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Mrs. B. E. Jones

Mr. Chope: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his Department will give a substantive reply to Mrs. B. E. Jones of Verwood about her retirement pension. [153041]

Dawn Primarolo: This letter has not been received. If the hon. Member wishes to forward a copy it will be dealt with although the issues raised may be for the Department of Social Security to reply to.

Customs and Excise

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance he gives to customs officers regarding the questioning of people bringing into the UK tobacco products and alcohol in quantities below the guidelines stated on HM Customs and Excise Notice 1; and if he will make a statement. [153045]

Dawn Primarolo: Customs officers are guided by Statutory Instrument 1992/3155 The Excise Duties (Personal Relief) Order 1992, implementing EU Directive 92/12/EC, which makes any excise goods personally imported from another member state liable to forfeiture if they are intended to be used for a commercial purpose. The Order lists a variety of factors to be used by customs to determine whether goods are imported for a commercial purpose.

Second-hand Goods

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on the payment of (a) customs duty and (b) VAT on second-hand goods imported in the UK. [152829]

Dawn Primarolo: Importations of second-hand goods from outside the EU are subject to the normal import procedures, and conditions, as detailed in the HM Customs and Excise Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom. Where applicable customs duty and/or import VAT are due at the appropriate rates.


Automated Credit Transfer

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what arrangements he will implement when full-scale Automated Credit Transfer is introduced to protect benefit claimants from (a) delays that are the responsibility of Government and (b) delays that are the responsibility of banks. [152431]

Mr. Rooker: Automated Credit Transfer was first introduced as a method of paying benefits in 1982 and is now available for all benefits except Social Fund. Currently, over a third of customers already choose to be paid by this method.

Current procedures and contractual arrangements supporting the process are all aimed at ensuring the customer receives payment on the appropriate day.

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Hospital Downrating Rule

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the approximate annual income derived from the operation of the hospital downrating rule, as it applies to reductions in the state pension after six weeks as a hospital in-patient, and the approximate annual cost of administering the hospital downrating rule on state pensions. [152143]

Mr. Rooker: There is no income derived from the operation of the hospital downrating rule. Under rules that have been in existence since 1948, Social Security benefits are downrated after stays of six weeks in NHS hospitals and further reduced after 52 weeks, This is to prevent duplicate provision from public funds. The costs of abolishing the hospital downrating rules in respect of State Retirement Pension are estimated to be about £60 million a year. The information requested on administration costs is not available.

Departmental IT Projects

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will list the IT projects his Department plans to undertake in the next year; and if he will state in each case the (a) expected date of commencement and completion and (b) cost; [151481]

Angela Eagle [holding answers 26 February 2001]: The Department is undertaking a major programme of change to modernise the way it delivers its services and to support the implementation of important new policy initiatives such as the reform of Child Support and the introduction of New Tax Credits. This programme will require extensive IT change affecting all areas of the Department.

A number of the projects to deliver this change programme are already under way and will continue into the next year. Plans for others, including the implementation of Pension credit from 2003 and the replacement of the Department's outdated computer systems, are currently being developed. Finalised completion dates and costs for these are therefore not yet available. The overall costs of the projects to support Working Age, Pensions, Child Support and other key welfare reforms are shown in the table but it is not yet possible to show the IT cost component because contracts have not yet been let for many of the IT projects.

ProjectPlanned completion dateAnticipated cost (£ million)
Working Age ProjectMarch 2003145
PensionsJune 200357
Child SupportApril 2003914
CorporateMarch 2005852

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Pension Supplements

Mr. Swinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the cost of providing (a) a £3 supplement for single pensioners aged over 75 years and (b) a £5 supplement for pensioner couples aged over 75 years in (i) Scotland and (ii) the UK. [153070]

Mr. Rooker: We will increase basic state pension from April 2001 by £5 for a single person and £8 per couple. This is at an overall cost of £1.3 billion and will benefit over 10 million British pensioners of which 900,000 reside in Scotland. The information is in the table.

£ million

Gross and net costGreat BritainScotland
Net of income-related benefit savings45030


1. The figures in the table are for basic state pension obtained as of right through the recipients own national insurance contributions (Category A pension). Because the Category A pension is paid to both single and married pensioners it is not possible to estimate the costs. Therefore, it is assumed that the Category A rate of state pension is increased by £3 per week for those aged 75 and over and the Category BL married woman's rate is increased by £2 per week for those aged 75 and over.

2. Estimates of gross costs provided by the Government Actuary's Department. Income-related benefit offsets are estimated using the Policy Simulation Model.

3. United Kingdom figures are not available. Costs associated with overseas pensioners are included and are apportioned on a pro-rata basis between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain.

4. Costs are rounded to the nearest £10 million.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claims for Winter Fuel Payments remain unpaid (a) nationally and (b) in Gloucestershire; what factors underly non-payment; what steps are being taken to ensure that these payments are quickly made; and if he will make a statement. [152294]

Mr. Rooker [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The administration of benefits is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Laurence Robertson, dated 8 March 2001:

9 Mar 2001 : Column: 406W

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