HC Deb 23 December 1976 vol 923 cc286-8W
Mr. Peter Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in connection with continued operation of the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act 1971: (a) how many households are currently having deductions made at source to pay debts to public authorities, (b) how many of these households are headed by elderly, sick, disabled or unemployed persons with social security incomes, (c) how many households having deductions made contain five or more children, (d) how many deductions are less than £1 and in bands of £ 1 up to £8 per week, (e) what is the distribution by household sizes of the amount of these deductions, (f) what percentage of deductions under the Act are made from family allowances, family income supplement and supplementary benefit, and (g) whether figures are available for the total of debt to public authorities in Northern Ireland as compared with the total of such debt in England and Wales and in Scotland.

Mr. Carter,

pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 21st December 1976; Vol. 923, c. 117], gave the following information:

The Information is not available in the precise form requested. However, the table below which is based on a sample of the cases currently having deductions made gives an indication of the numbers and amounts of benefits allocated to the repayment of rates and rent. Benefits are being allocated under the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act 1971 only to meet rent and rates current payments and arrears.

Type of benefit Number of cases Average amount allocated£
Family Allowance 2,216 3.69
Family Allowance with another benefit 348 8.31
Supplementary Benefit 1,628 8.13
Unemployment Benefit 324 7.28
Widows Benefit 294 6.18
Retirement Pension 186 6.26
Sickness Benefit 38 9.73
Invalidity Benefit 278 7.81
Attendance Allowance 22 5.07
Non-Contributory Invalidity Pension 10 8.67
Family Income Supplement 10 6.25
Total 5,354 6.06

Allocations are made to cover the debtors' current rent and rates, plus an amount towards the arrears which have accumulated, on the basis of a formula scale. The formula is based on the longterm benefit rate—for example, invalidity, widows and retirement pensions rate. To offset any hardship to large families, a maximum deduction in respect of arrears has been fixed at £5 to £6, depending on circumstances.

The total debt due to public authorities in Northern Ireland in respect of rent, rates, electricity and gas is currently estimated at £20 million. Figures for England, Wales and Scotland are responsibilities of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State concerned.