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Social Security Budget

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of national income the social security budget represents in the 2000-01 financial year. [145965]

Mr. Darling: Social Security benefit expenditure is expected to amount to just over 11 per cent. in 2000-01 compared with 12 per cent. in 1996-97. Social Security spending this Parliament is now running at its lowest rate since the second world war.

Household Incomes

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the largest margin of uncertainty which applies to estimates within his most recent Households Below Average Income publication which do not appear within brackets. [146314]

Mr. Bayley: Estimates of the margin of uncertainty due to the choice of equivalence scales and sampling error can be found in appendices 4 and 5 of "Households Below Average Income 1994-95 to 1998-99". Copies of the publication are held in the Library. It should be noted that

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estimates are also subject to other non-sampling errors, such as non-response, whose magnitude it is not possible to quantify.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the number of individuals living in households below half average income in the first quarter of the most recent financial year for which he has constructed a data set, according to the Households Below Average Income methodology. [146315]

Mr. Bayley: It is not possible to produce robust Households Below Average Income (HBAI) statistics on a quarterly basis.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people were (a) on Motability's waiting list and (b) waiting to terminate a vehicle in favour of a suitable wheelchair accessible solution in each year since the charity was founded. [146347]

Mr. Bayley: There has never been a waiting list for the Motability scheme.

Income Support

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for what reason the estimate of entitled non-recipients of Income Support for the over-60s for the year 1997-98 published in the revised edition of "Income Related Benefits Estimates of take-up in 1996-97" was different to the estimate for 1997-98 published in "Income Related Benefits Estimates of take-up in 1998-99". [146344]

Mr. Rooker: The relevant information is available in "Income Related Benefits Estimates of take-up in 1998-99" (pages 5, 13, 45 and 46), a copy of which is available in the Library.

Retirement (Women)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he is taking to ensure that women born after 1955 are informed of the forthcoming increase in retirement age. [146348]

Mr. Rooker: The Pensions Act 1995 affects all women born after 5 April 1950. Between 2010-20 women's state pension age will rise gradually from 60 to 65. Publicity for this change started under the previous administration.

We have taken action to inform women of the changes through leaflets and in the letters from the Department forecasting State Pension entitlement and displays in local BA offices. We have publicised the changes through advertising features in women's and general interest magazines. A national newspaper and magazine advert on the issue is due to feature in March as part of the wider pensions education marketing campaign. Also there is an interactive table on the Internet at where a woman can type in her date of birth and learn the date she reaches State Pension age.

The Department will periodically review the effectiveness of the approach.

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Pensioner Mailshot Project

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the cost will be of the Pensioner Mailshot Project; what its purpose is; and for what reasons it is not intended to prompt pensioners to contact their local Social Security office. [146623]

Mr. Darling: The Department will shortly be writing to all pensioner households to inform them of the plans we announced to the House on 29 November 2000 for the amount of State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) that widows or widowers can inherit from their spouse.

In the course of consultation last year, a number of organisations including the select committees of the House asked us to explore the possibility of writing directly to the public about this subject.

The plans we announced in November mean that no current pensioner will now be affected by the changes to the inherited SERPS rules originally legislated for in 1986.

The letter is designed to ensure that all pensioners are aware of these new arrangements and that the change will be effected automatically; so there is no need for them to make any special claim or to contact their local Social Security office for this purpose. Of course they are always able to contact the Benefits Agency over any query about their pension entitlement.

For workload reasons the mailing will take place on a phased basis over the next two months.

The cost of the exercise is estimated at £2.5 million. The text of the letter is as follows.

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Jobseeker's Allowance

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the cost of restoring Jobseeker's Allowance to those employed on term-time only contracts. [147153]

Angela Eagle: Entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Income Support (IS) is dependent on, among other things, a person's pattern of employment and their hours of work.

The current legal position is that those term-time workers with an ongoing contract of employment, who are not entitled to JSA or IS during term-time because of the hours they work, are also not entitled to JSA or IS during the school holidays. This position, which reflects the original intention of the legislation when JSA was introduced in 1996, was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in October 1999 following a series of contradictory decisions by Commissioners. The retrospective effect of the Court of Appeal decision means that there was never any entitlement to JSA during the school holidays for this group of ancillary or term-time workers. Leave to appeal to the House of Lords against the Court of Appeal decision was granted and we understand that the hearing has been listed for 21 March.

We have no accurate data on which to base a reliable estimate of the cost of extending entitlement to JSA or IS to all those employed on term-time only contracts. Term-time workers with low incomes may claim in-work benefits such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Those with children may also be entitled to the Working Families Tax Credit.

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