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Disability Benefits Underspend

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

8 Mar 2000 : Column WA153

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The figure of £754 million in the National Audit Office's report is the difference between forecast and actual expenditure on attendance allowance, disability living allowance, invalid care allowance and severe disablement allowance in 1998-99. This was because, although the number of people receiving disability benefits and total expenditure on these benefits had continued to increase, these increases were at a slower rate than expected. An important reason for this change has been improvements to the management of the benefits, for example the safeguarding project where supplementary evidence is sought for all claims involving DLA higher rate mobility component.

Although the £754 million is not therefore an estimate of unclaimed benefit, it is important to ensure those who are entitled to benefits are able to claim them with a degree of confidence. At the time the National Audit Office's report was published we had already initiated measures to improve the take-up of attendance allowance and disability living allowance through increased public confidence in decisions on entitlement, and these measures continue. This will also open the way for more people to receive invalid care allowance.

Severe disablement allowance fails to help those it was intended to help and the changes we are introducing from April 2001 will concentrate resources on young people who have never had an opportunity to work and build up a contribution record.

Northern Ireland: Public Expenditure on Public Transport

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much public money is spent on public transport per head of the population in Northern Ireland; and how this compares with the similar calculation per head of the population in the rest of the United Kingdom.[HL1259]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Public expenditure on public transport per head of the population is expected to be about £21 in Northern Ireland in 1999-2000. A comparative figure is not available for Great Britain. However, the Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 1999-2000 outlines the following identifiable general government expenditure per head for the period 1997-98 in the category Roads and Transport:

Roads and Transport £ per head

Country£
England149
Scotland172
Wales151
Northern Ireland112

8 Mar 2000 : Column WA154

Northern Ireland Railway System: Investment

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to invest in the railway system in Northern Ireland in the next five years; and whether plans include funding for new rolling stock.[HL 1260]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The planned level of investment in the railway system in Northern Ireland over the next two financial years is shown in the table below. Investment plans include £10 million for new rolling stock.

Year£ Investment
2000-0127.1m
2001-0210.2m

There are no public expenditure plans available for the period beyond the financial years 2001-02.


Northern Ireland: Transport from North Down to the Centre of Belfast

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to introduce a rapid transit system based on rail or bus from North Down to the centre of Belfast.[HL1261]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: There are no plans to introduce a rapid transit system based on rail or bus from North Down to the centre of Belfast.

Welsh Assembly

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any mechanism exists to enable the people of Wales to require the Government to hold a referendum to decide whether the Welsh Assembly should continue; and if not, whether they will introduce legislation to provide such a mechanism.[HL1343]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: There is no provision for this in the Government of Wales Act. The Government have no intention of changing that position: indeed, I understand there is a consensus across all parties in Wales to make the Assembly work.



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