§ Lord Mancroft
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What has been the outcome of the feasibility study to set up an executive agency under the Next Steps initiative to carry out social security operations in Northern Ireland.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Skelmersdale)
The feasibility study has been completed and it has confirmed that a single social security agency, to carry out all social security operations in Northern Ireland, should be established. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has therefore decided in principle that such an executive agency service should be set up within the Department of Health and Social Services.
There are many practical problems to be overcome in preparing for agency status and detailed planning is already under way to establish what needs to be done and how quickly the agency can be launched. It will therefore be some time yet before the launch date can be confirmed.
My right honourable friend has also decided that the post of agency chief executive should be filled through open competition. The department will be making arrangements to advertise the post as soon as possible.