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Non-attendance at School: Parental Fines

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

30 Oct 2000 : Column WA72

Baroness Blackstone: Our proposal to raise the level of the fine for non-attendance at school is one of the measures in our strategy to combat truancy highlighted by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment on 19 October. It will give legal effect to the announcement which he first made last year. The £2,500 maximum fine is the subject of a clause in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill currently under consideration.

Every day at least 50,000 children are off school without permission--the majority with their parents' knowledge. Even when prosecuted, 80 per cent of parents do not appear in court and can be fined as little as £10. Recent evidence shows that some parents are fined an average of £50 to £100, and a number incur fines at the maximum level of £1,000. But more detailed information on the numbers of parents found guilty and average fines is not held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Raising the level of the fine will help combat the unacceptable culture that condones absence from school without permission. Most importantly, our proposal will force parents prosecuted for school attendance offences to turn up in court to face the consequences of their actions, or risk arrest. It will also give Magistrates greater flexibility when deciding on the fine level to impose when parents are found guilty.

Student Benefits: Payment During Vacations

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the annual cost of restoring (a) housing benefit and (b) income support in vacations to students of higher education in England and Wales. [HL4277]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Lone parents and disabled students are already eligible to claim these benefits while studying full-time. We are unable to estimate the annual cost of restoring benefit entitlement to other students during vacation periods.

Unclaimed Benefits

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 10 October (WA 31), on what assumption they based the estimates she previously gave to the House of the amounts by which they estimated that entitlements to Disability Living Allowance and those of retirement pensioners to Income Support went unclaimed; and, using the same assumptions, what the total amounts would be for the year 1999-2000. [HL4199]

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Estimates of take-up of Income Support in 1999-2000 will be published next year. On 29 April 1999 (Col. 513), I gave an illustrative estimate of the increase in expenditure on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Attendance Allowance (AA) together, if their take-up were to increase to 90 per cent. The primary assumptions behind that estimate were the estimated levels of DLA and AA caseload take-up based on the 1996-97 Disability Survey follow-up to the Family Resources Survey. As noted in my Answer of 10 October, these figures cannot reliably be converted into cash terms. The illustrative amount, given in April 1999, was produced based on two main further assumptions:

    (a) The entitled population has not changed from 1996-97, and increasing caseload simply reflects increasing take-up, rather than any changes in the adjudication process.

    (b) The group newly taking up benefit receive an average amount of the appropriate DLA component or AA. It is possible that those who

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    are not taking-up benefit will have an average entitlement below that of the current recipient group.

Due to the difficulty of carrying forward 1996-97 results to later years, no reliable estimates are available for 1999-2000.

Home Secretary's Driver: Prosecution Decision

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a decision has yet been made concerning the possible prosecution of the Home Secretary's driver who was alleged to have driven his car at a speed in excess of 100 miles per hour on the M.5 motorway. [HL4248]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): No. The case is being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service in Avon and Somerset, who will decide whether to prosecute.

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