Winter Fuel Payments
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what delays there have been in the payment of the 2000-01 Winter Fuel Payment. 
Over 11 million Winter Fuel Payments have been made so far. For both automatically processed cases and claims, payments were made before Christmas where entitlements were established by 9 November 2000.
We continue to process claims received after 9 November 2000. The timing of payments made depends on when people choose to send in their claims and whether they are completed correctly.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the monetary value of unclaimed Winter Fuel Payments by men aged 60-64 for the (a) 1997-98, (b) 1998-99 and (c) 1999-2000 winters. 
It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the monetary value of unclaimed Winter Fuel Payments by men aged 60-64 in respect of winters 1997-98; 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the monetary value of unclaimed 2000-01 Winter Fuel Payments by newly eligible men by 30 March. 
It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the monetary value of unclaimed Winter Fuel Payments by newly eligible men in respect of winter 2000-01.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the number of men aged 60-64 who made an (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful claim for the (i) 1997-98, (ii) 1998-99 and (iii) 1999-2000 Winter Fuel Payment. 
The administration of benefits is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, Alexis Cleveland. She will write to the hon. Member.
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Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Steve Webb, dated 9 April 2001:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking if he will estimate the number of men aged 60-64 that made an (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful claim for the 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00 winter fuel payment.
As of 3 April 2001, 1,046,020 claims for Winter Fuel Payments in respect of retrospective year's 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000 had been processed for males. Information relating solely to men aged 60-64 cannot be provided.
The decisions made following the ruling by the European Court of Justice meant that the majority of people newly eligible would be men aged 60-64. However, people over state pension age but who had not received a Winter Fuel Payment before because they were not getting a qualifying benefit were also brought into the scheme.
Current records show that we have received over 1 million claims in respect of past winters from men of which around 85,000 were unsuccessful, in the first instance. If a customer feels that the decision on their claim is incorrect they can ask for it to be looked at again. We do not hold statistics on successful claims following such reconsiderations.
Mr. Simon Thomas:
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the average length of time is from the receipt of application for back-dated winter fuel allowance to be paid. 
This 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. Simon Thomas, dated 10 April 2001:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what the average length of time is from the receipt of application for backdated winter fuel allowance to be paid.
The average length of time taken to process a backdated claim from date of receipt to date of payment is not available. However, I can inform you that over 90% of claims for the financial years 1997/98, 1998/99 and 1999/00 have been processed without the need for further investigation. In these circumstances claims are paid within five weeks of receiving the application form.
The remaining claims require further investigation and inevitably take longer to clear. Where only minimal investigation is required, claims may still be paid in five weeks.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what progress is being made in reforming the regulations in the social security system governing capital limits for pensioners. 
This month, the lower capital limit in the income related benefits, such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, for those over 60 increases from £3,000 to £6,000. In addition, the upper limit of £8,000 in the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) and Jobseeker's Allowance for those over 60 rises to £12,000. These changes to capital limits will better reward savers with low incomes and will benefit around half a million pensioners by £5 a week, on average.
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Under the proposals for the Pension Credit, the capital rules will be abolished and instead income from capital will be considered.
Benefit Regulation Circulars
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit regulations and operations and adjudications circulars have been issued in each year since 1992. 
The information is in the table.
The numbers of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit regulations and operations and adjudications circulars identified as being issued since 1992
1. The Statutory Instruments counted are those which contain one or more regulations on the subject of Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and/or Community Charge Benefit.
2. Statutory Instruments including only orders and schemes are not included in the list.
Departmental Employees (Scotland)
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people were employed in each pay grade and what the average salary per grade was for (a) full-time and (b) part-time employees working for his Department in (i) Scotland and (ii) the UK in the (A) 1998-99, (B) 1999-2000 and (C) 2000-01 financial years. 
[holding answer 23 March 2001]: The information has been placed in the Library. Staff employed by the Department in Scotland provide services for claimants in all parts of the UK--for example, Glasgow Benefit Centre provides a service for customers in specified parts of London. Similarly, claimants in Scotland are supported by services provided by staff located outside Scotland--for example, the Child Benefit Directorate in the North-East of England serves the whole of the UK.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list each change to Social Security regulations since May 1997. 
The information has been placed in the Library.
There were 241 Regulations changed in the period May 1992 to April 1997.
Minimum Income Guarantee
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to the oral statement of 2 April 2001,
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Official Report, column 11, by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), on the take up of the Minimum Income Guarantee, for what reason he described the figure extrapolated by his Department from its survey of take-up as a hocus-pocus figure. 
[holding answer 6 April 2001]: In my answer to the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) I described the figure as legitimate. However, as the survey states,
"care should be taken in interpreting the take-up statistics".
The figure is only a projection of potential pensioners not taking-up their entitlement to the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG). We have taken note of the survey, and gone one step further--we have contacted over 2 million real, identifiable, pensioners in writing as part of this Government's national MIG take-up campaign and so far 930,000 have responded. We have identified from the responses two main reasons for unsuccessful claims--too much income and/or too much capital. More pensioners will become entitled to MIG with this April's increases in the capital limits and with the introduction of Pension Credit we will abolish the capital limits and for the first time reward those with savings income.
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 2 April 2001, Official Report, column 17, on means-tested benefits, to what the figure of 9 per cent. refers; what proportion of middle income pensioners are on means-tested benefits; and what will be the proportion from 2003. 
The 9 per cent. figure represents overall current spending on income-related benefits as a proportion of total benefit expenditure, for people aged 60 and over, the same as it was in 1997. In 1998-99 30 per cent. of pensioner benefit units in the middle four income deciles were in receipt of Income Related Benefits after Housing Costs have been taken into account, for the middle two income deciles the figure was 28 per cent. By way of comparison the figures for 1996-97 were 32 per cent. and 30 per cent. respectively. The corresponding information for 2003 is not available.