their normal duties in order to conduct the review.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The work of civil servants changes to meet the priorities of Ministers.

Devolution Referendums: Guidance to Civil Servants

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role civil servants may play in the referendum campaigns on devolution.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have today issued guidance to civil servants on their role and conduct during the devolution referendum campaigns. The guidance provides a generic set of principles which individual departments can incorporate into guidance tailored to their particular needs and situations. It stresses that civil servants should conduct themselves in accordance with the Civil Service Code, and is based on the need to maintain the political impartiality of the Civil Service and to ensure that public resources are not used for party political purposes. Copies of the guidance have been placed in the libraries of both Houses of Parliament, and are also available from the Vote Office.

Interest Rate Increase

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the decision of the Bank of England on 10 July to increase interest rates.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Chancellor set out the Government's view on the Bank of England's recent decision to increase interest rates in the other place on 10 July (Official Report, col. 1056). He explained that the Bank of England agreed with him that if a cycle of boom and bust is to be prevented, inflationary pressures in the economy must be brought under control.

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Government Expenditure per Capita

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What financial subvention was given by taxpayers in the last financial year, to the countries in the United Kingdom in the following order: (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland, and what these figures mean in per capita terms.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Figures analysing government expenditure by country in the UK are published in the Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 1997-98, Cm 3601. The following figures taken from table 7.1 give identified general government expenditure per head in each country for 1995-96, the latest year for which figures are available.

    £ per head




    Northern Ireland5,139

Jobseeker's Allowance: Income-based Disentitlement

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide further information on the figures in Table 4 of the jobseeker's allowance summary statistics (Office of National Statistics, 22 May 1997), on people not in receipt of contributory jobseeker's allowance; in particular whether they will comment on those entered in the nil column, how many of these were denied income-based jobseeker's allowance because of sufficiency of means, and how many for other reasons and what those reasons were.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): It is not possible to disaggregate the numbers without entitlement to a jobseeker's allowance in the categories requested. Those in the "nil" column will have been entitled to national insurance credits. There will have been a further proportion who made no claim for income-based jobseekeer's allowance, but numbers in this category are not available. The jobseeker's allowance payments system (JSAPS) gives a breakdown of the reasons for an actual award of income-based jobseeker's allowance ceasing. When conversion is completed in October 1997, and all cases have been transferred to JSAPS, the QSE will have information on all terminated income-based jobseeker's allowance claims.

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State Pension: Reduced Rate Recipients

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people of pensionable age do not receive a full state pension because of inadequate contribution records, what proportion of those affected are women, and what would be the total net cost to public funds of paying a full state pension to everyone of the relevant age.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Government are committed to reviewing all the main areas of insecurity affecting pensioners. The key objectives of the review will be that pensioners should have an adequate income in retirement, that they should share fairly in rising national prosperity, and that public finances should be both sustainable and affordable.

It is estimated that the number of people who do not receive a full category A basic state pension is 3.5 million; 91 per cent. of whom are women. Of these around 2 million women receive pensions based wholly or partly on their husband's contributions. Many of these are likely to have elected to pay contributions at a reduced rate that did not earn them entitlement to their own pension.

The net cost of paying the full category A basic state pension to all people over State Pension age regardless of their contribution record is estimated to be £4.2 billion.


    1. Estimates of numbers and the gross cost are provided by the Government Actuary's Department.

    2. The cost is in 1997-98 prices and rounded to the nearest £0.1 billion.

Family Credit: Childcare Disregard

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the increased disregard for lone parents on family credit is to be restricted to those with more than one child.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Government are committed to developing a national childcare strategy which will plan provision to match requirements of the modern labour market and provide the genuine help needed by parents to balance the demands of family and working life.

The childcare disregard is being increased to reflect the higher costs incurred by those who pay for childcare for more than one child.

Asylum Policy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that asylum policy in the United Kingdom fully accords with their determination to make human rights central to foreign policy.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are determined to ensure that the United Kingdom's asylum policy is fully in keeping with its commitment to human rights both at home and abroad.

All asylum applications are assessed on their individual merits in accordance with the criteria set out in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Those meeting the criteria for recognition as a refugee are granted asylum.

In addition, exceptional leave to remain may be granted in cases where a person does not qualify for asylum under the Convention but there are, nevertheless, compelling humanitarian reasons for not enforcing the removal of that person from the United Kingdom.

Scarman Trust

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence the Charity Commission has found of a lack of a clear distinction between the work of the Scarman Trust (formerly the Charter 88 Trust) and others, and which those others are.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Charity Commission investigated the complaint about the report entitled The Untouchables, which was incorrectly ascribed to the Scarman Trust. This raised questions about links between the charity and three other organisations: the Democratic Audit of the University of Essex, Charter 88, and Charter 88 Publications Limited. It was also found that a number of other publications have been produced by the charity in association with the Democratic Audit.

Whilst occasioning some confusion, such a collaborative approach to the achievement of a charity's objects is not unusual and does not in itself give rise to any particular cause for concern. I understand that the charity is taking steps to ensure that it maintains a proper independence from Charter 88.

Immigration, etc. Applications: Management

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What effect there has been on the processing of applications for leave to remain in the United Kingdom following the transfer of casework staff within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to the Document Reception Centre.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The transfer has resulted in a speedier processing of valid applications both through the provision of comprehensive information to the caseworker and the initiation in May 1997 of a process and "fast track" decision taking there. Under the new system the caseworker who decides on the validity of an application also decides at the same time the merits of the application where possible. As a result, in June, of 5,707 applications passed as valid, 1,417

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(25 per cent.) were also decided. Such decisions are therefore taken within days of the application being received by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

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