HC Deb 14 February 1991 vol 185 cc580-1W
Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the principal achievements of his Department since June 1987.

Miss Widdecombe

The Government have continued to commit greater resources than ever before to social security. In 1990–91 total social security spending will have been increased by nearly 41 per cent. in real terms since 1978–79. Specific improvements include extra help for less well-off families and elderly and disabled pensioners. By the end of 1990 over 4 million people had taken out a personal pension and contracted-out of the state earnings-related pension scheme. The new structure of income-related benefits introduced in 1988 enables additional resources to be targeted more effectively than under the old scheme and together with subsequent changes in the tax and national insurance systems has improved work incentives by significantly reducing the worst effects of the poverty and unemployment traps. The recent White Paper "Children Come First" has set out the Government's proposals for a new system of child maintenance in the United Kingdom and the new disability benefits announced in the White Paper "The Way Ahead" are planned to come into operation in April 1992.

Further increases in benefit rates, including child benefit, from April 1991 will bring total expenditure on social security to well over £60 billion a year, reflecting our firm commitment to protect the value of the national insurance pension and to focus extra help on those most in need, such as the less well-off pensioners and families with children, disabled people and carers.

The Department of Social Security is well advanced in its programme of establishing executive agencies. The Resettlement Agency and the Information Technology Services Agency are already in place, and the Contributions Agency and the Benefits Agency—the largest "next steps" agency—are to be established in April 1991. In early 1993 we expect to launch the Child Support Agency. The DSS computerisation programme—one of the largest in the world—is well advanced.

Commitment to improve service to the public continues. For example, clearance times for income support are significantly better than those for its predecessor, supplementary benefit. The relocation of benefits work from some London offices to areas where staff recruitment and retention are easier has also improved service to the public. Plans are well advanced to relocate some 800 DSS headquarters' posts from London and the south east to Leeds by 1992, which will play an important part in the Government's inner cities initiative.