§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Alistair Burt)
I understand from the chief executive of the Benefits Agency that several initiatives are under consideration or being piloted in conjunction with the Independent Tribunal Service to speed up the appeals procedure. In addition, the chief executive has set clear targets for the clearance of both locally and centrally prepared appeals.
§ Mr. Pike
Does the Minister accept that many people are suffering hardship as a result of waiting for appeals to be settled and that there is still too long a delay in dealing with appeals? Matters have not improved, so will he ensure that there is an improvement and that the same applies to independent appeals, because the situation is far from satisfactory?
§ Mr. Burt
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and his remarks are well directed. I am disappointed with the present state of appeal delays, but the initiatives being brought in by the Benefits Agency are likely to have a considerable effect: the simplified appeals submission, pre-listing and the abbreviated notice of award so that successful applicants receive any benefit awarded much sooner are all designed to have an effect. In addition, Benefits Agency targets will be made public. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman and I will be able to monitor an improvement in appeals over the coming months and years.
§ Mr. Gerrard
Is the Minister aware that, because of delays in processing disability living allowances, as of two weeks ago not a single disability living allowance appeal had been heard? Does he really think that that is satisfactory?