HC Deb 15 April 1991 vol 189 c13
13. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much has been spent in London social security offices on facilities for clients during the latest period for which figures are available.

Miss Widdecombe

In the financial year 1989–90, £1.5 million was spent on capital refurbishment projects at 13 offices in the London area. Expenditure in 1990–91 is estimated at £5 million at a further 31 offices. A breakdown of expenditure between customer and staff areas is not available from information held centrally.

Mr. Banks

But a breakdown is precisely what I wanted. I am not arguing about the amount of capital expenditure on London offices; I want to know what is being done to stop supplementary benefit claimants being treated so shabbily in those offices.

Is the Minister aware that the new office at Stratford was clearly designed for no clients to come in at all? Nothing much has been provided in the way of chairs, and it is impossible for those going there, who may have to wait for hours, to obtain a hot drink. When will the Minister start arranging for such people to be treated like decent human beings rather than like dirt?

Miss Widdecombe

As he visited the Wood Grange Park office in February, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the unfortunate circumstances that prevail. He will also know that one of the problems has been an increase in the number of Somali refugees who are applying for benefit. I share his concern that conditions in the offices should be adequate: that is why we have spent some £40 million on improving offices throughout Great Britain. Every effort is being made to resolve the problems in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Forward to