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Fraud

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent discussions he has had with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux on its implementation of fraud prevention methods, with particular regard to local authorities. [37463]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department has consulted with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux during the development of performance standards for housing benefit. The standards set out the requirements for providing secure and effective housing benefit and council tax benefit administration and counter-fraud activity.

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate will be consulting the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in the near future over the revision of the model claim form for housing benefit and council tax benefit. A revised version of the form will be issued to all local authorities in April this year.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of claimants found to have made fraudulent social security claims were prosecuted in (a) 1999–2000 and (b) 2000–01. [31151]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department has made of the cost to its budget since 1 May 1997 of fraud; and if he will make a statement. [27301]

Malcolm Wicks: We are taking determined steps to combat internal fraud. We have published an internal fraud policy that sets out staff responsibilities, and appointed a senior accountable officer and a supporting central probity team. There are also security specialists and staff to investigate suspected internal fraud vigorously when it arises. We know that the overwhelming majority of staff are completely honest and trustworthy, and instances of internal fraud are not common, but we remain vigilant.

The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in the current financial year.

The available information for the Employment Service, as recorded by the former Department for Education and Employment, and for the former Department of Social Security is in the tables.

Internal and contractor fraud in the Employment Service by financial year

£
1997–98972,42.00
1998–9954,107.01
1999–200045,621.83
2000–013,023.20


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Internal fraud in the former Department of Social Security by financial year

£
1997–98942,378.74
1998–99443,964.03
1999–2000416,967.11
2000–0171,112.34

Local Exchange Trading Schemes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice his Department is giving to local offices on the subject of local exchange trading schemes. [37464]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 3 July 2001, Official Report, column 135W.

Secondments

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the names of staff who have been seconded to his Department from the private sector since May 1997, indicating (a) the names of the organisation from which each has come, (b) their responsibilities and Civil Service grades within his Department, (c) the organisation responsible for paying their salary and (d) the start and end dates of their secondment. [35843]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 12 February 2002]: Secondments are part of the Interchange Initiative which promotes the exchange of people and good practice between the civil service and other organisations. All sectors of the economy are involved: Voluntary, Education, Health, Public and Private. Interchange is a key component of the civil service reform agenda. The Modernising Government White Paper committed us to increasing interchange, in particular by bringing in more people on secondment and sending more of our people out.

I have placed a table in the Library which sets out the number of staff recorded as having been seconded in to the Department (including Employment Service and the former Department of Social Security) from May 1997 to the present date. Other inward secondments of three months or more recorded centrally were from the voluntary sector, local government and other parts of the public sector. Each of the entries relates to a single person.

For reasons of confidentiality names of individuals have not been given.

Ministerial Boxes

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by what means ministerial boxes are conveyed from private offices in his Department to (a) himself and (b) his Ministers; how frequently and at what expense private courier firms are employed for such a task; and which courier firms have been used for such duties. [36284]

Maria Eagle: In accordance with central guidance on security, ministerial boxes originating from this Department are transported to Minister's homes either by Government car or by a service provided by the Royal Mail.

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Correspondence

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many letters the Minister for Disabled People has received at her Department's address in the last 12 months; and how many have been passed to other Ministers for answer. [32923]

Maria Eagle: Since becoming Minister for Disabled People at the start of this Parliament I have received 636 letters for ministerial reply. I have replied personally to 354 of these that were about matters within my responsibilities. The others were passed to ministerial colleagues. I have also replied to a further 507 letters that were addressed to ministerial colleagues.

Minimum Income Guarantee Helpline

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people staff the minimum income guarantee helpline; and if he will make a statement. [33923]

Mr. McCartney: The minimum income guarantee claim line currently employs 75 staff, of which 51 are employed as claim line operators. The MIG claim line is open from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday. There are three daily shift patterns to ensure that most of the operators are available at peak hours.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much the minimum income guarantee helpline cost in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [33925]

Mr. McCartney: The total running cost for the minimum income guarantee claim line for the 12 month period ending 31 December 2001 was £1.63 million.

Heating Allowance

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent representations he has received from organisations representing disabled citizens seeking the extension of heating allowance paid to senior citizens and to all housebound disabled persons. [35408]

Mr. McCartney: From time to time, we have discussions with, or correspondence from, a variety of organisations representing disabled people. These can cover a range of issues which are of concern to them, which includes the eligibility criteria for Winter Fuel Payments.

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will extend the heating allowance paid to senior citizens and to housebound disabled people. [35409]

Mr. McCartney: Help is already available, through disability benefits and the disability premium in Income Support, in recognition of the extra costs, including heating, which disabled people may have. There are no plans to extend the Winter Fuel Payment scheme to disabled people under age 60.

Pensioners

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many changes of circumstances affecting pensioners must be reported to his Department;

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how many cases of each are so reported each year; and what penalties are attached to failure to report without good reason. [35572]

Mr. McCartney: This is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Tim Boswell, dated 13 February 2002:






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