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WORK AND PENSIONS

Correspondence

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will reply to the letter to him dated

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1 May from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Abigail Fountain. [61690]

Maria Eagle: The reply was sent on 18 June.

Allerdale Borough Council (Benefit Fraud)

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will publish the inspection report of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate in respect of Allerdale borough council. [64091]

Malcolm Wicks: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's (BFI) report on Allerdale borough council was published today and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

This follow up inspection report shows that since the first inspection in October 1999 the council had made substantial progress in most areas of administering benefits. However, further improvements were still needed in counter fraud and overpayment.

Allerdale had been struggling to bring work backlogs under control but the second inspection found work had been reduced to manageable levels through close management and monitoring of the situation.

A significant increase in the number of staff in housing benefit administration and the appointment of a senior fraud officer as well as a restructuring of the teams in line with BFI's first recommendations had brought about a major improvement.

In the fraud team, the long-term absence of a fraud officer had adversely affected the quantity and quality of investigations. BFI noted that the management was addressing the problems during the on-site phase of the inspection.

The first inspection had also recommended the appointment of an overpayment officer. The council had done this and taken other positive steps to managing overpayment better. The situation has improved but further improvements are necessary to, in particular, improve debt recovery.

Progress since the first inspection had been positively supported by greater involvement of Members and senior management in housing benefit administration and counter fraud work.

Allerdale administered some £19 million in housing benefits in 2000–01.

The report makes recommendations to help the council address weaknesses and to improve the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit, as well as counter fraud activities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and will be asking the council for its proposals in response to the findings and recommendations of the BFI.

Benefits (Payment Methods)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether agreement has been reached with the banks on the cost to (a) his Department and (b) account holders of payment of benefits through bank accounts. [60844]

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Malcolm Wicks: Over 40 per cent. of customers are currently paid directly into their bank accounts. Each payment costs taxpayers one penny as opposed to the overall cost of £1.47 for each girocheque cashed and 68p for each order book foil presented. Banks do not normally charge their customers for making withdrawals from their accounts.

East Lothian Council (Benefit Fraud)

Mr. Joyce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he intends to take following the second report, by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate, on the administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit in East Lothian council. [64092]

Malcolm Wicks: Using the powers available to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in section 139D of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, a direction has today been given to East Lothian council following the Benefit Frauds Inspectorate's report on the council's administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit.

We are disappointed that East Lothian council has been the subject of two critical reports by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate before taking action to remedy their problems with benefit administration. However, we are pleased that the council is now starting to take its responsibilities seriously and improvements are being made in benefit administration.

We hope the council will look upon the direction as a further stimulus for continuing improvement.

A copy of the direction has been placed in the Library.

Compensation Recovery Unit

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much money the Compensation Recovery Unit has reclaimed from those miners who have received compensation owing to ill health. [62552]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

The Compensation Recovery Unit does not recover money from compensated miners. It recovers its benefit payments from the compensator. It is the responsibility of the compensator—in these cases the DTI—to recover any appropriate benefit from miners' compensation.

To date the DTI has settled 28,000 claims amounting to £137 million of compensation, of which the total sum recovered from miners is £96,500.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Afghanistan

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions she has had with her EU counterparts on aid to Afghanistan. [63085]

Clare Short: I am in regular contact with my EU counterparts on a number of subjects. We discussed latest developments in Afghanistan, and the continued international support for recovery and reconstruction there, at the Development Council meeting on 31 May.

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Colonial Officials

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to review the pension arrangements of British colonial officials. [62713]

Clare Short: None.

Competitive Tendering

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on how many occasions in the last 12 months the requirement to engage in a competitive tendering process has been waived by her Department due to national security obligations under paragraph 6(h) of the supply regulations. [62820]

Clare Short: None.

Official Photographs

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on how many occasions during the last 12 months an official photographer has accompanied (a) her and (b) other Ministers in her Department on official visits (i) overseas and (ii) within the UK; what (A) travel expenses, (B) costs of equipment and processing, (C) staff payment and (D) other costs were incurred on each occasion; what publications official photographs have appeared in during the last 12 months and what terms and conditions were attached to the publication of such photographs; and whether photographs taken on official visits are available for use in non-governmental literature. [62833]

Clare Short: No official photographer has accompanied me or any junior Minister on any visits.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

National Stadium

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) when she received a copy of the report by Tropus about the proposed English National Stadium at Wembley; and if she will publish it; [58113]

Tessa Jowell [holding answer 21 May 2002]: Over the course of the English National Stadium project's history my Department has received a great deal of information. Since June 2001, the following reports have been received by my Department.

Received by DCMSReport commissioned byPublication date
19 December 2001English National Stadium Review Interim Report—December 2001 by Patrick Carter for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.HC479 published 19 December 2001 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Received 15 December 2001 (draft), 18 December 2001 (final)David N. James CBE and Berwin Leighton Paisner for Wembley National Stadium Ltd.The full report has not been published. With the agreement of WNSL the Culture, Media and Sport committee published an abridged version as a memorandum (HC843) on 21 May 2001.
Received 11 April 2002Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review for Wembley National Stadium Ltd.The publication of this report is a matter for WNSL.
Received 11 April 2002Report on Value for Money Analysis by Cyril Sweett Ltd. for Wembley National Stadium Ltd.Full report containing commercially confidential information not published. Abridged version published by WNSL and laid in the House of Commons Library on 20 May 2002.
Received 26 April 2002Report of Athletics Provision Analysis by Sports Concepts and Citex for Sport England.8 May 2002 by Sport England.
Received 21 May 2002The Tropus Report, commissioned by Tropus Consultancy.The publication of this report is a matter for Tropus Consultancy.

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