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Fuel Smuggling

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border fuel smuggling. [141743]

Mr. Ingram: The problem of cross-border fuel smuggling is being tackled in a strategic and co-ordinated way on both sides of the border. I am determined that criminal elements do not profit from such illegal activity and have the full support of the Irish Government.

RUC Widows

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what assessment he has made of the financial situation of Royal Ulster Constabulary widows and their families; and if he will make a statement; [143249]

Mr. Ingram: In July, John Steele CB OBE TD DL was asked to review the Patten Commission proposal for a substantial fund to be set up to help injured police officers and their families, and police widows. He reported at the end of October and a copy of the report is available in the Library.

On 7 November my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced that he welcomed Mr. Steele's comprehensive and thorough report, which covers the points made by the hon. Member, and that the Government were undertaking a detailed assessment of each of the specific proposals. That assessment, including the arrangements for setting up a Trust Fund, is continuing.

Sentences (Monitoring)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to monitor sentencing of individuals according to (a) perceived community origin, (b) ethnic origin, (c) gender, (d) sexual orientation and (e) disability. [142277]

Mr. Ingram: The Government are considering the development of a strategy for equity monitoring the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland as it affects different categories of people, while ensuring that such monitoring does not compromise judicial independence.

21 Dec 2000 : Column: 258W

SOCIAL SECURITY

Benefit Payments

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he has taken to correct incorrect benefit payments; and how much was (a) recovered and (b) paid in compensation for each major benefit in (i) 1979-80, (ii) 1996-97 and (iii) the most recent figures available. [143103]

Angela Eagle: The administration of benefits is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member shortly.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Paul Burstow, dated 20 December 2000:






Table 1: Overpayment recoveries

£ million
1996-971999-2000
Income Support (IS)61.5115.9
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)0.05.0
Other Benefits41.163.8
Total102.6184.7

Notes:

1. No data are available from 1979-90, there was no system at that time to count overpayments.

2. Jobseeker's Allowance was introduced during 1996-97, recoveries of overpayments in that year were less than £100,000.

3. Other benefits figures summarise all BA delivered benefits apart from IS and JSA.


Table 2: Special payments(1)

£
Benefit1996-971999-2000
Attendance Allowance45,60930,848
Child Benefit105,82273,917
Disability Living Allowance396,251157,713
Disability Working Allowance15,43425,955
Family Credit125,053160,565
Incapacity Benefit57,333334,781
Income Support(2)(3)6,017,170(4)1,974,908
Industrial Death Benefit2,6130
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit28,043133,939
Invalid Care Allowance90,352156,446
Invalidity Benefit260,66230,633
Jobseeker's Allowancen/a143,733
Maternity Allowance (inc. SMP)1107,702
Reduced Earnings Allowance65,059107,562
Retirement Pension(5)1,538,719581,658
Severe Disablement Allowance57,83530,236
Sickness Benefit29,7721,375
Unemployment Benefit70,7240
Widows Benefit283,764136,390
Total9,190,325(6)4,086,986

n/a = not available

(1) No figures are available for 1979-80.

(2) Jobseeker's Allowance was introduced on 7 October 1996 and replaced both Unemployment Benefit and Income Support for the unemployed. The figure displayed for Income Support payments made during 1996-97 may also include special payments made in respect of Jobseeker's Allowance, as discrete records were not maintained at that time.

(3) Includes £4,747,031 paid under the Dorset Trust special exercises(4) .

(5) Includes £406,338 paid by way of special exercises (IS bulletin 105/98).

(6) Includes £275,092 paid by way of special exercise (Retirement LEAP exercise).

(7) A further £2,518,462 was paid to certain recipients of Incapacity Benefit, Retirement Pension, Widows Benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance by way of compensation for delays arising from NIRS2 implementation.

(8) A 'special exercise' occurs where a systemic failure affects a number of similar cases, delays in administration occur following introduction of new legislation, or defective legislation which does not reflect the intention of Ministers adversely affects a group of customers.


21 Dec 2000 : Column: 259W

Winter Fuel Payments Helpline

Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps he is taking to improve the functioning of the Benefits Agency Winter Fuel Payments Helpline. [143112]

Mr. Rooker: The administration of benefits is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Adrian Bailey, dated 20 December 2000.





Independent Living Funds

Liz Blackman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will review the purpose and operation of the independent living funds. [144281]

21 Dec 2000 : Column: 260W

Mr. Bayley: It is Government policy to review periodically the need for and operation of Government agencies, non-departmental public bodies and other sponsored bodies. In keeping with this policy we will shortly be commencing a review of the Independent Living Funds (ILFs). This review will have the following terms of reference:


In addition to seeking the views of the Funds' Trustees, staff and clients we will also be conducting a public consultation exercise. We will shortly be writing to relevant groups and individuals to invite their comments. Details of the review will also be available on the internet at www.dss.gov.uk. Comments should be received by the Department by 16 March 2001 and should be sent to ILF Review, DSS, 6th Floor, The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6HT. Comments can also be sent by e-mail to [email protected] It is expected that the result of the review will be announced in summer 2001.


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