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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC) has carried out a public opinion survey concerning those aspects of museums which most interest visitors and in recent months has carried out qualitative research into the experiences of children on their visits and also those of ethnic minorities. The first two studies have been published and the third will be available shortly.
These studies are part of an ongoing programme of research into museum visits. The quality of a person's experience when visiting a museum or gallery is of fundamental importance and will continue to be looked at very closely.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Most UK civil servants performing duties in the European Commission are seconded as detached national experts (DNEs), of which there are currently 105. In addition, there are currently 15 UK civil servants on short term placement within the European Commission. There is also a small number of UK civil servants who are fulfilling roles within the Commission as temporary agents. Most obtain special leave (unpaid) from their departments in order to undertake these temporary contracts. No figures are available for people who fall into this category. UK civil servants seconded as detached national experts or on short term placement are listed below by department (or ministry) and directorate within the European Commission:
Department for Education and Employment
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Department of Health
Department for International Development
Department of Social Security
LEGAL SERVICE 1
Department of Trade and Industry
LEGAL SERVICE 1
WASHINGTON DELEGATION 1
JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE 2
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
HM Customs and Excise
Health and Safety Executive
LEGAL SERVICE 1
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Ministry of Defence
JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE 1
National Audit Office
Northern Ireland Civil Service
Office of Fair Trading
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is for the European Commission to provide information about the staff it employs and the way in which it assigns them. The European Commission does not normally supply information about staffing levels. However, some recent figures have been made available relating to administrative (A grade) officials. These set out the position as at 5 May 1996 (below). The most senior category is A1, the most junior A8.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Her Majesty's Government are considering introducing a "Working Family Tax Credit" which would build on the successful elements of Family Credit and be paid through the wage packet. The Government are considering all the options for their potential design and delivery.
But, if the single currency is successful and the economic case for joining is clear and unambiguous, then the Government believe that Britain should be part of it. We need to prepare intensively during this Parliament, so that Britain will be in a position to make a decision to join EMU, should the Government, Parliament and the people so decide, early in the next Parliament.
What restrictions have been given to interviewers on the benefit integrity project and whether target figures for savings have been given or suggested;
How many disabled people have been interviewed since the benefit integrity project began and what proportion have had their benefits cut or removed;
How much money disabled people have lost and the Government gained since the benefit integrity project began; and
What steps have been taken under the benefit integrity project to assess the amount of under claiming and under payment and with what results.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): One of our key aims is to rebuild integrity in, and public support for, the social security system and the way in which public money is spent. We need to focus on those who are properly entitled to benefit. This is why we have set up the benefit integrity project. The administration of the benefit integrity project is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the noble Lord.
The BIP was set up in April 1997 using existing staff from within the agency. The BIP is conducting a programme of visits to people receiving disability living allowance (DLA) at the higher rate of mobility combined with the highest rate of care. To undertake these visits the Benefits Agency (BA) currently employs 99 staff located in 10 disability benefit centres (DBC's) in England and Scotland. In Wales, 31 staff located at BA district offices have been trained to undertake the visits, as part of their duties. There are plans to increase the number of staff at Bootle DBC by one.
The role of BIP visiting officers is to obtain an up to date, factual statement of circumstances from the disabled person; they play no direct part in the adjudication process. therefore, they have not been set targets for savings. It is important to stress that BIP is a measure designed to address incorrectness within DLA rather than stopping benefit. Adjudication officers are required to make the correct decision on any case they handle and have no financial target to achieve.
As at 30 November 1997, the number of people interviewed since the BIP began is 5,348 of whom 10.62 per cent. (568) have had their benefit reduced or disallowed entirely. A further 22,163 people have been dealt with by postal enquiry of whom 13.19 per cent. (2,923) have had their benefit reduced or disallowed entirely.
As at 30 November 1997, the total amount of weekly benefit payments identified as incorrect has resulted in reductions amounting to £150,603.00 per week and increases amounting to £10,744.80 per week.
The BIP is only looking at DLA awards of the higher rate mobility component combined with the highest or middle rate of the care component, thus the scope for increasing awards is limited. However, any evidence obtained from DLA customers which indicates an increased need is placed before the adjudication officer and where appropriate that award is increased. To date 657 awards of middle rate care have been increased to highest rate care--amounting to £10,744.80 per week. There has been no assessment of the total amount of under claiming and under payment under BIP.
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