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We are living at a time of profound historical change. One in five of the world's population--two-thirds of them women--live in abject poverty, at a time of growing material plenty. If the poorest countries can be drawn into the global economy, and get increasing access to modern knowledge and technology, we could move forward to a period of massive progress and the removal of abject poverty from the human condition. But, if this is not done, we shall see growing poverty, marginalisation, conflict and environmental degradation.
We need to work collectively to tackle the problems of conflict and corruption, boost investment in education and health, spread the benefits of technology and research, strengthen the international financial system, reduce barriers to trade, tackle environmental problems and make development assistance more effective.
This White Paper sets out the Government's policies in these areas. It reflects our commitment to work across all parts of government in order to work with other governments and international institutions significantly to reduce poverty. It provides an agenda for managing globalisation in a way that will help to ensure that the new wealth, technology and knowledge being generated brings benefits to the world's poor.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) report was published today in respect of the London Borough of Ealing and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.
The report provides recommendations aimed at helping the council address weaknesses and to improve the administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, as well as its counter fraud activities.
The BFI reports that at the time of its on-site visit there were backlogs of work in many areas and there had been a consequent deterioration in customer service and processing new claims. The council and the contractor were working together to resolve problems in service delivery.
Inspectors report the council has an effective checking regime that provides a high level of assurance that benefit determinations are correct but there was no formal risk analysis to identify high risk claims.
Inspectors found Lewisham provides a high quality customer service. In particular the council's public enquiry service is the best the BFI has so far seen. It includes a video conferencing system that allows members of the public to see and talk to council officers.
The council introduced the verification framework in October 1998 and the report notes this was achieved without the backlogs and frustrations reported by other London boroughs. Inspectors found verification work to be very thorough.
The BFI reports that the council is one of the best performing authorities that have been inspected so far. Inspectors commended the high standard of verification of claims, in particular for effectively applying the verification framework. It rigorously applies statutory checks on National Insurance numbers and regularly completes management checks on determinations.
BFI found that officials and elected members are committed to countering fraud and had fostered a counter-fraud culture within the council. Inspectors considered that the council could build on this by setting a clear target for reducing fraud and error, and increasing the use of counter-fraud sanctions. In addition counter-fraud activity could be better co-ordinated.
The report records BFI's findings and includes recommendations aimed at helping the council address weaknesses and improve the administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, as well as its counter-fraud activities.
The council contracted out its benefit service in October 1998. The report's main conclusion is that, partly due to the failings in the contract but mainly due to the council's inability to manage and enforce it, claimants in Islington are receiving an extremely poor benefit service.
Inspectors found long delays in claims being processed and report there would be considerable difficulties for anyone wanting to make an enquiry on the progress of his or her claim. The report also notes the high number of complaints to the council and the local government ombudsman which had been sustained over a period of two years.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: This information is not available in the form requested. The number of new cases of tuberculosis reported by Prison Service establishments in 1998-99, the latest year for which complete figures are readily available, was 50. I shall write to the right reverend Prelate with more up to date information.
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